The Narcissistic Truth MovementRobin Ince's Blog
I watched the flat earther documentary Behind the Curve again last night. It remains a sad and a troubling film.
It seems even more pertinent watching it during Donald Trump’s continued destabilising activity in the United States. If the truth is not how you wish it to be, then it must be a lie. Is there any way we can curb the derangement of sizeable number of people? I worry that on the liberal side, the call for healing and understanding is clearly not enough and also not taking into account the depth of delusion that exists now. Behind the Curve has a couple of very good examples of an increasingly prevalent thought process. One flat Earther realises that if the earth rotates 360 degrees in 24 hours, then it must rotate 15 degrees every hour. He proceeds to do an experiment with a laser ring gyroscope, showing that he has far more nouse than me. For some reason, it comes up with the result 15 degrees in an hour. As he knows that the world is flat, this cannot be right. He decides this misleading result must be because of the effect of the sky, so he encases the gyroscope to block out the sky effect, but still it registers 15 degree movement.
What the hell is wrong with this equipment?
We leave the experiment with him having come to the conclusion he might get the correct result, or rather the result he needs, if he encases the equipment in Bismuth.
Later, we see the use of laser equipment across a lake in a re-enactment of The Bedford level experiment used by Alfred Russel Wallace to prove that Samuel Rowbotham’s conjecture that the Earth was flat was wrong. Just as Wallace proved without lasers, their result failed to give them what they needed to prove the Earth was flat.
Now, in Trump’s America, an election result that is not the one desired by the current president has occurred and so it is simply untrue. What is surprising to someone as naive as me is how many politicians, as well as Hercules actors, are prepared to go along with the narrative of stolen election without any evidence.
That so many people should now believe that reality is only what they demand it to be leaves me wondering what we can do to persuade enough people that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, that Ockham’s razor is a useful tool and that belligerence alone does not destroy a body of evidence.
As John Cleese has said, the problem with stupid people is that they are not intelligent enough to know they are stupid, but this is a long way from just being an issue of stupid people. Again, as Behind the Curve shows, there are people of ingenuity and with curiosity who squander it all on building a personal impermeable wall against evidence.
Others may see, “we must work out why people have become so disenfranchised”, but there are also people who have lived lives of privilege who at the slightest suggestion of reduced privilege, construct increasingly fevered versions of reality.
That increasing amounts of power have been awarded to people who would make Richard Nixon look like the sane one in the paranoid ward gives me nightmares that this could be tipping point (so the paranoid ward has made me paranoid too). We have become so inebriated by all the angles of information available that we may be as irrecoverably brain damaged as if we’d copiously drunk shoe polish wine.
The truth has become a narcissistic endeavour. I wish I was a solipsist, then at least I would have this all under control.
Michael Moore’s “we live in fictional times” speech as the Oscars now seems to be from a quaint and pastoral dystopia while George W Bush has transformed into an avuncular figure. I have written this because I would like to know what people think are the best ways to deal with these situations. Please feel free to leave your thoughts, suggestions and links to articles of hope or devastation.
Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster. As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Brian Cox. For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest book, I’m a Joke and So Are You is out now.
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This is such an important debate now. Facts are like pea-shooters against the tanks of misleading stories and narratives once they are rolling. I think the only weapons we have are stronger stories, stories that go deeper, tapping into longer-held beliefs and instincts. We’ve lost sight of how much of modern life depends on goodwill, convention and unspoken assumptions. They are weak when attacked, as opportunistic politicians have shown. Let’s not fight with facts or outrage; let’s fight with bigger, better stories.