How to turn the Other Side into cartoonish villains? Let me count the ways*:

  1. Essentializing:: reducing a person to some fundamental and invariable quality or behavioral tendency. Example: "Public figure ‘X’ is a sexual predator".  

  2. Totalizing: making sweeping generalizing about a group. Example: Trump supporters believe white supremacy is the natural order of things.

  3. Mindreading: assuming one knows someone else’s thoughts, feelings and motivations – that is, the “real” reasons for what they say, think and do.  Example: “It All Comes Down to Race: Your opinions on health care reform, taxes, and even the president’s dog …

  4. Damning the Inner Other: a variation on mindreading - the propensity to ignore virtuous or at least neutral behavior and focus on the unsavory beliefs or biases that supposedly motivate said behavior. Example: when rich people give to charity, "it is an exercise in damage control against any backlash by the less well-off".  

  5. In-group bias: a pattern of favoring members of one's in-group over out-group members and of seeing in-group members as unique individuals and out-group members as representative of group stereotypes. One is more likely to feel the joys and sorrows of some people more than others, especially if they’re of the same political persuasion or ethnicity. Example: in one research study, participants in India perceived South Asian faces as being  “more alive, more able to plan and feel pain, and more likely to have a mind than Caucasian faces” while Caucasian participants in the UK felt, well, just the opposite

  6. Narratives of Blame: Simplistic stories that connect past events to current inequities, often leaving out intervening events and other relevant information. Example: Past Housing Discrimination Is to Blame for Current Income Disparities.

  7. Scapegoating: When individuals and groups settle on a specific target to blame for their problems. Example: Americans Blame Corporate Greed for Moral Decline

  8. Dehumanizing: Dehumanizing rhetoric downplays the individuality and humanity of others, often by giving them labels like predators, snakes, cockroaches, parasites, and cancers. Example: “Sexual harassment, misconduct, assault and violence is a systemic disease…The tumor is being cut out right now with no anesthesia

  9. Dismissive: showing that you think something or someone is unimportant and not worth considering. Example: describing someone’s concerns as a matter of “inconvenience”, as in Activists work for a greater good, which may just inconvenience you.

  10. Overenthusiastic “Fact-Checking” : Fact-checking rhetorical flourishes sometimes feels like a cheap shot (basically, an easy way to make someone look dumb, dishonest or gullible). Example: In Fact check: Trump makes more than 20 false claims at Cincinnati rally, one such “falsehood” was Trump’s statement, “You know windmills: if a windmill is within two miles of your house, your house is practically worthless." CNN notes, “While some homes might fall in value when turbines are erected close by, studies in the US have not found that homes generally become anywhere close to ‘practically worthless’ in such cases”. Note there have been studies in both Europe and the US finding that property values have indeed gone down near windmills, so Trump’s statement is not groundless. And even a relatively small decline in property values can make a house “practically worthless” to an owner who wants to sell the property but has little equity. More to the point, the word “worthless” is generally understood as an exaggeration and expression of disgust or anger, not a factual statement of objective worth (as is obvious from the usage examples provided by

These are a few of the ways we shore up the certainty of our convictions and justify not considering other points of view. If the Other Side is morally bankrupt and devious, why bother to listen to what they have to say?

* Yeah, these examples are mostly from the left side of the political equation. Although I am a registered Democrat (and former member of the Democratic Socialists of America!), I do think that progressives are especially prone to the above forms of divisive political speech.