Wednesday, June 06, 2018

You got to lie to me baby

People often say things like "Trump is a BIG LIAR. Look, I'm a fact-checking organization, and I've found that he tells 14.7 billion lies per second! It's all meticulously recorded!"  But...does he? Don't get me wrong; I'm sure he makes that many untrue statements. But that's not quite the same as lying. Because I'm actually pretty sure he's so fundamentally broken that--among other things--he doesn't conceptualize "truth" and "lie" the way other people do. For him, something is true if it's advantageous to him at the moment he says it, and vice versa. Nothing any more complicated than that. This perfectly explains the whole "fake news" thing. It would be a fool's errand to ask what specific truth value he objects to in any given newspaper or late-night talk show he so labels: that ain't what he's talking about.

Does this absolve him of charges of being THE WORST? Yes and no. No because he's still, self-evidently, The Worst, but...well, I always used to use a formulation when talking about other horrible public figures along the lines of "is Ben Shapiro the single worst person in public life today? Well, no, obviously, not in a world with Trump, but he's still pretty darned vile." But it really depends how you're defining terms, dunnit? Does the president, who is thoroughly incapable of being other than he is, get the number one spot...or are people who theoretically have the cognitive ability to know better but nonetheless are all-in Trump defenders and apologists actually worse? The world may never know.

I really want to understand the mental processes of vilely dishonest creeps like Shapiro or D'Souza, but I can't. People always say things like "well, people are capable of deluding themselves to an almost endless degree." YEAH COOL. But that doesn't tell me how it actually feels. Like for instance, to pick maybe the easiest example, D'Souza talking about how the Democrats are the Real Racists because, of course, the polarity of the parties has remained unchanged since the Civil War. This is obvious, specious nonsense, and it's extremely easy to explain how it's nonsense. I'm sure people have tried that before on him. AND YET, it sure hasn't worked. I don't think he thinks he's being intentionally deceptive, or if he does, it's so mixed up in believing what he wants to believe that it's impossible to disentangle the strands, but there you are. I want to know how, when presented with really unambiguous facts, people are able to dismiss them. DON'T TELL ME that people are capable of endless self-deception. I know that! That's a tautology! "People fool themselves because they're able to fool themselves," brilliant. But that's not what I'm asking! The unanswerable question that I'm asking is: how, specifically, does it feel to be a lying, propagandist piece of shit? To be able to look clear, easy-to-understand evidence that your worldview is based on poisonous lies square in the face, and not even blink. I mean, I try to be as self-aware as possible, but are there unambiguously false things that I nonetheless believe? I'd like to at least think that if there were, and I was presented with clear evidence of this, I'd change my mind. But hell, I don't know. Still, please lock me up in an asylum if I'm ever this fucked up.


Blogger Achille Talon pontificated to the effect that...

Eliezer Yudkowsky, of the website LessWrong, has written an interesting article summing up his observations about “belief in belief” — the psychological effect of people who don't really believe in whatever religion or philosophy they espouse, but fundamentally believe that it is Good to Believe in them. He meant it mostly for religions, but I think the idea could very well be at play in politics. That sounds very similar to the issue you're raising here.

7:09 PM  

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