NYT Opinionator, donna-christine mcguire comment
Convinced of a threat, real or imagined, the mammalian (animal) brain pumps out the neurochemical, dopamine, in proportion to the perceived danger. This is a primitive survival response designed to help us remember and avoid danger in future encounters.
Misappropriated, dopamine, which is a highly addictive opiate, similar to its counterparts amphetamines and cocaine, requires continuously larger doses to achieve and sustain a “high”, or even an acceptable level of well being. 24/7 cable news, blogs, viral emails, and twitter feeds are non-stop “pushers”. High on dopamine, followers feel powerful, righteous anger, and the shared elation of comrades doing battle.
Eliminate fear-mongering from politics (or religion) and viewers/constituents are likely to experience symptoms similar to what drug addicts feel going through withdrawal from illegal substances. Fear and anger ginned up by leadership against the “enemy” prevent an otherwise inevitable onset of the low energy, lack of purpose and depression. Staying hyper-vigilant, angry and fearful assures their dopamine fix is always there. Once hooked, minions are compliant and unquestioningly loyal.
Unfortunately, high on dopamine, the prefrontal cortex, or human brain, with its executive capacity for analytical thinking, collaboration, long-term planning, emotional self-regulation, and empathy, is hijacked by the black and white, fear-based, dopamine-driven mammalian or animal brain. Think claws and growls. Not reason.