The psychological reason people still stan Logan Paul — and Donald Trump
It seems like all we talk about now is celebrities or politicians and the awful things they’ve done.
For almost two years, the national news cycle has been dominated by our Commander in Chief’s misbehavior — some of which is allegedly criminal.
And since October, the spotlight shifted to Hollywood as actresses, actors and others began outing powerful predators, one at a time. The focus has even been turned on YouTubers, primarily Logan Paul and his exploitation of a suicide victim at a sacred Japanese forest.
No matter how many negative headlines these famous men garner, though it still seems like some supporters of these celebrities and politicians couldn’t care less. Regardless of their actions, people will still support their favs no matter how problematic.
For example, President Trump’s supporters were more than happy to get behind GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, just because Trump did, knowing fully well that he was an alleged child predator.
Moore repetitively denied the allegations, and while some of his supporters said they were only voting along party lines, others acknowledged the validity of the accusations, and still chose to support him.
“Has anybody been arrested? Has anybody talked about arresting anybody?” Alabama resident Jeffery Ray Jones told the New York Times when asked about why he still supported Roy Moore. “There are some real issues out here in America and there are some people really hurting, but all you focus on is what you want to focus on.”
And when Logan Paul desecrated a sacred place in Japan by mocking a suicide victim for views, his fans made excuses for him. “Okay, so what? He is still a human being and we, as humans, make mistakes. I do, you do, everyone does,” one of the fans told Galore. “Logan is a good guy and an amazing human being, he just make one mistake and he deserves a second chance, just like we all deserve,” said another.
Sure, we’re humans and can make mistakes, but at a certain point, where do we draw the line? At what point does the person defending their favorite reach a place of irrationality, focusing on what they want to focus on, and how do they get there? I talked to Jay Van Bavel, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University, about the reasons people are still supporting celebrities and politicians who’ve done awful things.
I asked him about cognitive dissonance, which he defines as, “the psychological discomfort people feel when they have inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes.”
So basically, when we are confronted with contradictory information about someone we like or support, it leads to this feeling of discomfort. “If your favorite celebrity of politician engages in immoral behavior, like sexual misconduct, it can lead to a very strong feeling of cognitive dissonance,” he said.
This dissonance forces the person dealing with it to make a choice.
“To reduce this feeling [of discomfort], you can either disparage the celebrity, defend them, or ignore evidence of their misbehavior,” Van Bavel says, adding that people frequently ignore the evidence.
When people ignore evidence or misbehavior, especially when talking about Trump supporters or Logan Paul stans, a lot of it has to do with the fact that they just don’t want to admit they were wrong. To admit that they were wrong would mean that they’d have to reckon with all the information they ignored, which would only greaten that sense of discomfort originally caused by cognitive dissonance. It would also unearth more than just their disregard for facts, but also their entire understanding of whoever they are supporting.
A lot goes into the decision to ignore facts though, and relies heavily on both internal and external factors. The internal factor is the level of discomfort that results within ourselves, which explains why some people take attacks against their favs so personally. The external relies more upon a person’s environment, meaning their friends and social circles.
“People can decide to support someone because their friends are doing it or because their political party is rallying behind the person,” says Van Bavel. “If so, they might be compelled to support someone who has done awful things.”
Cognitive dissonance doesn’t just affect who we support though, because according to Van Bavel, this discomfort creates effects felt elsewhere in society, and, “affects all kinds of decisions, from our fraternity hazing rituals to political beliefs. It can even lead people to join cults and double down on beliefs that have been falsified.”
It still appears that ignorance is largely to blame, but it helps to understand that ignorance might just be a psychological defense. Maybe people who thrive in ignorance aren’t actually as malicious as they’re made out to be, but instead aren’t ready to accept the facts, because to accept them would mean to accept that they were wrong to begin with.
The point of this story is not to be like, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you call them a racist!” because, duh, people who are still backing the president are racist, and we should call them out.
Rather, maybe understanding the process that leads people to this point of irrationality could eventually help bridge the gap between understandings because at times, it feels like those who can rationalize voting for a pedophile or supporting someone who uploaded a video of a suicide victim to Youtube live on an entirely different planet.