Profile picture
Ezra Zuckerman Sivan @ewzucker
, 24 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
THREAD: You may be wondering why only people on the left are worked up about Kavanaugh’s obvious lies. I mean, do people on the right really believe his (changing) story about what “Renate alumnus” meant?
Of course they don’t. They’re not idiots.

So then why isn’t Kavanaugh hurt by this?

Because, as we (@ohahl @minjaekim22) show in our research, obvious (“common knowledge”) lies can be effective tools for proclaiming deeper truths to those who are primed to hear them.
As with Trump, the deeper truth is that a particular group is treated unfairly by the establishment (recall Kavanaugh’s opening).

Then, so long as the obvious lies can be framed as serving that larger truth, the liar can present himself as the group’s “authentic champion.”
It just so happens that our study tested this theory in the context of a simulated college election where the main issue was the imposition of a campus alcohol ban so as to limit sexual assault. Such a ban would threaten campus drinking traditions.
And when people were experimentally manipulated to see themselves in the traditionalist group and were led to believe the establishment was treating them unfairly, they regarded clearly false, misogynistic statements as “authentic” & were more likely to support the candidate.
Perhaps surprisingly, this result occurs for both *women & men* and for both *Trump voters and Hillary voters.*
To clarify: it’s not that these aggrieved traditionalists ignore the lies. They recognize lies as such in our experiments. & in a post-election survey, Trump supporters largely acknowledge that one of his most notorious lie (about the Chinese inventing climate change) was false.
It’s just that they see these lies as a tool for expressing a larger truth.

What’s the larger truth in Kavanaugh’s case?

I’m speculating now but I’d say there are three levels to it.
At the most basic level, it’s simply that it’s unacceptable to hold someone accountable for high school hijinks 35 years later, esp without evidence. And so when he claims there were no hijinks when everyone knows there were, he’s inviting his fellow partisans to help protect...
... him from being held to an unfair standard. They know he’s lying but they collude in the lie for a higher purpose.
Second, the larger truth may be the partisan battle, as evoked by his opening statement. Under this logic, the GOP are invited to collude in his lies bc he will be a reliable champion of the cause. The lies are in service of the larger truth that Democratic power is illegitimate.
Finally, and as suggested by our experiments, he may also be appealing to his fellow traditionalists’ anxiety about threats to their culture. What kind of real American doesn’t like beer, amirite? And what kind of loser doesn’t have too many beers once in awhile? The larger...
... truth then is that those high school hijinks were *good* and it’s wrong for these jerks to now cast aspersions on them.

Of course these three logics are complementary. One, two, or three of them could be working for any one person.
Larger implication:

Exposing lies is insufficient to reach across this kind of partisan divide. We have to look harder for the deeper implicit claims being made & why they resonate with those who seem unable to see the lies. They *can* see the lies but their *focus* is elsewhere
P.S. A few people have asked what the action implications of our (@minjaekim22 @ohahl) research are. Excellent question and our guess is as good as anyone's.

I would offer four observations though, fwiw:
First, *everyone* is prone to this behavior, as our experiments attest (even women excuse a misogynist!). And in real life, you can choose various examples on the left. I mention a recent one here: .
Second, mere partisanship is *insufficient* for a lying demagogue to seem authentically appealing. If there's no "legitimacy crisis" (bc the establishment appears corrupt or to favor an upstart group), partisans don't cotton to the lying demagogue (see )
This makes sense bc US political history isn't dominated by lying demagogues (thank goodness). So the real Q is why so many Americans felt so aggrieved going into the 2016 election, & continue to feel that way (on the right, even tho they control executive & legislative!) today.
Third, while the previous two points identify mechanisms that turn this on & off, it's important to recognize that the problem may actually be worse than what we document in our research. Why? Because it's one thing to excuse deviant behavior one time, in private...
... but it's quite another to do it repeatedly (think of how many norms Trump has broken since coming on the political scene) in public. This "escalates commitment" like no one's business. Very very hard to reverse. (yes, this is key to cults; see Kanter's classic study)
Finally, a personal takeaway is that I don't take seriously anyone who can't find serious faults w their own "side." All human beings are flawed and any leader commits major errors, in part bc they always have to balance competing values & in part bc they're fallible.
If you can't recognize this then you are a partisan hack, not a committed citizen of a republic.

An example: I was extremely disappointed in 2012 when Romney was vilified on the left for his "binders full of women" line. The implication was that Obama was great for women.
But was he? Definitely not, if you read Ron Suskind's Confidence Men, an excellent treatment of the first two years of the Obama Administration. Ask Christy Romer. Or ask Anne-Marie Slaughter:….
The point wasn't that Romney was a better candidate than Obama. I personally thought that Obama was the better candidate. The point is that we must recognize *and work hard to overcome* our tendency to excuse faults on our side & howl at faults on the other side
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Ezra Zuckerman Sivan
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!