Insincere Cheers

As my son is a senior marching band drum major, Friday I went to a local high school football game to film him for posterity.  And I noticed something obvious.

People like to cheer their teams on, but prefer to be encouraged by announcers, cheerleaders, bands, pep squads, and so on.  And while fans seem to care that these various leaders of cheer are impressive and loyal, fans don’t seem to care nearly as much if these leaders sound sincere.  The announcer carefully controlled his voice inflections, the cheerleaders carefully synchronized their arm movements, and everything they said was consistently loyal, but you couldn’t possibly have mistaken them for people who deeply and sincerely believed the words they spoke.

Sport cheers are often considered an analogy to political and ideological partisanship; we like to vote and declare our opinions similar to the way we like to cheer sport teams.  We prefer to support positions that have have loyal impressive cheerleaders.  It is nice if those cheerleaders are also sincere, but it is not especially important to us.  It is, however, important that our idea cheerleaders be impressive and loyal.  We might eagerly point out when leaders on the other side sound insincere, but that is mostly hypocrisy, since we don’t care much about our leaders’ sincerity.   

Just as we care more that our team wins than that they were actually the strongest team, we probably care more that our idea sides look good than that our ideas are true.

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