In biology there’s a concept called Epigenetics, which basically says that exposure to an environmental factor can activate genes and trigger changes. Examples include things like stress or poor diet activating genes associated with personality or cancer.
The recent elections got me thinking about an analog with rhetoric and political beliefs.
Let’s say that an American voted for a certain candidate because they want small government, protection of the environment, and legalization of a certain drug. But some people voted for that candidate because they have a pro-American agenda and an anti-Russian agenda.
This American might walk around all day not thinking about nationality at all. The belief/gene is dormant.
But then there’s a video that’s released showing a Russian guy beating up an American guy outside a pub. Suddenly this idea/gene is activated and now it becomes one of the top reasons they believe their candidate should win.
Real, biological Epigenetic effects are sometimes triggered by toxins in the environment, and maybe that’s how we should treat negative rhetoric.
Maybe videos and essays showing attacks against someones’ interests can activate beliefs people didn’t know they had. Ugly, nasty beliefs. And maybe those beliefs can become malignant.
So if you don’t like cancer, try to avoid swimming in glowing pools of standing water behind nuclear plants (Facebook).