Yes, I know. There’s no such word as simplisticity, but there should be, because it’s a perfect word to describe false and simplistic comparisons between events or facts.

The GOP and the right have an amazing tendency to rely on simplisticity. Equating Trump’s deliberate and massive heist of classified documents to a handful of classified documents inadvertently kept by Pence and Biden or to conversational email references to classified subjects by Hillary Clinton is definitely simplisticity.

So is equating the January 6th armed uprising to peaceful protests.

Or equating Trump’s thirty thousand plus documented misstatements and lies to literally any other U.S. national political figure. Well… except for George Santos. Yet I’ve heard Republican after Republican dismiss Trump’s lies with the statement, “All politicians lie.” They may, but nowhere to the extent that Trump has and continues to lie.

Another area where simplisticity reigns is in arguments over taxes and tax policy. Those on the right cite statistics generally based on “taxable income” and percentage of taxes paid, or occasionally on proportion of taxable income generated by the wealthy and the percent of that income that’s taxed federally. The problem with that simplistic approach is that the majority of income held by the wealthiest Americans isn’t taxed or taxable under current tax codes. Likewise, because poorer families pay a greater percentage of their income in state, local, and Social Security taxes, comparing the percentage of income taxed based on federal income taxes misrepresents their tax burden.

Simplisticity isn’t new. I can recall from my childhood people saying that blacks were stupid or ignorant because they bought expensive cars and lived in run-down neighborhoods. At the time, I was young and didn’t realize that in some cities and areas, that was because of various restrictions, such as redlining, that made it impossible for them to own or rent houses in more upscale neighborhoods.

So, when you have a simple and popular view about something, it might be a good idea to ask whether it’s actually accurate… or just comforting simplisticity.

8 thoughts on “Simplisticity”

  1. Martin Sinclair says:

    Regrettably, this type of behaviour seems to be both wide-spread and self-reinforcing although, as in the US, it does seem to be the conservative side of politics that is more likely to use this approach.

    I have wondered for quite a while now why this might be the case:
    – do authoritarian tendencies lead to a “win at all costs” mentality ?
    – do they really see themselves as “the natural party of power” ?
    – have they convinced themselves that their opponents present such an existential danger to society that any tactics are justified ?

    Of all of these possibilities, the third one worries me the most as that level of self-deception is very hard to change

    1. From what I see and hear, your third possibility is widespread here in the U.S.

  2. KevinJ says:

    When I was a kid growing up years ago, it seemed to me that the Democrats were the ones with simplistic slogans – and who were aiming a lot of their rhetoric at people who didn’t want to think.

    Clearly now the Republicans are doing so.

    Too bad we don’t live in a world where the solutions to complex problems are simple, isn’t it? “Soundbite solutions” are simply irresponsible.

  3. Bill says:

    Unfortunately, this fits into the work of another author – People are stupid. They believe things mainly because they either want them to be true or fear them to be true. From the Wizard’s first rule.

  4. Hanneke says:

    This devolution to “soundbite solutions” and tweetable one-liners without an understanding of the underlying complexities does to some extent appear to be a media-driven evolution.
    When the media promotes such soundbite and clickbait views much more than any reasoned discourse setting out the problems and possobilities, politicians quickly figure out they can get away with spouting over-simplified populistic slogans that’ll get them (re-)elected, instead of doing the hard work of solving the real problems.

    I wonder if the word simplisticness would catch on better, since it keeps the core word ending-sound a -k-, instead of looking and sounding like the end is -city?

    1. Postagoras says:

      Blaming “the media” is just not right.

      The Democratic party and President Obama worked to pass the Affordable Care Act, which improved the live of many citizens. Over the strident objections of the Republicans.

      The Democratic Party has worked on real solutions for real problems. Are they perfect? No. Can you disagree with their approaches? Certainly. But can you disagree and put forward a competing approach to solve the problems of the country? Apparently not, if you’re a Republican legislator.

      While there are lots of sound bites out there in “the media”, only one political party uses them instead of solving problems. That is the Republican party, with their sound bite cronies at Fox.

      1. Hanneke says:

        It’s true that in the US one party still produces policy solutions, and the other just shouts slogans and says NO to every workable solution.
        It’s also true that the media give the public, the voters, more of what they will read or watch the most: horse-race style coverage of elections, petty quarrels, and media-genic people stirring trouble or fomenting fear and hatred.
        Not so much in-depth and thoughtful coverage of plans and proposals, and what the real-life consequences would be of implementing the simplistic slogans.
        So in tgat sense the nedia is just giving the public what it wants; but it has abdicated its own responsibility in doing so, and gone along with the quick soundbite culture, accustoming their public to that format, and substituting “fair and balanced representation of viewpoints” for fact-checking and policy questions.
        It’s true that in the US much of that has been promoted by right-wing mefia, but the mainstream media have to a large extent also given up on trying to educate the public about the real, detailed consequences and real-life impacts of the latest controversies they are talking about (unless it’s a progressive politician: those get grilled and will answer questions, because they do have thought through their plans). Right-wing politicians get away with the sloganeering approach because any media they appear in doesn’t really get to hold tqheir feet to the fire with the difficult questions about how that slogan would be implemented, who’d pay for it, what the consequences would be for people and businesses in their constituencies and the rest of the country, let alone the wider world. The mainstream media goes along with this, otherwise those politicians won’t talk to them again. And they too are concerned with keeping the fragmented and fleeting attention of the public, which has become accustomed to skipping anything that takes too long to explain.

        There are more and more politicians over here in Europe as well, who started out as small opposition parties, but gain a lot of prominence by creating ‘controversies’ and tweeting (or saying on camera) these short and quotable slogans about how they’d do everything differently, throw out all the migrants, abolish taxes or whatever, but never get pushed to produce a plan for how to implement that, or grilled about what the consequences would be. It’s enough that they present themselves superficially as an oppositiom to the ‘status quo’, in such terms that anyone dissatisfied with the present situation can glom onto some of their slogans and interpret them to mean that the politician in question understands their concern and will do something about that – they are looking for a strongman (sometimes a woman) to lead them, deal with their dissatisfaction, but not interested in the details of how he will achieve that.
        The media amplifies the voices of these populist politicians (most often right-wing, but there are some on the left as well), without forcing them to explain a non-existent plan to achieve their sloganned goals, or talking about what the real-life results would be.
        Then when such politicians gain a following and get into power, they either refuse to rule and remain in opposition forever, frustrating the efforts of others to deal with the problems in a realistic way, or they try to govern but make a mess of it, as all their slogans weren’t backed by workable plans, and they never thought through the real-life consequences.
        Like Ron de Santis signing a law that will force out migrant workers, and Florida Republicans then having to beg those workers not to leave, the law won’t be implemented the way it’s written – because losing all those workers would devastate businesses.

        Governing a country effectively depends on policy wonks, like Elizabeth Warren, but those don’t score highly in any kind of horse-race popularity contest. So how these differences are presented makes a big difference to how electable people perceive a politician to be, and that has a big impact on voting.
        How they are presented could also make a difference to the perception of the importance to the effectiveness of government in really solving problems, but that really is not given much prominence at all, except a bit about how re-electing Trump would be really bad for the functioning of a democratic government in the US.

        I hear very little talk about how Republican states that have implemented important Republican slogans and plans have gotten themselves into deep financial trouble, and do we really want to try that out nationwide after it’s already proven to fail by this state or that?
        More exposure to talk about policies like that, and less of the soundbite-style reporting of “Ron de Santis has said he’s forcing the migrants out of Florida, and people are cheering” (without reporting on the adverse effects) would help voters make better-informed decisions instead of just automatically voting for their team.
        That is why I think the media in general plays an important role in this; even though they are not all equally culpable for starting this trend, they mostly do go along with it, as far as I’ve seen.

  5. Hanneke says:

    Well, that’s a coincidence.
    Herw’s an article (full of links to sources) that explains things much better than I can.

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