How does one make sense of a climate denier's 180? Why take his new ideas seriously? Tony Heller used the pseudonym Steve Goddard to promote climate change denial. Then he "came clean" to explain how the effects of mass media make people  ignore reason and logic. As a long time Marshall McLuhan fan, this media effects perspective makes sense to me. I disagree that content means nothing in Trump's rise, but clearly modern media favor emotional content over reason.

In the climate wars, tribalism will Trump logic sorry to say.


image source

The Dawn of Hypbertribalism: How the Internet Makes Donald Trump an...

The internet has been with us forty-five years or so, the world wide web about twenty five, and the ubiquity of true personal communication for less than ten. A clearer picture of the impact of these technologies on us is beginning to emerge.

Once upon a time, the dream was that the internet and the accompanying technologies built atop it would usher in something like McLuhan’s idea of a “global village.” People across globe would be woven into an interconnected, electronic hive mind which would amplify and transmit the greatest ideas and allow us to coordinate thoughts and actions like never before, driving civilization to ever higher heights and dwarfing the accomplishments of the past century.

Marshall McLuhan image source

the internet, rather than bringing people together, is having precisely the opposite effect. By making it exceedingly easy for like-minded people to find and communicate with one another in virtual spaces, the creation of tribes around any particular idea or value, even if totally baseless or detached from reality, becomes much more prevalent. Combine this with a weakening of traditional, gatekeeping institutions like political parties and major news organizations, the internet has set the stage for vast political and social disruption.

As Trump demonstrates and as McLuhan taught us, content simply doesn’t matter. As we have seen, the more incoherent drivel Trump spews, the more popular he seems to become. What explains the Trump phenomena is the internet and the tribal bonds and relationships that can be built as a result of it. Websites, videos, social media are allowing members of the Trump tribe to share symbols and feel connected with one another in ways never before possible. And you could replace Trump with just about anyone. Trump is, in fact, irrelevant. He is merely scaffolding for a cultural movement made possible by the internet.

Rational individuals have trouble wrapping their heads around what’s happening … They can’t understand how someone like me can exist. Unfortunately, the desire to belong and be part of a tribe trumps all logic.

As 20th century institutions continue to weaken, the internet will usher in an era of what I call hypertribalism. Each tribe will have its own set of values, worldview and established “facts” they operate from. Members of the various tribes will be ensconced in their own sub-sub-cultures to the point where it will be difficult for them to relate to members of other tribes.

hypertribalism will likely make tackling issues that require massive global coordination like climate change exceedingly difficult. [emphasis mine]

I had imagined that the internet would facilitate global belonging, empathy across ethnic, political and race boundaries. In a small way that happens at Atheist Nexus, but we too are a sub-sub-culture. Between the reason-numbing effects of TV and the fragmentation of community in virtual space, our species seems to be lobotomized.

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Replies to This Discussion

Good points!

Is the future of real journalism, such as it is, crowdfunded independent bloggers rated by some sort of "web of trust"?

(The 1%ers can do -- and have done! -- astroturfing, though!)

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’ "

Isaac Asimov

The Good Doctor's entire Newsweek op-ed "A Cult of Ignorance", from which that quote comes, is well worth reading. (It's difficult to tell precisely where he passes into satire while discussing the (il)literacy of the American public!)

The attached copy came from this site:


Thanks, Grinning Cat, for the Asimov quote and article on ignorance!

I, too, thought globalization would bring together the non-believers of the world, only to discover the groups of people who use emotion to make decisions would be able to find each other as well,
So, what are we to do?
Crawl into a hole?
Cry, whin, complain, bitch. blame, accuse?
Form a more perfect union of non-believers in super humanism?
Have some fun as sectarians?

My preference would be to study these effects of media, or to put it another way to study the way we co-evolve with various media and memes. Were this knowledge fully appreciated, we might be able to rationally devise counter-measures to compensate for our weaknesses.

Write articles about positive aspects of secularism. 

    Send them to newspaper op-ed, radio, TV current events, neighborhood newsletters... 

Develop memes about non-belief...

Share funny jokes about atheists...

Celebrate our strengths...

Identify non-believers of:  


Chemistry and Chemical Biology, 

Computer Science, 

Electrical Engineering, 

English (language and literature), 


Mathematics and applied mathematics, 

Molecular and Cellular Biology, 

Music and Dance, 

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, 



Sciences  Engineering,  



Crawl...? Cry, ...? Form...?

You know it's none of those three, Joan; you're expressing your upset.

What does "Have some fun as sectarians" require of us?

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

I'm recalling several conditions that brought people into politics.

NYC's oppressing sexual minorities until an outraged minority made Stonewall happen.

Society's oppressing women until, angered, they made the 1970s happen.

HIV and AIDS' killing gays until, endangered, they made politicians listen.

The Repub establishment's ignoring its base until, betrayed, they made Trump happen. 

The Demo establishment's ignoring its base until, betrwyed, they made Sanders happen.

It takes being crapped on until people make not words but change,

Yes, there is always a tipping point of people not willing to put up with oppression. Sexual minorities, women, HIV/AIDS, ignoring peaceful and quiet petitioning for justice all need the firebrand form of organizing. I think David Silverman's book defines a more efficient group and individual action.

Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World

History tells us being polite and asking to be heard does not work. A more assertive form of action gets a group of people over the hump. 

When I started truth-telling, my family was first to chastise me, then, as we used news releases and different methods of educating the public, the masses scolded me. The more I  gave speeches or workshops, the more criticism I received. I just kept in mind:

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

 Nicholas Klein, speech by union leader  in 1914.

Non-violent resistance with assertive truth telling works far better than violent action or acquiescence.  

The paradigm shift I desire is not to seek meaning but to create meaning in my life. 


>not to seek meaning but to create meaning in my life. 

A crucial distinction, to be sure.

It's not a "reason" in the cause and effect sense, but it's (I believe) what we're all here for.

My purpose is to create purpose?
That's almost existential!

That's kinda my motto, tom: We are the meaning-makers.

We create purpose. In fact the word "purpose" exists only within human language.



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