Idiot paranoia

Still ‘paranoid’ after all these years

Since I have often spoken about the looming apocalypse and the ‘conspiracy‘ of the rich to keep the rest poor, I figure that this article is quite a good fit here. It is somewhat long for the twitter age, so I excerpted a few bits I think are particularly apropos.

Writer Charles P. Pierce laid out the rules in his indispensable book “Idiot America“:

  • “1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings or otherwise moves units.
  • 2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
  • 3. Fact is that which enough people believe (and) Truth is determined by how fervently you believe it.”

No wonder the so-called mainstream media has trust issues. In the search for ratings and Internet traffic, it gives voice to the same fearful hyperbole found elsewhere in society — and often plays it for entertainment value. (Witness the rise of Donald Trump, political pundit and almost-candidate, whose regular proclamations headline the New York tabloids and are then repeated throughout cable news.) It’s the classic case of preying on our insecurities, points out Ari Kohen, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska.


But there have been times when the suspicious have had a point. As the old saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

After all, the Soviet Union did infiltrate some U.S. agencies, and Julius Rosenberg really did deliver classified information. The CIA was instrumental in a number of coups. The FBI’s COINTELPRO program spied on domestic groups. Watergate revealed a tangle of Nixonian malfeasance. A handful of climate scientists did try to clamp down on dissent. (Their opponents have also worked together.) Finance industry workers did cover up bad loans and, more recently, fix the LIBOR rate.

“One of the reasons conspiracy theories have proliferated over the last half century is that they have so often been proven correct,” says Assumption’s Vaughan.

I don’t think, though, that there is a wide-spread organized conspiracy largely because I lack faith in human’s ability to organize themselves over the long term or expect a cabal of people to work for a 1,000 year off event. However, I do believe in certain ‘conspiracies’ where people in different classes have certain thoughts/behaviors in common that make them act/react as if they are following some higher instruction. Humans (as I complain about endlessly here) seem to take the exact mathematical minimum (or less!) effort in thinking and would rather have their thoughts/prejudices/biases fed to them. Rich or poor, right-wing or left-wing, artist or factory worker, people are lazy when it comes to thinking about things they are not accustomed to considering. I, of course, am guilty of the exact same thing, as my wife will tell you, and my knee-jerk (emphasis on the ‘jerk’) reaction to many of her suggestions is outright dismissal. Despite her coming up with many (hundreds, if not thousands; we have been together now for over 15 years) of great ideas that I initially dismissed, I am still finding it very difficult to take a second or so of thought before immediately responding negatively. I think I am better (really, less bad) than before, but certainly not ‘good’ at this time. I consider myself very open minded (really, does anyone consider themselves ‘close minded’?) and generally consider all sides of an argument (courtesy of my dear old dad who trained me that way, with parallels to Shawn on Psych), but find it so difficult sometimes to accept new concepts that don’t fit within my preconceived notions without first rejecting them out of hand.

Even those who espouse cycles and changing of the guard (post WWII generation lead to the baby boom (our selfish ‘me’ generation) to the millennials who appear to be much more opened minded; see below) still see the propensity for things to get worse without a lot of confidence that things could then get better…

Despite our weakened faith in government and institutions, the country chugs along. But what of the future? “I wish I could be optimistic, but I really can’t,” says Reiss, the San Diego psychiatrist. “There’s so much power behind making things destructive. It’s really in the service and to the advantage of the politicians on both sides to keep people in a somewhat scared state.”

“(Consensus) is not dead, but we’re in the danger zone,” says Avlon. “There are real costs to hyperpartisanship. Most importantly it becomes ultimately a threat to self-governance — it’s stopping us from being able to solve the serious problems we face.”

To end on a (somewhat) optimistic note, though…

We’re stuck for probably the next five years, he says. After that, events could intercede. We could face economic collapse; we could have total victory by one party. But the most intriguing, he observes, is the passage of generations.

“We went from the Greatest Generation, which was the most civic-minded because they fought World War II together … to the baby boomers, who were the worst at working together because their foundational experience was splitting apart to fight the left-right battle,” says Haidt. “We’ll soon be moving on to the millennial generation, which is marked by a reluctance to make moral judgments.”

That has its own drawbacks, he adds, “but some tolerance and reluctance to judge might be just what we need in the 2020s.”

Of course, experts are wrong at least as often as they are right (actually, based on some reports I have read, they are often a bit more wrong than right (yet always have very plausible arguments for why it is obvious, in retrospect, they were so damn wrong)), so perhaps they (we, I) are just trying to make a few bucks by shouting nonsense until people believe it.

Author: Tfoui

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