News coverage of the lies and misinformation running rampant in America fails to explain why this is happening or what can be done about it. Research on social influence points to what is needed.
The principles of social influence are well understood. Research on social influence flourished in the 1950s and 60s because social psychologists, some of whom had themselves escaped the Holocaust, were vitally interested in how people can be influenced to do horrible things to others.
The most informative studies were done by Solomon Asch. He showed that you can get individuals to endorse statements that are obviously inconsistent with fact, simply by having three other people express those inaccurate views. His classic experiment asked groups of eight people to indicate which of a set of three lines was the same length as a comparison line. In these studies, all but the last person reporting was a confederate of Asch.
When all the other people picked the wrong line, a sizable proportion of the naïve subjects did too.
The only thing that is different about the current era from times past is the ability of social media to bring an enormous number of confederates into the social context for any given individual. This is the simple explanation for why such an incredibly large number of people believe things that are not only false, but personally harmful.
Asch found that if only one or two of the confederates gave the right answer the likelihood that the person would give the wrong answer went down.
In the past year, social and broadcast media (e.g, Fox News) have unanimously endorsed the Big Lie. However, people who were appalled at the events of January 6 and the restrictions on voting that followed have generally remained silent.
The well-established principles of social influence make it indelibly clear that the most important element in preventing the fascist takeover of government are statements and actions that visibly, forcefully, and persuasively speak out against the lies and seditious efforts to end free and fair elections.
Sadly, major U.S. Corporations are not speaking against sedition. They are funding it. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) corporations have given more than $19 million to those who support the sedition. Many of them pledged that they wouldn’t do this in January 2021.
You might think that corporations won’t have much influence on whether our democracy is overturned. But they were pivotal to Hitler taking dictatorial control in Germany. Ciara Spelliscy tells how months before the election that gave Hitler control, the NAZI party was nearly bankrupt. Then, a secret meeting attended by executives from two large German firms, I. G. Farben and Krupp industry led to German Companies raising three million Reichsmarks [worth about $30 million today]
It has been widely assumed that Republicans will take control of the House and Senate in the next election. If they do, Trump will be a foregone conclusion for 2024.
But all over this country, people are aroused. They are identifying the House and Senate representatives and local politicians in the Republican Party who are telling the Big Lie. It is critical that massive efforts are put forward to ensure the electoral defeat of anyone who supports the Big Lie. The fundamental question in every campaign at every level in this nation this year must be “Who won the presidential election of 2020?”
This is why Values to Action is working in line with CREW and other organizations in calling out the corporate support for seditious activities. The key to our success is getting millions of people to lend their voice in social media and push back against corporations that are willing to see democracy eroded.
Add your voice. Join the Value Democracy Movement.