Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

In Our "Emocracy", Emotions Rule

| Jan. 28, 2019

We no longer live in a democracy. We live in an emocracy — where emotions rather than majorities rule and feelings matter more than reason. The stronger your feelings — the better you are at working yourself into a fit of indignation — the more influence you have. And never use words where emojis will do.

There was a time when appeals to emotion over facts were regarded as the preserve of the populist right. But truthiness — the quality of being ideologically convenient, though not actually true — is now bipartisan. On a recent “60 Minutes,’’ Anderson Cooper confronted freshman congresswoman and social media sensation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with some of her many factual errors. Her reply was that of a true emocrat: “I think,” she replied, “that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

Just how harmful emocracy is became clear a week ago, when the following headlines appeared: “’It was getting ugly’: Native American drummer speaks on his encounter with MAGA-hat-wearing teens.” And: “Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Mob Native Elder at Indigenous Peoples March.” The former was in The Washington Post; the latter The New York Times. The reports were calculated to elicit a torrent of emotion. And they did.

What actually happened was as follows. A group of (nearly all white) boys from Covington Catholic High School, Kentucky, were in Washington to attend a rally organized by March for Life, an antiabortion nonprofit organization. They ended up in an altercation near the Lincoln Memorial with a small group of Native Americans.

One of the Native Americans, Nathan Phillips, later told reporters that he had heard the boys chant “Build that wall,” and, as an opponent of President Trump’s border wall, he had approached them to remonstrate. We now know — thanks to other eyewitnesses and a much longer video — what really happened. The Native Americans were indeed abused, but by a handful of members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, an African-American sect.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Ferguson, Niall.“In Our "Emocracy", Emotions Rule.” The Boston Globe, January 28, 2019.

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