The Ends Do Not Justify the Means Anymore in Politics

The infamous line “The Ends Justify The Means” from Machiavelli’s The Prince has been bouncing around in my head more and more lately. It is a particularly scary mantra for a counselor to think about because it is a mindset that can justify even the most heinous of acts.

I have been thinking about it more and more lately because as a counselor in private practice, I am on the front lines, I am in the trenches with regular Americans, I am the person with their finger on the mental health pulse of America and I am not liking what I see at all.

8 years ago, I could not tell you one single time that I had a client or a family come into my office with one of their presenting issues being anger or anxiety about politics or the media. Well take that back, when I was in community mental health I saw schizophrenic patients who’s primary delusion was political conspiracy theories. But aside from clients with severe mental illness I never saw or heard it. Now, I would say that 50% of the clients in my office are bringing up issues that are based on our current political and media climate.

I literally have clients telling me story after story about how politics are destroying their families, friendships, and jobs. For example, I had one client recently tell me they broke their wrist after punching a hole in their wall out of frustration arguing with a roommate about whether democrats were communists. I had a family call me out of fear for their son because he was so angry after the government shutdown that he was yelling at anyone who would listen and were worried he was going to hurt someone. I had a client start having panic attacks after Trump was elected and was worried about him bringing the world to the end. 

Don’t believe me? How many stories in the news have we seen of people getting into altercations at rallies both on the right and the left? Just this morning we had a BBC reporter “severely assaulted” by a man at a Trump rally. Every week we see some story about somebody getting fired from their job because of something political they posted to their social media accounts. We never saw things like this happening 8 years ago and yet every week we see a story about how politically motivated assaults, protests, etc. and people getting arrested or hurt. 

Just look in your own lives for a minute and ask yourself how many people do you know have been affected by our political climate? Hell, in my own circle of friends we had people who were able to get past somebody sleeping with someone’s girlfriend, but we have divisions now within this group because of the 2016 election and the comments that people have made to each other.

All of this is the collateral damage from a political and media climate that uses fear, anxiety, and division as their playbook to get their bases activated and to get ratings. I know this because people like myself were recruited in grad school to be human factors specialists for these entities to help them understand how to use our knowledge of the human psyche to get people to think what they want, what to pay attention to, and how to motivate them to vote.

When you talk to anyone in the media or a political campaign about their tactics, they simply use the logic that “The Ends Justify The Means”. Whatever it takes to get their candidate elected or to get their ratings is justifiable and in the end is worth it. They will even justify that the other side is doing it so if we don’t, they will win so we have no choice but to do this.

But do the ends justify the means anymore? The truth is that the collateral damage being caused by this mindset and these tactics is a cancer on society that is destroying it from the inside out. The ends do not justify the means anymore because what is the point of winning an election or being a media company that helps get a candidate elected if there is no country left to represent in the end? That is where we are at as a country and we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what type of country do we want to be and what are we willing to sacrifice to get there?

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Its Not Fake News Anymore Its Fake Reality

It seems like there is no such thing as a down news day anymore is there? So far this morning we had Roger Stone being arrested for lying about his involvement with the Wikileaks investigation and now it was just announced that LaGuardia Airport  just shutdown any incoming flights because of a lack of air traffic controllers due to the government shutdown.

Whew…exhausting isn’t it? Already I have been scanning the comment sections of various right/left news websites and it is almost like a social psychology experiment…only this one isn’t in my textbooks from graduate school but actually happening right now. It seems like we are at a crossroad with our perception of reality and understanding what we are seeing all around us. 

It is called accommodation and assimilation or simply how we incorporate new information into our construction of reality. When everything fits…no problems just make room and come on in. But if the information that we see is vastly different than what we know…then it creates a problem called cognitive dissonance. That dissonance creates a lot of angst and anxiety and we have a few choices. We either accept that what we believe is wrong, sit with that angst, and restructure what we believe. But in many cases we don’t want to change what we believe, the angst and anxiety is too much so we try to either discredit all of the information that we are seeing or we try to change (accommodate & assimilate) the new information into our reality. That is exactly what is going on right now with our political climate and it is scary as hell. Because of the game that politicians and the media is playing with our psychology to get ratings and votes, they have pitted everyone into a black & white reality, using emotion to intensify those beliefs, and down right make us doubt the reality that we see (fake news). So people on the comments sections and the news are making people go in two directions.

The first is that people don’t want to believe that Trump has done anything wrong and that he is actually in the right and there is a deep state working against him, which is being played now as the FBI is a corrupt and illegitimate organization that cannot be trusted and the FAA & Air Traffic Controllers are democratic hacks who are not showing up and politicizing the shutdown and trying to make Trump look bad. The second way people are looking at this is that our President is completely corrupt, a liar, a tool of Putin and all the people around him are getting arrested for lying and obstruction of justice and it is just a matter of time before he himself is charged. Moreover this side is looking at the Laguardia shutdown as evidence that something awful is going to happen and that Trump is trying to create chaos on purpose create an environment that will usher in his master plan in the same manner of the Homeland Security Act after 9/11.

If you think I am lying go read the comments sections and go around the internet. There is literally an article on the Huffingpost with a 2014 Interview with Trump saying that a crisis is needed in order to make America great again. We are in a climate where people think our most sacred institutions and positions are so corrupt that we cannot trust them and are working under the guise of a foreign country. People are so dug in to their beliefs that they are either totally ignoring all the evidence around them or finding some way to make it fit their existing beliefs. Its like a 10 year-old trying to find some way to still believe in Santa…only this isn’t Santa we are talking about…its our very government, our reality, our way of life, and our future. How can it have gotten this bad? What can we do about it? We want to know your thoughts and we will bring it up on the air!

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The Nation That Won’t Jump Out Of Boiling Water

It is amazing what we can get used to as a human being. After 15 years of seeing clients, it still amazes me how even in the most messed up situations people can find a way to normalize it so they can cope with it better. In traumatic situations like war or war-torn societies it literally is the only coping strategy that people have to stay alive and not think about how awful and scary their situation is. Its literally the difference between life and death.

The only draw back of that coping strategy is that in one situation it helps you survive…in other situations it is the very thing that will ensure your demise. How is that possible you ask? Simple, a solider’s brain will adapt and turn off many of the emotions that they would normally feel by seeing a dead body or seeing somebody blown up in front of them so they can keep functioning and stay alive. A child in a war torn nation will not react to seeing blood splatters and bullet holes on their streets so they can keep functioning and survive. It works in those environments but what happens when we get used to things that we shouldn’t get used to?

That is the crux of where we are at as a country right now. Emotions can be something that overwhelm us in traumatic situations and need to be turned off so we can survive. But emotions are also a huge warning system to let us know something is not right and the emotion will not go away until we fix the problem. That is where this defense system goes awry because we can get used to anything and by not feeling the emotion we are not outraged and if we are not outraged we don’t care and we don’t do anything about it. Therefore nothing is done and nothing changes and we are okay with things that surely are not okay.

So here we are 30 days into a government shutdown, our country more divided than ever, people hating each other more than ever, families being torn apart from the current state of division, media personalities openly celebrating the illness of a supreme court judge, children being used as pawns by the media and politicians for their own gain (shooting victims, MAGA Hat Boy, immigrants, etc.), victims of crime being de-humanized for political gain, nothing being able to get get done in our government….the list goes on and on.

Things are not good in any way shape or form but like a frog in boiling water or a solider in a war zone…we are somehow okay with all of this. If anything, the media and the political campaigns are actually stoking that intense emotion for their own gain and unleashing against each other for their gain. So instead of being angry at the actual people who are creating the mess, we are directing that anger out on each other where the only people who win is them. Why are we okay with any of this that is going on? Things are so messed up and the collateral damage that I see in my office is just staggering. It makes me so angry that I almost can’t see straight. 

This is why The Reporters exists…its for everyone who is tired of seeing all of the problems of the world and is not okay with it. We are not going to pit people against each other for clicks or viewers…we are uniting us to think for ourselves, see the world for what it is, and direct our energy into taking actions that will be a catalyst for change. 

I think the words of John F Kennedy summarize our mission statement the best: 

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.[11]

 

 

 

 

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Re-branding Democrats & Republicans As The Bloods & Crips

Want to know what is wrong with our government right now? Okay there are a ton of things wrong with our government but I want to point out one big one today. When I did crisis intervention work in college I got to work with young gang members when they wanted to get off the streets to lay low for a few days. Each time. I used the opportunity to learn about gang life and why they made the decision to join a gang in addition to why gangs fight the way that they do.

The one constant to gang warfare mentality is that it is an endless game of retribution. They killed one of our guys and now we have to kill two of theirs. They stole one of our cars so now we are going to blow-up one of theirs. It is an endless cycle where each group just focuses on what the last salvo was and using that as reasoning to launch their next one.

Sound familiar at all? It should because that is what our politicians are using as rationale for everything that they do. Just this morning Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said “Democrats have made a marketing decision to obstruct Trump”…but damn that sounds familiar…where have I heard it before? Oh yeah, remember in 2010 right before you took back control of the house and senate:

John Boehner:  “We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.”

Mitch McConnell summed up his plan to National Journal: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

You see, this is the world we live in where everybody has a short memory and we justify what we are doing because they did it to us. Then they act incredulous when the other side is literally doing the same exact thing they did a few years ago. Why do we let them get away with this? We look at the Bloods and the Crips and shake out heads at the violence they ensure on each other and wonder why but then democrats and republicans do the same thing only instead of it being a poor neighborhood being held hostage it is an entire country. The Democrats and Republicans just need to get it over with and change their colors to bloods red and baby blue crips.

 

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