Sunday, June 24, 2012

Myth Supplants Reality & Fantasy Displaces Common Sense

By Gary Berg-Cross
Allan Sloan wrote recently about the 5 Myths of the Great Financial Meltdown. His list covered:
1: The government should have done nothing
2: The government bailed out shareholders
3: The Volcker Rule will save us
4: Taxpayers are off the hook for future failures. And
5: It's the government's fault.
The details in the article are worth reading, but I was particularly struck a compelling framing line that I could identify with in his analysis:
I find myself getting increasingly angry and frustrated watching myth supplant reality about what happened, and seeing fantasy displace common sense when it comes to fixing the problems that got us in this mess .
Some manifestations are because of ideological and political stances. We see fantasy and unsound thinking in the climate change debate and warming as conspiracy of scientists, who are the most reality grounded of us. We will hear more myth, like “death panels” in likely discussion the Affordable Health Care act. As Chris Mooney notes it seems at times the political right lives in a different reality that pushed serious, critical thinking to the back of the bus. You can see this for yourself by going to the Main page of Conservapedia. When I was writing this blog the following were the very mythic, anti-freethinking news stories featured:
Liberals have destroyed the perceived value of a college degree with their worst college majors: "Undervalued and overpriced, the beleaguered bachelor's degree is losing its edge as the hallmark of an educated, readily employable American." [9]

The myth of neutrality.[10] Which side are you on?
Remind Wikipedia that their neutral point of view policy (NPOV) is a farce and they might as well confess they are liberals! See: Bias in Wikipedia

Pastor Carl Gallups declares his anti-atheism and anti-evolution book is doing well around the world.VIDEO
Is there more bad news on its way for global atheism and global evolutionism? You know where to go to find the latest news detailing the decline of atheism and evolutionism![11][12][13] It is such a glorious time to be a Christian creationist.[14][15]

Also, food related stocks with large international footprints are largely doing well in the Great Recession.[18][19] No matter how incompetent Barack Obama and secular European leaders are, people still need to eat!

Much to the dismay of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Obama and "The Lord of the Fries" (Barack Obama), there are fast food restaurants serving big sugary drinks whose stocks are doing well in the Great Recession.[20]
Obese atheists and obese evolutionists of the world, stop driving up the price of fast food stocks! Also, a leading creationist organization declares, "Blaming gluttony on evolution seems very self-serving."[21] You thought you could blame your obesity and gluttony on "evolution". Think again! Start hitting the gym for 60 minutes a day evolutionist slackers![22][23][24] And give your body one day of rest a week.[25][26]
Want to read part of the Conservapedia entry on Climate Change? Here is a snippet:

Ideologues insist that the world's top scientists have reached a "consensus" that most of the warming which land-based weather stations have recorded in the last century is due to human activity. The basis for this claim is a set of reports published by the IPCC, an agency of the United Nations. The assumption is that the government-appointed representatives who run the IPCC would be completely objective and neutral, and would place finding and revealing the truth ahead of any nationalistic interests.
A lot of money is spent publicizing each side's position in the debate:
"Newsweek purports to take readers inside the world of “Global-Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine” without mentioning that the global-warming alarmists are even better funded, in some cases with government support
Myths replacing reality is a perennial worrisome topic to Freethinkers and the above is a large dose. Some of the WASH speaker’s have addressed the myth-reality battle directly. Rob Boston’s Talk on “The Christian Nation Myth” covered many aspects of this arguing that we have to
strongly oppose the Christian establishment myth and its associated principles, which exclude many people who now it can claim, are not true Americans. We are still struggling with our pluralism and the claim that non-believers that don't have America’s best interest at heart.
Another historical myth family has bothered my is the oversimplified stories about Western and American Exceptionalism such as Niall Ferguson’s book Civilization: The West and the Rest or the Reagan-like belief that “God has granted America a special role in human history.”.
Such Myths are potent in part because they cobble together reassuring ideas that we want to believe in. We just need enough support to get above a very low threshold of our version of “proof” that serves a confirmatory bias.
WallBuilders is an organization, for example, that shows a healthy dose of confirmatory bias towards the proposition of:
"presenting America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built – a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined. In accord with what was so accurately stated by George Washington, we believe that "the propitious [favorable] smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation which disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained."
Myths persist in part because considering the alternative, skeptical view is threatening. Then again, critical thinking, as opposed to the intuitive, feel-good version is hard work. Real historic understanding takes time and energy for evidentiary analysis and most of us routinely rely on short cuts that seem like common sense but are often don’t stand up to rational analysis..
Rational analysis for the masses, alas, remains an unfulfilled Enlightenment goal..


Don Wharton said...

Excellent post Gary! I keep being astonished at how couterfactual the "conservative" world is becoming. How is it possible for these people to be so disconnected from anything that is real and still inspire the trust of those that elect our leaders?

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Two ideas...There is this disturbing idea that movers and shakers have that they can create their own reality. Among followers there is is the idea that the powerful leaders they look up to are doing God's work and therefore it will all work out OK.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

BTW,Aaron Sorkin’s new series "The Newsroom,” starts on HBO tonight. In it a newsman anchor , McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) as an irascible man attempts to slices through crises by “speaking truth to stupid.” It takes place in the recent past and gives us all a chance to hear what news should have reported on Oil spills etc. While is hasn't gotten great reviews (NPR for the Post), it may offer some relief as “The West Wing,” did during the Bush Administration.

See New Yorker review at

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. made a relevant comment on this topic.

"Science and Technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response. Expelled from individual consciousness by the rush of change, history finds its revenge by stamping the collective unconscious with habits, values, expectations, dreams. The dialectic between past and future will continue to form our lives.

-- Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "The Challenge of Change," in New York Times Magazine (27 July 1986), found in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations