A most politically significant manifestation of cognitive dissonance occurs every day in democratic societies, and it has disastrous effects on their foreign and domestic policies.
Cognitive dissonance at its height (nadir?)
Cognitive dissonance is most pronounced an our epoch of triumphant democracy, especially in democratic America. Throughout the twentieth century, the American people have been taught to believe that democracy is the ultimate standard of what is “good” and “right.” Virtually every college and university instills this dogma in their students.
However, once students leave academia, the hard knocks of economic reality and of national and international affairs, convey a different lesson: democracy leads to many discomfiting and even pernicious consequences.
The result is cognitive dissonance, since what the mind expects as the good resulting from democracy turns out to be less than good and sometimes transparently bad.
We can more readily perceive this by considering the two basic principles of democracy, freedom and equality. I will offer only one example: the freedom and equality that resulted in the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, a person who was predictably, and is now manifestly, unfit for this highest office of American government.
Mr. Obama is rightly regarded as the political product of America’s two- or three- decade long “affirmative civil rights” movement. This movement involved, among other things, inverse equality, which often advances inferior persons to the positions of public significance, such as admission to college or the university.
Small wonder that today’s level of American education is deplorable. Even students admitted to the graduate level have been in need of remedial reading. That so many fail to graduate is itself a cause of cognitive dissonance, to put it mildly. I have had students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from reputable colleges who could not write an essay having any logical consistency. And when I asked them to show me papers they had written in college, it was clear that their professors just wanted to move them forward on the “affirmative action” assembly line.
From academia to the real world
I see manifestations of this “politically correct” but intellectually dishonest academic phenomenon in the utterances and official acts of many American diplomats, policy makers, and decision makers, including Secretaries of State! And all of these officials are college or university graduates. Some serve as advisors to the president, and are therefore involved in the making of decisions affecting the welfare and even the existence of nations, such as Israel!
Of course, we have here more than cognitive dissonance, but this concept is evident in the moral equivalency of the American State Department vis-à-vis a democracy like Israel and the despotic Palestinian Authority.
This phenomenon has been noted by former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, in his book Surrender is Not an Option. Bolton is an exception to the rule.
Since American diplomats represent a democracy, they are inclined to political neutrality. Hence they cannot escape cognitive dissonance when trying to promote peace between a peace-loving state and a war-loving state. Chamberlain tried this back in the 1930s. It is well beyond the cognitive capacity of men like John Kerry whose trips to the Middle East are just a waste of American tax-payer money (to put it mildly).☼
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