Monday, December 12, 2016

Flip again

I am not a person who believes in conspiracy theories generally and I don't read overtly fringe websites, though I did stumble on one the other day claiming that the 911 attacks were perpetuated by insiders, not Muslim terrorists. I don't believe that the pharmaceutical companies are in cahoots with research to stop a cure for cancer. I don't believe that JFK was killed by two gunman. I find it difficult to believe that Princess Diana's car crash was set up by the royal family. At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if any one of these things are true, because deception is often just under the surface when money or power is concerned. I'll admit that one of my favorite quotes is "behind every great fortune is a crime," though the actual quote by Balzac is actually "The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed."

At the same time, I wouldn't have believed you ten years ago if you had told me that banks and Wall Street would conspire to give subprime mortgage loans to people they knew couldn't afford them, thereby causing the collapse of the housing market and leaving many bankrupt. And I am not entirely sure what happened with Watergate, but I am certain that many Americans were shocked to discover President Nixon was involved in a massive cover-up and multiple abuses of power against the DNC. And when Trump won despite almost all statistical evidence saying that he wouldn't, I was shocked. Then everyone from the NYT to Nate Silver's 538 blog to Michael Moore found rational reasons to explain it and suggest that they were only a little wrong or were looking for data in the wrong places (exit polls weren't accurate, more Americans were upset than we realized, half the nation bailed on voting). It still didn't make sense to me. I thought from the beginning that something was wrong with the numbers, but at the same time, as everyone scrambled to re-position themselves into understanding what had happened, I had to acknowledge that I was possibly naive and misled. I thought too that it was strange that Trump kept claiming that the election was rigged, in a way that suggested either that he too was positive he would lose, or he knew that it actually was rigged. He often makes claims that are projections of his own psyche, so it wouldn't be that strange for him to tell the truth without even being aware that he was doing so, in the same way that he lies without seeming to realize he's lying.

However though (as one of my English teachers, Mrs. Bytheway used to say), I heard Michael Lewis talking on NPR this week about his new book, The Undoing Project, and he was talking about this idea of confirmation bias, defined by Psychology Today as occurring "from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true." In other words, if I believe that Trump is a mean liar, whenever he opens his mouth, I interpret what he says as lying and mean, even if it isn't (but it usually is). So, I will continue to try to see things more objectively, or at least be aware that I am viewing things through a certain lens of my own bias.

But could it be true that the election was rigged? And could it be true that the CIA will investigate? And that we may have to vote again? Or elect Hil? I'd rather vote again without any interference, because I cannot imagine the vitriol and resistance she would face if she were named president elect at this point. I call do over.

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