Dumb Stuff I Think People Think, Part I
July 27, 2011 9 Comments
Morgan Freeberg likes my idea for a Dumb Stuff I Think People Think list and wants it written; he and others have contributed some inaugural candidate entries. I wanted to set some ground rules here though, since I had something pretty specific in mind by that.
First, a DSITPT is not meant to be simply some political view that others hold that you think is dumb (e.g. “President Obama is a good President”), or more generally, an opinion you happen to disagree with. That would be too easy, and anyway, to first order almost all internet writing (especially blogs) consists of DSITPT lists in that sense already. Doesn’t really qualify as a good DSITPT; the key is illogic or dumb errors in underlying thinking, and most political views themselves are too subjective and deeply-represented (intelligent folks can be found on either side) to illustrate illogic all on their own.
By the same token this does mean that if (I Think) people come to a political view via dumb reasoning , it could count, but it would be the reasoning, not so much the political view itself, going on the list. Similarly, DSITPT can include thinking that seems to lead to the right outcome (or an outcome not obviously dumb), but for the wrong reason.
Here’s an example of both: the widely (if implicitly) held, oft-stated circa 2003-2009 view that from now on, any war the U.S. participates in anywhere must involve both the approval and participation of the nation-state of France. We heard, literally for years, that France not approving of a war we were fighting elsewhere (neither in nor near France, N.B.) was somehow automatically a problem that required discussing and rectifying. Hence, France’s disapproval was in effect cited as a reason in and of itself not to wage that war.
But not only that, we continually heard that a thing we should really care about doing while waging that war we were fighting was to “get troops from” France (or more generally Western Europe, but this mostly seemed to mean France). Commentators critiqued our then-President for not doing so; challenger candidates (including our current President) campaigned heavily – at times almost exclusively – on their supposed preternatural ability to do so, to “get troops from France”. The participation of French troops on our side, it seemed clear to all Smart People, was an imperative without which the U.S. waging any war anywhere was unthinkable. In other words, we simultaneously weren’t supposed to wage the war (because France didn’t like it) and were supposed to campaign or convince or cajole or seduce France into ‘giving’ (?) us some of her soldiers to fight and die alongside ours (in that war we shouldn’t have been waging and they didn’t agree with). This was widely accepted and considered highly Smart thinking, from what I can tell.
Now, that was sure some Dumb Stuff I Think People Thought. But note, its dumbness is separate and distinct from the issue of whether going before the UN, or campaigning for French troop contributions to our forces, were in and of themselves ok ideas. I guess that they were. It’s not like I think they were crazy. So, it’s not the resulting views that were dumb so much as the apparent reasoning that (I Think) they betrayed, if taken seriously.
The final note is that the “I Think” part is important: this is dumb stuff I Think people think. In part this makes it clear that it’s my best guess, my straightforward internal approximation, of others’ thinking. In putting it forth this way, I’m intentionally leaving myself open to be called out for beating on straw-men and hearing reasoned defenses of the views I’m lampooning. Feel free. That’s all part of what makes such a list so fun to compile
Anyhow so with those ground rules in mind then, here’s a starter list just off the top of my head:
Dumb stuff I think people think:
(And by the way, yes I mean it, I literally sincerely think that people believe these things)
- Flatbread doesn’t really count as bread/carbs/starch, on account of the flat shape.
- The U.S. can’t or shouldn’t wage war without the approval and participation of France; it is metaphysically and/or morally unthinkable.
- Scandinavian socialism must be a good model to follow, because just look at how sexy Scandinavians are.
- Carbon emissions have made a macroscopic impact on the entire earth’s climate and will lead to runaway feedback-driven global warming, yet gestures such as unplugging the coffee pot will help measurably. (Courtesy Morgan Freeberg, slightly rephrased)
- Muslim radicals must be our natural allies as progressives, because they tend to be nonwhite.
- Some food is organic, while other food is inorganic. (inspired by Gerard van der Leun comment)
- As a conservative politician hated by media and opinion makers, I will win over some voters if I go on a late night comedy TV show, since that’s what my opponent did.
- Things that are brown (paper, sugar, CD cases, eggs, etc.) are more natural and earth-friendly.
Far from a complete list, of course, but that should be a start to give a flavor. Will add to it as/when I think of more DSITPT.