Yet again I saw the familiar questions, the familiar attempts to analyze how one person can insist that an utterly twisted or fabricated version of events, history, motives, statistics, and more, are true in the face of concrete evidence pointing to the contrary, and how so many people can buy into those lies.
The point is that fallacies, no matter how specious, if delivered often enough, with absolute authority, are almost impossible to counter.
Years ago, during a discussion, a friend asked me to explain how some scientific process worked. I didn’t know the answer, but launched into a detailed imagining of the reason. When I finished, my friend said, “Oh. Okay, thanks.”
I burst into laughter. “I can’t believe you bought that.”
My friend was confused, “Why wouldn’t I? You said it with such authority.”
And I confessed that I’d made up every word, because I hadn’t the slightest idea what the answer to his question was.
Mean of me, I know.
But it proved that the right salesman can make some people believe anything.
In the past weeks, as lies have been heaped on lies, with little success in exposing them, and the deceitful machinations of the person spreading them, I’ve thought a lot about the dangerous allure of untruths that are attractive, and seemingly plausible—those that affirm people’s suspicions and fears, or merely substantiate notions that entitle them to act unethically, or merely comfort them. And, repeatedly, the scene in the link below keeps coming to mind, because, better than anything else I’ve heard or seen, it demonstrates how difficult it is to convince a person that their arguments and beliefs have no basis in fact, and how frustrating and infuriating it is to even try.
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