Rule No. 1: If it feels true, it is. If you absolutely must “do the research,” look only at sources that you know you’ll agree with. Why suffer the agony of reading or listening to an opposing opinion? You could get heartburn.
Rule No. 2: If they agree with you, they’re telling the truth. If they disagree, they’re either misinformed or lying. I recommend going with the lying angle, because it’s fun to make up reasons for the lies.
True story: a commenter at a County Board of Commissioners meeting in Northern Michigan said a study published in the journal Pediatrics claims masks harm children by drastically increasing their carbon dioxide intake. When it was pointed out that the study in question had been retracted due to serious flaws, someone else explained that the journal must have been paid to retract it. Problem solved. Another person opined that the culprit was probably Dr. Anthony Fauci, which illustrates what’s known as “Fauci’s Corollary”: your political enemies have superpowers and infinite wealth. Anyone familiar with “Jewish space lasers” knows this to be true.
Rule No. 3: Never fact-check a source. Find ones you agree with and take them at face value. Articles that claim this or that study show masks don’t work often have links to the studies they cite. Click on the links, and you’ll find that many have been retracted or are being grossly misrepresented. So don’t do that! Why risk it?
Rule No. 4: Never consider the qualifications of the source. Why get pandemic-related medical advice from the Mayo Clinic or the University of Michigan Health System when we’ve got folks like Tucker Carlson and the Washington Examiner to enlighten us? Or when your uncle’s barber’s brother knows a guy whose friend’s fiancé once worked in a hospital?
Rule No. 5: The truth of a statement depends on who’s saying it. If you like the person, then what they say is true. If you don’t like them, it’s hooey. I learned this years ago when some of my friends explained to me that global warming is a hoax because Al Gore is a pompous jerk. Seems logical.
Rule No. 6 is a broader version of No. 5: Tribal loyalty is more important than truth. Your peeps are the good guys; your political opponents are the bad guys. Convince yourself that the people on the other side of the political divide are out to destroy America, and you’ll never again need to use actual facts to rebut anything they say. They’re evil, so of course, they lie.
Rule No. 7: Attitude is more important than logic. Remember: You’re right and everyone else has the IQ of a toadstool. When you state your case on social media, add something like “everyone who disagrees with me is an idiot.” Whoever has the best insult wins. Civility is for losers.
Rule No. 8: Complexity is for weenies. If you know someone who always wears a mask but nevertheless got COVID-19, you’ve proven that masks are worthless. On that note: sometimes parachutes fail to open, and skydivers die as a result. Besides that, there are no randomized controlled trials proving that parachutes are of any benefit to people who jump out of airplanes. So, as Rush Limbaugh would’ve put it, we’ve established that parachutes don’t work.
Another example of this rule concerns the economy. As anyone who claims to have read Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” but didn’t actually finish it can tell you, all you need to know about economics is this: If you provide something people want, they’ll pay you for it. If you don’t, they won’t pay you, and you’ll become a leech on society. No need to consider things like monetary policy, monopoly power, anti-competitive practices, the causes of growing inequality, or anything as esoteric as rent-seeking or externalities like climate change, lead and PFAs in drinking water, or the proliferation of plastic garbage. Smith believed in regulation of markets and said that workers have the right to be adequately fed, clothed, and housed, but it’s usually safe to ignore this stuff because he didn’t say so in the first few pages.
Rule No. 9: Scream “Socialist!” at anyone who proposes a policy that would help a person or group that you’re not part of or simply don’t like. No one owes squat to anybody else, and anyone who claims otherwise is a socialist or communist and should be shipped off to China … or at least Cuba or Venezuela. Why complicate matters with troublesome concepts like the social contract, community, civic duty, promotion of the general welfare, equality of opportunity, or God forbid, systemic racism. The easiest way to avoid having to deal with society-wide problems is to deny that there are any.
Rule No. 10: If all else fails, make stuff up, like death panels, pizzagate, Jewish space lasers, or election fraud that’s massive, but also apparently invisible because no court can detect it. The more outlandish, the better. Then accuse anyone who says you’re wrong of being in on the conspiracy. It allows you to control the narrative (also known as changing the subject), and it makes it unnecessary to deal in facts or even make sense. And it might get you on TV, like the My Pillow guy.
There, wasn’t that easy? I think George Orwell would be pleased.
Guest Blog by Tom Gutowski
Tom Gutowski earned degrees in economics and history before entering the insurance industry, from which he retired several years ago.
Originally published in the Northern Express on October 30, 2021: https://www.northernexpress.com/news/opinion/10-rules-to-avoid-the-discomfort-of-critical-thinking/