July 13th, 2006


Capacity to Read vs. Capacity to Think

"Reading is Fundamental" -- that's what the poster says at my daughter's school.

It is foundational to a number of other academic subjects. But here's the key: all written words are capable of being interpreted ambiguously if you want to. Among those who want to are the widely-read, frequently published author Jerome Corsi, whose wide reading has done him the disservice of miring him deeper and deeper into his warped view of the world (on which, by the way, he refuses to pay attention to his own sources.) He is, in other words, the conservative answer to this site, which also contains a large collection of "facts" without betraying anything close to understanding. I'm waiting for someone to say that the "Amero" has been printed and is awaiting distribution: it would be the next logical step in his fantasy world.

This is the difference between learning how to read and learning how to understand. Aristotle understood that when you read a text, you give the author the benefit of the doubt: the author meant to say something true. Mr. Corsi and the Downing Street Mob also mean to say something true: but they don't think anyone who disagrees with them does, but they are dependent on those who disagree with them for the facts to make their case. This curious dependence means that they must take what people say and, using an agenda attributed to these people, "interpret" it for the rest of us. What takes a moment to understand is that the "agenda" is theirs, not that of those on whom they report.

I've been subject to mobs like this myself, and I found it one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. If you say something that doesn't reflect their view of you, they interpret it. If you say something supportive, they take it literally. If you say something they don't understand, whole new vistas of conspiratorial knowledge open up to them. Hearing, they do not hear.

FOLLOWUP: The reliable John Hawkins has created a list of questions conspiracy theorists need to ask themselves.. Sample:

Do you have ready answers for the obvious questions?: Let's look at a conspiracy that was floating around after 9/11 -- that the Pentagon was hit by a truck bomb, not a plane. Well in that case, what happened to the plane that was hijacked? How could it be that various people WATCHED the plane flying towards the Pentagon? Is it possible that the hundreds of firefighters and military personnel who must have known the truth were somehow silenced? Why would anyone go through such an elaborate charade? If you can't convincingly answer the most basic questions about a conspiracy, then it's tough for the theory you're supporting to hold any water.