Political parties, and political leaders, need to control people. (And what’s more, they want to control people, which is why they are in politics). They use a variety of tools for doing so, but two of the most important were on full display last week: Preference falsification and tribalism. They go together, and Kanye West, of all people, made that clear and showed how to undermine them.
Preference falsification, as spelled out by Timur Kuran in his superb book, Private Truths, Public Lies, is where people tend to hide unpopular views to avoid ostracism or punishment; they stop hiding them when they feel safe. In totalitarian societies like the old Soviet Union, the police and propaganda organizations do their best to enforce preference falsification. Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it — but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.
But preference falsification also occurs outside of police states. In today’s America, certain people — members of minority groups, and entertainers, in particular — are pressured to publicly support Democrats or, at the very least, to refrain from supporting Republicans, regardless of their true feelings. We saw that recently when country singer Shania Twain commented that she could understand why people voted for Trump, only to be forced by a Twitter mob to recant and apologize shortly thereafter.