Friday, October 29, 2004

Simple, Straightforward, Wrong

Amazing how effective giving it is giving answers that are simple, straightforward and wrong.

There's an old cartoon from when Reagan and Carter were vying for the presidency, in 1980: the two candidates are each asked a question and have a blackboard to write the answer.

Reagan has immediately written "5"; Carter has filled the blackboard with equations and formulas, flipped it over and filled the other side as well, and then gone on to several pieces of paper, where he's still working away as Reagan stands there beaming beside his instant answer.
   The question is: "2+2=?"
George W. Bush ran the same sort of campaign for governor of Texas (or *was run* in the same sort of campaign - hard to see George W. actually running much of anything). While Anne Richards gave answers reflecting the complexity of thought and consideration over various factors, Bush could just give one sentence. When you don't have a lot to think about, it's easier to do that.
And now, with a lot of help from friends like Fox (with a division run by his cousin and - oh, just see OUTFOXED), he's being run in that same sort of campaign against John Kerry. John Kerry, who thinks about issues, is called a "flip-floper"; George W., who never seems to be troubled by thinking about much of anything, is portrayed as decisive, resolute.

Schwarzenegger, at the convention to boost his own prospects for the nomination perhaps as soon as 2008 (with Sen. Orrin Hatch trying to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow a the President to be foreign born), called him "a leader who won't back down."
Thing is, sometimes it makes sense to back down. Considering new information, thinking things over, might sometimes make one change one's mind about something.

For example, let's just say that, oh, a brat/President made an assumption that Saddam Hussein was connected to September 11th. Now, the "resolute" guy who "won't back down", he just barrels ahead with his assumption and gets a whole lot more people killed (100,000 more Iraqis than the ten-year war had already killed - it wasn't two Gulf Wars, ariel bombing was going on weekly throughout the ten years, it was just two parts of the same deal). If he weren't so "resolute", that is, if he were a flip-flopper, he might have made reconsidered as more information came in.
Not being troubled by the facts is, of course, a great way not to flip-flop, to be seen as "resolute".
Let's review the scientific method, shall we? We'll use the very simplified version they give you in junior-high textbooks.

1. State the question. (Why are the ants all streaming into my kitchen?)
2. Observe. Gather data. (There are many of them; they all seem to be going in a direct line to the cookie box I left open on the counter.)

3. Formulate hypothesis. (The ants are streaming into my kitchen to eat the cookies.)
4. Run experiments to test hypothesis. (Eat all the cookies myself, clean up all crumbs so there's nothing left for the ants to eat.)
And then we move to step five only if the experiment results agree with the hypothesis. (By the next day, the ants stop streaming into my kitchen - just the occasional forager who goes away without finding anything.)
5. Theory. (If I leave food out, it will attract bugs.) (Wait, that's actually an extrapolation - making assumptions about furthering the data from what I know.... From the experiment I ran, I can only conclude, "If I leave the cookies open on the counter, the ants will find them and come rushing in for a picnic.")
Now, my little theory about the ants isn't complete and perfect, of course. No theory is. Someone else might, through experiments better designed than mine, show that the ants just like to come look at the picture on the cookie box, and then figure as long as they're there they might as well haul a crumb away for the folks back at the nest. Who knows? More importantly, who knows why I'm rambling about ants?
Point being, Bush jumps right to step five. Even beyond that, because he takes whatever theory he likes as engraved-in-tablets-directly-handed-down-by-god Truth.
I have a Republican friend here. And what amazes me is that an otherwise intelligent individual shows no interest whatsoever in the fact surrounding her beliefs. I had a similar friend in Paris. The facts are complete irrelevant, and if you tell them information that shows their idea to be false, they just vaguely say, Oh, I guess I should read more about that. And then they don't. They just go right on with the same viewpoint, even if there's nothing to support it. Sort of like they guy who refuses to stop for directions and drives in the wrong direction until he runs out of gas. But, hey, what matters isn't that he got lost and stranded; what matters is that he was resolute.

I'd just rather not have to ride in the car with him.



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