Thursday, March 28, 2013
The Closed Loop of Ignorance: A Case Study In Wingnuttery
Actual online exchange I observed today:
Commenter #1: "Lower gun violence= no gun free zones"
Commenter #2: " I'd sure like to see proof that getting rid of gun-free zones reduces crime. Give it your best shot."
Commenter #1: "heck I'd love to be able to prove that theory of mine about gun free zones. But the liberal media and the liberals in D.C. will never let that happen."
So the fact that there is no evidence is evidence of the conspiracy to suppress the "facts" that you have no evidence for.
Right. Got it.
Let’s examine this exchange because it illustrates so much about the wingnut “style” of argument.
First, there’s the bold assertion of so-called “facts” which are really just prejudices, half-baked notions, and/or “gut feelings” raised to the status of truth.
Then there’s the admission, when challenged, that no, there isn’t any evidence of the assertion but that that just proves the point, because there’s a liberal conspiracy to hide the “truth”. This combines several of the central tenets of wingnuttery:
(1) The insistence that the person speaking is part of an oppressed and eternally put upon class of people who are, despite their oppression, smarter, harder working, and more enlightened than their imagined oppressors. Ironically, the person claiming this oppression is almost always white, Christian, and heterosexual, and the majority are male—by far the least “oppressed” and best advantaged group in the United States, possibly in all of human history.
(2) The angry and bitter attitude that it’s hopeless that the truth will ever be known because of a vast conspiracy by the oppressors.
(3) The rejection of any idea that they need to support their claims because the data they need to do so is forever unavailable, and
(4) The unshakable conviction that their “facts” are, nonetheless, true, despite the lack of evidence, because their innate “common sense” (really just the above-mentioned prejudices, half-baked notions, and “gut feelings”) is more important than proof.This is the core of the anti-intellectual, chip-on-the shoulder resentment that marks a certain class of wingnut.
You have to admit that there is a certain twisted genius to this sort of "argument." It basically frees the speaker from ever having to actually justify even the most outrageous claims, and creates a perfect protective force-field around the ignorance they cling to as if that ignorance was a gift from God.
Unfortunately, that’s not where ignorance comes from.