November 17, 2019

If you are around my age (Late boomer/Early GenXer), there were certain stories you came of age with: the Manson family. Jonestown. The Moonies. The dangers of cults were continually fear-mongered on our nightly news (Maybe this is just something we heard a lot in California--where a lot of these cults originated or moved to). Even the crazy McMartin School child abuse case was improbably blamed on a satanic cult rather than just wondering how likely it was that some elderly woman and her grandson would actually ritually sacrifice a horse in front of children without neighbors noticing.

I never understood how someone could suspend their critical thinking skills to be part of a cult. In my family, we could openly disagree with our elders as long as we could argue our point persuasively. Critical thinking was not only encouraged, but demanded. It's also why I was the bane of every religion class my parents put me or my siblings in. I don't mean to disparage anyone who gets comfort from organized religion. It was never something I could wholly commit to, because of that pesky critical thinking.

I see a LOT of cult-like thinking about politics now. While it's indisputable that MAGAheads are entirely cultish--how can you think that Donald Trump is anything less than a conman? In fairness, I see a lot of cultish thinking on our side of the aisle too (there's no way you can argue persuasively that the Islamophobic, homophobic, Breitbart/Fox News-entertaining Tulsi Gabbard is a good representation of the Democratic Party). Hell, there were some of the self-identified "left" attacking Ady Barkan this weekend on social media for having the temerity to praise Elizabeth Warren's "M4A Transition" plan. If you have to attack the man dying of ALS who has done more in his last little bit of time on this planet tirelessly fighting for universal health care just because he acknowledges some political obstacles, you are suffering from messed-up cult thinking.

As Robert Jay Lifton writes, cultish thinking starts from the same place: the insistence that the cult leader enforces his reality upon his subjects. I see that same insistence affecting our media as well. What other reason can you come up for Jonathan Allen's ridiculous pronouncement of the first day of the impeachment open hearings as "lacking pizzazz" other than taking his cues from memetic viral thinking? And worse, by virtue of his platform, he infects even more people with his thinking.

We need a whole lot more critical thinking amongst us, in an environment that greatly discourages it, to get us out of this place. I'm not sure how to do that, but it sure as hell seems necessary to truly bring us back to a healthy democracy.

ABC’s “This Week” — Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., and Chris Stewart, R-Utah. Panel: Chris Christie, Barbara Comstock, Rahm Emanuel, Yvette Simpson and Maggie Haberman.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Democratic presidential candidate Deval Patrick; Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. Panel: Jeff Mason, Peggy Noonan, Danielle Pletka and Eugene Robinson.

CBS’ “Face the Nation” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Mike Quigley, D-Ill. Panel: Ed O’Keefe, Rachael Bade, Ramesh Ponnuru and Molly Ball.

CNN’s “State of the Union” — Murphy; Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio. Panel: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), former Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), Jen Psaki and Scott Jennings.

CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” — Philip Gordon; Svitlana Zalishchuk and Mustafa Nayyem; Nina Jankowicz; Nathan Law; Andrew McAfee.

CNN’s “Reliable Sources” — Jennifer Preston; Dan Rather; Jeffrey Goldberg; Charles Whitaker. Panel: Bianna Golodryga, Nicole Hemmer and Abigail Tracy.

Fox News Sunday” — Reps. Jim Himes, D-Conn., and Steve Scalise, R-La. Panel: Jonah Goldberg, Marie Harf, Gillian Turner and Juan Williams.

So, what's catching your eye this morning?

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