Sunday, November 25, 2007

Personal and Ideological Hygiene

Tis the season to be wheezin' so I thought it might be helpful to talk personal hygiene. 40% of men regularly don't wash their hands after using public restrooms. That is just plain vile. For information about how to get out of public restrooms clean, read here. (It's more challenging that you'd think.)

It might also be a good time to discuss how disease and stupid ideas are spread because they happen the same way. A way to raise brand awareness is called "viral marketing". Good ideas can spread especially on the web where word-of-mouth is everything. Viral marketing assumes that "influencers" will pass along the idea. And they do, in a limited way (we bloggers like to think in a big way). But what causes more extensive spreading? Big groups of people who don't use personal hygiene:

Using mathematical models of social networks, Columbia Professor Duncan Watts looked at how behavior or information cascades among groups of people, or what we think of as "going viral." He found that the people we think of as "influencers" -- trusted folks with friends in many different social spheres -- don't really influence many people beyond their immediate community. Watts argues that a much more reliable way to spark trends is by going after a large group of easily-influenced people, even if they don't have as many friends.
So people, say the Hollywood elite, never wash their ideological hands. They swarm in like-minded groups and whatever disease that's going around--9/11 was inside job, soldiers are rapists, global warming will kill us all, etc.--gets spread to everyone. That's how three stupid anti-war movies can come out and make nary a penny. A mental-disease spread.

It is also how a big groups of people can cling to ridiculous ideas. The public has been stressed for some time now. They are disillusioned by the press and the government, and their trust in our leaders like the President, is hammered away at non-stop. The press gives the government almost super-natural power and the populace believes it. This fragile ecosystem is ripe for exploitation. All sorts of ideas fall in when rational thought is pushed out.

Thus, a poll revealing the majority of the U.S. believes a 9/11 conspiracy. It's insane. It's unfathomable, but I know far too many people who believe these theories. They look normal yet they carry a pernicious disease and spread it, mostly because they don't have the critical thinking foundation necessary to navigate this post-modern world.

And it is scary. You can try to rationalize it, as Ann Althouse does, but it's scary:
Oh, no. What is to become of our democracy if people are so foolish? Grasping for hope, I theorize that people don't actually go around thinking these things but being polled somehow lures them into agreeing with statements. I'm not saying the poll wasn't done according to professional standards. I'm just speculating that maybe when people hear a calm, professional-sounding voice state a proposition, perhaps something that they haven't really thought about, they fall into agreement. (And, yes, I know, it's pathetic that that's all I can come up with when I'm grasping for hope.)
The cure for the disease is prevention. Rational thoughts, like clean hands, help halt these diseases.


Cross-posted at John Hawkin's site
Right Wing News.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The press gives the government almost super-natural power and the populace believes it. This fragile ecosystem is ripe for exploitation. All sorts of ideas fall in when rational thought is pushed out.

That's straight out of "Urinal Deuce", the 9/11 Truther episode of South Park. After all the shticks of a Vast Government Conspiracy movie, you find out the government isn't behind 9/11, it's behind the conspiracy theory that they were behind 9/11 because that way people think of them as more powerful and competent than they are.

Anonymous said...

And a majority of Americans still believe Iraq had something to do with 9/11. What's your point?

sandy said...

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