Display of a national flag has damaging impact to social cohesion

I was thinking about Trevor Noah’s interview by Stephen Colbert, where they discussed the psychological affects of a national anthem, and it reminded me of this research on flag waving.

“Flags are tricky,” Kemmelmeier says. “If you allude to a collective and say, ‘This is us,’ there’s always somebody that’s not included.”

Decades of research has demonstrated that simply assigning a symbol, such as a flag, to an arbitrary group can cause a hardening of attitudes. A study published in 2016 by social psychologists Shannon Callahan and Alison Ledgerwood found that people perceived others as less warm and more threatening if the group was assigned a flag. “A consistent picture emerges,” writes David Smith, a psychology lecturer from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. “Flags bond insiders but make outsiders feel unwelcome.”

Here’s the interview where the comedians joke about America being the only country that plays a national anthem all the time when foreigners aren’t present… presumably to target some insiders so they will be perceived more like outsiders.

What they’re poking at is a nativist (anti-immigrant) sentiment of “America First”, which in 1915 became an official slogan of the flag-waving KKK (e.g. blueprint for Nazi Germany). The message was if you don’t renounce any/all other identities and declare yourself “America First” you are to be tortured, lynched and mutilated for all to see what happens to any “outsiders” trying to live in America.

Award-winning history book illustrates how America First has been a long-time hate playform; updated with a new epilogue on xenophobia during the COVID-19 pandemic

Food for thought, on a regular day anywhere in Germany you will never see a national flag waving in Germany. However, with extreme irony in America you will see German flags waving on houses in a way they would never attempt if they were still living in Germany.

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