JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2006/08/unfortunately-i-can-believe-it.html (26 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1155160213-441942  Trackback at Wed, 09 Aug 2006 21:50:13 +0000

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Title: The Age of Cluelessness
Excerpt: The Smallest Minority links to this horrifying article:The vast majority of these soon-to-be college grads were not aware of even
Blog name: Isaac Schrödinger

jsid-1155180485-521249  ben at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 03:28:05 +0000

Hmmm, at first I thought you were trying to say that you could believe it that the US govt. was involved in 9/11. Heh. Now I get it.

jsid-1155186931-521255  Sarah at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 05:15:31 +0000

That's what I thought, too, at first.

Sadly, I have been getting emails about the conspiracy nonsense from friends and relatives, who don't seem to apply the least bit of critical thinking or skepticism to the claims. It feels like the whole world is going nuts. :(

jsid-1155195410-521260  gattsuru at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 07:36:50 +0000

Heh. SAT scores are kinda meaningless - I scored a 1410 back on the 1600 scale, and I'm not exactly smart. I think they've diluted it even more than that. Some people do figure it out on their own, but history and literature aren't as common as science and technology; making your own is so much more exciting than researching it. But these genius-grade intellects seldom did well in college situations (or even high school).

History and current events aren't something that the current systems tend to teach well, even in areas with 'good' schools. Many skip entirely over 1800-1900 and 1960-now.

But it's not poor teaching that causes this focus on conspiracy theories, not unless the student is taught those theories when they are young. Oh, our education system has something to do with it - things like the less well-constructed 9/11 conspiracies wouldn't be a problem if people knew that metals lose strength as they are heated before they melt. But a good number of theorists are decently intelligent.

No, more of it's the times. A lot of information, to the point where individuals can't really grasp all of it. Add in the psychological coddling kids get these days ("you're special", "you can change the world") and there's a potential for a lot of mental distress needing some outlet or some way to meet expectations.

jsid-1155219965-521279  DJ at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 14:26:05 +0000

Sarah, critical thinking and skepticism are rare commodities. They involve too much of what Justice Learned Hand called "the intolerable labor of thought". You might enjoy reading Why People Believe Weird Things by Michal Shermer.

jsid-1155222147-521286  Sarah at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 15:02:27 +0000

I'll take a look at it, DJ.

gattsuru's comments are interesting. One particular friend of mine who hangs on to the conspiracies is getting a physics PhD from a reputable department. He was also homeschooled as a child. Clearly, intelligence and public schooling are not issues with this guy. What surprises me is that he refuses to apply his considerable thinking ability to these claims. I think it's because this peace-loving hippie guy finds it more comforting to believe in shadowy government operations rather than face the fact that there are millions of people in the world with a pathological and genocidal hatred of us.

I don't know if your book mentions that sort of thing, but it's the only plausible explanation I can think of.

jsid-1155224102-521289  CAshane at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 15:35:02 +0000

I got this link from Kim du Toit's site yesterday. A fine read, and great link to send anyone who subscribes to the numerous conspiracy theories out there.


jsid-1155224480-521291  Phelps at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 15:41:20 +0000

1/3? BFD. 1/3 of the population can't remember what year it happened. Seriously.

jsid-1155228338-521310  -B at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 16:45:38 +0000

I just listened to the first 3 or 4 minutes of Loose Change, at the urging of a good friend after a phone conversation last night, and had to turn it off.

I have dismissed it as drivel, entirely because of the framing of the language used. It took no longer than those first 4 minutes for the narrator to make absurd notions of conspiracy and attaching labels to organizations, such as the famous "Neo-Con", for me to turn it off.

Framing the "evidence" to make the viewer see their picture.

They had a name for this about 100 years ago, and it was called Yellow Journalism.

Not much has changed it seems

jsid-1155229064-521313  DJ at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 16:57:44 +0000

Sarah, he discusses, in some detail, what people believe and why they believe. There are no quick answers, though -- you need to read the whole thing. If you do so with a certain question constantly in focus, namely "Why don't people think?", it's enlightening.

Here is part of his summary:

There is not a single answer to the question of why people believe weird things, but we can glean some underlying motivations, all linked to one another, from the diverse examples I have discussed in this book:

Credo Consolans. More than any other, the reason people believe weird things is because they want to. It feels good. It is comforting. It is consoling.


Immediate Gratification. Many weird things offer immediate gratification. The 900 number psychic hotline is a classic example.


Simplicity. Immediate gratification of one's beliefs is made all the easier by simple explanations for an often complex and contingent world. ... Scientific explanations are often complicated and require training and effort to work through.

I believe that people believe weird things because: 1) they won't think, because thinking is work; 2) they can't think, because they haven't learned how; and, 3) they won't admit to the results of thinking, because such often requires admitting error. If that sounds hopeless, well, it largely is.

jsid-1155232408-521329  Sarah at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 17:53:28 +0000


I don't doubt in the slightest that people believe weird things because it is easier and more comforting to do so.

There is another factor that perhaps the author mentions. A study showed that people tend to have a preoccupation with intent, but ignore results. This explains why the Nazis, who were straight-forward about their evil intentions, are the all-time worst bad-guys in history even though communists are responsible for millions more deaths and much more prolonged misery -- the commies had "good" intentions. So, for people who judge America and the West by perceived intentions (usually not warm and fuzzy) rather than by what we produce (mostly good), we will always be the evil wrong-doers, while Islamists -- followers of the Religion of Peace! -- despite the misery and conflict they produce, are never at fault.

The good news, DJ, is that this warped line of thinking and the stuff that you outline above has probably been the case for all of human history, and yet mankind keeps chugging along.


I, too, have received emails imploring me to watch Loose Change, which has to be the most moronic "documentary" of all time. A very detailed and well-organized debunking of it exists here.

jsid-1155236174-521338  -B at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 18:56:14 +0000


Thanks for the link. I'll give it a thorough lookings over.

I did my own debunking of the WTC collapsing myth at View from the Porch last week, though I'm sure that my professional opinion has done little to persuade the doubters of its veracity.

jsid-1155243001-521345  Garrett O'Hara at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 20:50:01 +0000

O'Reilly interviewed a guy from Popular Science about the whole thing. It was quite refreshing to be reminded that this question isn't even political. That in and of itself should be obvious, but the left likes turning it that way to make their views viable.

jsid-1155245003-521351  Dodd at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 21:23:23 +0000

I'm in a couple of online communities with a large British contingent. You'd be a bit less depressed by the products of American schooling if you saw the spelling and grammar of younger Britons.

Or more afraid for the future of the West. Tough call.

jsid-1155246666-521354  Kevin Baker at Thu, 10 Aug 2006 21:51:06 +0000


I've read Dalrymple. The situation in Britain don't surprise me in the least.

What depresses me the most is that the Left keeps implementing here what they've "accomplished" there.

And I couldn't be more afraid for the future of the West than I am right now.

As Billy Beck puts it, the endarkenment is coming, and I see no way to prevent it.

BTW, I'm glad you're writing somewhere.

jsid-1155260761-521371  DJ at Fri, 11 Aug 2006 01:46:01 +0000

Yeah, Sarah, we keep chugging along, but we're getting more able to prevent that all the time. Kevin is right, the endarkenment is coming.

This has been the single biggest mystery that I've been unable to unwind after many decades of trying -- why do people believe in and actively support what is obviously and manifestly evil?

Shermer is concerned with more mundane things in his book. Perhaps he addresses this subject elsewhere, but I've read only a small portion of what he's written.

jsid-1155261299-521373  BadIdeaGuy at Fri, 11 Aug 2006 01:54:59 +0000

I just got done schooling someone on another blog about WTC 7. Someone that said it was very "Christian-like" that the attack occurred before tourist hours?

I don't know how to deal with it, but since I work in steel building I did my best to explain that to get steel buildings to collapse isn't all that hard.

But it's tough for me, with crazy concepts like impact damage and heat treating of metal structures (that are under load, no less) to collapse. The wackjobs say "there's no way melting point was hit in the fire.

These people want so badly to think, like someone else said, that it was some evil force in our government because it couldn't have been terrorists.

Similar to their arguments about the wtc, it appears to me like we're seeing multiple factors come into play for the controlled demolition of our way of life.

Hearing Mike Wallace talk about what a great guy Ahmadinejad is gives me that feeling too. Controlled demolition.

jsid-1155303625-521417  Bob at Fri, 11 Aug 2006 13:40:25 +0000

Would this be the same 1/3 of the population that thinks Elvis is alive and UFO's land here on a regular basis?

Just sayin...

jsid-1155304433-521419  Sarah at Fri, 11 Aug 2006 13:53:53 +0000


When, in any era in history, has there not been dark times? Plagues, wars, famines, genocides, oppression, and there has always been a huge mass of incredibly ignorant and backwards people. I think Americans have a skewed perspective, because most of us have always lived amongst educated and very civil people, and have had lives of relative ease. Compared to most of the rest of the world and pretty much all of history, this is unique. If there is any kind of endarkening coming, and that's probably true, it's only in comparison with how good things have been in recent history. But everyone knows that history is cyclical. We may be headed for a downturn, but inevitably something better will come out of it.

The state of the world gets me down -- really down -- sometimes. But put it in perspective, and it's not so bad. I just can't subscribe to the gloomy outlook that the whole world is doomed forever. Things in this country may be headed for total crap for a few years, maybe even a decade, but it won't last.

jsid-1155306047-521428  Sarah at Fri, 11 Aug 2006 14:20:47 +0000

BTW, here's an article from the LA Times about the various conspiracy films out there.

Reading this, I'm thinking even if -- even if -- you've never heard of Occam's Razor and you buy this stuff about the government conspiring about 9/11, it still doesn't negate the fact that al Qaeda has taken responsibility for the attack, that people in the Muslim world openly celebrated 3000 murders on American soil, that a large number of Muslims in the Western world think the terrorists were righteous in what they did, and that before and since 9/11 there have been several (if less grand) successful terror attacks. Is the government supposed to be complicit in all of these, as well? What about the latest operation in Britain that was just discovered? These guys had planned to kill thousands of people -- using airplanes. How do the fevered minds of the conspiracy-mongers process this information? If the U.S. and British governments are really as corrupt as they're made out to be, shouldn't they have allowed these attacks to happen in order to bolster support for the war, or as a pretext for more invasions?

Then again, why am I bothering to apply reason to such unreasonable people? :)

jsid-1155308187-521432  DJ at Fri, 11 Aug 2006 14:56:27 +0000

Sarah, the "state of the world" overall isn't bad at all, either in abosolute or relative measure. It's not the present that concerns me, rather it is the threat posed in the future.

The threat we face is the utter destruction of western civilization by Islamic radicalism. That threat is real for four reasons: 1) it is the stated goal of those who are engaged in it; 2) open warfare toward that end, with some success by the other side, is in progress; 3) open western society and modern western weapons make it possible; and, 4) a significant portion of western citizenry refuse to believe the threat exists, and actually help it prosper.

What makes it possible? Hate, worship of evil, and pure refusal to think.

Islamic domination of the Middle East has been going on for 13 centuries. I don't see it going away any time soon. If it happens over Europe and the western hemisphere, it will last. If we don't keep it away, how would we make it go away?

jsid-1155308335-521433  Dave Petterson at Fri, 11 Aug 2006 14:58:55 +0000

The issue is actually that our governments are so mistrusted because they manipulate and lie all the time that this is just another little step to take to believe this. Saddam and his 45 minutes to attack was a political ploy. So is the government involvement as far as these are concerned and it is only a little leap in the mind. To me it crosses a line which I don't think our guys would take but how about turning a blind eye? Is that too big a step? I'd say it shows how much we trust these guys.

jsid-1155414748-521547  Sarah at Sat, 12 Aug 2006 20:32:28 +0000


I don't think there is an absolute measure for the state of the world. But anyway, what I compare it to is my perception of the world before I knew anything about it, so my worry is kind of meaningless.

The most dangerous thing on your list is #4, and it's the only thing that makes #1-3 threats to Western civ'n. I'm very concerned, too, but the situation is essentially no different than it was pre-WWII with fascism as a looming threat, denial by the usual European dipwads, and a lot of hesitancy on the part of the American public to get involved. The point at which you galvanize America is when you convince mothers that the threat is real. It will happen. My husband, who is European, assures me that even folks over there will rise to the challenge when the threat becomes obvious enough. Not to say that the ensuing struggle won't be horrible and devastating, but I have faith that good will win out.

jsid-1155417670-521552  Kevin Baker at Sat, 12 Aug 2006 21:21:10 +0000

"I'm very concerned, too, but the situation is essentially no different than it was pre-WWII with fascism as a looming threat, denial by the usual European dipwads, and a lot of hesitancy on the part of the American public to get involved."

It's a little different. The fascists then weren't willing, nay eager to strap bombs onto their children in order to kill their enemies.

"The point at which you galvanize America is when you convince mothers that the threat is real. It will happen."

I hope so, but I'm afraid it will happen too late, and that we won't be able to respond once the horror is finally recognized.

This is one of the themes of the überpost that's making it so difficult to write. That, and the fact that I keep finding different, associated things to read, such as The Management of Savagery, a manifesto by our opponent on how to use the West's culture against it.

jsid-1155422344-521555  DJ at Sat, 12 Aug 2006 22:39:04 +0000

Sarah, there are two major differences between then and now: 1) small, easily transportable nukes in large quantities; and, 2) as Kevin noted, people willing and eager to kill themselves in order to kill others.

I think the threat is huge. The kamikaze of WWII was a formidable weapon. The nuke in the shipping container is about 100,000 times more effective, can be used against a city, is invisible until it's used, and is undetectable because it can be detonated before it's offloaded from the ship it comes in on.

It is possible. Nukes in the hands of us, Great Britain, France, Israel, and even Russia, I don't worry about. Pakistan and India are a concern, but not enough to lose sleep over. North Korea is quite worrisome. Iran will be scary as hell when they have nukes.

So, how probable is it now, and what do we have to do to keep that probability from becoming a certainty?

jsid-1156257825-522821  DJ at Tue, 22 Aug 2006 14:43:45 +0000

And, it appears I'm not the only one expressing such opinions. Go see http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/08/point_of_no_return.html

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