Rules of Engagement_CORRUPTED

quote-distrust-your-judgment-the-moment

When Prophecy Fails - Cognitive Dissonance (combined)

Moving the Goalposts

How could so many intelligent people turn on a dime to deny the patently obvious?

That’s what social scientist Leon Festinger set out to study almost 60 years ago. In December 1954 an article came out in the Chicago Tribune about a doomsday prophecy foretelling a cataclysmic flood. The founder of this fiction claimed that aliens from the planet Clarion contacted her and telepathically transmitted instructions for how to survive.

Obeying every warning would earn a ticket into outer space just a few hours before life on Earth would end. A small clan dubbed The Seekers heard her calling and wanted to be on board that ship. Festinger saw the perfect opportunity to put his theory to the test.

He assembled a team of psychologists to infiltrate The Seekers to see how they would react when time continued to tick.

He and his undercover operatives wrote When Prophecy Fails to document their observations. In the forward to a 2008 edition of that book, another famous psychologist named Elliot Aronson wrote the following:

Suppose that The Seekers are not wild-eyed kooks wearing white robes and carrying signs saying “REPENT!” — but are intelligent, sensible people with nice homes, loving families, and good jobs.

No doubt you had another image in mind — I know I did. So serious were The Seekers in their adherence to alien law that one member even removed a filling from a tooth — as no metal of any kind was allowed on their journey to the stars.

Another example of allegiance was the guy who “meticulously stripped tin foil from each stick of a pack of gum he was carrying.” The fervor in their faith fit right into the predictions of the study — that the disciples would double down on their convictions in the aftermath of unfulfilled beliefs.

When midnight arrived on the day of their departure, they opted to count on the slower of the two clocks.

Surely that was the reason the saucer had not yet appeared at the mandated strike of twelve.

Hope was fading fast by 4:00 A.M., but 45 minutes later The Founder received a message from above. As Cooper’s book tells it (while quoting Festinger’s):

A message shows the path . . . to restore consistency. The Clarions’ final message sage was brilliant. Through Mrs Keech’s trembling hand, it said:

“This little group, sitting all night long, has spread so much goodness and light that the God of the Universe spared the Earth from destruction.”

That very afternoon The Seekers sought the publicity they had previously shunned — and the theory of cognitive dissonance was born.

So that was it. The beliefs had not been wrong after all. God had been planning to destroy the Earth. All of the preparations for the cataclysm had not been in vain. In fact, it was precisely and only because of the preparations, sacrifices, and faith of the group that the Earth still existed.

Festinger’s team had hypothesized that The Seekers — who initially shunned publicity and notoriety, would take their cause to the public following the disconfirmation — and they did that with gusto. As soon as their new belief was in place — as soon as they had generated the story that their actions had saved the world — they took their case to the public. They looked for social support for their story. They desperately wanted others to see that their actions had not been in vain — that their prophecy had not been disconfirmed, that there was no inconsistency in their belief.

Festinger had made a very basic observation about the social lives of human beings:

  • We do not like inconsistency. It upsets us and it drives us to action to reduce our inconsistency.
  • The greater the inconsistency we face — the more agitated we will be — and the more motivated we will be to reduce it.

— Cognitive Dissonance: 50 Years of a Classic Theory (by Joel M. Cooper):

pink_floyd_the_wall_by_johncookart-d54l0j7

My interest with psychology came through my own experiences — including cognitive dissonance. I knew nothing about it until I told a friend about a little debate back in college (ironically in COM 101). My classmate and I were disagreeing over who sang lead on most Pink Floyd songs. With every fiber of my being — there was no question that it was Roger Waters. But I can still see the look on Bill’s face as he had no doubt it was David Gilmour.

In reply to my story, my friend and fellow-Floyd fan said, “Sounds like cognitive dissonance.”

Ah yes, the power of “Hmm . . .” — followed by a little look-see into what he was talking about. And whad-ya know, he was dead-on.

It hardly gets more harmless than our friendly debate over Floyd, and there was nothing to be gained regardless of who was right. Aligning myself with Waters was rooted in my philosophical interests as a teenager in Cold War times. I still remember the exact moment when I was mesmerized by Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. I walked into a dark room down at some friends’ house and they had the album blaring.

Even cranked up there was a soul-searching quietude in the tunes that seamlessly flowed from one into the other. I had never heard anything like that before, but what struck me most was the imagery in Waters’ words.

Despite the gloomy lyrics — they had a thought-provoking purpose, and that was inspiring to me. And yet by overly identifying with the visionary behind the band, I became closed off in defense of him.

If I could blindly do that for no aims at all — imagine how discourse is poisoned when deeply-entrenched motives are involved.

I was foolish for being so certain in my Pink Floyd perception, but had Bill brought in some liner notes listing lead vocals, I would have found it impossible not to take that information into account. As equally avid fans, I might have thought that our opinions were equal at first — but in the face of evidence to the contrary, I would change my mind.

But the absence of evidence is no excuse — I had other things that I could have taken into account to at least consider the possibility that I might be wrong.

Given that Bill was a good bit older, I suspect he knew far more Floyd history than I did (which wouldn’t be hard — since my knowledge was limited to a few albums). When I first revisited the lead-vocal question sometime in the early 2000s, it looked like I had been wrong all along — and if I could recall his last name, I would have tried tracking him down years ago to tell him that I was wrong.

I like to acknowledge error — I see it as a form of practice to be more careful in the future. And it’s a gesture of grace and respect to say, “Hey, I’m sorry I was so hard-headed about that — I wish I would have listened to you.”

Above all, it deepens your willingness to wonder:

“Is that true? Maybe there’s something to what she just said. Let me think about it. That’s interesting. Maybe I should change my mind.”

Life of the Closed Mind (Anna Quindlen)

Over a decade has passed since I re-evaluated my viewpoint, and just for kicks I was curious to see just how far off I was. A lot more material is available online now, so I was able to easily compile the entire catalog to nail down a fairly accurate accounting. Imagine my surprise when my spreadsheet revealed that Waters came out on top by ten.

So was I right after all?

NO — ABSOLUTELY NOT!

First off, I don’t know for certain that the numbers are right — I just know that they’re fairly close and Waters came out ahead just a bit. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that the numbers are correct.

Would that make my right?

NO — Because my original believe was based on NOTHING!

Whatever the numbers, they don’t change the fact that in my ignorance I cast my conclusion with lickety-split judgment — letting my over-the-top loyalty shield me from listening. Without any knowledge of older albums, I had based my belief on a restricted domain of information — and yet I was completely satisfied that my knowledge was enough to express an opinion with absolute certainty.

Moreover, even on the albums I had listened to a lot — the issue is in doubt, as I heard what I wanted to hear.

And now I hear differently . . .

The irony is that neither one of was right — because it seems too close to call, but he was damn sure far more correct than me (especially since he was basing his belief on actual knowledge).

Through book recommendations and research, I become increasingly fascinated with the fact that there is a construct to the bizarre behavior I’ve been increasingly seeing over the years.

The short stories below are emblematic of them all.

Most people generally see themselves as truthful, but dishonesty exists in more than one dimension. More often than not it is the fog of intellectual dishonesty that obscures the truth, and how we navigate that haze shapes our perception and impacts our integrity.

Wikipedia.com captures the essence of intellectual dishonesty by describing it as such:

Intellectual dishonesty is the creation of false impressions or advocacy of false ideas and concepts using rhetoric, logical fallacies, or insufficient or falsified evidence. It often stems from self-deception or a covert agenda, which is expressed through a misuse of various rhetorical devices. The unwary reader may be deceived as a result.  It is often very difficult to distinguish whether the intellectual dishonesty is due to conscious dishonesty by somebody or due to unconscious self-deception.

When Prophecy Fails

A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. . . .

But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong; what will happen?

The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view. How and why does such a response to contradictory evidence come about?

This is the question on which this book focuses. . . .

Let us begin by stating the conditions under which we would expect to observe increased fervor following the dis-confirmation of a belief. There are five such conditions.

 

FB Post - LAND_OF_THE_FREE.png

 

 

When I was writing the final segment of this page — I was thinking about “Ain’t That America” line from Pink Houses.

quote - Half the Harm

 

 

 

In Michael Strong’s Habit of Thought, the author makes it clear that adults have infected the youth with the same attitude that is replete in the doubt-free characters in my stories:

Many students resist having their beliefs questioned by invoking the claim that “Everyone is entitled to his own belief” or “All opinions are equal.” The corollary notion is that therefore no justifications for beliefs are necessary. The difficulty with this perspective is that it implies that all disagreements concerning beliefs are personal disagreements or slights.

If there exist reasons for one’s opinions, then a difference of opinions becomes an opportunity for understanding how someone else’s reasoning leads them to a different opinion.

If, on the other hand, if there are no reasons for opinions, students are more likely to take differences of opinion as insults or as injuries to their self-esteem.

Rather than assert than all opinions are equal, students in seminar learn to judge opinions on the basis of the reasons given for those opinions.

Habit of Thought - book cover -- with list - 3

 

 

dd

 

ddd

 

REVIEW AND CLEAN UP BELOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Whatever my criticisms of Peacemaker, I still love the guy and always will (it would almost be impossible for anyone not to like this guy). But spending his life avoiding risk the way he has, he doesn’t know human nature like I do (nor does he read and write about it).

Peacemaker‘s behavior fits right into Festinger’s formula — as he held my “history” over me as a way to absolve his closer friends of any blame. It wouldn’t have bothered me as tall if he spread his criticism around — that would have been fantastic, but to ONLY criticize the very person who was simply trying to have a conversation in the interest of truth — is outrageous.

For all those who ignore the elephant in the room while having no shortage of scrutiny for those who dare to ask, “Wouldn’t we be able to move around more freely without this elephant in the way?”

They have a name — and it’s called “The Critic”

 

author above was tracking the same tactic:

No matter what the subject, the argument always goes down the drain of an enraged ego and ends with minds unchanged, sometimes with professional relationships or even friendships damaged. Instead of arguing, experts today are supposed to accept such disagreements as, at worst, an honest difference of opinion.

We are supposed to “agree to disagree,” a phrase now used indiscriminately as little more than a conversational fire extinguisher. And if we insist that not everything is a matter of opinion, that some things are right and others are wrong . . . well, then we’re just being jerks, apparently.

Oh yeah, I know the routine — all too well . . .

I had a friend with such razor-sharp wit that I called him the “Atomic Clock of Comedy” — for his consistency in making people laugh. To survey a situation in split-second timing requires an astute level of alertness. You’d think that some semblance of that awareness would show up when you have all the time in the world on matters of consequence.

He fell into the “all opinions are equal” trap  — insulting his own intelligence all the way down. That one’s intellect can vanish on cue is a psychological stunt that never ceases to amaze me.

Making matters worse is when your friends come to your aid by coddling you instead of calling you on your crap. You’d be doing your friends a far better service by goin’ Gambini like this 8-second scene that says it all:

the fact that Eddie and Phil took joy in their refusal to give their fellow man one second of sincerity.

 

The “opinion” debate would have likely fizzled out with no harm done, but in typical Facebook fashion, a friend of Eddie’s named Phil showed up to say, “Gosh, just saw all this. If I didn’t have a life, I may have read it.”

 

The “all this” was the substance that I diligently delivered for our conversation. I am of the mindset that we should have the decency to recognize when something is of great importance to someone else, and that we should not take pleasure in simply showing up to demean such serious-minded concerns. Barnett naively absolved his other good buddy by virtue of the fact that “Phil is constantly making quippy comments on Facebook.” To any objective observer it is self-evident that “If I didn’t have a life . . .” is a pretty caustic comment. Barnett fails to see the obvious because he believes Phil is a jolly good fellow who means no harm. As Phil is friends with both Barnett and Eddie, I have no doubt that he has a lot of good qualities—but those virtues do not give you immunity for behaving like a jerk.
It never dawned on Barnett to wonder to himself: “Does ‘If I didn’t have a life . . .’” meet the bare minimum standard of any form of respect?” How can the irrefutable answer to that question not factor into the equation? Apparently I was supposed to assume that Phil’s insolence was all in good fun—while I was in the midst of explaining the fundamentals of common sense to his compadre. It is beyond belief that getting a thrill out of habitually slinging “sarcastic and cutting remarks”* has become perfectly permissible. Such blatantly rude behavior has become the norm in the gang-like world of social media—where you can regurgitate garbage and get people to “Like” you for it. I could just see the self-satisfied smile on Eddie’s face as he clicked “bravo” to bad manners. Funny how people love to plug the “nobody’s perfect” line, and yet I noticed how many of them cannot be corrected on anything. The incorrigible in that camp act like they are never wrong, never rude, never foolish, never over-the-top, never unreasonable, and never insulting. In the spirit of the “only guilty man in Shawshank”—I have been all of those things at one time or another.
There is a correlation between the “all opinions are equal” attitude and the notion that you have no responsibility in how you treat others—as both beliefs are bound by the absence of accountability. What is so egregiously backwards is that apologists have no shortage of scrutiny for the people who draw attention to the elephant in the room—all the while acting as if the beast is not even there. At no point in my upbringing did anyone ever impart, “Rest assured in your opinions, for your belief is the only measure that matters.” And somehow I think that “If I didn’t have a life . . .” would be frowned upon in kindergarten ethics. The Eddies and the Phils sidestep any struggle that burdens them in the slightest. And why not, as taking the path of least resistance has seemingly become a virtue.

 

 

swoop

The Peacemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Prophecy Fails

“Expert” By Association

never mind that he wasn’t even at the agency when all this went down.

Agency

 

DIA

Rare that I ever come across a person who actually works at the government. Defense Intelligence Agency

When Prophecy Fails

Condition #5

The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

These five conditions specify the circumstances under which increased proselyting would be expected to follow disconfirmation. (Festinger, Leon; Schachter, Stanley; Riecken, Henry W. (2010-11-12). When Prophecy Fails (p. 4). Pinter & Martin. Kindle Edition.)

 

 

 

 

THE “I’VE GOT FRIENDS WERE THERE — HERE’S SOME LINKS

AND THEY WENT TO SYRIA

AND HERE’S SOME LINKS OF QUOTES BY DEMOCRATS

REVIEW RESPONSES FROM THAT ARTICLE (CHECK WHAT THE LADY SAID AS WELL FROM THAT ARTICLE — I HAVEN’T SEEN HER RESPONSE YET

REVIEW ALL THAT TEXT 

 

EXPLAINED AWAY SO EASILY (GET WORD DOCS AS WELL

GET

 

 

 

that problem is that it’s inescapable

 

DDDDD

SEE — THEY FOUND WMD — ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO SAID BUSH LIED WERE WRONG

THAT SUCH A EXPLAINED AWAY WITH SUCH EASE JUST ASTOUNDS ME

 

SARIN SHELL

1 = 3

 

WENT TO SYRIA

 

MOVE THE GOALPOSTS

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY DIDN’T FIND THEM

 

 

 

No, because I had absolutely no idea on the older albums.

 

 

For just 60 seconds will you plug in your brain and use it

 

Will you j

 

 

If my dad were best buddies with Rumsfeld — it wouldn’t make any difference to me, because it has no bearing on anything (particularly because Rumsfeld was behind so much of this bullshit — of which my friend doesn’t know jack about).

“I’m respect gonna

 

 

No, that doesn’t count as “respect”

 

NEW YOUR TIMES ARTICLE

“I told you so” type

jack

OTHER FRIEND

 

Weapons of Mass Destruction Program-Related Activities

Not only do the chemical weapons found have no bearing on the nuclear claim — but

have no bearing on the chemical-weapons case Colin Powell made at the United Nations.

But only do those weapons

 

APOL WALLOWS IN THE MIRKY

But for the sake of discussion — let’s pretend that they found an active chemical program. That would still have nothing to do with the other two — so this notion that “they didn’t lie because they found “WMDs” is preposterous — but it’s irrefutable they lied a

Republicans had an “I told you so!” parade when this New York Times article

But I hardly anyone a

were practically dancing in the streets the day

 

had a parade

what this person wrote below is essentially what

technically, yes — they found something tha

but it’s like saying i was right about the Floyd story — you’re retrofitting your story.

Most of these observers also point out that if indeed these discoveries would have been evidence of a W.M.D. program, those who waged the war would have been, as Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones, “the first to trumpet the news.” They didn’t, and that should be “pretty plain evidence that there was nothing here to back up their prewar contentions of an Iraqi W.M.D. program.”

does this strike you as an active WMD program?

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll return to that in a moment — but first’s

WITHOUT NUCLEAR — THEY HAD NOTHING

THE TUBES WERE EVERYTHING

 

in 13 years of pressing this issue, not one person has ever even

it wouldn’t be said — but it would be an undercurrent of “I told ya so.”

 

Now here’s

 

was his usual pleasant

WMDPRA

hinted about

“how do you know we didn’t find any?”

 

a pleasant discussion over dinner, he said, “You can’t believe everything you read”—which is a statement of the obvious, not a valid counter-argument.

 

I have a friend in the Special Forces whom I admire, but not simply because of his service to the country. Despite our differences, he has never treated my pursuit of the truth with the contempt that plenty of others have. My friend in the Forces fosters civility not by preaching it, but rather through his actions that create an environment for a peaceful exchange to take place. The question that the scornful never consider is why I can respectfully disagree with the Special Forces friend, and yet find it maddening to deal with them on the same issues. He has a courteous demeanor that cultivates a calm conclusion to a conversation even if I totally disagree with him.

 

NO BEARING ON THAT

 

i was crazy

People of the Lie

 

 

construct to it

I came by my

inexplicable behavior
I like to feel that I am serving an important purpose in my work, and I imagine most people feel the same. But if you have a job where you lay your life on the line, then the desire to believe in your mission is going to be far greater than anything in my profession. Adding to that mindset is the belief that if you are part of an elite crew with security clearance, you probably feel a sense of authority in closely-guarded information. There is no question that my Forces friend knows things that most of us do not, but that knowledge alone does not necessarily hold up against evidence outside the top secret domain.

During a pleasant discussion over dinner, he said, “You can’t believe everything you read”—which is a statement of the obvious, not a valid counter-argument. Here was someone who is not a political fanatic, and yet his mild-mannered reasonableness was hijacked by a faith-based belief driven by his job. Such trust while in the theatre of battle is understandable, but still clinging to a misguided belief long after you have left is something else.
All conflicts in this book are clandestine operations in some form, because every person in question isolates their arguments in order to shield them from scrutiny. During an email exchange years ago I asked a friend if he would share our discussion with others to get their input. His reply was: “Rick, this isn’t middle school. ‘I dare you’ worked when I was twelve.” If you are unwilling to expose your arguments to outside channels, more than likely you have ulterior motives in mind. Even the worst offenders among friends and colleagues are amateurs compared to the politicians and pundits who exponentially amplify that behavior. Some of these people are such extreme cases of Identify Theft that there is no measure to how far they are willing to go beyond the pale.
From here on out the material will be more controversial by covering issues around politics, religion, and the media. It cannot be overstressed that you could adopt everything that I advocate and still hold the same values you had when you opened the book. What I seek to demonstrate is how the conflation of beliefs in service of a platform agenda is destructive to our national discourse—and even counterproductive to your own goals. That is not to suggest that you should not aspire to your worldview, but rather that you do so with integrity. For those who already see themselves as already acting in an upright manner, are you sure that your self-perception squares with your record? Our entire political establishment operates under Peck’s premise below, and yet so few would admit that they have anything to with it.

Probably the most powerful of these group cohesive forces is narcissism. In its simplest and most benign form, this is manifested in group pride. As the members feel proud of their group, so the group feels proud of itself. . . . A less benign but practically universal form of group narcissism is what might be called “enemy creation,” or hatred of the “out-group.” We can see this naturally occurring in children as they first learn to develop groups. . . . It is almost common knowledge that the best way to cement group cohesiveness is to ferment the group’s hatred of an external enemy. Deficiencies within the group can be easily and painlessly overlooked by focusing attention on the deficiencies or “sins” of the out-group.

In other words, “I can excuse away everything my side does, because yours is even worse!” I guess that is just another “do as I say and not as I do” for the “2 wrongs do not make a right” rule. Life is not fair, but that does not preclude us from being fair to each other—which would ultimately create a more fair-minded society. All the more reason we need as much intellectual exercise we can get, so let the games begin.

 

 

 

AND EVEN IF IT WERE — THIS IS STILL NOW THAT

 

YOU GET LUCKY AND FIND

IF YOU MAKE A CLAIM BASED ON NOT KNOWING SOMETHIONG — AND YOU TURN OUT TO BE RIGHT — YOURE STILL LYING

 

THE DIA GUY WITH THE “BACKWATER” BIT ON PURDUE (AND GET MY STUFF ON ASTRONAUTS

“IT’S CLEAR YOU HAVE KNOWELDGE ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT — BUT . . . I’M GOING TO FLAGRANTLY IGNOR YOU NOW SO I DONT HAVE TO CONSIDER IT — AND LEAVE YOU WITH SOME INSULTS ON MY WAY OUT.ddd

 

 

 

 

 

 

einstein-opportunity_one_from_site

 

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

CONFIRMATION BIAS / BIAS / PREJUDICE DEAL

WHATEVE THE CASE — THEY SHOULD NOT BE APPLIED EQUALLY

 

 

 

 

“I’M OK YOU’RE OK”

 

EXCEPT THEIR DEAD AND MANGLED BODIES

NOT ANTI-WAR.

ANTI-COUNTERFEIT

 

SHEER ENERGY APPLIED TO KEEP UP THE LIE

International Bunk Speak Organization (IBSO)

You can always spot someone has no interest in considering an issue on the merits. No matter what the context, bullshitters have a bond in how they cling to the same patterns in issuing the patently absurd. As if using a Response Form template governed by the International Bunk Speak Organization (IBSO), he or she just spews out formulaic nonsense to fill in the blanks. Not an ounce of effort will be exerted in a quest for the truth — and in so doing the accuracy in one’s perception will be butchered beyond belief. Whatever energy is applied will be in the form incoherent arguments. The party in question will whitewash any actions on their part as they paint the accuser as the problem. Far and away, the most common pattern of all offenders is that they are hell-bent on heading down the path of least resistance. Much to our detriment we have fashioned a society in which “I say tomayto, you say tomahto” is all the authority required to have a “point of view” — illustrated by the all-too-common inanity below:

 

Well as I told you when you were up here I pretty much disagree with you in all of your thoughts on President Bush and the war but that’s the beauty of it we can disagree! Clearly you think my line of thinking is incorrect and I think yours is wrong also so I would have to say this is one of the spots where agreeing to disagree is appropriate. I know you don’t believe in that but I’m sure it’s safe to say that you aren’t going to change your mind on the President and either am I, BUT THAT IS Ok!

By that standard we could “agree to disagree” about the existence of gravity.

The minimum standard for a “line of thinking” is that you actually do some thinking. I was curious to see if I could find a good definition for it, and I think audioenglish.org does a nice job: “The process of using your mind to consider something carefully.”

But that would necessitate another old-fashioned idea of mine: That in debating our views we should have some inkling of understanding of what we are talking about — and if not, at least have an ounce of curiosity to listen and learn from those who do. After all, you entered the domain of the discussion of your own free will, so why not value that liberty in the interest of learning something? That is not to suggest that the informed cannot learn from the clueless — you would be surprised at what you can discover when you’re always on the lookout for even the smallest kernel of truth in any conversation.

I’ve spent a lifetime with the willingness to be wrong — showing genuine respect for all forms of intelligence in order to foster my own. I can’t say that process has always been pretty, but Einstein himself said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Unfortunately, I have seen for more of the exact opposite attitude, which is summed up in the blurb for philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit:

 

Frankfurt, one of the world’s most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.

Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner’s capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

 

 

 

I have all sorts of experiences to illustrate that outlook, but until I read Habit of Thought by Michael Strong, I did not have a measurable solution to offer as an educational construct. A tectonic shift in critical thinking skills needs infrastructure fashioned for youth. Not to knock the hardworking efforts of countless educators out there (especially since I am a product of their labors)—but something has gone seriously awry. I am not qualified to say what the ideal education model is, but I know enough to recognize when something is not working. The subtitle of Mr. Strong’s book is From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice, and just a portion of page 106 alone shows the relationship between my book and his teachings. On top of elevating conventional curriculums well beyond traditional measures, Socratic Seminars foster the very form of intellect that is abysmally absent in society:

• Independent judgment
• Thoughtfulness as a way of life
• The ability to understand others
• Standing by words
• Willingness to accept criticism
• The confidence and ability to learn on one’s own
• Self-respect
• Intellectual integrity

Festinger’s 5 Conditions

 

Reasonable Man” standard is usually applied in a legal context, we can use the construct as a compass on the road to reality: “[C]onduct is measured against a community-wide standard of reasonableness rather than turn on the subjective mental state of the defendant.”* In this case the “defendant” is not just Phil but also Eddie and Barnett, because they are of one mind in defense of their friend—and it doesn’t get any more subjective than that. The version above is nice and succinct, but the one below is even better because it is more extensive:

The reasonable person standard is an objective standard. It is meant to be a broad representation of the community, not any single person. It doesn’t matter that the actions could be reasonable for the defendant. They must be characteristic of the reasonable person, or most people (there are a few exceptions, including children and the physically or mentally disabled). Sometimes a defendant had good intentions or did not want the harm to happen. Again, this does not matter. All that matters is whether the defendant acted in a way that the reasonable person would have in the same situation.*

That is where Barnett’s only avenue of argument completely collapses. His entire position rests on the notion that there was nothing to be agitated about in the first place. The author of Habit of Thought had no vested interested in telling me that “there is no point in engaging with such human beings” as Phil. What “trend” would Barnett used to dismiss Michael Strong’s input? The truth is that outside of Eddie’s inner circle, Barnett would never find a “broad representation” of people to buy into the lie that Phil is the bastion of innocence that his buddies believe. And make no mistake; it is a lie when you are willing to turn away from anything and everything to perpetuate the patently false.

 

Given that I go to great lengths to embrace warranted criticism, if I refute your reasoning then there is a pretty good chance that you are off base in some way. But not even citing Socrates, Bacon, Einstein, Festinger, Peck, or Michael Strong mattered one bit to Barnett—as he will not budge from his belief. Speaking of Strong, I asked the author of Habit of Thought for his impression of “If I didn’t have a life . . .” and the following is what he would say to Phil:

EXCHANGE

UOWE/EURO

CURIOSITY

 

MEANNESS NOT GREATNESS

Arguing your views in good faith demands discernment—the willingness to examine all factors instead of seizing on one-dimensional elements for inadequate conclusions. It is a given that . John Adams (Kindle Locations 541-545). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The crowd I describe below epitomizes wanting to have their cake and eat it too. I’m sure you don’t see yourself as part of the problem — but your record is who you are, not what you believe (quoting myself below):

DAVY CROCKET QUOTE

THOMAS EDISON QUOTE

ocratic Seminars foster the very form of intellect that is abysmally absent in society:

Image below is

 

 

Making the Most of One's Best

I have all sorts of experiences to illustrate that outlook, but until I read Habit of Thought by Michael Strong, I did not have a measurable solution to offer as an educational construct. A tectonic shift in critical thinking skills needs infrastructure fashioned for youth. Not to knock the hardworking efforts of countless educators out there (especially since I am a product of their labors)—but something has gone seriously awry. I am not qualified to say what the ideal education model is, but I know enough to recognize when something is not working. The subtitle of Mr. Strong’s book is From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice, and just a portion of page 106 alone shows the relationship between my book and his teachings. On top of elevating conventional curriculums well beyond traditional measures, Socratic Seminars foster the very form of intellect that is abysmally absent in society:

• Independent judgment
• Thoughtfulness as a way of life
• The ability to understand others
• Standing by words
• Willingness to accept criticism
• The confidence and ability to learn on one’s own
• Self-respect
• Intellectual integrity

Aspects of all of the above can be found in just about any educational framework, but strategically instilling tools to foster those traits is in another dimension of possibility. I outline the essentials of Habit of Thought at the end, but between now and then, I ask that you observe how every issue intersects with the Socratic principles issued above. ReadWriteThink.org offers a nice origin of the approach: “Socratic seminars are named for their embodiment of Socrates’ belief in the power of asking questions, prize inquiry over information and discussion over debate.” As for the baseline mechanics:

The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions. Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others. They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly.

While that captures the idea pretty well, it is a lot more challenging than that soothing statement describes. “Deciphering texts” more accurately depicts the demands involved. And to intensify the positive atmosphere of peer pressure: “[A]ll should participate and support their opinions with argument.”
I am not a Socrates scholar—“Wisdom Begins In Wonder” came to me by bookmark. But it should say something that a non-stellar student came up with Socrates-like sentiments in basing my book on curiosity as the nucleus of knowledge. That idea was borne out of experience—taking note that the curious seek clarity while the incurious care to keep things cloudy at all costs. The unmoved play all the same games to disguise their disdain for correction. Toss in the token pseudo-civility to complete the posturing section of the IBSO checklist—and off they go without an atom of doubt. It is astounding how the mind can pull off psychological gymnastics that allow us to believe what we say without any sense of accounting for it. The willingness to be wrong is an essential ingredient of civility—and that kind of courtesy has been all but eradicated.

Much to our detriment we have fashioned a society in which “I say tomayto, you say tomahto” is all the authority required to have a “point of view.” What is most maddening of all is the dedication to preserving beliefs that, at minimum, would be revealed to be seriously flawed by the slightest objective scrutiny. Is that what you had in mind with “children are the future”?
No one has a monopoly on virtue, and my offering is really just a way of cultivating one another through the art of exchange. Key to my mission is to convey the importance of understanding why we think the way we do, and illustrate the consequences of gross negligence in defining our perception. Anna Quindlen encapsulated my concerns in her Newsweek article “Life of the Closed Mind.” In sharing some thoughts on a Columbia University commencement, she wrote:

 

 

 

Rather than read and digest, they scan and seek—scouring for any fragment that they can frame in their favor. Same goes for sound bites that can be manipulated to their liking. They will look away from a mountain of evidence while nitpicking over pebbles. Their duplicity is driven by deflection, derision, and denial—all of which is designed to avoid having to answer for anything. They begin and end every debate in the exact same place—self-satisfied that there is nothing more to see.

And the icing on the cake is that any question of their character is considered an “attack” no matter how accurate it is. Nowadays you can be rude, small-minded, idiotic, dismissive, dishonest (or all of the above and worse)—and if anyone calls you on it, you can cry foul as if your actions disappeared off the face of the Earth.
The freedom from doubt that has contaminated our culture is best described by Laura Knight-Jadczyk in her article Official Culture in America: A Natural State of Psychopathy?:

It is as though with some people—those who most avidly embrace the “we are right” view—have minds that are closed from the very get-go, and they are entirely incapable of opening them, even just a crack. There is no curiosity in them. There are no questions in their minds. There are no “what ifs?” or “maybes.”

 

I would add that the situation was nothing like my discussion with Yasmin, as it is not like I turned away from well-crafted arguments that crushed my weak ones. Bill and I were jovially jousting in the exact same way, so there was no clear-cut reason for me to believe that he was in a better position to know. But that is no excuse for failing to courteously inquire in the interest of “understanding how someone else’s reasoning leads them to a different opinion.”* Of course, had he asked me some questions in that same spirit, the holes in my reasoning would have shown up in no time.
Online sources that list the lead vocals are bound to vary, but between my compilation and one that I compared against, the numbers are only off by a few. Whatever the exact numbers are, it seems clear that Bill got carried away with his conviction as well.

 

For years I have been telling people that story as an illustration of my own foolishness—not just in that I was wrong, but also in how my certitude shrouded me from considering any other possibility.

 

That I ultimately turned out to be technically correct is just an amusing irony.

 

and I do not think that his belief was based in bias like mine was.

 

I was

WAS I RIGHT?

EXCEL SHEET

MOTIVE WAS NOT INTENDED TO “RIGHT”

I WAS JUST CURIOUS

For all these years I’ve wanted to tell Bill, “Ya know what you, you were right — sorry i didn’t listen to you”

SO LET’S SAY I THAT TEHCNIALLY I TURNED OUT TO BE CORRECT (EXCEL BREAKDOWN)

So would i be able to come back and say, “Ya know, I take that back — i was right after all.”

NO — I CAN’T THAT– THAT’S AGAINST THE RULE.

I DIDN’T BASE MY BELIEF ON ANYTHING OTHER THAN GUT — SO IF GET LUCKY AND TURN OUT TO BE “RIGHT,” IT”S INCREDIBLY DISINGENUOUS TO COME BACK AND DO AN “I TOLD YA SO.”

AND WHY? BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE BULLSHIT — I DON’T LIKE BULLSHIT.

 

Now this was all in good fun–but thee

 

ACTUALLY DOES KNOW!

Didn’t ya know?

LEWIE

EXCESSIVE DEFERENCE

 

and the fact that

he’s giving deference

With the quote

“respect” a token effort to “listen” doesn’t count as “respect” when you know damn well and good that guy had no intention of considering anything I had to say.

pretense — pseudo-civility

PREJUDICE

WANTS TO BELIEVE IN HIS MISSION — AND I TOTALLY GET THAT

 

Hide and Seek - Book cover

FOUND A CONSTRUCT

PEOPLE OF THE LIE

 

MOTIVE

 

 

Absolutely no idea what he was talking about

OFFICE OF SPECIAL PLANS

she’s met Colin Powell

NEVER ADDRESS WHAT IS ACTUALLY IN QUESTION

 

SPECIAL FORCES FRIENDS WANTS TO BELIEVE IN THE MISSION

STEVE WENT RIGHT ALONG — AND WHY? BECAUSE HE’S CLOSER TO THAT GUY AND HE’S IN THE MILITARY — SO HE MUST KNOW, RIGHT?

OF COURSE

 

When you consider the sheer ease of access to information — I’d say it’s unprecent

 

DDDD

 

That’s not to

Nichols, Tom. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters . Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

 

“nothing” and come back with an claim about how dangerous these shells were

turn it into something — that’s still nothing.

encourage it.

 

 

They want a presence without having to exert any effort to legitimately participate. They peddle their opinions while shirking any responsibility to validate them. They launch volleys of vitriol they wish to appear as conveyors of truth — while dripping in duplicity that prevents the very integrity that they claim to care about. They want respect without having to earn it.