The most stridently asserted opinions will disappear down the memory hole

The most stridently asserted opinions will disappear down the memory hole.

Remember all the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) truthers from a few months ago? The ones who no longer exist, or seem to exist? The ones who had all the answers six months ago?

I know, I barely remember them either, and probably none of the people who were confidently pitching it do. But I wonder and you should too, “What are they stridently asserting today?” Should we believe it? Why?

What should we take from this episode? I haven’t seen any of the voices who were confidently and wrongly asserting that HCQ or this thing or that thing (vitamin c! no, d!) is a magic bullet, talk about how they were wrong, why they were wrong, and most importantly what will change in the future.

There are parallel processes in the past. After the Iraq war fiasco, at least some of the pitchmen, like Colin Powell, went through that process. But the same kind of people, sometimes the same people, who were stridently proclaiming the importance of universal democracy in the 2002 – 2008 era are stridently proclaiming that democracy doesn’t matter today, or that it should be subverted. What happened from then to now? Why does no one bring up that episode in recent American history?

Internet memories are very short, even shorter than tweets. When you see people, or a group of people, be wildly wrong, that should affect how you think of them in other topics. Someone can be right in one domain and wrong in another, but being totally wrong one in one domain should make us question what’s happening in others.

The same people pitching drug company conspiracies, are forgetting that drug researchers and companies are the entities that have worked best during the pandemic: the previous world record for the development of a vaccine was four years. COVID-19 vaccines happened in 11 month, and would have happened faster with a more intelligent clinical trial process. Pharma companies are among the pandemic’s heroes.

For many people, there is a world and worldview that is simple, coherent, and wrong. The simple gather online, where their views rarely have real world impact… unless there are enough of them together. Lots of people with conspiracy theories but none of them closely reading Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories by Rob Brotherton. None of them saying, “How does this fit into the last 50 years of history?” Online history doesn’t exist.

I don’t think it’s good to have a political “side” as so many do. It makes people tribal and stupid. Try hard to evaluate things in terms of truth and falsehood, not who is saying them, or whether your “side” benefits. This is tricky, almost no one does it, and it’s a valuable way of looking at the world. If I look at a field where the “left” is correct, people call me a Republican. If I look at a field where the “right” is correct, then they call me a liberal or progressive (Nash attributes politics to me that I don’t have in comments, others do the same on ephemeral twitter). The labeling of a person or idea as being part of the other side seems psychologically comforting to the labeler.

We should try to politicize as few things as possible but sadly that does not appear to be human nature. The HCQ thing is an example… when the biggest HCQ promoter got COVID, he got treated with remdesivir and monoclonal antibody therapy, because those treatments appear to work better than placebo. Both, however, are difficult to mass manufacture, and when his followers get COVID, they are not likely to get the same. When it comes down to what really matters, it’s away with the baseless theories and in with the supported treatments. We should be thinking about why that is and what that says about humans, human nature, the Internet, and the tendency to follow the leader.

The will to believe is so strong that it can overcome evidence. What’s going on there? I don’t fully or rightly know. It’s one of these psychological quirks and puzzles that interest, though. Something about the Internet seems to allow or encourage people to do more of this than they used to. It probably feeds on real institutional failures, too. We do have evidence that, “When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too.” Most people follow the leader. If the leader says something false, and you say it’s true, then you’re really a member of the tribe. Anyone can assert something true. To assert something false, you’re being in the in-group.

Brandolini’s Law also applies, stating, “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.” Much bullshit can be included in a single 240 character tweet… so much that it may take many paragraphs to show why it is incorrect… by which point the tweeter has moved on anyway… and the HCQ thing is an example of that as well. So is the obsession with vitamins C and D. Bullshit goes around the world before the truth has time to put on its pants.

What makes people double down on expressively believing incorrect things? How does this mechanism work? I don’t have a good answer, despite the “Follow the leader” thing. It’s not IQ. Pat Stedman is ignorant about the history of vitamin C as a purported cure-all (it isn’t), but he’s not low IQ. The first link in this post goes to a Nash comment thread, in which he baselessly claims “HCQ appears to be taking a lot of victory laps lately” (it hadn’t), and “I think we could shaved 30-50% off the whole ‘epidemic’ if there wasn’t so much political (and Pharma) resistance to what appears to be proving over and over to be a very effective treatment indeed.” It isn’t, and it wasn’t then… that comment is from August and by then large-scale trials demonstrated that HCQ isn’t effective and increases cardiac risk, which is why doctors weren’t prescribing it. He does say, “Time will tell,” but by then it already had. Nash is not low IQ: you can tell from his writing, and you can tell by talking to him. And neither Stedman nor Nash were in an information-poor environment: both had access to accurate information about the performance of different treatments, and chose to ignore it. “Low IQ” or “stupid” apply to many people baselessly promoting incorrect ideas, but not all of them. Is it just tribalism? Something else? It seems like an open question. Many guys have dubious/unlikely beliefs about what women are attracted to… addressing some of them, and showing what’s possible, is one purpose of this blog. Learning anything is partially about learning how to discern what’s real and what’s not.

Twitter is the eternal now. Maybe claims online are supposed to be purely performative. In evaluating their truthfulness, I’m being the mark, because I’m mistaking Die Hard for a documentary. Few of the people making claims about HCQ were doctors, or had to face the reality of sick people being treated with ineffective or harmful substances. They’re just performing. But what happens when there’s a large segment of society that’s living performance? I guess we’re finding out.

I don’t expect this to change minds or deepen thinking (disinformation crises are their own thing) but it is worth thinking about who makes testable predictions that turn out to be wrong, and what the response to being wrong is. Is it to double down, and continue making false claims, but with perhaps new and equally wrong reasoning? Is it to learn? Is it to shove it down the memory hole (might be the most common reaction… we have always been at war with Eastasia?). Is it something else? Or is it, most likely and commonly, to forget? Within a year, vaccines will be widely distributed and many shameful aspects of COVID behavior will be forgotten. A couple guys have asked me what I’ve been wrong about, one big one is that in January and early February I thought coronavirus would mostly be a problem in China, to the extent I thought about it at all… damn, that turned out to be hugely incorrect. By March I’d changed my view based on, you know, reality… but that was a big error.

Some guys who were in the game pull a St. Augustine and repudiate their skirt-chasing selves. The way psychology works is endlessly weird, making it also an interesting to field to study. Why are previous claims forgotten? When are they brought back to the fore? Why?

Vitamin d infusions are a good idea, but not a silver bullet, and should be performed uniformly. Fluvoxamine is a more promising drug than HCQ, though also not a silver bullet, but where are all the Twitter pharmacologists on that subject? Why are they so strangely quiet on it? They were busy reading the research nine months ago, weren’t they? Where are they now?

Why are they silent?

After I wrote the above, I found out that Stedman is nuts enough to have participated in the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection, for which an arrest warrant has been issued. Maybe a guy who attempts to foment treasonous insurrection and who also pushes quack cures can simultaneously be a great dating coach. It’s not impossible, I suppose.

A reader sent me this, which is pretty funny,

So, littering is “an automatic tell” for “low consciousness,” but pitching quack medicine that is at best ineffective and at worst dangerous, for a potentially fatal disease, isn’t? And participating in an insurrectionist riot isn’t “an automatic tell for low consciousness?” This guy missed his calling: he should be in standup comedy.

Author: The Red Quest

How can we live and be in society?

17 thoughts on “The most stridently asserted opinions will disappear down the memory hole”

  1. https://slate.com/technology/2011/05/apocalypse-2011-what-happens-to-a-doomsday-cult-when-the-world-doesn-t-end.html

    Rob Henderson on twitter has a newsletter that’s great and writes about a lot of these topics. One thing he’s clued me in to is the idea that another way to think about beliefs is asking how valuable it is to someone to hold a belief rather than how true is a belief. If the belief is valuable people don’t spend time trying to figure out its veracity, because holding the belief gets them something. Also, as you point out, beliefs are signals to others, and the more extreme the belief the more costly it is to the believer, and therefore the more of an “honest” signal to those they are trying to demonstrate loyalty or group cohesion to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very on-point link. I’m also old enough to have seen previous political-apocalyptic predictions come and go… and the previous group of people who deified George W Bush, spent countless hours going on about the perils of Islamic terrorism, etc., just completely shift perspective or forget about their civilization-ending concerns.

      Yeah, Rob K Henderson posts a lot of interesting stuff… I wish people looking for meaning in their lives would find Christianity, instead of politics… coming to Jesus is a big improvement over coming to politics… and Christ’s example is about aiding the poor, and his ministry also concerned working on yourself first, rather than trying to attack the flaws of others. It is sad to see purported Christians act like base politicos, although it has always been thus.

      One of the better tenets of game/red pill is “work on yourself first. “Your family is broken but you’re going to fix the world.” When they start looking for saviors, especially unsavory saviors… it is not good.

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      1. Ugh that naval link, so profound.

        Re:people finding politics rather than Christ.
        “Isolated individuals are the natural sources for political armies. Though their ideologies vary, and different political warlords recruit them, the young people who vandalize stores and offices in the name of Black Lives Matter often share a common lack of social rootedness with their militant MAGA counterparts, a common Durkheimian anomie. Twenty-somethings who are married with children and have stable jobs and mortgage payments are unlikely to storm either Seattle’s or Washington’s Capitol Hill.”
        from https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/american-crises-capitol-assault

        I’ve heard a lot over the past few years that one of the benefits of Trump is that people have gotten a lot more involved in the political process. I think it’s quite the opposite. The fact that people feel that national politics is important is evidence of a failed state. When things run smoothly people spend their time on their families and shit that actually matters to their life. When everything is breaking politics can become critical.

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      2. Great quote about isolation and political armies. Most of us need a larger source of meaning and religion isn’t doing that very well any more (esp. ppl under 40), and ppl are delaying having families. Ppl are also online too much.

        Ppl investing time in national political mythologies instead of genuine local problems is also an interesting phenomenon. Their local schools probably aren’t doing that good and yet they’re going to lead the national revolution? How is the local mental health system? Etc.

        Old school conservatives started small and then grew outwards as needed… that is one way you can tell the real conservatives from the cosplayers…

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      3. Sorry if this sounds weird, but you have always given me a Rob Henderson vibe, like you are on his same wavelength. I am not surprised that you find his tweets interesting.

        I personally also have a hard time picking a side. Despite following politics since I was a teen I have never taken the step of joining a party. However, I think most people are not like that. Just like sports, the masses enjoy rooting for Team A against Team B. A very primal thing.

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  2. Not a fan of political content here but I suppose I’m not a fan of political content in general.

    >> And neither Stedman nor Nash were in an information-poor environment: both had access to accurate information about the performance of different treatments, and chose to ignore it. “Low IQ” or “stupid” apply to many people baselessly promoting incorrect ideas, but not all of them.

    What I’ve noticed is that everyone does this (including you), but people calling themselves rational and level-minded are especially irritating in doing so. My take is that it’s the personality traits that blind (or guide – important case distinction) people towards their beliefs. That’s the thing, though – it’s blind or guide. It’s akin to naturals giving game advice. What guides them may blind me. It may possibly never guide me. Yet it guides another.

    As for COVID, my family and I are living in Eastern EU and we’re not too excited about treatments. I don’t think they’re going to take the vaccine, myself it’d be first vaccine I’d have taken in 8 years; that being said, if I decide to take one, I’ll wait for others first… As well as educate myself on the way vaccines work. Most people are tired of the politics attached to the COVID situation. Gyms closed? Hotels closed? Riiight…

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  3. Just as you can’t have good “game” without offending or being seen as creepy to some women, you can’t write a good blog that people won’t occasionally disagree with. So I admire that you every now and then will do a political post that encourages some critical thinking.
    My own political views have been a mess ever since discovering RP. I have become a lot more conservative in some ways, even though social liberalism is advantageous to a player. I also don’t buy into the conspiratorial side of conservatism that is so rampant on the internet right now, nor do I connect strongly with libertarianism.
    I think in a few decades, smart and free-thinking people will be able to look back on the pandemic and realize that while real, the costs of quarantining and economic contraction did nearly as much damage as the virus itself would have. I firmly believe the global government and media response was excessive and fear-mongering. At the same time, I don’t believe in a deeper-rooted conspiracy. “Build Back Better” is probably some affirmative action bs but that doesn’t mean it’s an evil plot to create a new world order. And as you pointed out RP, quicker drug/vaccine development and less red tape could be a longer term positive effect of the pandemic.

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  4. > Isolated individuals are the natural sources for political armies.

    100% correct. A lot of people write of Karl Marx and his writings because he’s wrong that communism is a better system than capitalism, but many of his criticisms of capitalism are 100% spot on. One of the thing he talked about was alienation as we become further siphoned off through the division of labor into specialized micro-workers, as well as consumers rather than producers.

    A big reason why we see so many people going crazy–and yes, I mean crazy–either supporting Trump on the right, or as members of the cult of Wokeness on the left, is that they don’t have communities or belief systems to adhere to. The post RQ put up after this one talks a lot about that, and I have a post I’ve written of my own in a similar vein, but frankly, it’s not at all about game and I’m hesitant to post it on RPD because: 1) I think most guys will just get pissed because I’m critical of Trump and they can’t see anything other than that, and 2) because so few people will take the advice I’m giving therein, that I’d like to broadcast it to as large an audience as possible–which is obviously not the 150-400 reads I get on my piddling pick up blog on the average day.

    But the main point is that most people are pretending–or performing as RQ puts it. In other words, they’re not doing stuff because they truly believe it, but because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Like, the Trump supporter says in polls that he thinks the election was stolen, because that’s what you do if you’re on team Republican: you pretend everything Trump says is true, even if you know it’s complete bullshit–which much of, if not most, is.
    And the proof is in the pudding. Because if all these Republicans really believed the election was stolen, why didn’t they join the revolt last week? Why haven’t they gathered their guns and marched on their state capitals? If I really believed that an election had been stolen and had proof that it was true, I would be furious and I would definitely protest, maybe even riot. I think most Americans would.

    And the TRUE believers did last week. Like, those guys who stormed the halls of Congress really do think the election was stolen, and they believe every word out of Trump’s mouth…but most people who voted for Trump, while happy to SAY they believe the election was stolen, DO NOT really believe it. They’re just pretending.

    The same is true on the left. Pretty white girls are happy to put #BLM on their IG profile and post a black square for a few days, but then go back to posting pictures of their ass to collect meaningless likes from supposedly toxic males, and the same people at the protests go buy BLM T-shirts from Target that were almost surely made by slave labor in SE Asian factories that might burst into flames and kill all the workers any day now.
    They don’t really believe, or care, to do the stuff that would actually bring about more equality and social justice–they just want to say they do so that they can be a part of the team. Indeed, I’d argue the entire “anti-racist” movement sweeping through our culture is a perfect example of that.
    Because if you really wanted to help black people–and people of color generally–you’d fight for affordable healthcare and better schools, you’d end the war on drugs and commute the sentences of anyone who’s been convicted of minor drug crimes, and you’d fight for MORE police funding and community services to help protect impoverished communities and help addicts and homeless people.

    But all of that is really hard. It’s a lot easier to just say: BLM and attribute any example of inequality to White Supremacy and racism and make white people in the public sector and big corporations feel guilty for their privilege. It’s a LARP, just like most Trump supporters are LARPing, but very few of these people really believe what they say they believe.

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