Confirmation Bias is Ruining America

I am out here and ready to fight…This ridiculous content running through my social media feeds is driving me insane.

I wrote about cognitive dissonance before on this blog, and this issue reminds me of the post. I say this because the crazy beliefs people in America hold right now are mounted on nothing more than bias. The majority of people sharing content, expressing their concerns, and outright rioting are placing their entire personalities on ideas that are usually FALSE. What is worse, is that these people are also completely unswayed by actual facts and instead propelled by the ignorance of other individuals or news outlets. I bang my head against the wall almost daily, crying WHY DO PEOPLE NOT FACT-CHECK?!

So today, I am writing about a phenomenon called confirmation bias. The term is used to explain people’s tendency to easily believe and adhere to information that better suits their own personal beliefs, and reject information that opposes their beliefs. For instance, if a person really loved waffles and found a Buzzfeed article suggesting that waffles were the best breakfast in America, they would probably be more inclined to share that information instead of a story that favors pancakes instead. This seems kinda logical, right? Who wouldn’t naturally lean towards the information that caters to their preference? The problems with confirmation bias lay within more complex topics. Sure, doting on your favorite food is an innocent behavior- but sharing articles with misinformation on politicians, racism, stocks, or even environmental issues is a bigger concern.

People are engulfed daily with news to process. We open Facebook to a madhouse of articles and shared posts. I can’t even tell you how many times a family member has posted gibberish about their least-favorite senator being a child-eating, Illumiti loving alien. There is literally *endless* information to be found online, and I honestly think it is dangerous when people instantly agree with the hooplah they see shared. No matter how untrue or misleading something might be, you can bet that people will absolutely eat it up if the information already leans towards what they personally believe.

This has been a problem since, well, forever. Ancient Greek historian Thucydides said humans “entrust to careless hope” what they wish to be true, and “thrust aside” what they don’t. Or take a look at early Catholicism or Christianity, where biblical texts were literally left out or edited to please whatever the ruling class wanted at the time. And did white people not convince themselves that black people were property, or even 3/5ths of a human, just to appease their own agendas and money making abilities? To put this all simply, I think humans just want to be “right”. They don’t quite care if it inconveniences people or completely neglects the morality or truths that oppose their views. Humans usually just want what will be easiest and most satisfactory for them at that particular time.

“AUSTIN, TX – APRIL 18: A protester holds up a sign protesting wearing a mask at the Texas State Capital building on April 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas. “(Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images) Funny how protests and using language such as “My Body, My Choice” only is acceptable when the issue is something *they* care about?

I am angry and frustrated because the increase of public unrest in our country has only been met with ignorance. With exception of a few politicians (hi, Bernie, I’m looking at you), the United States has really shown their ass when faced with high profile issues impacting the entire nation. Last year, citizens dealt with a whirlwind of chaos when the 2020 Covid pandemic hit; many government officials absolutely did not take the virus seriously, with our own President Trump not acting on the problem until months after he was notified. My lovely Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has repeatedly reopened the state despite the ridiculously high numbers of Covid cases. Both of these Republicans have failed citizens and heightened infection risks for millions- and why? Before shutdowns began in March of 2020, Trump was calling the Coronavirus “the Democrats’ new hoax“- mainly in relation to his (first) failed impeachment, and how that was obviously a Democratic hoax as well. This dismissive narrative fit perfectly with his predisposition to question authority, science, and invoke suspicion in his supporters so that they continued to trust him as their leader, and push aside any opposing views. Governor Abbott, in a way, had an easier time reopening a covid-ridden state because he and the majority of other Republicans have continuously agreed with Trump and his ridiculous statements- after all, since Covid isn’t even real, why should we shut down our economy and lose precious jobs and money?

Despite the science presented by experts, the dangers and warnings issued by the CDC, and thousands of people dying from the virus daily, there are still people in 2021 denying the pandemic and refusing to wear face coverings or social distance. The idea of trying to shut down any part of the country is met with criticism, despite it likely being the best method to reduce and potentially rid our country of the virus. Our country has been failed by our leaders, who have chosen to believe the (false) “facts” and policies that best align with their personal ideals and endeavors rather than the wellbeing of a nation. And to make matters worse, thousands of citizens have also fallen victim to confirmation bias because the views of their Republican leaders match their own problematic and selfish desires. Science and facts are extremely hard to accept when it is much easier to believe in a “hoax” and deflect socio-economic issues onto another party- especially now that Biden and Harris have taken over office.

“WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump.”(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) Protesting peacefully for BLM at the Capital was ridiculed and labeled “dangerous” by Trump, but when Trump supporters did it with genuine perilous intent, Trump dismisses the rioters as “good people”.

Our American government is supposed to distinguish between the church and the state. We the people have the right to freedoms of speech and religion amongst other things, but when our country seems to rely heavily on bias of the people in charge these rights become confusing. On one hand, our government officials have the right to believe in things like Christianity- but what happens when these leaders begin to impose their own moral compass onto the people? Trump seemed to have no problem influencing his presidency with overtones of conservative “Christian” values, which typically translated into policies such as opposition of gay rights or limiting access to women’s healthcare. Of course, those that guzzled up every word Trump spewed were usually elated by these policies. His following typically were conservative, religious folk that did not want to alter their traditional mindsets. Instead of considering any progressive forms of leadership, they simply accepted his proposals without batting an eye- and seeing how the Senate was ruled by the Republican party at the time, Trump was able to accomplish quite a bit of destruction due to congress almost always voting in his favor. I bring these points up because the last four years of government have not been led with equality and the interest of the people in mind; Trump’s America has seen some of the worst examples of racism, hatred and negligence because people have gone along with policies that support bigotry and harm to our democracy. Greed, racism, and classism have been prevalent themes throughout the entirety of Trump’s regime. The concept of confirmation bias has been shown strongly throughout the past four years, to the point that families and friends have been torn apart due to people’s inability to fact check and perhaps put aside their religious or personal set of morals for the greater good of the nation.

I can only hope for a brighter future for the United States and the American people. The last few years, in my opinion, has really shed light on the cracks of our nation and democracy. It has brought out the worst in people,and exposed those with bad intentions and judgemental, often prejudice beliefs. While I understand that our nation’s problems are politically much more complex than the opinions I glossed over in this post, I intended to pinpoint just a small sector of issues that hurt our country. I also understand that people might take offense to the arguments I present. All of this just goes to show that there is so much more conversation that is needed in order to reshape and ideally equalize our nation. In a perfect America, we would not have political “extremes” of either party, nor would we make such a fuss over issues that are greatly civil rights or humanitarian concerns. I long for a democracy that truly favors the people, and that does not fall victim to logical fallacies more often than it believes in truths and science- I can only keep my fingers crossed that this reality happens within my lifetime.

What are your thoughts on this?

-Nat

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