They need help

Snopes.com is necessary, but not sufficient.

That's one of the things I started out wanting to say. Then I got a bit distracted as that thought was reinforced by the dismaying spectacle of Sarah Palin's unconditional admirers — their admiration only increasing with every Katie Couric interview and every repeated, documented lie — and that initial thought led to others and those led to others, and puzzlement led to exasperation and then to pity and then to resolve and I never quite came right out and said exactly what it was that I had initially wanted to say as precisely as I'd wanted to.

And that again was this: Snopes.com is necessary, but not sufficient.

If you're not familiar with it, Snopes is an indispensable resource, one of those Internet tools that it now seems impossible to imagine living without. They deal with rumors, urban myths, legends and idle gossip, addressing every case with an open mind and subjecting it to a simple test: Is this true? What are the facts?

Facts matter. But facts are, in themselves, rarely persuasive.

The last time I had occasion to consult Snopes involved an acquaintance who is, in many ways, a likable enough person. But he also seems to hear and absorb a lot of information that ain't necessarily so.

This time it had to do with Target, the nationwide discount retail chain. He refuses to shop at Target because they hate veterans.
I hadn't heard that. It seemed implausible, since hating on veterans would be just about the most self-destructive PR strategy one could imagine for a retail chain. Plus I know a lot of veterans and I've never heard about this from any of them. Those I know best, in fact, shop at Target all the time.

But OK, I said, let's look it up. And we went to Snopes and there it was. Snopes explains that this rumor is not true. They provide the background of the rumor and trace its history back to a single e-mail from a single person. They cite that person and his retraction and apology. They cite official statements from Target and evidence of the company's support for veterans' causes. They cite veteran's groups gratefully attesting to that support. This is all sourced and linked back to sources and in general a devastatingly thorough and altogether Snopes-like job of debunking and rebutting the rumor.

The result of this, of course, is that the acquaintance still does not shop at Target because he still chooses to believe that they hate veterans, and now he no longer believes anything from Snopes.com because, he says, this proves they can't be trusted.

This might have gone another way. Had this guy merely been misinformed, the Snopes data might have been persuasive. If the root of his problem were only a matter of bad information, good information might have resolved that problem and he could have walked away knowing something true instead of having to manufacture new falsehoods to reinforce the old ones.
But misinformation was not the root or the source of his problem, so supplying him with the correct information was not, in itself, sufficient to help him.

And that really is my goal here — to figure out some way to help this guy and others like him. To figure out some way to help these poor bastards and others like them.

They need help. They need, frankly, liberation.

The weird rumor about Target or the even weirder rumor about P&G are somewhat trivial examples of this, but basing your life on things that aren't true, that aren't real, is a kind of bondage. In simpler, more pragmatic terms: Unreality doesn't work. It is unsustainable. It is a recipe for unhappiness.

The reason I've been writing about/obsessing over things like the P&G rumor or the usefulness of Snopes is that I'm trying to figure out how to liberate the captives of unreality. (I doubt they'd appreciate my stating it that way, but there it is.)

Part of that task, obviously, is to provide them with a dose of reality — to supply good information that might replace the bad, to offer them facts as a better option than lies. That's necessary, but not sufficient. That throws open the gates, but can't convince them to walk out into the world. Providing information offers the opportunity to choose reality, but it cannot compel or persuade them to take that opportunity or to make that choice.

That's what we're dealing with here: choices. My Target-boycotting acquaintance is making the choice to believe what he prefers to believe, irrespective of whatever the facts might actually be. That's a lot of hard work on his part. It requires an ongoing and exponentially multiplying set of fabrications to maintain. It involves an ever-expanding web of things that he can't allow himself to think about. It has to be, on some level, exhausting.

Take a look at those videos linked above (via). These people have fabricated imaginary monsters that, at some level, they know aren't real and yet they've put those monsters in charge of their lives. They're driven by fear and hatred — fear and hatred of things they know don't really exist. They are, for whatever reason, choosing bondage to that fear and hatred and it's making them miserable. It's stunting their humanity. It's confining them. It's wearing them out.

They need help.

I'm sure help isn't something they'd welcome. And it's probably not something they'd want (although what they really might want is a more complex question). Whether or not it's something they deserve isn't for a wretch like me to decide.

But it's not about welcome or want or deserve. It's about what they need.
They need liberation. They need help. And we're going to have to figure out how to help them, soon, because many of the people in those videos seem to be on the threshhold of real violence and the kind of ugliness that will make it even harder for them ever to escape.

I heard an interview with Don Cheadle recently in which he said, "You can't play down to the cynics." That's an actor's advice, but he wasn't talking only about acting. Ours is a cynical time, and in such a time I realize that any expression of concern will sound to many as merely concern trolling. Attempts to diagnose will sound to many as mere attacks or accusations. But I'm not concern trolling here and I'm not attacking or accusing. I'm just trying to figure out what has gone wrong with these people and why, because allowing them to continue along the path they have chosen would seem, for lack of a better word, cruel.

Information — facts, reality, the rebuttal and debunking of lies — is one kind of help that the captives of unreality need. That information is necessary, but not sufficient, for those who have chosen their own captivity. What else is necessary, and what might be sufficient to help them choose not to make that choice, is something I want to continue exploring.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Religion and morality exist independently of one another. Both religion and anti-religion try to claim morality for themselves, which is fun to watch and saddening at the same time; but even cursory research can easily find moral behavior by theists and non-theists, and amoral behavior in the same two groups.
    Claiming to no longer believe in God makes no one inherently better than those who believe; pride and hubris remain dangerous emotions in the faithful and unfaithful alike.
    As was recently said in the comments to this blog, the most effective kind of evangelism is a positive example; those who believe their creed superior should consider striving to set such an example.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    “Some sympathy for mullets, perhaps? I got stuck with one for a while, to my misery: I mistakenly let a student hairdresser practice on me, and he cropped off so much that it took months to grow back.”
    Red Sonya was pretty hot.

  • Izzy

    Kit: Oh, man, been there. Not in terms of a mullet, but I got The Stylist Who Really Liked Product, I was reading…man, I walked out of there and it was suddenly 1986. In New Jersey. Ugh. I swear there should be some sort of Better Business Bureau you can report these people to.
    But again: with people I knew and gave a damn about, I had the opportunity to talk to them about it, to have conversations that began “…yeah, I *know*. Someone stab me please, because this shit could deflect bullets.” (Plus, they knew I wasn’t the kind of girl who ordinarily sported that hairstyle, so.) People I didn’t know? I didn’t know them, I wasn’t going to know them, so if they thought I actually liked having that hair and said something about it, well, I hope it made their day better, and it doesn’t really bug me.
    That said, I do try to distinguish people who got fucked over by a ham-handed stylist, or who are out on a milk run in the first clothes they could find, from people who clearly went into their cupboard this morning and thought that hot-pink lycra would make them look snazzy and wonderful. I fall on the bitchy “we’ll never meet again and hopefully they won’t overhear, so, whatever” side of the line in practice, but on principle, yeah.

  • hapax

    *You’re implicated*. Not a lot, but at least a little more than I am.
    In all fairness to J, (I can’t believe that I’m typing this) this is true for me.
    I *am* personally implicated, every time I fail to witness that the name I personally share with these people is slandered by their words — and mine, when I am less loving and generous than I could be.
    Yet I am puzzled by what J seems to suggest as a solution. I think that the only way to is to redouble my efforts to examine my thoughts for unconscious prejudice and bias, purge myself of pettiness and spite, reach out to help those who need it, and offer a better story to those trapped in fear and anger — to show those who walk in darkness the great light, as it were.
    J seems to think — correct me if I’m wrong — that the best solution would be for me to rend my garments, and scream in a loud voice “I was WRONG all along! We were ALL wrong! There IS no light — Don’t go up there, it’s DARK!”
    How on earth would this help those poor folks he cites live happier, more tolerant lives?
    But he’s right about this, too: Brigitte Nielsen *was* hot. Even with a mullet.

  • hapax

    Oh, and true confession time: of my own free will I sported Farrah-hair for nearly two years. I’m in no position to criticize mullets.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Brigitte Nielsen *was* hot. Even with a mullet.
    I suspect that’s the origin of many an ill-chosen fashion: an actress with a face pretty enough to survive any style, sporting something that nobody normal-looking could get away with. And an on-set stylist who touches it up between takes so it’s never reduced to the state that most hair spends most of its time in, ie subject to the vagaries of wind, weather and gravity.

  • Izzy

    Brigitte Nielsen was, indeed, a hottie. (Man. This could become the “Alan Rickman is hot!” of Slacktivist.)
    And the end of that movie confuses the living hell out of me, because I always thought Sonja said “You’re a man! The Talisman will destroy you!” and then it…did. Is this a swipe at Gudrun’s preference for her own gender, or did the Hyborian Age perfect drag beyond the dreams of modern man?
    Research on the Internet suggests the actual phrase was “you’re mad,” but…accent…which makes things less confusing. Also, they’re remaking it? With Rose McGowan? The hell?

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    I had a mullet for much of the late 80s and early 90s, though I never actually heard the term “mullet” until well after the fact (though I had, of course, heard other terms like “Hockey Hair,” “Safety Cut,” and “Camaro Hair.”).
    Mine wasn’t the “business up front, party in the back” kind, as all of my hair was long, it was just longer in the back. The reason for this was that while I was trying to grow it all out, eventually it would get to a point at which the hair in front was hanging down in my face but wasn’t quite long enough to be pulled back, having it in my face irritated the hell out of me, and I would get it cut.
    (Note: I was a metalhead and was simply trying to wear the “uniform.”)
    Have you seen the promotional posters for Rose McGowan as Red Sonja? The costume looks good, and the image of her licking blood off her sword is a decent balance between creepy and sexy (though ultimately I think it leans more towards the creepy).
    I believe the movie is going to be based more on the current comic rather than on…whatever the hell the other movie was based on.
    As a Sonja-related aside, a few years ago I made an off-hand reference to Red Sonja on my blog, which included a mention of Wendy Pini (of Elfquest fame) having dressed up as Sonja at conventions in the 70s. This attracted the notice of a young woman who currently dresses up as Red Sonja at conventions and comic shops and whatnot, and she forwarded a link to my blog on to other women who had done the Sonja thing with Wendy Pini back in the 70s, so for a little while I was the author of the Unofficial Blog of Red Sonjas Everywhere.

  • Cowboy Diva

    It’s conversation topics like this that make me regret my sheltered youth, because I know that Red Sonja is in no wise a movie I can justify watching as an adult because family and friends really will laugh at me.

  • Tonio

    Cowboy Diva, how can I say for certain that the gap doesn’t exist? The existence of criticism seems to contradict the idea that the world requires nothing. How can I say for certain that other people’s beliefs about me are opinions and not facts? Part of my point about ridicule is that would be much more effective if the ridiculer instead spoke to the person like a rational supervisor or teacher would, helping the person to realize his mistake.

  • Izzy

    Jon: That’s awesome!
    And I haven’t seen the posters. Good to know–I only associate McGowan with “Charmed” and with actually putting up with Marilyn Manson for three and a half years (and the fact that she had sex with him pales beside actually enduring the company of Whiny ProtoEmo Guy, which astounds in a SAN-loss kind of way), neither of which signifies good judgment to me, but she could well surprise me.
    Cowboy Diva: As someone who sat through “A Cinderella Story” of her own free will–she drops a cell phone instead of a slipper, and they’ve been talking online for months, and oh God it’s ridamndiculous but fun–let alone “Hell Comes to Frogtown,” I say let ‘em laugh. So-bad-they’re-good movies are basically the new black anyhow, so you’re actually cutting-edge.
    Or so I claim. But then, I think we should get the government to declare Cheese Appreciation Week: everyone gets a pound of cheddar and their choice of “High School Musical” or “Exorcist 2″ and a couple hours off work to enjoy both.

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    I meant to link to the posters, but didn’t, and now I’m too lazy. You can see them on the IMDb page for the movie.
    I was with you on the Cheese Appreciation Week thing, up until High School Musical. That seems more like punishment to me. Still, it’s a good idea in theory; we just need more cheesy movie options to choose from. Also, a pound of cheddar? Surely Velveeta – or some other “cheese food product” – would be more appropriate.

  • Anonymous

    “Brigitte Nielsen was, indeed, a hottie. (Man. This could become the “Alan Rickman is hot!” of Slacktivist.)”
    For me, the sine qua non would be Jane Seymour, circa 1977 in “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger”. Dr. Quinn was *fine* in the Carter years . . . plus, there’s like 3 frames of actual nudity

  • Izzy

    Tonio: Except that it wouldn’t, because we’re back to proselytizing again. If a stranger comes up to me on the street and says that my outfit isn’t working, my reaction (other than “what the fuck? get away from me, crazy!”) is either:
    a) “I *know*: laundry day. Go on with your life.”
    b) “Fuck you, I like this look.”
    Also? Enlightening strangers about their personal lives? Not my job. The job of their friends, maybe, or family, but in the end? They’re adults. They can read fashion magazines, observe strangers, read in the sane end of the Religion section, and so forth. It’s kind of *their* job. I have a job, and I also don’t have an agenda–at the end of the day, I roll my eyes at Scientologists or whale-tail girls or whoever, but I’m not out to Eliminate This Scourge from the Planet, I’m just out to have a good time.
    I mean, no, you can never be totally one hundred percent sure that other people aren’t right about you, insofar as you can never be totally one hundred percent sure of anything. Weigh their opinions against what you believe and value in life; talk to a friend who you trust to be honest with you; and then relax, for the love of Whoever. The world might require something for snarky girls not to be snarky about you, but we’re not going to kick down the doors and deny you food and shelter or anything. Honestly, now.
    For the record? I had a horrendous bobbed perm freshman year of college. I don’t know what I was thinking; I hadn’t done any drugs yet. Looked like a damn poodle. Hee.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    “… because I know that Red Sonja is in no wise a movie I can justify watching as an adult because family and friends really will laugh at me.”
    Friends with cable tell me it’s on TBS like every other week. Just tell them there’s nothing better on. Odds are it’ll be true.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    For Cheese Appreciation Week, I vote for Mystery Science Theater 3000 reruns – especially anything with a mad scientist or a rubber-suited monster.

  • Cowboy Diva

    For Tonio. I thought it appropriate, please feel free to think otherwise.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    “As a Sonja-related aside, a few years ago I made an off-hand reference to Red Sonja on my blog, which included a mention of Wendy Pini (of Elfquest fame) having dressed up as Sonja at conventions in the 70s. This attracted the notice of a young woman who currently dresses up as Red Sonja at conventions and comic shops and whatnot, and she forwarded a link to my blog on to other women who had done the Sonja thing with Wendy Pini back in the 70s, so for a little while I was the author of the Unofficial Blog of Red Sonjas Everywhere.”
    In my experience, Red Sonja is out at cons; Nariko from “Heavenly Sword” is the new ginger-haired “it” swordswoman.

  • http://bifrosts-edge.blogspot.com Jon

    I’ve never been to a con of any sort, for a variety of reasons, so I am not now nor have I ever been up on what’s “in” at them. I also don’t follow manga/anime, so, apart from simply being able to identify that someone is dressed as a manga/anime character because he/she looks manga-ish (or anime-ish), I would likely have no idea who the character is.
    In any case, here’s a picture, in character, that I did of the Red Somja who initially spread the word about my blog.
    Bonus: Hello Kitty She-Devil.
    /blogwhoring

  • Tonio

    Except that it wouldn’t, because we’re back to proselytizing again.
    By expressing disapproval of me personally and pointing out what they see as my faults, they’re already acting like authority figures even if they don’t intend to. So they could at least act like rational ones.
    Enlightening strangers about their personal lives? Not my job. The job of their friends, maybe, or family, but in the end? They’re adults.
    Then I see no reason to express disapproval of them personally.
    we’re not going to kick down the doors and deny you food and shelter or anything.
    I wasn’t suggesting that was the case. I had in mind something like being refused service at restaurants based purely on their emotional reactions to things about me that aren’t my choice.
    I thought it appropriate, please feel free to think otherwise.
    Not only appropriate, but relevant to my point. If I were the man in the fable, I would want to get together the group of men, the group of women, and the passers-by and tell them, “Look, you’re giving me contradictory instructions and I’m getting confused. Would you come to some agreement on what you want me to do, and then get back to me?” Hypothetically, I could just use my own judgment, but one wouldn’t do that on the job or in a classroom.

  • SchrodingersDuck

    On Cheese Appreciation Week: it’s hardly a week if it only lasts a couple of hours. Of course, it would be relatively simple to bulk it up to the required length: marathon showings of Cop Rock and Mr T: The Animated Series. Plus, all cinemas should be forced to do midnight showings of Troll 2, Roadhouse, Plan 9, Reefer Madness and Santa meets the Ice Cream Bunny (though that last one may cross over from cheesy to painful). Plus, people should get cheese tailored to their tastes; video game fans get Metal Wolf Chaos, music fans get a Bon Jovi/Enter Shikari mixtape and book fans get The Eye of Argon and Antigua: Land of Fairies Wizards and Heroes.

  • SchrodingersDuck

    No!
    I am so sorry!
    I thought I’d previewed and everything!

  • SchrodingersDuck

    Sigh.
    There must be some way to stop them…
    (Dumping a load of tags)

  • http://scyllacat.livejournal.com Thalia

    Remotely, from back on page 6, I have decided to determine the the sudden italic epidemic is God obfuscating J’s arguments. Because I like the irrational because it’s funny. Also, I think it’s hilarious how J is ONLY rational and MUST be right. But nobody’s listening to this, unless J wants to pick my bones. I have more work to do, so bye now.

  • Izzy

    By expressing disapproval of me personally and pointing out what they see as my faults, they’re already acting like authority figures even if they don’t intend to.
    Except that they’re not already pointing out your faults *to you*, encouraging people not to hire you, or whatever, which is where the proselytizing bit comes in. And ties back into my original metaphor: disapprove of me all you want from Over There, but once you come Over Here with your disapproval, such that it starts affecting my life, we’re going to have a talk.
    Then I see no reason to express disapproval of them personally.
    So…you don’t have to. My reason: it’s fun. Which I’ve said…about five times now.
    Again, you seem like a nice guy and all, but your “I don’t understand why you do this!” is starting to seem like “You shouldn’t do this!” and that’s not going over very well on this end. So if what you mean to do is express your vast moral issues, well, consider them expressed. You think I’m being mean, and you think I shouldn’t be mean, and…I get it, I don’t agree, end of story.
    If you’re still trying to understand, well, you might not. Ever. I don’t understand why people skydive, or use Tabasco sauce, or like Saw II . I don’t get it, odds are I never will, and that’s okay. I don’t have to. Accept, move on.
    I had in mind something like being refused service at restaurants based purely on their emotional reactions to things about me that aren’t my choice.
    See, I think you’re the *only* one to have things like that in mind, at least in this discussion. Because:
    1) Making snide comments about someone doesn’t mean you think they should be denied services. Or doesn’t to me, anyhow. I don’t like Scientology, I don’t think well of Scientologists, that doesn’t mean I want to re-institute Jim Crow.
    2) Places like that want to make money. If you have money–and you conform to clearly-posted “shirt and shoes” or “jacket and tie” regulations–you’ll be fine.
    SD and Mikhail: I like your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • Izzy

    Holy shit it’s italics get in the car!

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    (please nobody try to bump the comment count to reach the next page; the italics are gone on Safari (but not on Firefox, weird))
    “Look, you’re giving me contradictory instructions and I’m getting confused. Would you come to some agreement on what you want me to do, and then get back to me?” Hypothetically, I could just use my own judgment, but one wouldn’t do that on the job or in a classroom.
    I do; you’ve actually described my job. Software engineer, and users are never going to agree on what they want. So it’s up to me to use my judgement, based on “X conflicts with Y, Z is technically impossible, Q is cool but would be better done as R” etc.
    Now, yes, some jobs are at the implementation level where the requirements are fully specified and can’t be changed except by a higher-up – but those situations are obvious: one job, one boss (unless you’re a character in Office Space). Likewise in a classroom: only the teacher’s opinion counts.
    But in life? The important question is, do I care about this person’s opinion? Random stranger – no. My judgemental and constantly-disapproving parent? No. My sane parent? Some, but not so much now that I’m living on my own. Someone I’m trying to impress? More so, up to a point. I may well decide their expectations are unreasonable, and they aren’t worth impressing. (There’s a pattern here…)

  • J

    Wasn’t my fault this time.g

  • Tonio

    your “I don’t understand why you do this!” is starting to seem like “You shouldn’t do this!” and that’s not going over very well on this end.
    I apologize – I had misinterpreted your argument as saying that I shouldn’t get upset by the behavior we’re talking about, or that I had no right to get upset.
    disapprove of me all you want from Over There, but once you come Over Here with your disapproval, such that it starts affecting my life, we’re going to have a talk.
    I see the possibility that third parties could be negatively influenced by the disapproval and come Over Here. Sort of like spreading rumors about people.
    Places like that want to make money. If you have money–and you conform to clearly-posted “shirt and shoes” or “jacket and tie” regulations–you’ll be fine.
    That makes too much sense. By that, I mean that people often express disapproval of me when I haven’t done anything. In school I remember a sixth-grade crossing guard who kept me standing on his corner for a half-hour while letting other students go. Finally I just walked away from him.

  • Tonio

    The important question is, do I care about this person’s opinion?
    Even if I didn’t care about someone’s opinion, that might be irrelevant. Just as belligerence evokes danger, criticism and disapproval evoke power because they sound like orders or instructions.

  • Izzy

    ‘Sokay. I mean, again, everyone has the *right* to be upset. If you (generic you, because I haven’t either gossiped or written about you) overhear something, or read something, and get pissy at me over it, I’m not likely to have a lot of time for it–I will probably mock you more–and if you’re upset that I and others like me behave that way in general, well, sorry, can’t help you.
    see the possibility that third parties could be negatively influenced by the disapproval and come Over Here. Sort of like spreading rumors about people.
    Yeah, fair enough, which is why I don’t talk about stuff with potentially-serious consequences unless I have proof or it’s stuff other people can blatantly see. (And I have a reason. Should other people know that my ex-roommate was a total flake who had screaming fights with her girlfriend at 3 AM and didn’t get us heat until February? Hell, yes–then they won’t room with her and they’ll be spared that hassle.) But nobody’s going to get fired or evicted because he’s overly fond of the spray-on tan, and if he was? The landlord/boss/whoever could *see* aforementioned spray-on tan, without help from me. Which is usually the case. Spreading rumors that Bob does coke on a regular basis is a very different, and much more serious thing.
    That makes too much sense. By that, I mean that people often express disapproval of me when I haven’t done anything.
    The world often does make sense. And if you mean that people express disapproval in a way with immediate physical consequences…well, they shouldn’t, and it’s actionable in either the legal or the physical sense, and that’s a totally different story, anyhow.
    Although, and this is just based on what you’ve said here, the problem isn’t that people say or think bitchy things. The problem is that you take those things way too seriously. Like this:
    In school I remember a sixth-grade crossing guard who kept me standing on his corner for a half-hour while letting other students go. Finally I just walked away from him.
    I mean, why did it take half an hour to walk away? I can understand not punching him in the face or finding a teacher or something, either of which I would’ve done, but…waiting that long? And assuming that this is the default way people operate? That’s not how most people react, there.
    I was picked on in school a fair amount. I never thought I deserved it, though, or that people would by default give me crap on a physical level; I thought “hey, these people are douchebags” (because, hey, I was in seventh grade) and I hated them on a sub-molecular level, but I don’t now assume that everyone I encounter is going to try and steal my books or throw carrots at my head during lunch.

  • sophia8

    VandanaShiva: That in combination with certain atheists’ high and mighty claims that “we’re not a religion because we only believe in facts” just pisses me off
    If they really said that, then they are a lot more stupid than any atheists I know. “I believe in facts” is an oxymoron – you might as well say “I believe in gravity”. Facts exist regardless of humans think of them. If “belief in facts” is a job requirement for atheism, then everybody is an atheist.

  • hapax

    Tonio: I want to put this very gently…
    You know the original theme of this post? About how some people, through fear or personal trauma, get trapped into a skewed perspective, and no matter how many actual facts one presents, or how persistently, that demonstrate that the world simply isn’t Like That, these people keep insisting that the facts are wrong, their perceptions are real?
    Do you remember Fred’s conclusion? That information is necessary, but not sufficient, for those who have chosen their own captivity.
    Many of us keep trying to tell you this. No one has authority over you that you do not grant them. Opinions can not hurt you if you don’t let them. Criticism and disapproval are only valid if you accept them. Nobody has the right to hurt you physically or deny you your rights; anyone who does, whether you think you deserve it or not is not an authority figure but a criminal and should be treated as such.
    But, for whatever reasons (probably beyond your control) you cannot hear this. It must be a terribly frightening world that you live in.
    Look at the title of this post, Tonio. You need help. Seriously. I worry about you.

  • Tonio

    I mean, why did it take half an hour to walk away? I can understand not punching him in the face or finding a teacher or something, either of which I would’ve done, but…waiting that long? And assuming that this is the default way people operate? That’s not how most people react, there.
    I was only in first or second grade at the time. Not only was he much bigger than me, he sounded very stern and angry. He would tell the other kids, “You can go,” and then tell me, “Not you!” This was two or three blocks away from the school, so there was no teacher around. I didn’t necessarily assume that this was default behavior. (Later I imagined he was waiting for his friends to show up so they could pummel me together.) The equation at the time was simple – do I walk away and risk him coming after me and hurting me, or do I stay there and risk the wrath of my mother for being late?
    these people keep insisting that the facts are wrong, their perceptions are real?
    I recognized the similarity from the start, which is part of the reason I’ve been posting in this thread. That sentence is partially accurate for me – my reasoning ability and my emotional perceptions are at war with one another. I feel like I have a scared little boy inside me who won’t shut up, and I shouldn’t have to have that boy inside me. I’ve recognized for many years that my emotional perceptions are false, which is a big reason why I struggle to treat my emotions as irrelevant in understanding the world outside my head. While I don’t automatically assume that everyone hates me or wants to hurt me, I also don’t have a baseline for what constitutes normal human behavior – all I have are guesses and suppositions. You’ve probably noticed that I ask many questions here about the motivations of the people Fred writes about. Part of my goal is to find out why specific people like the crossing guard treated me the way they did. Logically the odds are way against it being my fault, but that isn’t good enough for me – I want to have that as an emotional certainty.

  • Izzy

    Tonio:
    Okay, here’s the thing. I am an English major. I haven’t taken any sort of medicine–hell, I took, like, a year of bio in ninth grade. And Internet diagnoses should be taken with a Lot’s-wife-sized pillar of salt, especially the “I have this and it sounds like you do too let’s bond yay!” sort.
    But…I have an anxiety disorder. Have had for about, gah, sixteen years now. And the way you sound about people’s reactions or perceptions or actions is really, *really* like the way I sounded about things when I was unmedicated and the brain chemistry went nuts: knowing that the odds of Bad Stuff were so small as to be nonexistent, but wanting to be 100% sure, unable to convince myself to relax *because* I wasn’t 100% sure, and so forth. Like, I see your last post and *damn*, it sounds familiar in different contexts.
    Thing is, if that’s the case? *No* amount of intellectual knowledge is going to make you sure. My dad could tell me a thousand times, back in the day when I fixated on storms, how that thing over there *wasn’t* a funnel cloud and neither was that other one and it was the wrong weather for tornadoes anyway, and I’d just find another funny-shaped cloud to freak out about. Reassurance didn’t work; logic didn’t work. It helped, but it didn’t work. What was going on there was brain chemistry and adrenalin and purely mental stuff just didn’t cut it.
    What did work? Prozac. Not in a magic solution to everything way, but medication shut down the cycle of “yeah-but-what-if-THIS” long enough for me to sort of take a step back and let the logical stuff sink in. And then I could say “yeah, but that probably won’t happen” and distract myself with a book or something.
    Medication might work for you. It might not. But:
    a) Sometimes “why people do things” is “they’re jerks.” I mean, there might be vast complex reasons for their jerkdom–people have written best-selling books trying to figure out why middle school makes douchebags of us all–and a jerk doesn’t always stay a jerk, but the reasons boil down to “at that time, in that place, this guy was a fucktard.” And that’s kind of the best you’re gonna get.
    b) It’s really, really worth discussing these things with someone qualified to talk through them, and, if necessary, to prescribe medication. You don’t have to go on it, stay on it (or in therapy), or stay with the first prescription or therapist you try. God knows I didn’t. But there’s no shame in it, and it helps a lot.
    I wish you the best. These things are no fun at all.

  • http://rorybowman.wordpress.com Rory Bowman

    “The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief.” So begins Sarah Vowell’s new book, The Wordy Shipmates, which discusses the great variety there was in our late-medieval forebears, the Puritans. This irrational clinging to belief is a sort of mental illness or defect that must usually be physically resolved, through death or some sort of severe wounding. George Orwell has a lovely quote about this in his 1946 essay, “Under Your Nose.”
    “The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”
    Yikers!

  • Tonio

    Like, I see your last post and *damn*, it sounds familiar in different contexts.
    I’m not sure if my issue is anxiety. I see two phenomena here – people in general seem like authority figures to me, particularly when they criticize me or tell me what to do; and I feel bad about myself when someone criticizes me or ridicules me. Neither of those are appropriate emotions to have. I shouldn’t even have those emotions, and even mentioning them makes me sound like a crybaby. So what I’ve tried to do in this thread is to argue against the idea of criticizing or ridiculing anyone, purely out of self-defense.
    people have written best-selling books trying to figure out why middle school makes douchebags of us all
    Twice during middle school, when someone laughed at me, I would try to hurt them. I remember feeling not just ashamed but also pushed around. At the time I felt like if I didn’t do anything to stop the laughter, I would be a chump who lets people walk all over him. These incidents were in group counseling sessions, and I felt out of place and vulnerable in those sessions because the other boys dressed and acted like hoods and I was the bookish nerd. Going through my counselor’s records, I found that one time the counselor encouraged the group to vent their aggression using Nerf balls. I had to be goaded into participating, which I did halfheartedly, and when the boys all targeted me, I had a screaming panic attack.
    I’ve also been to therapy as an adult, but the whole time I vented about my parents and how I had cut them out of my life – a story much too long to tell here.

  • Bugmaster

    @hapax:

    Er, no. I said that I’d examine the beliefs of such people and see if they could be incorporated into my already existing world view.

    I stand corrected, but now, your worldview seems even less coherent to me. As far as I can tell, your standard operating procedure is as follows:
    1). Observe a happy, healthy, and productive individual.
    2). Ask him about his beliefs.
    3). If his beliefs are reasonably close to your own, adopt them as true (at least some of them).
    4). If his beliefs are significantly different from your own, reject them as false.
    This implies that you have some core set of beliefs which you hold to be true beyound all doubt — otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to compare all competing beliefs against them in steps 3 and 4. And yet, you claim that there’s really no such thing as truth, everything is relative, etc. etc. I don’t see how you can reconcile this contradiction.
    Personally, I think you’re confusing what’s true with your ability to tell what’s true. For example, let’s say I told you that I own and drive a BMW. This statement is either true, or it is false. I either own a BMW, or I do not. It’s not possible for me to both own and not own a BMW at the same time. When you rear-end my car on the freeway, it’s either a BMW or it isn’t… etc., etc.
    However, you don’t know for sure what kind of car I drive; all you have to go on is my word. So, you don’t know for sure whether the statement “Bugmaster drives a BMW” is true or false — though, if I showed you some evidence (f.ex. my pink slip for the car, photos of me and my BMW, or, in fact, the car itself), then you could be reasonably certain (though never 100% certain, of course) that the statement is true.
    Let’s say that I do indeed drive a BMW, but you are not convinced of it. Your lack of belief in my car does not cause it to poof out of existence. Your belief (regarding the car, that is) is wrong, and mine is correct.
    Anyway, I keep harping on this point because I have this feeling that you are misinterpreting my position. I don’t claim to be absolutely certain of anything; nor do I claim that absolute certainty is possible — but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t at least try and find out what is more likely to be true.

  • Bugmaster

    Regarding talking about people behind their back:
    You can come up with all kinds of justifications for why this is ok, but, in my experience, whatever it is you said will eventually become common knowledge — as will the fact that it was you who said it. Unless you work for the CIA, or something. So, I tend to avoid saying something behind a person’s back, unless I’m prepared to say it to his face. Morality aside, it’s a fairly pragmatic approach.

  • Izzy

    Tonio: Well, again, it’s not about how you “shouldn’t” have those emotions or those are wrong emotions or whatever, but that it doesn’t sound like a fun way to live, so. Also, some therapists suck; some therapists don’t suck, but are better geared toward handling certain issues than others; and it takes time to work through things. I wouldn’t give up on it.
    Bugmaster: Yeah, if I’m friends with the person, or am talking to common acquaintances, I have the same policy. These things can come back to bite you in the ass, hard. I don’t gossip about work colleagues at work, and I don’t talk about friends that way, period.

  • http://d-84.livejournal.com cjmr’s husband

    I either own a BMW, or I do not. It’s not possible for me to both own and not own a BMW at the same time.
    I own a Mini Cooper. Discuss.

  • Tonio

    it’s not about how you “shouldn’t” have those emotions or those are wrong emotions or whatever
    While that is probably true, I don’t know why it would be true.
    it doesn’t sound like a fun way to live
    It isn’t. I know logically that most people don’t mean things personally, but my emotions still take many things personally. I want to know it both logically and emotionally, where the former would feel true for me. I can tell the difference between my logic and my emotions, but only on an after-the-fact basis, and definitely not when confronted with things that push my emotional buttons.

  • Cowboy Diva

    what are the odds of getting a infant car seat into the back of a Cooper Mini?
    Apparently the ISOFIX european system plays well with the USDOT LATCH requirements; that’ll be a help.
    At least, while the saturn is being cleaned, right?

  • http://d-84.livejournal.com cjmr’s husband

    The Mini has latch anchors, it should take the car seat. The problem is the other two kids — the back seat only holds two. The Saturn SW2 isn’t wide enough for the carseats either, although it’s officially a five-seater.
    We bought a Toyota minivan last month. Problem solved.

  • hapax

    you claim that there’s really no such thing as truth, everything is relative, etc. etc.
    I do? Where? Heavens above, Bugmaster, I’ve said many times I’m a NeoPlatonist. I not only insist upon the existence of truth, but of TRUTH.
    I think you’re confusing what’s true with your ability to tell what’s true
    Well, here’s the thing. I’ve got a fairly good brain, as animal brains go; it’s constructed of proteins and fats and water and other squishy physical stuff, and it has been jiggered over millions of years until it works real well in identifying BMWs and building library collections and all sorts of other tasks involving pattern recognition and retention of physical entities. Being a cocky human, I have taken that skill set and codified it and given its various permutations all sorts of abstract names like reason and science and knowledge and even occasionally wisdom.
    But, due to the limitations of construction, that brain can only grasp at REASON, KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM. I kinda sorta get glimpses of them (It, really — being a monotheist, I contend that these Capitalized Essences all run together at the ultimate level) through their reflections in the physical material world. And, when I am very lucky indeed, I am allowed almost direct apprehension — as if “in a clouded mirror” — of their Source.
    How often do questions come up that I need to refer to the level beyond the physical? Not often while driving to work; I suppose if I *did* rear-end your BMW, there is issues like “Should I lie about what happened in self interest, or tell the truth and pay the penalty on my insurance?” but I should hope that certain standards have become so reflexive that I wouldn’t have to run through the entire moral calculus on the spot.
    But when issues arise that cannot be solved by physical, material analysis (or abstract patterns drawn therefrom), I have some sort of absolute standard to use for reference — even though my understanding of absolute is being continually refined.
    Now, if you reject the very existence of such metaphysical absolutes, as I’m sure you do, this of course won’t work for you. Lots of very smart people whom I admire tremendously (starting with Aristotle) have rejected them, so it’s not like I’m going to be surprised when others do. And their arguments are quite cogent, if not (to me) compelling.
    I certainly don’t hope or wish to convert you or anyone to my worldview, Bugmaster. And I apologize if I’ve mis-characterized yours. But I do not accept that mine is either inherently irrational or “confused.”

  • Tonio

    Hapax, I don’t reject the possibility of metaphysical absolutes, and I think I have an appreciation for the interior logic of the worldview that you suggest. My question is how one would have an idea that metaphysical absolutes exist, and how it would be possible for them to exist. Would such absolutes exist outside the human mind? Would it be possible for the absolutes to exist while having no relation to issues that cannot be solved by physical analysis?

  • Cowboy Diva

    Tonio,
    (with thanks to hapax for mentioning neoplatonism)
    this may help (with related lecture notes).
    Under this paradigm, one’s perceptions of the metaphysical absolutes (ideal forms) will always be “through a glass darkly;” but a) really cannot be tested in a rational, scientific way until Plato’s prisoners are set free to go into the sunlight and look for themselves, and b) are damned difficult to share with/explain to other people.

  • G-Do

    My comments on this blog are so damn long. I apologize in advance. It’s your fault for making me think about complicated things!
    FWIW, Richard Hofstadter, the American historian, had several interesting ideas about the historical context of this attitude. He referred to anti-intellectual mental structures driven by underdog-vs-society narratives as the “paranoid style” in American politics, much in the same way that you might refer to the Baroque style in painting or the nationalist Russian style in music. This style involves a conspiratorial mindset, an absolute unwillingness to broach disagreement on political issues, a lack of knowledge about actual political content, and a powerful mistrust of the political process (debate, compromise, outreach, etc).
    AFAIK, Hofstadter documented the trend backward to the Free Silver movement in the late 19th century. At the time, the US – like many of the other countries in the western world – was on a bimetallic standard (using both silver and gold as the basis for the value of the dollar, in a ratio something like 15:1 ounces of silver to gold). In the decades immediately after the US Civil War, the American economy was on average a turd, and Congress tried a number of financial parlor tricks to improve things. Deals were struck with the European powers, and the value of silver in the US became tightly coupled to the value of silver overseas. These deals became incredibly unpopular as world events coincided to wreck the value of the silver dollar (India, a major silver market, was taken off the silver standard, for example). The people who were hardest hit by these events – the heavily indebted farmers and yeoman who would eventually take up arms as “Free Silver!” advocates and Populists – began to mistrust not only the nations of Europe, but the US government, which had approved the international deals, and which was largely staffed by wealthy urbanites and run by monied interests from the East Coast. A deep vein of paranoia was struck in Silverite and Populist thinking, a fear of New World Orders (orchestrated by London, as they guessed) and traitors at home.
    The psychology behind the paranoia is interesting. There was no real reason to believe that the European powers were masterminding any kind of economic warfare against the US – they were mostly absorbed in their own squabbles. And the Congress, while it was a sumptuous tapestry of racism, sexism, classism, and every other flaw in the American character, certainly was not voting against its own economic self-interest. In Hofstadter’s view, what had happened was this: for the first time in American history, a class of US citizens had been thrown up against the realization that the US is not omnipotent – more to the point, that God would not vouchsafe the American economy, or guarantee the security of those hardest hit by financial misfortune. These Silverites and early Populists were unwilling to accept that this was the case; they needed – for whatever reason – to preserve their illusion of infinite power, and so they invented byzantine and increasingly unhinged narratives to explain away their own humiliation and defeat.
    Hofstadter claims that the same forces were at work in the anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950s. The beliefs, for example, that George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower were somehow traitors to the Soviets were and are ludicrous, and yet these were two of the core beliefs of the fanatical anti-Communist. These notions were necessary to insulate their holders from facing a frightening truth: that they were alone in a Manichean world, living in a nation which is not omnipotent, fighting another nation just as strong as theirs, with no ready assurance that God was on their side – and how could he be, with China gone over to Communism, with the loss of East Germany, with the theft of atomic secrets, and so on? Surely, a more palatable explanation was that there were traitors in our midsts. And I bet that if Hofstadter were alive today, he would view our country’s reaction to terrorism through the same lens. We (I’m speaking as an American, here) are rapidly coming up against our own diminishing strength in the international world, and that scares the ever-loving mind out of some people in the US, and if only we Jobbed ourselves up and rebuilt Jerusalem in this sacred land, we’d get our groove back. So let’s ban gay marriage, ban abortion, put the Bible in schools, get evolution out of there, keep ladies in the home, bus the immigrants to Mexico, figure out some way to send the poors and the blacks to Canada, and so on, and so on.
    TL;DR, short version below:
    The relevance of all this stuff to your man-in-denial is, I don’t think you’re just fighting an individual. You’re not just fighting that one guy. You’re fighting one hundred years of mistrust, deviousness, and paranoia, which is why you’re having such a hard time. To win him over, you’re going to have to disconnect him from that entire mode of thinking. The only reliable way of doing that, as far as I can tell, is to show him that his own pigheadedness has real consequences for the people in his life. I’ve seen that work before. Sometimes the only way to break this kind of numbing, thoughtless spell is to get the guy to realize that he’s hurting someone he cares about. How you do that depends on the case. Like any good evangelist, you’re going to have to know your target inside and out, be an emotionally manipulative, sneaky bastard, and really work on him for a sustained period of time.
    In the words of the immortal Lee Van Cleef, I wish you luck.

  • Josh W

    Bit late, but I thought I’d chuck some epistemology in here (philosophy about the origins of knowledge):
    The importance that you give to a claim should be related to how much you trust the source that gave it to you. You trust Snopes. Your friend feels he has no reason to. Now you have some criteria of truthfulness that presumably relates both to the difficulty of inventing a big lie, and how easy it is to disprove, in other words, how many points of your experience it touches.
    You can also take the angle of motivation: “If James says this, does he believe it?” Now the next stage is to ask how he found out, and how likely he would be to be tricked etc. Now many people don’t do this, they both assume that there will be a perfect transmission between them and their friends, and neglect to consider the point where someone has to make an evaluation of the environment.
    You can do this kind of inference using Bayesian statistics, but in a way that is not the point; it is more important to understand the principles and explain them to people, than to try to compute the “right answer” for them.
    So what are those principles?
    Chinese whispers – a single channel can build up misunderstandings, particularly if you don’t check back with them, so ask lots of people,
    Bottlenecks – even if you ask lots of people, you might just get an accurate depiction of what some guy said, if you can find him it simplifies things a bit.
    Proverbs Check – Fools make bad messengers, is the person prone to avoiding advice and self criticism? However much they like you they may have mucked it up and not bothered to check. Or obscured details that hit their blindspots (plank in eye etc).
    That’s just interpersonal stuff, based on Cybernetic Network theories and Proverbs, but on interpretation of events you can look at representative sampling (dodge flukes by trying again), selection bias (that’s just too stupid to be true) and all the other scientific and statistical gotchas.
    More generally, you can say this: The world is what it is, we have ideas, ideas that match the world are facts. As far as I can see, the moment you accept a central arbiter of truth, you have to accept this. It means that we can have a good idea that is wrong, and our reason only helps us solve stuff to the degree that it matches the way the world actually works, i.e. Gods logic. Now the christians here will probably agree that when you interact with God he constantly shows you how stupid you are, but in a nice way because it makes you cleverer. If this doesn’t happen you’re probably glossing “contradictions” and avoiding how weird and hardcore the gospel is, but whatever, people learn in different ways. I’m trying to say that people have their own internal logic that is probably bad, but everyone’s is! But you can sometimes draw out it’s inconsistency by relating random other parts of their life together; “But it’s totally different” is a classic breeding ground for hypocrisy, in fact double standards is pretty much the beef of what Jesus went after the Pharisees on.
    Remember that to believe something someone has to be able to fit it into their understanding of the world, and they may hold onto some other idea closer than that, which is sometimes a false idea of how easy it is for them to be wrong. They might also stiffen up as a social reaction, so it’s good to use gentle words, and let them work it out themselves, and so own it. Playing and stories are both powerful tools, because we reduce the limits on our thinking, and so can learn some cool new stuff we wouldn’t dare learn in “debate”. You can also try to talk at helpful cross-purpose, which is sort of what I’m trying to do here!
    I’m no expert, but I hope this stuff recommends itself!

  • Mr.David Fred

    Hello, i am Mr.David Fred a loan lender that gives out loans to those that is in need of a loan, are you in need of a loan? contact us now at limitedloanlender@yahoo.com for more information
    Your Name:
    Your Country:
    Age:
    Sex:
    Loan Duration:
    Loan Amount:
    Occupation:
    Company Name If Any:
    Fill the application form above and get back to us by email limitedloanlender@yahoo.com