Something has been bothering me for a while. I’ve found in discussions with my friends who are Republican there is a disturbing willingness to believe things which, quite plainly are not true. And by this, I don’t mean things that are debatable, whether legitimately, as in the case of Keynes vs Hayek in economic theorizing, or even less legitimately, as in the case of global warming (believing that climate change is not real is akin to believing that one has the winning lottery ticket. It’s possible, but remarkably unlikely).
No, what I’m referring to are people who are willing to believe things which are objectively false. Two recent examples from my own experience: The first came in the wake of the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act. I found myself confronted with a person who insisted that the ACA would mean that she would have to pay for her preventative gynecological exams. She said she had heard a Kaiser Permanente executive say this on television. I did my best to find any reference to what she was claiming, and found instead that the fact that she currently had no co-pay on her preventative care was, in fact, a consequence of ACA. When I told her that I couldn’t find what she claimed, but had found something that indicated that in fact, she would not be paying for her preventative care and perhaps she had misunderstood what the Kaiser exec was saying, she responded that she knew what she knew, she hadn’t misunderstood anything and she wasn’t going to continue discussing the matter.
The second instance came up around the whole ”you didn‘t build that” thing with regard to Obama’s remarks taken out of context. It was clear if you looked at the whole speech, that Obama wasn’t making the claim that business owners hadn’t built their businesses, but that they hadn’t built the infrastructure surrounding their business. More than one person on Facebook insisted, no, the opposite was clear.
Now, I do realize that my language and reading comprehension skills are above average, but I find the willingness to believe the exact opposite of the facts to be a rather disturbing thing. It’s most obvious in politics, but it infects all aspects of behavior (I’m reminded of one student in my Abnormal Psychology class, who despite, the mountain of evidence to the contrary presented both in lectures and the textbook, firmly believed that psychotherapy could be effective against schizophrenia—I doubt even the most avid followers of Freud would make that claim any more). I don’t really have much more to say on the subject other than that I worry for the future of our society when facts can be so easily discarded.