January 2, 2007
The First Victim of the "Big Lie"
Paul at Power Line has an interesting post up about the persistence of blindness by the drive-by media to the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel Jr. and his chargé d'affaires Curtis Moore back in 1973... a hit that appears to me to have been personally ordered by Yasser Arafat. (Paul links to a post last June by Scott Johnson, in which he goes into more detail about crime and evidence.) Please read these first before continuing...
All right, this is the line Paul wrote that caught my eye:
[W]hy has our MSM which prides itself on exposing government cover-ups ignored almost totally the cable...?
The answer... is that Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world and is, therefore, information that it would prefer the public not know.
I think Paul may be overestimating the role played by mendacity and underestimating the will to deny on the part of the elite media -- and indeed all of humanity: I don't think journalists consciously keep this information from the public; I believe they're unconsciously keeping it from themselves.
I can't believe my eyes
In my early youth, I used to dabble in magic (prestidigitation, not sorcery; sorcery was in my middle youth). I was never very good -- no patience -- but I was a magic junkie who watched every live and broadcast magic show I could find... scores of them by the time I was fifteen, perhaps a hundred individual acts or more. After a while, I caught onto the big secret of magic: the "gimmick," the actual working of the trick, typically takes place in plain view.
So why doesn't the audience see it? Because the magician tells them not to. He doesn't come out and say, "see here now, close your eyes for this bit." Instead, he misdirects their attention to this side, when the gimmick is taking place on that side.
The great magicians (Herrmann, Thurston, Kellar) were sheer artists at misdirection. It was said of Harry Kellar that when he was performing, a brass band could march across the stage behind him, followed by a half-dozen elephants, and the audience would later swear he was alone.
This demonstrates what I call "the will to disbelieve." Your eyes may see, but your brain does all the observing... or in this case, the unobserving.
Everyone who goes to a magic show wants to be fooled. Haven't you noticed that most people, if you tell them how a trick is really done, are not satisfied but instead rather disappointed? That's because, even though they asked, they really didn't want to know.
The hard-headed skeptics are especially desperate to be fooled; they're always the easiest to misdirect. (The hardest to fool are children: they haven't yet learned the knack of willful blindness. By nature, they tend to look in exactly the right place, which is exactly the wrong place for a magician!)
It may twist and turn, but this post has not careered out of control; I'm actually going somewhere with it.
Magic is a universal indicator. It's a synecdoche, which can mean many things: in this case, a small part that stands in for the whole. We all want to be fooled; the world is awash in pandemic credulity.
Song of myself
Every one of us has a "story," the story of himself. This narrative takes all the myriad observations, expectations, and subtle indications our brains receive and arranges them into a more or less coherent plot. In reality, we can say only that A precedes B. It takes a narrative to say that A causes B.
The narrative includes both "facts" and inferences. I use quotation marks around "facts" because, pace John Adams, facts are actually squirmy, gelatinous things that we only experience second-hand, by observing the effect of the fact upon us -- for example, we don't see a Ford Mustang; we observe the light reflected from the Mustang, and our brain draws the inference that a Mustang exists at that spot. But the inferences are the interesting things, because they control or modulate everything we sense... everything we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch is really an inference we have drawn from a stimulus to some part of our brains.
In mathematics -- therefore in everything else -- inferences imply rules of inference: we must have internal rules that tell us when we can take A and B and conclude C. For example, you see a Mustang speed past you and tear around a corner. Seconds later, you hear a terrible crash. Do you draw the conclusion that the Mustang you just saw has wrecked?
Probably; I would. My rules of inference tell me that it's unlikely that a completely unrelated car just happened to have an accident at that second. But of course, I'll be wrong sometimes -- such coincidences do, in fact, happen.
The best is enemy of the workable; as Mason said to Dixon, you gotta draw the line somewhere. (This whole subject is part of the branch of philosophy called epistemology, by the way: "how we know what we know.") Everybody's rules of inference are probability based: it's pretty likely that the speeding Mustang wrecked and was responsible for the accident... so that's what we tell the cops.
Believing is seeing
But the weird part of the internal narrative, the story of ourselves, is the way that the brain constantly edits the file of sensory inputs to match the eventual conclusion drawn: in our little thought experiment of the speeding Mustang, the most likely outcome is that, when the actual civil trial occurs and you're called as a witness (or even earlier, when you talk to the cops), you will say that you saw the speeding Mustang crash into the Volvo!
And you know what? You won't be lying... you will actually remember it that way. As Isaac Asimov put it in one or another of his autobiographies, we remember things the way they should have happened, not necessarily the way they actually did... which, in the absolute sense, is unknowable anyway.
Out of mind, out of sight
Which brings us back, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to the Human Consciousness Editor.
Let me quote a man I've never read (I can't get past page 5 of anything Friedrich Nietzsche wrote!): "We are all greater artists than we realize." (Actually, I have no idea if he actually said it. Or wrote it. But it's always arrtibuted to him. And anyway, the idea is the important thing, no matter who said it... what are you, a wisenheimer?)
Memory is not like a movie film; it's more like a writable DVD that is constantly being edited by the brain, to bring memory into congruence with the story of ourselves. This applies to everybody -- not just liberals. Quite literally, if an observation simply cannot exist within the central narrative of the brain... then the brain erases it from existence. "if out of sight, then out of mind" is a trivial observation; the deeper version is "if out of mind, then out of sight." In a vivid, real, and literal sense, you cannot see what you cannot believe.
We can't handle the truth
Which brings us back to journalism, the elite media, and Arafat's hit on Noel and Moore (actually, this more or less explains absolutely everything, if you think hard enough about it): Paul was wrong; it's simply not plausible that --
Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world and is, therefore, information that it would prefer the public not know.
The far more likely explanation is that Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world, and therefore the journalists' brains erase such "knowledge" from their memory banks. It's not that they know and they're concealing it from the rest of us; it's that we look at A, B, and C and conclude that Arafat ordered the hits -- while the MSM look at A, B, and C and conclude that Arafat didn't know a thing about it and was distressed when he found out.
We cannot even say we're right and they're wrong; scientifically, about the best we can do is that our reading requires much less editing of verifiable sources than theirs!
They literally don't see it. When liberals say that there is a "100% chance" that Gore actually won the vote in Florida and that Bush stole the election, they're not lying... they really believe it. Just as most Americans actually believe there is an invisible man with a long, white beard who knows when they are sleeping, who knows when they're awake, who knows if they've been bad or good -- and who sends the bad ones to Hell (I'll bet you were expecting someone else).
Tom Tancredo probably looks at a Mexican family crossing our border and literally sees enemy soldiers invading our country; judging from some of the comments when I talk about immigration, I reckon quite a few of you see the same reality Tom does. I see a bunch of potential entrepeneurs and consumers, but that "reality" is as much a product of my own internal narrative as your "reality" is of yours. "We are all greater artists than we realize."
That is the real dilemma of speaking to the enemy: it's not that he hasn't seen all the facts, and as soon as we enlighten him, he'll come round to our point of view. Rather, we don't even agree on what "facts" are on the table: we see one set of facts (while another batch remain stubbornly invisible); and he sees several of our invisible fnords while being unable even to detect some of our critical facts. Neither party will likely be convinced, because each draws rational conclusions from self-cooked data.
Members of the MSM literally sees no connection between Arafat and the murders, just as liberals literally see no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda; and every "fact" that "comes to light" (every observation their brain-modulator allows them to see) simply confirms those non-connections. Conservatives stubbornly refuse to see any connection between liberty and sexual deviance; libertarians refuse even to notice any connection between duty and survival; the religious see a rigid cause-effect relationship between faith and morals, while the irreligious see absolutely no connection whatsoever, unless it's an inverse relationship.
Can't we all just get a loan?
So how can we communicate?
- The first step is to recognize that each of us lives in his own reality net, his own bubble of "fact" and inference, held together in a coherent shape by the web of narrative spun by our own brains. It's counterproductive to say "I'm right and you're wrong;" it's much more effective to demonstrate that my model typically predicts future events with great success, while yours typically fails.
- Recognize that some gaps cannot be bridged; concentrate on those that can.
- Start your voyage of discussion from islands that exist both in your disputant's reality sea and your own: find overlapping subsets of reality and try to expand outward from there; that makes it harder for him to dismiss you out of hand.
- Learn to argue from within the other person's reality net: it works much better. Tell a conservative that holding a job builds character; tell a liberal that holding a job connects one to the community.
- Learn to laugh. It's the best defense mechanism against screaming.
- Remember that you're not alone in being all alone; you're part of a vast community of people who share being all alone together.
- Finally, in a more practical vein, if you want your own reality net to prevail (as who doesn't?), then make it more interesting, joyful, and hope-filled than the reality next door: people who are bored or frightened by one reality net will simply change the channel... and yes, it is that easy. Keep their attention, and they'll keep watching!
That last is the biggest problem the Democrats have: their reality net is one of defeatism and fatalism, two very unpleasant modulators. That's why, even when the Democrats win, they lose: they won the 2006 election, but nobody really thinks they can solve any of our problems. (And to be blunt, they're not even trying... they're simply campaigning for 2008.)
That's the secret weapon of Republicans, whether libertarian-Republican, conservative, neoconservative, or Giuliani-Republican: hope and pride. That is what, in the end, will reel 'em back in. Fill yourself with hope and pride and always aggressively follow your bliss -- not your decadence, your bliss. That way, even if you go down, you'll die a hero's death... and hey, that's something, isn't it?
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 2, 2007, at the time of 5:42 AM
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The following hissed in response by: Freetime
Excellent post. I have often had discussions with liberal friends in which I became totally frustrated in their persistent adherence to illogical and easily debunked points. Then, along the way, I read Peter Drucker's precepts of management. One of his admonitions is " Don't assume that anyone who disagrees with what (you) see as clear and obvious is a fool or a knave. (Rather) assume that that person has reached his so obviously wrong conclusion because he sees a different reality and is concerned with a different problem". It seems that in the days of men like Alan Simpson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Congressmen and Sanators accepted that type of an idea and actually struggled to work together towards common benefits for the country. I sometimes wonder if the "different reality" and "different problem" that many liberals work with today isn't a more radical transformation of government than appears on the surface. But, of course as you and Drucker indicate, that idea may be the result of being filtered through my own different reality. Your advice to go forward with a positive confidence (as opposed to the opposite) and to work in those areas where we can reach common cause is wise council.
The following hissed in response by: unclebenjamin
I loved that. It relates very nicely to a review of a new book called "A bee in the mouth: Anger in America" by Peter Wood that I read at NRO today. It talked about the prevalence of righteous anger and how it is now so common (as opposed to the slow to anger norms of years past). Your post nicely highlighted how to avoid the fuming and get to the communicating.
The above hissed in response by: unclebenjamin at January 2, 2007 7:03 PM
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