“Lizard Brains”: Historian and NBC Analyst Meacham Attacks Trump Supporters As Functioning On Primitive Limbic Systems

Below is my column on Fox regarding the recent remarks of NBC analyst Jon Meacham explaining how Trump supporters suffer from “lizard brains.” The statement is indicative of a long-standing trend in the media of insulting and biased comments about Trump supporters. Analysts seem to have dispensed with any notion of restraint or reason in such attacks.  What is most troubling is that there are students who support Trump at Vanderbilt and there have been complaints for years about an increasingly hostile environment for conservative students. Taking a professor who has publicly dismissed your political views as the result of a lizard brain is hardly welcoming.

Here is the column:

We recently discussed how Vanderbilt professor and historian Jon Meacham gave a quiz in his course on the 2020 Election in which students were asked “Was the Constitution designed to perpetuate white supremacy and protect the institution of slavery?” You had to answer “yes” or get points deducted.

It appears that the final exam in the class could prove even more demanding for any intellectually honest student if Meacham asks about the voters themselves. The NBC analyst this week declared that President Trump and his supporters are examples of being controlled by what is called “the lizard brain.”

It only got worse from there.

Meacham addressed a simple question of whether Trump helped himself with his base in the second presidential debate Thursday night. It is impossible on NBC, however, to refer to Trump voters without some derisive or insulting precursor. Meacham did not disappoint his audience.

“I think Trump did himself good with his base tonight,” Meacham said. “The question for America is how big that base is. There is a lizard brain in this country. Donald Trump is a product of the White man’s, the anguished, nervous White guy’s lizard brain.”

Meacham was referring to a primitive part of the brain in psychological literature: “Many people call it the ‘Lizard Brain,’ because the limbic system is about all a lizard has for brain function. It is in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing up, and fornication.”

Of course, even with the lead held by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the polls, roughly half of this country still supports Trump (or at least rejects Biden, who Meacham has endorsed). That is a lot of lizard people.

What is striking is that Meacham is supposed to give what NBC, MSNBC and PBS present as neutral, scholarly analysis. But his comment about Trump supporters having lizard brains captures why conservative or independent voters view the networks as biased and gratuitously insulting.

Indeed, these comments show that networks like NBC are now focusing entirely on Democratic and liberal viewers — writing off half of the American people as gag lines.

I have written repeatedly about how the media have helped Trump by fulfilling his narrative of open bias. Meacham shows that they are now enjoying this too much.

There appears to be no point that is too insulting or raw for national commentary so long as it is an attack on Trump or those who support him.

I did not vote for Trump, and I have regularly criticized him in columns and blog posts. However, I have watched the stereotyping of Trump supporters at media conferences for years. It suggests that roughly 63 million people in this country who voted for Trump in 2016 are knuckle-dragging racists.

The media have simply never tried to see any nuance or gain any insight into what is motivating Trump supporters. It is easier to dismiss them as a whole as racists and lizard people.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has declared that Trump supporters as a whole are racists. That common stereotyping of Trump supporters is uncontested, even as the media object to Trump’s generalizations about other groups.

Miami Herald columnist and NBC analyst Leonard Pitts wrote a column headlined: “No, it’s not the economy, stupid. Trump supporters fear a black and brown America.”

The narrative has moved beyond Hillary Clinton’s description of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables” to now portraying all Trump supporters as open racists.

“Make America Great Again” hats are denounced by academics as the symbol of “modern day hitlerjugend” and hate speech.

What is most distressing about Meacham’s comments is that he is an incredibly talented and insightful academic. But it is hugely popular to degrade Trump’s supporters on television. That can create its own conditioning reward system.

It is also popular in academia today to rewrite history to fit a narrative, like declaring simplistically that the Constitution was designed to perpetuate White supremacy and protect the institution of slavery. No nuance. No objectivity.

Following this logic, if you believe Trump is a threat, it follows that his supporters are threats. That actually sounds familiar. You could almost say that it sounds like … well … the lizard brain.

An article headlined “Why Your Lizard Brain is Keeping You Stuck and Specific Tools To Start Connecting” could be distributed as a self-help guide for network analysts.

The article states: “When you’re acting in one of these fear-based modes — whether you fight, flee or freeze — you can’t remember any of the great communication tools you’ve learned or the tips or strategies you’ve been practicing because you can’t access the part of the brain where that stuff is saved! Brain imaging has shown that when the amygdala is activated by negative emotions, it actually interferes with the brain’s ability to solve problems (or figure out how to get unstuck). But here’s the good news: positive emotions and thoughts do the opposite; they help you with creative problem-solving and strategic thinking.”

In other words, it is possible that tens of millions of voters are not lizard people, but people with opposing views. Yet, once Trump supporters are shown or discussed, it triggers these intense negative emotions in analysts who respond with fight and flight impulses.

Once you accept that, you can access parts of “the brain where that stuff is saved” from your training and your scholarship. You know. Like history.

193 thoughts on ““Lizard Brains”: Historian and NBC Analyst Meacham Attacks Trump Supporters As Functioning On Primitive Limbic Systems”

  1. If I had to choose, I’d choose lizard brain over the disabiling and degenerative mental disease of liberalism.

    1. Yes, wanting the help the poor, the sick, children, the environment, and protect civil rights. All horrible things.

      1. you just use all that syrupy dogoodism to justify ever higher taxes from which your patronage circles rake off their take in the form of government jobs handing out the dole and similar private sector berths. while the rest of us actually work

        There’s a measure of social safety net the Republicans fully support but here ole Molly pretends otherwise

      2. Oh BeeEss! Liberals are hateful individuals who could care less about the poor, the sick, the lame, the infirm whatever. They are mostly virtue-signalling prigs who are massive control freaks and can not tolerate anybody who does not think like them, or think that they are the smartest most wonderfulest people in the whole dang Universe.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

      3. We watch you democrats destroy generations of those minority children in schools in NYC for the financial and political benefit of entrenched democrats.

  2. Jon Meachem was for many years the editor of Newsweek in its terminal phases. The commercial failure of print magazine reportage induced him to re-invent the publication as a journal of opinion, more along the lines of The Atlantic or The New Republic of old. The problem was, that these other magazines actually recruited high-g people who could turn an idea over in their minds. When Meacham and his staff dispense with the conventions of reportage and say what they think in plain terms, we got to learn that they hadn’t an original thought in the liberal blancmange which in their cranium passed for brains. The revised Newsweek didn’t last too long.

    Something Fred Barnes noted almost 20 years ago: having worked for both liberal and conservative opinion magazines, he couldn’t help notice that the staff of the latter were not recruited by the mainstream press while the staff of the former were getting recruitment calls all the time. Working for the gay press (as did Sarah Petit, the culture editor of Newsweek) wasn’t a bar to a job in mainstream media. Neither was working for a red haze outfit like Pacifica Radio (as did Laurie Garrett of Newsday). Someone hired at the old media review Brill’s Content said he was poleaxed to discover the number of people there who had been hired off the staff of Mother Jones, a watermelon publication. Rod Dreher recalling his time on the editorial staff of the Dallas Morning News said the papers reporters in editors were completely uninterested in covering stories which might be of interest to the sort of people who bought the paper (who tended to be older and suburban) and instead expended manpower chasing stories to appeal to hipster types who did not actually read the paper. People like Meacham spent a generation avoiding half the population and have hardly a clue about why they think the way they do. They did all this while babbling about ‘diversity’.

    Thos. Sowell noted a while back that articulate people are not necessarily intelligent people. Jon Meacham has made a living by being articulate.

  3. Squeeky-Excellent, Thank you. These people are so deep in their own s*** that they don’t have the courage to say “we’re wrong”!

  4. When I was in college I was there to learn and pass the classes. If the professor was biased, and that would affect my grades, then I adopted his bias – at least until I was done with his class (and perhaps four more years, depends). Honestly, upon reflection I suspect this is true of offices, businesses, in fact, of 100% of all organizations, worldwide . . . as a survival characteristic. My point being, who cares what Professor Meacham believes? I would be there to pass the class, not cross swords with him to the point it diminishes my grades. Thus, my suggestion to Vanderbilt students is the same as I made to my daughter when we packed her off to university, which is; be smart, think for yourself, find a way to fit in because to the hammer, everything looks like a nail. Don’t be a nail. There is plenty of time to express yourself after you have learned what the university has to share in the way of knowledge. Check the box and prepare yourself for the future. Put another way, cooperate and graduate because life is long.

    As to lizard brains commentary, dunno, above my pay grade. However, I think it’s presumptuous to write off half the population. Bad business, too. This is why none of my customers know my politics. Downright stupid to alienate half, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I don’t fret because the world is round and this will circle around to bite the media in the hind end, eventually. By this I mean, the 2nd Amendment is fully capable of being modified by the politicians as well (even though as Senator in 1974 Joe Biden didn’t express this). While it would be a shame for the press to give up their position as the only protected class in the US Constitution, they will have brought it on themselves by picking sides. After all, people have long memories!

    1. Mr. Beech-I won’t knock how you feel about going along to get along or what you’ve taught your children to get ahead, obviously a good parent.

      Maybe you could also read to them:
      “The Bystander’s Credo.”

  5. Sometime commentator on a rival network to Turley’s questions motives of voters – Jonathan is outraged!

    President of the US and most powerful man in the world tells his AG to arrest his political opponents, including the most likely President of the US? Turely says nothing.

    President of the US and most powerful man in the world actively tries to destroy public confidence in the coming national election so he can maybe save his fat a.s if he loses? Turely says nothing.

    Our host lacks both judgement, perspective, and moral principle. He’s a pom pom guy.

    1. JF, if you despise this blog site so much, why do you hang here? Ur not gonna change anyone’s mind ’bout anything.

      1. If he cannot change anyone’s mind, that means that all of the commenters here have closed minds.

        Do you have a closed mind?

        1. It also suggests he is dead wrong on the issues and has not found a way to PERSUADE others to see things his way.

          Just as his comments fail in that……so does yours when you post as you did right here.

          1. In your mind, perhaps. Others see things differently.

            (I’m not the anonymous person who commented at 10:42 a.m.)

  6. Well, what do you know. Alex Jones was right. There are lizard people all around us, and they are trump supporters. There’s plenty of evidence to show it true. The horror!






      a vast radiant beach and cool jeweled moon
      couples naked race down by its quiet side
      and we laugh like soft mad children

  7. What document that declares an entire race to be considered as 3/5 human doesn’t further white suppremacy and slavery?

    1. It DID NOT declare blacks to be 3/5 human, you frigging idiot. They were counted as 3/5 of a person/citizen for the purposes of being added into the count for the House of Representatives. The Northerners (Yankees) thought it unfair to apportion representatives on the basis of population when the South could just import millions of slaves and get a majority of the seats in the house.

      You dimwit! You stupid lizard-brained twit!

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. Go back to servicing the creepy old man at Spahn ranch and spare us your rancid butt breath, racist slime.

    2. To enlarge their power in the House, Southern Democrats wanted all their slaves to be counted, but Republicans compromised at only counting 3/5 of them. Now and for the same reason, Democrats want all their illegal residents counted. I’m getting a flashback.

      1. Nether the Democratic nor the Republican Party existed in 1787. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 in an ingathering of free-soil and abolitionist dissidents in the other party. The Democratic Party was founded in 1828 when a mess of regional and sectoral factions from the old Jeffersonian Republicans gathered behind Andrew Jackson. The Jeffersonian Republicans were founded in 1793, again, primarily representing small-agrarian interests with more decentralist bent than the Washington Administration.

        1. Art– All true, but the central point remains the same, the 3/5ths rule was meant to reduce the power of the slaveholding states rather than increase it. It had to do with representation rather than defining a part of humanity. Free blacks were not counted as 3/5ths for purposes of determining congressional seats. I know you know this, but your correction might have included an additional remark that tore down the lie that the 3/5ths provision and the Constitution itself was pro slavery. It should always be confronted clearly. They will continue to repeat the lie, knowing it is a lie, because attacking America is more important to them than truth.

          1. And you clowns will keep telling yourselves that 3/5ths representation is, well, 3/5ths representation.

            1. Actually the slaves got no representation. They were slaves, after all. The 3/5ths allowance gave the slave owners more representation than they would have had based only on their numbers. A 100% allowance for the slaves would have given the slaveholders even more representation and still left slaves with no representation.

              You have swallowed the 3/5ths lie and it has hooked so deeply in your gullet you can’t imagine a way to get it loose. You might try therapy. This really isn’t very hard.

          2. No, pal, the 3/5th rule was meant to increase the power of the slave-holding states. Madison preferred a direct vote by those with the franchise, not using the electoral college –

            “The people at large was in his opinion the fittest in itself. It would be as likely as any that could be devised to produce an Executive Magistrate of distinguished Character. The people generally could only know & vote for some Citizen whose merits had rendered him an object of general attention & esteem. There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the N3groes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.”

            1. No, pal, the 3/5th rule was meant to increase the power of the slave-holding states.

              Non-slaveholding states wanted an end to slavery. Slave-holding states wanted to continue the practice. The only way to get all of them to ratify the constitution was to compromise. Without ratification, independence would have been short-lived and the slave trade would not have been set on a course for it to end. The southern states insisted that each slave be counted for representation. This would have given them more power. The compromise cut that power.

  8. Prominent Democrats are already calling for purges if Biden wins the election:
    When this nightmare is over, we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It would erase Trump’s lies, comfort those who have been harmed by his hatefulness, and name every official, politician, executive, and media mogul whose greed and cowardice enabled this catastrophe.
    -Robert Reich, October 17
    I love the people responding to this tweet as if it’s a radical, undemocratic idea.
    -Robert Reich, October 18
    When this nightmare is over, who will be held accountable? And who will hold them accountable?
    -Robert Reich, October 20
    Stop with this talk, Robert. Let’s just get rid of him.
    -ZipClap, in response, October 20
    ‘And, whether you like it or not, young lady,’ Biden says, leaning over his desk to shake a finger at me, ‘us cruddy politicians can take away that First Amendment of yours if we want to.’
    Senator Joseph Biden, 1974.

  9. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

    Those on the Left think of those on the Right not unlike those on the Right think of Mexicans….

      1. The cartels exist, but they aren’t the majority of immigrants.
        If the US decriminalized drug use, it could do a more effective job in decreasing the wealth and power of the cartels.

  10. I’m not sure if you’re column today is for or against the maligning of Americans who choose not to follow a socialist point of view. Every paragraph puts a negative accent on an American who votes for other then liberal. Why did you note in the column “I did not vote for Trump” are you afraid of snap back from GWU? They who vote other than Socialist are Americans supporters of capitalism, the constitution and the American way of life. They don’t have to be Trump supporters they might be Democrats who don’t like the direction the party has gone?

    1. This puzzles me, too. By all means do as you will, professor, but it’s a bit odd to write much of what you do and then turn around and support the people that necessitate in the first place. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. And it’s clear the DNC is *counting* on the fact that their supporters are lizard people.

  11. Sure The irrational and immediate rejection and hatred of quite literally anything that originates from an individual that a person themselves has allowed to take residence in their mind is clearly the mark of higher brain function. These people are unbelievable, and their children are cave men with the test scores to prove it. Though a largely irrelevant metric in my opinion, my IQ is over 150, what’s Meacham’s?

  12. Joseph Campbell said years ago that Western society, and America in particular, suffers from a chronic lack of myth. Trump has given us our myth back. He’s either the Savior or the bogeyman, depending on which side you’re on. Which is all very well and good but history has shown us what happens when a segment of society is declared, a priori, so vile that it doesn’t deserve rights. In America today, Trump supporters and/or conservatives are that segment of society. This is a terrifying state of affairs. In a way, the guy’s not wrong. The lizard brain is the part of the brain that handles our basic instinct for survival and it seems to be malfunctioning or voluntaritly suppressed in a large part of the population. Intelligence exists on a continuum. There is the most basic level, the lizard level if you will, that instinctively knows that burning cities down – just to give one example – is a bad idea. Then we have the next level, the average guy level, into which most pseudointellectuals fall, which manages to override the lizard brain into thinking that burning cities down is a good idea. And then we come all the way around to high levels of intelligence which recognize that anything that threatens our survival is bad. In other words, the basic level of intelligence and the highest level of intelligence both involve common sense which presumably falls under the auspices of the lizard brain. Personally, I’m glad mine works. But calling human beings lizards, which is what this is, just further dehumanizes us to the point where every violation against conservatives will be considered not only justifiable but eventually a civic duty.

  13. “There appears to be no point that is too insulting or raw for national commentary so long as it is an attack on Trump or those who support him.”

    Jonathan, it is all part and parcel, of the:

    “The War on Populism”


    “We’ll get back to the War on Terror, eventually … as the War on Populism is essentially just a temporary rebranding of it. In the end, it’s all the same counter-insurgency. When a system is globally hegemonic, as our current model of capitalism is, every war is a counter-insurgency (i.e., a campaign waged against an internal enemy), as there are no external enemies to fight. The “character” of the internal enemies might change (e.g., “Islamic terrorism,” “extremism,” “fascism,” “populism,” “Trumpism,” “Corbynism,” et cetera) but they are all insurgencies against the hegemonic system … which, in our case, is global capitalism, not the United States of America.”

  14. The largest percentage of his supporters ARE slow and backwards thinking. Mr. Turley’s crowd, like the most well-off in every country, prefer an authoritarian leader.

    1. “The largest percentage of his supporters ARE slow and backwards thinking.”

      Says the person who provided no verifiable evidence to back-up his claim.

      It appears that you and “slow and backwards thinking” are not strangers.

      Try going out into the world every day minus your bigoted arrogant self-aggrandizing perception of yourself, and you’ll find that most Americans are good and decent people regardless of their political persuasions, or lack thereof.

      At the end of your life the one thing that matters above all else is how closely you followed the Golden Rule in your daily interactions with your fellow human beings.

      My father was a good man who led a good life, and treated people the same way that he would want to be treated. When he was in hospice slowly dying, he was visited by people who were his friends that had already passed. Every one of them were anxiously awaiting to see him again because they loved and missed him.

      Guess what happens to the people who didn’t treat people the way they would have liked to be treated, when they are dying?

      Answer: The exact opposite.

      1. Bill McWilliams’ quondam hobby was providing us all with a farrago of 9/11 truther bushwah. He’s Dunning-Kruger exemplified.

    2. Bill, You should consider your remarks and reflect on them: You obviously consider yourself intellectually superior to great swaths of humanity. How does this effect your interactions with others? Do you only socialize with those willing to hump your leg?

    3. Bmcw – If you can contain yourself from insulting people, why don’t you find another blog site to post your insults. It seems that you have a sloow, veerrry slooow cadence to your posts. Perhaps caused in insulting others only to make you look smarter that the rest?

  15. As usual, Turley is right on the bulls-eye of this issue, although I would go further and describe the Left as exhibiting a hive mentality…

  16. Guess what there are academics with multiple MBA’s , PHD’s and there are allot of middle class HARD working people who may not like how Trump expresses himself but we love a patriotic , hard working president who does what he says he is going to do! If we wanted a typical “ say anything” to get elected politician who is inconsistent in what he supports & what he will get done then we would vote for Biden. So call us names, insult us…. I enjoy being a rebel lizard brain that can think for myself!

    1. Trump isn’t hard working. He spends hours a day watching TV and can’t be bothered to read the President’s Daily Briefs. He doesn’t do a lot of what he says he’ll do. He’s been promising a healthcare plan for years and still hasn’t presented one. He lies all the time. If ever there was a “say anything” to get elected politician, it’s Trump.

  17. That is unfortunate. Jon Meacham should know better. He should consider rereading his book about Thomas Jefferson. It was a nuanced view of the founding of our nation, of Jefferson, and it recognized Jefferson’s desire to downplay and overcome partisanship.

    Perhaps the brevity and nature of TV news is interfering with a good discussion…

    1. “Jefferson’s desire to downplay and overcome partisanship.”

      It is important to note that was also George Washington’s desire.

      “The common and continual mischief’s [sic] of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion.”

      ― George Washington, Washington’s farewell address: delivered to Congress on September 19, 1796

      “The more things change, the more they remain the same”. – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

      1. Cindy,
        It’s a miscalculation. It would have better if he had stuck with the Founders and the ideals of liberty.

        1. Prairie……….Exactly. He was a legit respected academic, who became a contact lensed commentator and fell in love with the camera, showbiz, and Mika.

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