You’re Wrong because I’m Smarter

by Niko Mackey

It pains me to, but I shall begin with a quote. It’s a good one:

“The whole problem with the world is that the fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

– Bertrand Russell

It’s a cynical but uninformed world we live in. Social media feeds are flooded by caustic social-political memes, politicians focus their arguments through nurturing disbelief rather than sharing information, and millennials’ most important news source, YouTube, is a nesting ground for character-driven arguments over logic. Pathos is currently the strongest don of argument, and it’s changing the way we think.

The problem with this toxic atmosphere is that all media outlets, all quasi-informative stimulus and all extroverted naysayers matter. That last one, the overly self-confident, hatred-spewing, grandiose individual is probably the worst in terms of influence. But it all matters, and whether you like it or not your concept of right and wrong is at stake.

We all know the human brain is evolving to account for our constantly changing methods of communicating. You need to be aware of these changes so as not to blindly follow them into intellectual oblivion Those changes in communication are most readily observable through the mediums of communication, e.g. texting, social media, advertising. But changes are also appearing in the manner through which we speak, e.g. vocabulary, mood, and ideas.

So what about it? I doubt I’m alone on this, but it seems to me that the way we choose to express ourselves has recently become more and more cynical, more hateful and aggressive. Ka is a wheel; undoubtedly society chose to express themselves at multiple past points as it does now and as it will in the future. However, social trends in expression are important to acknowledge when considering how you as an individual perceive information.

These trends consist of a lack of facts, and a prevalence of distractions. These distractions include fostering disbelief instead of providing evidence and click-bait news headlines.

With all the social movements going mainstream, and the preliminary elections tagging along, a lot of feelings are getting hurt. The more amusing (or infuriating to some) aspects or arguments in favor of some opinions are being paraded and mocked by dissenters, which is expected. But what is unexpected is the lack of evidence-based discussion. Proponents of one opinion are more apt to mock and jeer rather than acknowledge contradictory information. They are more likely to evoke tradition rather than intelligently refute an argument. And why is that?

Perhaps it’s hypercriticism. When recently arguing with a fellow Marine on a controversial topic (I’ll spare you the details), I presented him with empirical data to argue my point. He responded with phrases such as, “You have to look at who’s funding the research; show me your sources; and, there’s research saying all kinds of things. Doesn’t mean it’s all true.”

Valid points, all of them. However, he not once presented any empirical data of his own..

A 2008 study published in Self and Identity discussed hypercriticism as a means of individuals to appear smarter:

“as expected, participants in the ‘appear smart’ condition were significantly more critical of the film than participants in either the ‘be liked’ or control conditions, while the latter two conditions did not differ from one another (see Table 1)”

In essence, a critical viewpoint is perceived to be more intelligent than a non-critical one. It makes sense: in order to evolve as a society we must question authority and the status-quo, leaving us with a need for critical analysis.

The difference between our prevalent communication methods and critical analysis is that many individuals are choosing to speak without the analysis counterpart to criticism. Just look back at my previous anecdote. All criticism, no analysis. And that’s what you must pay attention to.

My main point here is that the most prevalent arguments I come across for almost any standpoint is completely focused on disengaging the audience from reality. Whether it be a politician’s hate-mongering to discredit his opponents or an undoubtedly unhealthy individual’s appeal-to-nature fallacy to justify her diet, a lack of facts is the best evidence people are presenting for their arguments nowadays.

Some of these people may be right, but most of them are wrong. If all you have is your stubbornness in an argument, you’re going to stubbornly criticize the other individual.

All I ask is that you pay attention. Open your mind just a wee bit when you enter the fray of civil rights and the Trump vs Clinton race. Watch out for the bullshit and please, by all means, educate yourself before you even bother to give an opinion.