The Election Is Over. It's Time to Unsubscribe From Identity Politics
Updated: Nov 11
Who is Shaking the Jar?
I saw an incredible metaphor the other day on social media. It went something like this...
Did you know if you catch 100 red ants and 100 large black ants and put them in a jar, at first, nothing will happen. It is not in their nature to want to kill each other.
However, If you violently shake the jar and dump them back on the ground the ants will fight until they eventually kill each other. The red ones will attack the black ones and vice versa.
The reason each group thinks one another is the enemy, when in reality; the real enemy is the person who shook the jar.
This is what I believe is happening in American society today. The real question we need to be asking ourselves is who is shaking the jar and why.
I've spent the last year listening to people from all sides and not sharing my views. Now that the election over, I feel compelled to share my perspective that the real enemy is not the bad "side"; the real enemy is the person shaking the jar of Identity Politics.
Identity Politics is a Lucrative Business Built on Inventing Ways to Capture and Sell Our Valuable Attention
We need to realize that Identity Politics is a lucrative business, built on appealing to our darkest tribalist instincts and addicting us to mostly manufactured toxic drama so they can sell our attention to advertisers who can convince us to buy stuff we don't need.
Contrary to popular belief, media companies don't care about giving you useful information that will help you in your daily life. EVERY mainstream media company's true priority is to retain your valuable attention by inventing new ways to elicit the emotional responses of fear, anger, anxiety and hatred. Your valuable attention is how they monetize this product with advertisements.
Each political side believes their side is the one fighting the mainstream "hatred", but I'm here to tell you that we're all the ants in the jar. The formula to get us addicted is simple from every network from MSNBC to Fox News: First, create a black and white dichotomy to simply categorize otherwise complex people: left and right wing. Then, focus on the worst parts of the other side and create an editorialized narrative based in half truths that makes the viewer believe their way of life could end soon if you don't stay "informed" and "take action" by repeating the regurgitated talking points to their friends and family.
People revel in this manufactured drama in the same sick way we enjoy feeling more alive with horror movies, soap operas and reality TV like the Bachelor. In a sterile and safe (by historical standard) world, it helps us feel genuine emotions that our monkey brain craves. It also helps us distract ourselves from our lack of fulfillment at work, relationship problems or lack of life purpose. In a time of the greatest relative peace the world has ever known, we indulge in these manufactured political wars as a way to exercise our darkest inclinations of our tribal ancestral past by stigmatizing an entire group of people who we perceive to be the enemy. All humans are flawed creatures, so it becomes quite easy to focus on the worst examples of the other "Tribe" in a sample size of millions.
"The Goal of the Media is to make every problem, your problem." - Naval
The media's purpose is to profit off of your attention by making you feel personally responsible for the actions of imperfect humans that you have no control over in a world of 7.5+ billion flawed humans. This method literally drives people insane, because it makes them face the reality of how little control they have in life. Perhaps, it even amplifies our ever-present fear of death. At the same time, we are so busy watching our biased media sources that we don't have the time and energy to actually take action to fix real problems in the world.
Social Media Platforms are also profit-driven, and therefore designed to capture and sell our attention in nefarious ways
Fear, anger, and feeling like you belong to the "good" and "righteous" group sells attention. Attention attracts advertisers. Ad sales increase stock prices. Stock prices increase the money for the employees and stockholders.
The Social Dilemma on Netflix did a decent job of explaining how this works in more detail. The bottom line is that what we are shown is designed to get us all riled up. That means more time on their platforms, which means more time for advertisers to convince us to buy a product.
However, the posts that go viral focus on the worst people and actions from both sides, because those are most efficient at making us fearful/angry and keeping our monkey brains PAYING attention. Because a viral post of an angry looking, overweight white guy in a MAGA hat does something despicable, we start associating all Trump voters with that image. Because we see an angry looking, unemployed "Blue-haired" person advocating for the destruction of private property, we start to associate the left with these people. The posts of the common Trump or Biden support going out of their way to help someone else don't gain any traction. Unity doesn't sell attention. It's too boring for our monkey brains.
Over the last 10+ years we've created our own echo chambers and illusions
We've now had 10+ years history of unfriending or unfollowing people on social media who have different perspectives. Not only that, if we've said something opinionated on social media, people with different opinions may have unfollowed or unfriended us.
This creates the illusion that it's us and our "good" family and friends who are on the right side, and everyone else that doesn't share the same thinking is "bad," "unintelligent," "snowflakes," "racist," or "crazy".
The intelligent people who share differing or complex views are self aware and perspective enough to keep quiet. So what ends up happening is if you actually try to understand the other "side" you will be getting the perspective of the most ignorant and judgmental people out there. This causes the divide to increase even further, because if an intelligent person from the other side goes on a limb to explain their point of view, they are immediately grouped in with the ignorant and vocal people with too much time on their hands.
State-sponsored Russian, Chinese and Iranian social media trolls have exploited the Identity Politics Game to make us hate and dehumanize one other
In addition to the media's goal of profiting off of our attention, 10,000's of people from the Russian, Iranian and Chinese governments are paid to work in troll farms and sew seeds of hate and disunity.
No, contrary to what both sides of the media will tell you, the state-sponsored trolls haven't "chosen a side". Their only goal is make our domestic division greater so that our power as the Free, Democratic Leader of the World is diminished for their own gain.
The trolls' #1 goal is to make both sides believe that the "other side" is trying to change their way of life. They do this by creating millions of triggering social media posts, memes, and comments. There is also reason to believe foreign governments could be behind some destructive riots.
Americans from both "sides" fall for the foreign attacks hook, line and sinker, adding fuel to the fire. At the end of the day, we all lose by not seeing through these foreign acts and allowing trolls to create more hatred and disunity between us.
Capitalism and technology aren't to blame for this - we are to blame!
Some people who understand this problem are then inclined to blame the profit-driven motif for the media's disgusting and toxic portrayal of the "news".
However, if we all turned off the Cable TV News and took a break from social media, these companies would be forced to respond to market demands by creating a product based in unity, constructiveness and positivity. The problem is that we keep breathing life into their business model by choosing to give them our valuable attention. Without our attention, they would go out of business in a capitalism world.
Capitalism isn't the problem. We are the problem.
"Software ate the world, so now all the world's problems get expressed in software" - Benedict Evans
Technology has the power to connect us all to one another. It's amazing and beautiful how I can keep in contact with people I've met all around the world. Technology itself isn't the problem; the way both "sides" are using the technology that connects us all to spread our own hate and judgements is the problem.
We all have the choice to unplug. We can use the best parts of technology while choosing not to engage in the short term satisfaction of being part of the "mob".
Technology isn't the problem. We are the problem.
Identity Politics 2015-2020 Post Mortem
Identity politics and the "life-or-death" media-driven narratives highjacked most Americans attention for the last 5 years. It caused the greatest societal divide I've seen in my lifetime. As a Libertarian (at the federal level) who generally likes to stay publicly silent on political philosophy, I was attacked by a few people from both mainstream political parties for not "being on the right side of history".
As a libertarian, I didn't support either Trump or Biden. In fact, based on my understanding of history, economics, and human nature, I believe that the libertarian principles that created the United States experiment IS the right side of history for the most peace, prosperity and freedom for ALL people; but that's completely beside the point.
Because my views don't really fit into the Two Party System's paradigm, my "silence" attracted two family members from each side of the political spectrum of accusing me of being a "Secret disgusting Trump Supporter" and of being a "Secret Weak Snowflake who is afraid to admit being a democrat". I personally choose not to take the bait and allow my ego to take the attacks personally from well-intentioned friends and family whose good intentions have been used against them by the "person shaking the jar"; but I've witnessed countless others' relationships ruined by falling into this trap of having political fights that turn into personal attacks. The rationale given is generally, "If you don't vote for who I believe in, I don't want to love or accept you anymore." Then friend groups and family factions team up to create a pact to basically say, "If that person doesn't see the things we do, we don't need them anymore." The people they ostracize react to the traumatic social condemnation by being more angry, radicalized, hostile and set in their beliefs.
Throughout the pandemic, family and friends from both sides would check up on loved ones not to see how they were doing, but rather to see if they were planning on voting for the "right side."
This extreme behavior reminded me of the religious wars that have gone on throughout history - only now instead of arguing over the details of who is representing God more accurately, we are choosing to idolize imperfect political leaders in Biden and Trump.
The only people who made me feel like I wasn't going crazy in the last year were intellectual leaders like Joe Rogan who equally focussed on the hypocrisy of both sides, while trying to bring the smartest people from all perspectives on his show. This is the exact opposite approach the mainstream media takes of showing short out-of-context clips of the most ignorant people from both sides. It made me feel better to know that Rogan's podcast is #1 in the world. I would imagine this message is resonating with many who were "silent" like me during this year.
But, let's step back a minute. Think about how insane and illogical it is to risk your relationship with someone on the very tiny chance you may change their mind to cast a vote that statistically doesn't mater?!?!
So how did we get to this sad state of affairs?
How did we get to the point that half the country, who was deeply unified in 2001, thinks the other half are both trying to "change their way of life" and/or "spread hate and chaos". As someone who values the truth and understanding others' perspectives deeply, here is my interpretation of the events of the last 5 years and how we arrived at this point. All I ask is that you read this interpretation with an open mind and trust that my intentions are based in a desire for harmony, truth, love and positivity for all people.
Of course, I need to start this interpretation of recent events by stating the obvious that Trump was NOT a unifying figure for America.
My personal opinion is that Trump is a spiritually-bankrupt, materialistic, and classless Egomaniac - someone whose character and some of his values I'm ashamed represents the pinnacle of the country I was born in. This is not a bullshit statement to prevent the mob from coming after me. This is really how I think and feel about Trump. In addition to his character/values, as a libertarian at the federal level, I was disappointed that he didn't make meaningful progress on any of the difficult mathematical problems facing the long term efficacy of the U.S: skyrocketing debt, drastically unfunded liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare, the ridiculous War on Drugs, Competitiveness with China, the Military Industrial Complex, corporate monopolies created by Washington Lobbying and a reserve currency that is being rapidly devalued.
But, back to how we got here. It's easy to give a simple answer and say, "Trump created the division." However, the truth is so much more complex than that. If we don't want to continue down the path we are on as a country, we need to be objective about how we got here, and understand how the media, social media, and foreign troll farms threw gasoline on the fire.
First, let's start with the media gaslighting, cherrypicking, and manufactured narratives.
Gaslighting is defined as, "A increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim - having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their own memory and perception."
Despite Trump's flawed character, aggressive style and exaggerations/lies, the Fake News and Media Gaslighting were both real things. All the Russia drama that media hypnotized us with for over a year did, in fact, turn out to be a hoax. Somehow the media on the left convinced a large amount of people that because of his aggressive win-at-all cost style, he was the next Hitler - yet ironically, the reality was we had more peace under his presidency than any other in recent history. We were told Trump was "cozying up to dictators" while simultaneously being told "Trump is going to start WW3." Thank God those fear-based narratives never turned out to be true. At the same time, the media gladly ignored and diminished the actual activity reminiscent of Hitler's rise in 1930's of the internment camps of 1.5 million Uygers in a country that is rapidly on the path to surpassing the U.S for world leadership.
On both the left and the right, the gaslighting, cherrypicking and manufactured drama went on and on, to the point it would make you question your own sanity and judgement.
The liberal side of the mainstream media convinced many that a "Vote for Trump was a "Vote for Racism and Bigotry" yet the reality was there were many minorities who voted for him in 60 YEARS and a strong Black Conservative movement that we never heard about from the left. The right-leaning media told us "A vote For Biden" was a vote for "Marxism and Chaos, despite his long track record of being moderate, connected to corporate America and having consistent Law and Order rhetoric.
Although very happy to trash Trump's character on a daily basis, the media didn't talk much about the shocking Epstein story of top politicians, scientists, "elites" and lawyers in America being caught up in a disgusting Pedo ring. They showed the video of Trump with Epstein talking at a party, but not the picture of Bill Clinton being massaged by a woman trafficked by Epstein, and didn't talk much about the revelation that Clinton has been on his private flight 26 times or that Epstein had a painting of Clinton in a dress.
The good things Trump did for all people and minorities (and yes, not everything he did was bad) were ignored to focus maniacally on the bad parts of Trump's flawed character and his Egotistical backlash against the media and bureaucratic institutions that were attacking him. Then on top of that, the racial card was played over and over, and the narrative was carefully curated to rile people's emotions up. For example, when Trump came out and clearly denounced white supremacy and hate groups the day after the first debate, it was conveniently not broadcast on the liberal-biased stations, or if it was, it was just written off by the talking heads as more "dog whistling" and "not strong enough." That type of rhetoric from Trump just simply doesn't command attention or fit the narrative, so it's editorialized out. Hell, denouncing white supremacy even might be enough for some people to turn off cable news to watch sports again. The media would rather shake the jar and instigate a Race War, because that's the type of drama that sells attention.
Imagine being sold this narrative of a racist president and then watching this 8 minute long video of him denouncing White Surpemacy countless times in the past? Then you come to find out that there were most minorities voted for a Republican President in 60 years? What would you conclude? Would you feel angry for being Gaslit? Would you become more entrenched in your beliefs?
After the manufactured drama and gaslighting, we were told relentlessly we needed to pick a side between Good/Bad, Hate/Love or Freedom/Marxism. Supporting the ideas Trump was defending was considered supporting Hitler 2.0. This harsh and unfair blanket value judgment of 70+ million people drove him and his followers nuts, and helped exacerbate the divide.
This Viscous Cycle Lead to an Even Deeper Divide
When the tragedy of George Floyd happened, it was a goldmine for both sides of the media. They were both literally profiting off of this tragedy for weeks. The ENITRE left was portrayed by the right to want to defund, abolish, or demonize ALL the police. At the same time, the media didn't seem to want to create any sort of unity in preventing an innocent person from being killed by instead discussing constructive ideas everyone could agree on such as abolishing police unions that protect bad cops or removing bad laws from the War on Drugs years that we make our police enforce. The media on the right implied that the takeover of the Portland Antifa section as the goal of ALL the left, which simply isn't true. The right-biased media also relentlessly grabbed hold of the Marxist beliefs of the Black Lives Matter Movement's website such as "Abolish the Nuclear Family" as proof of the Left's "true goal"- however these views were ones that most people (including myself) had no idea they were supporting when they posted in solidarity after the awful murder of George Floyd.
Each side couldn't even try to understand each other anymore. "How could you be such a bad person or ignorant to support this evil, vile, liar as your president?!?!" "How could YOU be so ignorant to support Chaos, Marxism, and manufactured Race Wars?!?!"
Their minds were so rooted in these false dichotomies that they began to use politics as a way to identify someone as a good or bad person. Friends, family, celebrities, and athletes posted more into their curated echo chambers. People who thought differently or had more complex views just unfollowed each other, not wanting to be sucked into a meaningless fight. Only the people truly not aware of themselves were left on social media making a fool of themselves by picking direct fights with the other "side". The social media and social echo chambers became so drastic, we didn't have anyone who could help us understand the other "side".
We were told there were peaceful protests, while cities burned. Ideas such as "It's only property" infected the hearts and minds of the Left during what the left-biased media told us were "peaceful protests". The right-biased media highlighted a couple of the "Pandemic Scientists" who said political rallies were a problem, but the protests/riots were fine. The hypocrisy was off the charts, but at the same time the media was choosing to zero in on people that didn't necessarily represent the entire other "side." The right-leaning media chose to focus more on the rioting and mask-less protests than the police injustices themselves.
The media corporations on both sides created and cashed in on this divide big time. The media told you that you were forced to choose a side or be labeled either as a "complicit racist" or a "weak snowflake". At the same time, being informed meant consuming all the ads that corporations were paying millions of dollars to get your subconscious attention on. For example, while we were locked inside our houses consuming toxic media, ads for $2000 Pelaton started to make a lot more sense every passing day. Instead of donating money to people struggling in countries without safety nets, we bought all the stuff they told us would bring us happiness between hateful segments. It turns out that the products didn't bring most of us any more happiness.
The group think messaging was repeated on social media by friends, family, athletes and our hallowed celebrity figures. It was a cheap way to get likes/attention, and try to absolve themselves from all the forms of corn-syrup, video games, vices and expensive corporate brands they normally sell to their followers. Anyone who dared to express a differing opinions on solutions to these problems was attacked. Public figures with differing opinions decided it was best to just keep quiet.
All of the scare tactics, violence, destruction, media bias, and judgement in the left-leaning media, led many on the right to double down on their Trump passion twice as much.
This doubling down led the most passionate supports to attend massive mask-less Trump rallies and show insane fervor for a person whose character is pretty gross. These rallies brought out some of the worst characters from the right (In the same way the social justice riots brought out the worst people from the left). The left-leaning media grabbed onto these images and shoved them down our throat non-stop. The fervor in Trump drove more and more from the left to double down on their convictions of all Trump supporters. It was a ruthless cycle, until the divide got to where it is today.
Trump's personality and win-at-all-costs style that made him successful in American society was aggressive, dishonest, obnoxious, bombastic and angry, but many of his supporters believed the ideals he claimed to be defending were sacred to the tenuous American Experiment - Ideals such as Law and Order, Freedom and Providing Domestic Security that Trump supporters associated with a better future for all people.
The media fanned the flames on Trump's aggressive showmanship style, and vilified the people who believed in these ideals Trump was defending with all sorts of divisive rhetoric. They labeled him as the worst names you can call someone - white supremacist, racist, bigot, morons, etc. They said he was dog whistling for racism by reading deep into every impulsive statement he made.
Additionally, the employees of social media companies acted on their left-leaning political bias, creating more unfathomable fervor for Trump.
For example, when a new party called Unity 2020 was being formed with a democrat and republican on the ticket, it was banned by Twitter and Facebook for "violating their terms." Legitimate claims of corruption by one of America's oldest newspaper of a presidential candidate's son were banned from being shared on Twitter and Facebook leading up to election. This drove the other side even more nuts.
On top of that, most of the "liberal" media never bothered to talk about legitimate issues with Biden - the legitimate claims of family corruption, mental health concerns, and his War on Drug Laws that led to 100,000's of people (many minorities) being locked up for non-violent crimes while his own family didn't have to play by the same rules. The gaslighting, cherrypicking, and manufactured narratives were relentless.
That is why I believe we are where we are. The profit-driven media shook the jar, and most of us didn't even know we were in the jar.
Moving Forward: What Healing and Unity Actually Means
The last few days we've heard calls for nationwide unity. It's a noble thing to say, but it's much easier to say that when your "side" has won. If we are serious about unity, here's what needs to happens on BOTH sides.
For unity to actually happen, the left needs to start by trying to empathize and understand why Trump's ideas (not character) appealed to many of his supporters in the first place.
We can start by recognizing that many Trump voters are the same people who D.C politicians, Hollywood, Bankers, Lobbyists and Costal Elites have ignored for decades while the "Swamp" and the Coastal Elites reap the benefits of an ever-increasing powerful central government, federal income taxes and an ever-increasing inflation tax. Last election these types of people were called "Deplorables", this time they were labelled as "racists, "morons," and "Christian extremists". Generally speaking, I believe most (not all) of these are good people who just want to be left alone by the federal government. They believe in helping others in their families, communities, and local governments, versus helping others with bloated federal program that never turn out as intended. They associate D.C with greasy politicians who enrich themselves while continually assaulting and undermining the principles of Freedom that their families have fought in wars for and which have formed the most prosperous country on earth.
They are also the same people who have lived through unethical presidents who also lied directly to the American people such as Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. As a result, they see all politicians as egomaniacs and liars in their own ways - some smoother talkers than others. As crazy as it may sound, I can understand why people like this would put character aside to support someone who they believe is standing up for their principles of freedom. After all, they are often the ones who go to war and then send their kids and grandkids to war to protect their principles of freedom and their way of living.
If you really tried to understand the COMMON Trump voter, you would have the comfort in knowing that "A vote for racism", to them, it meant "A vote for Peace by Strength, Safety and Constitutional Rights."
We need to re-humanize our fellow countrymen on the right without making harsh condemnations of their motifs and character. We need to recognize that the right-leaning media doesn't necessarily represent the views of an individual on the right. Perhaps in the name of unity, we may even apologize to those on the right who we've attacked their character. We don't need to agree with them, but we do need to humanize and respect them.
The right also needs to start by trying to understand the common voter on the left - not the extremists we are shown by Fox News.
We can start by recognizing why people would think Trump is such a vile human being. We can understand that he does lie and create fear-based narratives such as, "They're coming for your suburbs." We can understand how people value character more highly than ideas and effectiveness. We can try to understand how the ideas from the left are usually coming from a well-intentioned place.
We should try to understand why the people on the left wouldn't want their kids to look up to Trump as a role model because of his position of power. We need to be able to admit the failings of Trump so that we can have a real conversation and mutual understanding and respect from the left. We need to pick a better person to represent and defend our views next time.
If you really tried to understand the COMMON Biden person, you would have the comfort in knowing they don't want Socialism and Chaos, but rather they value the moral character of the president of the United States.
We need to re-humanize our fellow countrymen on the left without making harsh condemnations of their motifs and character. We need to recognize that the left-leaning media doesn't necessarily represent the views of an individual on the left. Perhaps in the name of unity, we may even apologize to those on the left who we've attacked their character. We don't need to agree with them, but we do need to humanize and respect them.
After Forgiveness We ALL Need to Unsubscribe From Identity Politics
If we honestly reflect on the experience of "Being in the shaken jar", we will see the fractured personal relationships were not worth the feeling of belonging to a tribal group. The level of anxiety, fear, lack of control and despair we felt by needlessly giving our attention to the Identity Politics Game wasn't worth it.
Now that Trump is voted out of office, I hope people on all sides can all relax and take a deep breath. Biden doesn't represent the far Left - he is not an imminent existential threat to the traditional American Values. He's just another lifelong, mediocre, ineffective politician that will keep the status quo going on our path to being the next U.K (not the worst fate). Hell, him and Kamala Harris are the ultimate "Law and Order" people, having created and enforced the War on Drugs Laws. The right doesn't have to worry about them "destroying America" the next 4 years. And for the left, there is no need to worry about Trump anymore. Paying attention to the manufactured drama won't do yourself any good, help anyone, or make your life better in any way.
We need to unsubscribe from the Tribal Politics Game. Turn off Cable TV for at least 3 years. Walk away from loaded conversations. Criticize by creating. Download "News Feed Eradicator on Facebook" so that our precious attention isn't constantly being side-railed by triggering images. Stop taking the bait from people who are in the "Jar". We need to stop judging one another for who we vote for.
Even though the election is over, the media companies will continue to figure out how to addict us and distract us from the bigger questions in life like What is the purpose of life? How can I understand, love and help people today? They will continue to try to fill the void by selling us products to capitalize on our fear, anxiety, uncertainty and hatred.
Attention is your most valuable God-given currency
Imagine if Americans used the same amount of precious attention to contemplate God and their Purpose of Life as they do consuming Tribal Politics and Fantasy Football rosters?
The phrase is called "PAY attention" for a reason. Your Attention is your time and your time is worth more than anything in the world. If our attention is constantly assaulted by events and narratives that trigger our fear, we cannot live in a state of peace, love and harmony.
Identity Politics is the new cigarettes
No child thinks it's cool to smoke cigarettes. So why do adults do it? Cigarettes are fun and social the first few times you smoke while out a bar, but the problem is once you start smoking the occasional cigarette at a bar, it's easy for the habit to seep into your normal life. Pretty soon half the people who don't smoke don't want to be around you because you stink from chain smoking and your second hand smoke is toxic to them. No one is going to insult you and tell you that, but that's how they feel. Then, you naturally attract other cigarette smokers into your life because the habit starts to rule your life. Smoking become normalized because everyone else in your bubble is doing it.
Identity politics is similar. It's fun to be entertained by the absurdity of the human race by turning on Cable News for a minute or indulging in Social Media posts of the worst examples of human behavior, but before you know it you are helplessly addicted. Meanwhile, just like the hey-day of cigarettes, you see your favorite athletes, celebrities and social circle engaged in the activity. It becomes normalized and you lose perspective of how bad it is for your health and relationships.