Laura Knight-Jadczyk, last night’s radio show guest, cited research showing that when people are given negative information about their leaders, the brain’s emotional circuits override the cognitive ones; a blast of bad neurochemicals triggers a negative emotional state, which is only relieved by positive emotions when the person figures out a way – no matter how irrational – to discount the information.
In other words, when we offer someone evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, neural “punishment areas” are turned on, and the person experiences serious distress. But as soon as that person comes up with a reason to discount or ignore the evidence they have just been shown – even if the reason is transparently bogus – they experience a flood of pleasurable chemicals from the brain’s dopamine reward circuits. Barbara Oakley cites psychologist Drew Weston’s experiments: “Once a way was found to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted, the neural punishment areas turned off, and the participant received a blast of activation in the circuits involving rewards – akin to the high an addict receives when getting his fix.”
Summing up his research, Westen writes: “Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones…emotionally biased reasoning leads to the ‘stamping in’ or reinforcement of a defensive belief, associating the participant’s ‘revisionist’ account of the data with positive emotion or relief and elimination of distress. The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data.”
So what’s the hardworking 9/11 truth activist to do?
First, recognize that scientific geeks like Jim Hoffman who think that their own opinions about what actually happened on 9/11 are gospel that will save the world, while anyone who disagrees with even 5% of their opinions is an evil disinformation operative, are barking up the wrong tree. Even if Hoffman is right in all of his opinions (including his bizarre belief that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon), and even if he had strong evidence to back up those opinions (which in the case of the Pentagon he doesn’t), simply being right is not only not enough, but downright irrelevant to the task at hand.
As a practical matter, communication about such a highly charged topic as 9/11 truth is about emotion, not fact. It is a given that the facts show that 9/11 was an inside job. Transmitting those facts – unless you’re talking to a Vulcan – is mainly an emotional endeavor.
Our goal should be to bypass the brain’s punishment circuitry and instead give people a reward for looking at the facts about 9/11…or at least defuse some of the bad emotions and level the emotional playing field so they can think rationally.
Personally I think one of the best ways to short-circuit the negative emotions, and bring forth some positive ones, is through humor. And 9/11 has left us in the most darkly comic situation imaginable.
In Ionesco’s hilarious absurdist masterpiece Rhinoceros, the hero seems to be the only person in the café who cares that a rhinoceros is rampaging around, knocking over tables and threatening to trample the customers to death. It’s a metaphor for the French non-reaction to the Nazi occupation…and perhaps for the American non-reaction to the ZioNazi coup d’état of September 11th 2001. It’s so painfully absurd that it’s…almost…funny! But hey, at least it only hurts when I laugh.
Helping people see the absurd humor in their situation can be a life-saver…and a truth-saver.
Talking about 9/11 with someone like Mike Pintek of KDKA-Pittsburgh, whose emotional circuits force him to rabidly deny that there is a rhinoceros in the room, yields humour noir of the highest order. (Listen to my hilarious Pintek interview.)
Winning the “Most Obnoxious Thing on the Internet” awardfrom Matt Taibbi – for telling the simple truth – is also the stuff of absurdist comedy.
If we’re going to take on the painful task of spreading an inconvenient but necessary truth, we might as well enjoy ourselves.
Or, as the saying goes: If you tell the truth, better make it funny – or they’ll kill you.