The paradox of the Hero Fallacy – the lens of sociology

The paradox of the Hero Fallacy - the lens of sociology
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in 2021 Storming of the United States Capitol by Tyler Marbler DSC09363-2. Wikimedia Commons cc-by-2.0

in 2021 February. American President Donald J. Trump became the first US President to be impeached twice. Donald Trump was impeached a second time for inciting his followers to attack the United States Capitol in January of the same year in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. presidential elections and stay in power. What is now known as January 6th The insurgency is a reactionary attempt to subvert democracy by disrupting a peaceful transition of power based on a debunked conspiracy to steal elections that has turned into political violence.

Several thousand loyal followers of then-President Donald Trump, dressed in Mr. Trump’s signature clothing and carrying flags bearing his name, streamed from his Jan. 6 Stop the Steel rally to Capitol Hill. His followers, determined to prevent the final 2020 to confirm the election, came to the Capitol with bad intentions. The certification process, which everyone but the Trump campaign and his most sympathetic followers have seen as a purely administrative matter, requires officials to enter electoral college votes into the record, nothing more. Even so, Trump, along with several aides on the Republican Party’s right, have demanded that the vice president be empowered to override each state’s already certified electoral votes to keep Donald Trump in power. Tensions rose when then-Vice President Mike Pence refused to deviate from normal constitutional order and overturn the election results.

Trump’s rally itself was filled with inflammatory and radical rhetoric that continued to insist that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and that his followers should march on the Capitol and “stop the steel.” The very name of the rally became a rallying cry for rioters who stormed their own Capitol, assaulting more than 130 police officers and threatening to kill members of Congress, chanting “hang Mike Pence.”

Before this attempted insurrection was over, it was painfully obvious that this event would become a pivotal incident in American democratic history. The event marks the first time a sitting US president has attempted a Rebellion against the United States. While the political figures, their rhetoric and actions are often problematic and unexpected, I was much more impressed by the ordinary, everyday Americans who took to violently attacking their own Capitols to keep in power a man who, rightfully and unequivocally, lost the previous election.

Further examination of their justifications revealed that a self-narrative was consciously created that helped explain many of the rebel’s motivations. As the federal government began to identify, indict, and prosecute hundreds of rebels, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia made public access to the court records of many of the rebels. Many of us who watched on January 6thth On the national news, everyone witnessed a strange and disturbing phenomenon. Americans have been proud of their actions on social media and in text messages to friends and family as they engage in acts of political violence against their own government. Here I began to investigate the motives of the rebel.

Rebellion and attempt Rebellion didn’t happen overnight. Then President Donald Trump laid the groundwork for his stolen election claim long before the election even began. Trump began to claim that in 2020 the election against him was rigged by the Democratic Party and the “deep state” in the previous 2018 elections. mid-term elections. I have called this statement the “meta-narrative.” The claim of a stolen election sets the stage for all other actions by Donald Trump and his followers after 2020. elections. This baseless conspiracy theory has been denied by all fifty US state election offices, more than 60 voter fraud claims have been dismissed by courts for lack of evidence, and Trump’s own attorney general has found the fraud claims to be baseless. Nevertheless, this metanarrative was the cornerstone of Donald Trump’s Stop the Steel rally in DC on that fateful day.

From this metanarrative and Trump’s plea to his loyal supporters to march on the Capitol to “stop the steel,” his supporters felt drawn into the conflict to right injustice and fight evil by stopping 2020. electoral validation and keeping their dear leader in power. This case is a clear example of the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance. Leon Festinger proposed this theory in 1957 to describe and explain the psychological phenomenon of people’s need to maintain their worldview and resist attempts to change it with conflicting information. Festinger described this contradiction and resistance as “cognitive dissonance.” People actively avoid the discomfort associated with cognitive dissonance, even to the extent that they may view the dissonance as an existential threat to their identity. Based on this basic theory, I began to study the linguistic data of the rebel court records. In many cases, individuals posted on social media, texted friends and/or family, or directly reported to arresting authorities how they perceived themselves leading to this attack. I learned that many of these people, most of whom had no violent or radical affiliations, saw themselves as heroes fighting for the soul of the republic. Many of these heroic accounts have added ideas such as paralleling this event with 1776. American Revolution, called themselves patriots or democratic traitors and declared that they were “taking back” their country.

Objectively and by narrative construction, anyone who commits violence based on an unfounded conspiracy is clearly a villain. At least a pawn in a dangerous game of political theater. But in so many examples from the US Attorney’s case file, these rebels proudly considered themselves heroes. This expressed narrative identity presents a paradoxical view of the world in which malevolent actions are considered heroic. A new theory of narrative emerges the paradox of the fallibility of the hero.

Christopher Vogler, Author The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers offered an interesting recommendation for fiction writers. In the villain’s mind they are heroes. Although Vogler clearly intended to create better fiction writing, this concept aptly explains how the rebels viewed themselves and their actions. The rebels, with their violent ideas and hero mindset, created a dizzying combination of destruction and violence to correct their cognitive dissonance. This qualitative study, which I believe effectively describes and explains many of the January 6th attackers’ motivations and justifications, is a measure of predictability related to the aspect of political violence. Individuals who express a combination of heroic thinking and violent ideas related to political affairs can easily be pushed into violent action by a powerful figure, as if they were the protagonists in a story of an underdog overcoming a sinister conspiracy. All of the insurgent’s court records contain allegations that their actions were taken with the support of, or at the direct direction of, then-President Donald Trump. Trump was the catalyst that lit the fire for these self-radicalized wannabe heroes. The story of “heroes” will forever be considered villains. One man’s rebel is another’s patriot.

Dr. Paul J. Pope is Associate Professor of Political Science at Montana State University Billings. This blog article is based on an article he published titled The Paradox of the Hero’s Fallacy: Cognitive Dissonance and the Rationalization of Political Violence. The article was published in an academic journal, Compass of Sociology.

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