Saturday, July 02, 2005

If teacher said it, then it MUST be true

I recently decided to go on hiatus from engaging in political discussions in online forums. While there are no doubt many intelligent people out there who are open minded enough and care about learning different perspectives in pursuit of truth to be worth engaging with, too many people simply don't seem to care. They seem perfectly content with shutting their minds off once they absorb the mainstream or "consensus reality" take on something and/or relying on ignorant generalizations and other mythologies about opposing views without examining any facts or contrary opinions and seriously thinking about them.

My emotional state at the moment due to immediate circumstances in my life is not very conducive to persistantly trying to reach such people, and I've simply lost any sliver of patience needed to continue engaging with people who never read the links you provide them and keep coming back with the same old nonsense remarks that have been stripped of any ties to reality by those who are consistently mocked, marginalized, and ignored for no good reason other than to keep facts and reason from the light of day.

BK Marcus, in his most recent post about goldbugs and free market money, states quite simply one of my pet peeves, one that I'm sure many free thinking individuals share:
I'm not even going to bother with the frightening implications of an appeal to "consensus reality" on a political question that has been constantly and very expensively propagandized for more than a century. Even on less manipulated issues, I've never been very impressed by What Everyone Knows or How Everyone Thinks. I prefer appeals to facts and reason, which you'll notice are far more abundant outside the mainstream. As I've said elsewhere, reality itself is not subject to majority rules.

An appeal to consensus reality can indeed be frightening, and it shouldn't be too difficult for people to figure out why that is if they think about it in terms of a consensus that may not jive with them. Many of the people who fall into such a trap here in the USSA subscribe to the factual version of history that portrays Christopher Columbus as being someone not worthy of the idolatry that he has posthumously recieved due to this treatment of the people he encountered when arriving in the New World. But if we go back in time, say, 50 years and peek into standard history texts, Columbus is painted as the man who discovered America, a man worthy of praise and certainly not worthy of any criticism, especially since certain facts about him were conveniently left out of such texts. The consensus reality in regards to Columbus was different at that time than it is today due to the teaching of an altered version of history that was full of holes.

What makes such a notion truly frightening is when it is applied to environments throughout history where various atrocities were committed in part due to the molding of peoples' sense of reality by those who wield power. Nazi Germany comes to mind here, as the consensus reality there at that time was dominated by fear and terror and was used by the Nazis to push ahead their bloody agenda without much struggle (*note: if any readers object to my playing the Nazi/Hitler card here for whatever reason, I recommend checking out the latest LRC essay by BK Marcus titled In Defense of Referencing Hitler). Those who have noticed parallels between 1930s Germany and the early 21st Century USSA should especially take note of the problem of always relying on consensus views due to the fact that just because most people believe something to be true doesn't make it so.

I like how Marcus also refers to this phenomenon as examples of "What Everyone Knows" or "How Everyone Thinks". I read an essay by Kevin Carson earlier today titled " Nothing Like a Free Market: Corporate Capitalism in the USA", and the opening paragraph hit home with me and reminded me of the frustrations associated with conversing with people who simply refuse to shake their blind allegiance to "What Everyone Knows" in regards to the history of corporate capitalism in the US, despite the fact that what everyone knows (or most everyone) has been proven false, a mythology served up by those who are either unwilling to face certain facts or are consciously involved with suppressing such facts. Here is Carson's opening paragraph in case anyone is interested in reading it (the whole essay, which is in pdf format , is available at The Individual):
The mainstream right and left share, to a large
extent, the same conventional understanding of
20th century history. According to both, the corporate
system that emerged toward the end of the
19th century was the outcome of a predominantly
laissez-faire system. According to both, the 20th
century regulatory and welfare state was motivated
by largely “anti-business” concerns. According
to both, the regulatory-welfare state was
created over the opposition of big business. This
conventional understanding is, in its essentials,
almost completely false.

But, of course, too many people simply rely on what they were either taught in school or happened to absorb from the mainstream media. If teacher (or TV, in the case of Homer Simpson) said it, it MUST be true!


Anonymous Sunni said...

Heh. Much of what you've said in your first few paragraphs is quite similar to my own experiences -- but in libertarian forums. I'm not intending to sound like I've all the answers, because I don't; I'm still learning and making misnakes and all that. But it seems to me many self-proclaimed liberty lovers get to a low level of understanding, and can't or won't think things through further.

That isn't to say there can't be valid differences in views and/or tactics: of course there can be. But a fair amount of what those who proclaim to be for freedom espouse is simply a lighter chain upon one -- or maybe a different one (the so-called Fair Tax idea being a good example of that). It's frustrating, and disheartening for me.

Hope your emotional state improves ...

7:41 AM  
Blogger jomama said...

I went thru pretty much the same
evolution...forums, newsgroups,etc.

As my bro says, "Sanity is lonely."

I prefer lonely.

12:12 PM  

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