City Desk

GW Law Professor: Dan Snyder Suffers From Cognitive Dissonance

A George Washington University law professor has a psychological explanation for why Washington Pigskins owner Dan Snyder and fans of the team's name are unable to see why the moniker is so offensive.

John F. Banzhaf III writes in an article in Indian Country Today Media Network that Snyder and others suffer from cognitive dissonance—the psychological term applied to the "mental strain which can result from trying to simultaneously harbor two competing inconsistent beliefs."

"To relieve the mental distress from the conflict, sufferers often change one belief – kidding themselves into disbelieving something which is obviously true, and replacing it with a belief which is clearly false," Banzhaf writes in the article, titled "How Fans Convince Themselves 'Redskins' Isn't Racist."

Indian Country Today Media Network is owned by the Oneida Indian Nation, one of the most visible organizations lobbying for the team to change its name.

According to Banzhaf, longtime fans have invested so much emotional energy in the team that they find it difficult to accept they are promoting a racist name. He compares them to addicted smokers—people who sometimes convince themselves that smoking isn't harmful to their health because they are unable to quit.

But there is a solution to this cognitive dissonance: People just need to become aware of the effects of cognitive dissonance.

"With this understanding, fans may more clearly see that, whatever the term may once have meant to them, and however sincere their belief in the name used to be, it has now changed," Banzhaf writes. "Even right thinking people once used terms like 'coloreds' for blacks, and often referred to their secretary as 'my girl.' Today these uses have largely changed, because the connotations of those words have changed, and right thinking people simply don’t use them or support their use."

Problem solved. Now all someone needs to do is convince Snyder that his deep love for the team has blinded him to reality. There's no way this has anything to do with money.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Jeff C

    There is cognitive dissonance all the time in politics. Its actually fairly hard to find cases where there isn't c.d. going on. The truth is that most controversial decisions are close tough calls. There are significant pros and cons of each choice. Where you end up is just a matter of slight differences in priorities. However, it is hard for either side to ever admit the other side has a point...any point. So they both seem to make up ridiculous lies in their own head that say that there opponents are motivated only by malice or stupidity. Its very frustrating.

  • Zac

    Cognitive Dissonance: Knowing you are not a psychologist but still trying to speculate on people's mental processes.

  • Over-theRiver

    Gee professor I pity your students. Over at Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman borrowed from the words of a famous Princetonian, author F. Scott Fitzgerald of the class of 1917, telling the students that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

  • MCNS

    A few observations:

    The expression "redskin" originated among the native peoples themselves, as a way of describing themselves, a Smithsonian researcher has conclusively shown. James Fenimore Cooper introduced the term to a wider reading audience, and it became a synonym for Indian. "Redskin" is not inherently pejorative. One wonders why the Oneida tribal corporation and their paid staff at Indian Country Media spend so much time excoriating an expression that originated with the Indians. A lack of understanding of the word's provenance or historic usage? A strange sort of self-hate?

    The comparison to addicted smokers is interesting, given the Oneidas make millions by encouraging people to smoke their tribal-made cigarettes (as well as to gamble at their casino). The Oneidas traffic in cancer-causing cigarettes in packages bearing Indian symbols on the labels. They produce psychologists to say Indian-head logos on football helmets scar children, but say nothing about the manufacture and sale of coffin nails in similar packaging. One of these things has been shown to actually cause harm to people (cancer being a leading cause of death among American Indians) and it isn't football logos.

    A comparison also is made to the use of the term "colored" for blacks, which, it is observed, has fallen out of favor and is deemed offensive. Interesting, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has signed on to the campaign to ban the use of the word Redskin as a "dictionary-defined" term of offense. Yet they use just such a "dictionary-defined" offensive term in the name of their organization and have given no indication they intend to change it.

    What was that about cognitive dissonance, again?

  • Brian

    Your writers are laughably ignorant and you articles have less fact than Onion pieces. You people are a joke. And "redskin" was a term used by Natives originally you fucking idiot. Read a book.