Mar 13 2014

tl;dr (New World Odor)

Published by at 8:47 pm under Personal,politics,psychology

It’s 2014, and somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our humanity, and the ability to see the (beautiful) complexity of each other’s souls.

I’m not entirely sure we ever had it, truthfully, but things seem to be hitting a fever pitch lately.

The short version is that interactions, discussions, debate, social discourse have all become about zero-sum games.

Zero-Sum Game:

A situation in which a gain by one person or side must be matched by a loss by another person or side. –The Free Dictionary

People and situations are being reduced to their most convenient (not even basic) components. We can’t even agree to disagree.

I’ve become fascinated by blind adherence to ideology, of late. Why are each of us so certain that we have the “right” answers, and everyone else is wrong? In a move that I’m sure will piss off at least a few people, I’m going to point my finger equally at the Right, the Left, Vegans, Feminists, Fundamentalists (of any religion), Integral Theorists, CSICOP, 9/11 Truthers, Tea Partiers, White Supremacists, Marxists, Fascists, Anti-Fascists, Libertarians, Objectivists, Holistic NewAge types, Anti-Vaccine people, and more.

Just because I haven’t included your particular paradigmatic belief system in this list does not make you automatically immune from what I am saying.

There is nothing sadder, in my opinion, than someone who not only claims to have all of the answers, but adamantly refuses to read or explore ideas beyond their limited worldview.

I don’t claim to have any answers, let alone “all” of the answers. I also read a lot on a variety of subjects.

The Truth!

The Truth!

Today, I got sucked into an argument with a 9/11 Truther.  I should know better.  I really should. There is nothing I can say or do that will convince him that I am anything other than one of the “sheeple.”  Because I’ve read a good chunk of the source material he’s referring to and remain unconvinced, he can only reply with

oh yeah cause it best to just eat doughnuts and scratch your dirty ass then know what your country is up to. The old “I don’t want to read or be informed of anything I have a latte chilling on the side board” argument. shallow waters evaporate quickly.

"You, for one, should welcome your new overlords!"

“You, for one, should welcome your new overlords!”

The main problem with this (besides the fact that I tend to avoid donuts) is that there’s an underlying assumption that if I just read this one thing, or just watch this one video, my mind will be blown wide open, I will see the light, I will finally realize that my entire life has been a lie.

What I find sad/entertaining/smh-inducing is that the minute someone challenges the merits of an argument, questions an assumption (or, hell, even asks a question, period), the average truther will respond with exactly this kind of rage-intensive ad hominem attack.

This tactic generally happens with fundamentalists of any ideology of belief system, by the way.

Not too long ago, I read Michael Barkun’s A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (now in new, revised form!).

Aside from the obvious – that Barkun is really a shill for the New World Order (NOT) – the book offered some fascinating insight into how this sort of fundamentalism coalesces.

(Apologies for the long quote)

“[Colin] Campbell argued that cults emerge out of a supportive social and ideological environment, which he called the cultic milieu. This cultural underground encompasses [James] Webb’s concept of rejected knowledge, but is broader in two ways. First, it includes ‘all deviant belief systems,’ not merely those that find their way to occultism, though the occult remains a major component of the cultic milieu. But that milieu includes not simply beliefs and ideas but also their related practices, ‘the collectivities, institutions, individuals and media of communication associated with these beliefs.’…

“The cultic milieu is by nature hostile to authority, both because it rejects the authority of such normative institutions as churches and universities, and because no single institution within the milieu has the authority to prescribe beliefs and practices for those within it. As diverse as the cultic milieu is, however, Campbell finds in it ‘unifying tendences.’ One such tendency is its opposition to ‘dominant cultural orthodoxies.’..The very oppositional situation of the cultic millieu makes it wary of all claims to authoritative judgment. Its suspiciousness makes it intrinsically receptive to all forms of revisionism, whether in history, religion, science, or politics.

If disdain for orthodoxy is one trait of the cultic milieu, another is its fluidity. Ideas migrate easily from one part of the milieu to another, their movement facilitated by both a general receptivity to the unorthodox and a communication system of publications, meetings, and (more recently) interlinked Web sites. According to Campbell, ‘the literature of particular groups and movements frequently devotes space to topics outside its own orbit, including reviews of one another’s literature and advertises one another’s meetings. As a direct consequence of this individuals who ‘enter’ the milieu at any one point frequently travel rapidly through a variety of movements and beliefs and by so doing constitute yet another unifying force within the milieu.'” (pp. 25-26)

Stigmatized Knowledge:

“The domain of stigmatized knowledge claims may be divided into five varieties:

  • Forgotten Knowledge: knowledge once allegedly known but lost through faulty memory, cataclysm, or some other interrupting factor (e.g. beliefs about ancient wisdom once possessed by inhabitants of Atlantis)
  • Superseded Knowledge: claims that once were authoritatively recognized as knowledge but lost that status because they came to be regarded as false or less valid than other claims (e.g., astrology and alchemy).
  • Ignored Knowledge: knowledge claims that persist in low-prestige social groups but are not taken seriously by others (e.g., folk medicine).
  • Rejected Knowledge: knowledge claims that are explicitly rejected as false from the outset (e.g., UFO abductions)
  • Suppressed knowledge: claims that are allegedly known to be valid by authoritative institutions but are suppressed because the institutions fear the consequences of public knowledge or have some evil or selfish motive for hiding the truth (e.g., the alien origins of UFOs and suppressed cancer cures).

“Stigmatized knowledge appears compelling to believers not only because it possesses the cachet of the suppressed and forbidden, but because of its allegedly empirical basis. Some stigmatized knowledge appears to rest on nonempirical or antiempirical foundations – for example, knowledge claimed to derive from spiritual entities channeled through human intermediaries. To a striking extent, however, stigmatized knowledge rests on asserted empirical foundations: those who make the claims explicitly or by implication challenge others to test their facts against evidence…Yet the version of empiricism that operates in the domain of stigmatized knowledge has its own peculiar characteristics.

“In the first place, stigmatization itself is taken to be evidence of truth – for why else would a belief be stigmatized if not to suppress the truth? Hence stigmatization, instead of making a truth claim appear problematic, is seen to give it credibility, by implying that some malign forces conspired to prevent its becoming known. A presumption of validity therefore attaches to stigmatized claims, which greatly facilitates the flow of such claims through the cultic milieu…

“At the same time that stigmatization is employed as a virtual guarantee of truth, the literature of stigmatized knowledge enthusiastically mimics mainstream scholarship. It does so by appropriating the apparatus of scholarship in the form of elaborate citations and bibliographies. The most common manifestation of pedantry is a fondness for reciprocal citation, in which authors obligingly cite one another. The result is that the same sources are repeated over and over, which produces a kind of pseudoconfirmation…the multiplication of sources may leave the impression of validation without actually putting any propositions to the test.” (pp.  27-29)

I’ve noticed this trend not just in the Truther movement, but in the other areas I’ve mentioned above, as well.

Look, I get how exciting it is to believe that you’ve magically solved the riddles, that you can see through the Matrix, and that you’re one of the Enlightened Ones.  It’s an awesome feeling.  Really.  And, more importantly, I’m honestly impressed with your desire to learn, and your (albeit limited) use of critical thinking. To quote the character Twist, from Spaced, “I really see what you were trying to do.”

But unless you turn that critical thinking onto your replacement paradigm, you’ve only traded one master for another, one dogma for another – The King is Dead, Long Live the King.

Perhaps?

Perhaps?

I’ve read a good chunk of 9/11 literature. I’ve seen just about every variation of Loose Change. I think there are some legitimate questions. But the answers provided to these questions lead me to further questions, which people seem to panic and get defensive (if not hostile) about when I ask them.

But if your ultimate goal is to “tip us towards the Light” (whatever that means), then you’ll have to be patient with me, and understand if I (and several million others) remain unconvinced by your arguments.

I’m waiting for proof.  Innuendo, guilt-by-association, and credibility-stretching connections between people and events aren’t enough.

You have yet to convince me. I’m sorry.

Finally, I would like to add that I am again, curious, if the insistence of fundamentalists that others join their cause is to give them a better sense of security in their beliefs. Safety in numbers.

So, in the meantime, I’m going to go back to “scratching my dirty ass” and drinking my latte.

You can keep the donuts.

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