“In a sense, the loudest proponents stick to their movement the way a racist sticks with their prejudices. You can tear down their specific claims about a particular group of people point by point, but in the end the racist simply hates people in that group. It’s not rational, or logical, or reasonable. It just is.”
And if it’s not rational, then an argument based in reason is unlikely to do jack shit about it.
No one is an island unto themselves. We all live our lives together, within a society that’s held together by tenuous threads that connect us. One of the most cherished and claimed values of western societies is freedom of thought. We’re all entitled to our own opinions and can believe what we want to believe. But it’s really only true to the extent of what’s inside the box that we call life, if those ideas are to go anywhere. There has to be a common frame of reference. If a bunch of people are looking at a box, they first have to agree that there is a box and it has six sides. The only way the world can work is if like-minded people can agree on certain fundamental truths. If we all look up at the sky, we at least have to agree the sky is blue. If we can’t agree on what the nature of reality is, there can’t be a reasonable discussion about important public policies.
You can’t debate facts when some people might as well be living way out on fucking Pluto instead of here of planet Earth, because their grasp on reality is goddamn bent.
If no one can accept reality, there can’t be any real growth. People are supposed to learn from their mistakes. But in a world where existence is a multiple-choice option, there are no mistakes. There’s just a bunch of people screaming at each other about how the other side is wrong, part of fake news, or involved in a conspiracy.
—Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, L’Art Poétique (The Art of Poetry), Canto I, l. 232 (1674).
These are among some of the most popular and absurd “theories” which get play on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. Just remember, people actually believe this shit.
- Trutherisms of any kind—There is nothing wrong with skepticism or critical thought. Where shit goes off the rails is when cynicism takes hold and decides to create a fantasy as delusional as believing the world has elves and unicorns just because they are certain the universe behaves in a certain way, and any information which contradicts this belief must be false, contrived, or concocted, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is produced. If science disagrees with the belief, then science is wrong. When evidence and science disagree with the belief, they are either another part of a conspiracy by “Big [fill in the blank]” or not the “right” evidence and science, leading to some absurd pseudoscience argument. This pattern repeats itself whether one is discussing President Obama’s birth certificate, the September 11 attacks, chemtrails, or the people who believe “Big Math” is suppressing their proofs of how to square a circle. But the universe is not governed by individual perceptions of belief. It maters what is true and what isn’t true. The language of how we discuss these things matters too, and the depths to which absurd opinions are given a degree of respect they objectively don’t deserve. Four years ago, the Associated Press changed how they characterized people who challenged the science and ideas behind climate change. The AP decided “climate change denier” was too prejudicial, since it sounds similar to “holocaust denier,” while “climate change skeptic” doesn’t fit either since skepticism implies the use of legitimate inquiry and scientific investigation. And critics of climate change don’t have a lot of legitimate science on their side. So the AP decided on “climate change doubter” in order to find a fine line in accommodating a bunch of crackpots and non-scientists who are wrong.
- Climate Change is a hoax designed to micromanage the way people live—No matter how much science is put on the table, or alternative reasons given for why getting off fossil fuels is a good idea (i.e., even if you think climate change is bullshit, wouldn’t it still be a good idea to have alternative forms of energy?), there are people who believe it’s all a liberal hoax designed to take people’s pickup trucks away and force communism down Americans’ throats. And these same people have taken these views to disgusting extremes.
From Ed Mazza at the Huffington Post:
The shooter says he’s not a conservative, not a Christian and that he identifies as an eco-fascist, which would make him a supporter of the Green New Deal. He adds that he disagrees with Trump on politics.
Limbaugh didn’t go so far as to endorse the theory, but gave it plenty of airtime and told his listeners: “You can’t immediately discount this. The left is this insane. They are this crazy.”
- Vaccines cause autism and are dangerous—I’ve written about the vaccination issue before, going one-by-one through some of the more oft-repeated anti-vax claims. In some of those diaries, the commenters felt I shouldn’t have called the anti-vaccine movement “idiotic” if I wanted to persuade ’em. But if something is ridiculous and idiotic, it deserves to be called ridiculous and idiotic, since hopefully those who have an open mind can recognize it as ridiculous and idiotic. In this case, it’s not only ridiculous and idiotic, it’s also dangerous to public health. And the idiocy and ridiculousness has support on both the stupidest parts of the left and the bottomless dumb of the right.
From Sarah Mervosh at The New York Times:
A 6-year-old boy was playing on a farm when he cut his forehead, a laceration that was simple enough to tend to at home. But six days later, his parents realized something was seriously wrong: He was clenching his jaw, having trouble breathing and experiencing involuntary muscle spasms.
The boy, who had not received vaccinations, was taken to Oregon Health & Science University and was found to have tetanus, the state’s first documented pediatric case of the disease in more than 30 years, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention … The boy spent 57 days in the hospital and racked up medical bills of more than $800,000. “I honestly never thought I would see this disease in the United States,” said Dr. Judith A. Guzman-Cottrill, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Oregon Health & Science University … the boy, who was not identified, had not received any immunizations, Dr. Guzman-Cottrill said … “When you see someone suffer from this disease, you completely understand why we immunize,” she said, adding, “This should never happen in our country.”
Still, the experience did not change the position of the boy’s parents.
When the time came for his second round of DTaP, doctors talked with the family about the need for vaccinations. Surviving tetanus, unlike some other diseases, does not offer immunity in the future. But despite an “extensive review” of the risks, and the benefits of vaccination, the article said, the family declined the second vaccination — or any other recommended immunization.
- Diversity is a conspiracy to destroy American culture and harm white people—The essential nature of the past 50 years of the conservative movement is predicated on re-purposing white people as the victims of liberal agendas who need to be saved and made great again. The reason manufacturing jobs have disappeared is not mismanagement or corporate greed, but “libtard” regulations which care more about unions and spotted owls than “working people.” The problem with public schools or why one’s kid couldn’t get into a good college has nothing to do with shitty parenting or the subjective merits of the academic system, but Title IX taking Jr.’s football dreams away to give funds to little girls, and affirmative action and its “reverse-racism” against whites wrongly valuing diversity as a strength. And racism is bad, but liberals are just so “mean” for saying it.
From Carrie Dann at NBC News:
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that more than half of the population in America will be non-white by 2050. According to a new poll, a majority of Republicans — and about one in five Democrats — say that demographic milestone will weaken the country’s customs and values.
The new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that, overall, about 30 percent of Americans say that having a majority of the population made up of black, Hispanics, Asians and other racial minorities would strengthen the nation’s cultural fabric, while 38 percent say it would weaken it.
But those who view the expected majority-minority population in a negative light include 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, while just 13 percent say that demographic change will strengthen the country. Another 27 percent say the change will have little impact.