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Black and white thinking. This is the core of simplistic thinking, where we render complexity into easy, yes/no, good/bad, for/against positions. No individual is all “good” or all “evil.” Neither the left nor the right are all “good” or all “evil.” We need to consider the nuanced mixture of philosophies and policies as degrees of usefulness to society. Such simplistic thinking is lazy. It cuts out the potential inherent in the greyness of life. It taps into our need to belong and opens us to manipulation.

The dismissive power of labels. Labels are useful to describe characteristics of situations and behaviours. But they can also be used to dismiss people, to negate their positions, and end discussions. Sometimes labels do fit, so I am not saying we should not use them at all. But we should be more considered in their usage, and be aware of our intention to use them. Over time, the excessive use of labels can cause them to lose their meaning altogether. They then become no more than personal insults.

Appeal to base emotions; often using exaggerations. A typical move is to describe (non-criminal) bad behaviour as criminal, so as to ramp up emotions. Another way to appeal to base emotions is to use strong words like “war.” If we lack a well-developed and sophisticated level of emotional intelligence, we can easily be manipulated by manufactured outrage.

Fear-mongering feeds narrative bias. When people buy into a particular narrative, often incorporating it into their identities, they become open to fear-mongering. Fear-mongering works by anticipating and catastrophising (or awfulising) what could might, perhaps, possibly happen, should a particular candidate win. This is a version of ramping up anxiety to make things worse, as a form of dramatising and self-punishment. Entire groups of people can be ramped up to engage in destructive actions. Social divisions are often maintained by fear-mongering.

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