Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

There's this thing called "reality." You might want to check it out.

As a blogger who focuses continually on the crazy ideas people have, you'd think that after a while, I'd either (1) become cynical, (2) give up, or (3) devolve into what Robert Chazz Chute, the interviewer who chatted with me on the Cool People Podcasts, called "being a dick to dumb people."

I'd like to think that I avoid that trilemma most of the time.  But every once in a while, I run into something that makes me want to jump up and down and scream, "How in the hell can you believe this?  Are you a moron?  Or what?"  But I refrain from doing this, because usually I write in the early morning, and I don't want to wake up my wife.  Also, I own a nervous, neurotic border collie, who reacts to any stressful situations by peeing on the floor, so I'd like to avoid that if at all possible.

Just today, though, I ran into not one, but two stories that had that effect on me.

Now, note in each case, it's not the originator of the story that I want to yell at.  There are many loony people in the world, and it's well within their rights to publish their loony ideas online.  However, it is (in my opinion) beholden upon the rest of us to say, in as gentle a fashion as possible, "There, there, now.  Don't get yourself all worked up.  Just have a nice cup of cocoa and take a nap, and you'll feel better."

That is, of course, not what happened.  In each of these cases, the "comments" section filled up immediately with people who not only didn't argue with the person in question, they agreed.  They considered the wingnut's ideas logical.  They praised the courage of the originators for taking such a controversial stance.

Not one comment -- not one -- said, "Hey.  Reality.  It's over here.  You might want to give it a look."

Let's start with Starre Vartan, a writer for the Mother Nature Network, who wrote an opinion piece decrying public schools' abandonment of teaching children cursive.  Now, I myself am very much in favor of getting rid of cursive, largely because I never really managed well with cursive myself.  My cursive writing looks a little like the Elvish script from The Lord of the Rings, as written by an Elf with a severe disorder of the central nervous system.  I can't read my own cursive writing.  I don't know how anyone else would manage.

But Ms. Vartan is all up in arms over losing cursive.  Why, you might ask?  Is it because it's a valuable skill having to do with improving hand/eye coordination?  Is it because it's a fine old tradition that deserves to be continued?  Is it because, done properly, it is beautiful and artistic?

Nope.  None of the above.  Ms. Vartan believes that cursive is being abandoned...

... because there is some sort of a conspiracy to render children incapable of reading the Constitution.

She states, "It's near-impossible to read cursive if you can't write it," which certainly isn't true in my case, and honestly, is almost certainly untrue in general.  Generating script (productive language) and deciphering script (receptive language) aren't even done in the same parts of the brain, for cryin' in the sink; there's no reason to believe that even a person who has never written cursive in his life wouldn't be perfectly capable of being taught to read it.  As far as the governmental connection, she quotes Michael Sull: "There are so many children today who can't even read cursive writing, let alone write it.  They'll never be able to read anything that was written in the 19th century.  They won't be able to read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or anything written during the Civil War.  They're missing an entire portion of our country's history."

Because, of course, those documents don't exist in any other forms besides the cursive original.  Like, online, or in high school history texts, or anything.

Now, as I said, Ms. Vartan is perfectly within her rights to post her opinion, just as I do here in my blog.  But what I found appalling was that no one in the comments section even points out what were, to me, completely obvious broken links in the logical chain.  The comments virtually all began with phrases like, "What a good point!"  (There were two, in fact, that stated that the commenters had gone to school in Italy and Romania, respectively, and that they had learned cursive in grade school, and how much better the schools were there because of that.)

The second example came from none other than Alex Jones, who is so far gone on the wingnut spectrum that I am frankly stunned when he can say anything more coherent than "woogie woogie woogie pfththtptptptptptppt."  Jones has had a lot to say about Syria lately, most of which has contained the words "false flag" and has made no sense whatsoever, not that anyone should really find that surprising.  But he really outdid himself yesterday.  Here's what he said:
But it’s the globalists here running my life, that’s why they’re my front-and-center problem.  Because they are the biggest, most organized, eugenics-based, scientific dictatorship, trans-humanists at the top that plan the extinction of almost everybody and a new species to rise up or humans merged with machines.

That’s their religion, and no one’s discussing that.  Everyone is going to be deindustrialized, everyone is going to be put back into the Stone Age and controlled.  And Obama and the globalists and the robber barons, they’re going to fly around in their jetcopters and their Air Forces Ones and their red carpets, like gods above us.  And they’re going to get the life-extension technologies.
So the contention is that President Obama is in cahoots with various corporate leaders to kill most of us and return the rest of us to "the Stone Age," while they become immortal cyborgs who ride around on red carpets.

You know, it's an amazing day when someone can make the writings of L. Ron Hubbard appear sane.

And once again, how did people respond, on Jones' site InfoWars?  Here is a sampling (spelling and grammar are as written):
I've said it before and I'll say it again; How can we blame our government for supporting terrorists when WE are still supporting terrorists IN OUR GOVERNMENT??

I know people are afraid to believe, REFUSE to believe we've already been overthrown, but its true. There is no risk of it happening, it already has. We are wading through the changes one decade at a time. Changes happen slowly for a reason. Hitler did what he did overnight, and almost didnt fail.. Youre going to tell me people with the same ideas dont exist today? That your going to wake up and be in a completely different country one morning? They are going as slow as they have to to make it work, and I assure you all of their players are in place. There are thousands of people who do nothing with their lives but figure out how to implement a unified luciferian control over the globe. And MILLIONS who are indirectly doing work for said goal and dont even realize it.

These fckrs are planning more evil, something big too. Ya'll think they are just going to roll over and admit their defeat and wrongdoings? When most wake up, their pants will be around their ankles wondering WTF happened.

Alex Jones the Illuminati owned and run shill designed to discredit the Patriot Movement and keep it in the dark as to the real and obvious cause of their oppression.
Okay.  Give me a moment, here, to get my blood pressure back down.

There.  Somewhat better now.  In my calmer moments, I am willing to consider that the people who respond to stories like these do not represent a good sampling of the American public.  For one thing, most clear-thinking people probably wouldn't bother to take the time to register on a site so they can comment on a story that is obviously ridiculous; said clear-thinkers probably have better things to do, such as actually having jobs and families and lives.  Also, there's the possibility -- certain, I think, in Jones' case -- that dissenters, especially those like myself who would be likely to refer to Jones as a "raving whackjob," would be blocked from posting on the site in short order.

So I live in hope that what we're seeing in these comments is not a representative sampling of the opinions, and intelligence level, of the American citizenry.  And that hope will keep me posting here.  Cynicism is, after all, not a happy spot.  As my dad used to say: "I'd rather be an optimist who is wrong than a pessimist who is right."


  1. My writing is actually better in cursive Lmao I learned in first grade when I was in Candor before moving to Trumansburg. And then had to learn again when they taught it in tburg. So even if I start out writing in print, if it's anything more than a few sentences, it'll evolve into cursive. That being said, people just look for excuses to get other people riled up to soothe their own egos. These days, people use their computers and phones to do any writing so even printing is starting to become obsolete

  2. I decided I would write something in cursive, just for kicks. One of the sentences was the "lazy dog" one just so I could see if I remembered all the letters. I did not. Aside from that it took me almost two minutes to write it. Granted, my pen ran out so I should not count that time, but still... it was a long time. Here are the results for your enjoyment.

    This must make me anti U.S. Constitution and pro devil worship. I'm sure of it.

    1. Still more legible than mine.

      Although I do agree with your conclusion. ;-)