Moreover, there is something to be said for self-care in the Trump era. We have become numb after four years or so of lies, racism, xenophobia, narcissism and cruelty. You have to wonder if less consumption of President Trump and his cultists would help put his most egregious remarks in perspective. If you ever found yourself at the end of a week — or even a day — experiencing difficulty recalling the third- or fourth-most-recent outrage, you understand how more exposure does not necessarily make you more cognizant of the lying, norm-breaking, meanness and bigotry. The sheer quantity of his lies, outrages and attacks makes it all a blur. (Remember when he commuted Roger Stone’s sentence? That was only last month.)
There is a wealth of research out there that frequent exposure to hate speech (what else would you call Trump’s racist appeals and personal attacks?) makes us, as one paper from 2017 put it, “less sensitive to hate speech and more prejudiced toward hate speech victims than their counterparts in the control condition.”
Richard A. Friedman, a psychiatrist, wrote in 2018 that “politicians like Mr. Trump who stoke anger and fear in their supporters provoke a surge of stress hormones, like cortisol and norepinephrine, and engage the amygdala, the brain center for threat.” He continued: “One study, for example, that focused on ‘the processing of danger’ showed that threatening language can directly activate the amygdala. This makes it hard for people to dial down their emotions and think before they act.” In layman’s terms: All that anger and fear can make you less rational.
And do not worry that you are missing out on what others are absorbing. “The first night of the Republican National Convention averaged 17 million viewers on Monday, a sharp drop of 26% from 2016,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The audience figure from Nielsen was also below the opening night of last week’s Democratic National Convention, which averaged 19.7 million viewers” over the three major English language broadcast networks and three leading cable news channels.
Relatively few people, it turns out, want to subject themselves to monotonous speeches delivered at high decibels. There is nothing new here — no surprise or metamorphosis in the GOP’s thinking. Pace yourself: You’ll need to husband all that emotional ballast for November, when Trump inevitably refuses to accept the result of the election.
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