In 2008, Farhad Manjoo wrote True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. He does mention the media, that television leads to people talking less with each other. So, his analysis of a Canadian philosopher is superficial. This isn't surprising, because apparently even Canadians have failed to evaluate in depth, the thoughts of McLuhan and Lapham. In an interview given after writing the book, Manjoo states that 'we are apt to believe things these days that aren't true, that feel true.' So he is refering to a major flaw that some people have. They find something to believe which matches their strong inner feelings. For them it isn't about evaluating facts, it is about finding a belief that matches their own selfish feelings. This process needs to be recognized as a major flaw. It can lead to highly irrational people.
Also, in 2012, Jonathan Haidt wrote: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. So Haidt does verify that the United States has problems with excessive extreme behavior. In his book, since he is a psychologist, he seems to focus on only psychological causes for the extreme behavior. The processes he discusses are mainly about the ways in which the extreme nature of the beliefs tend to become more extreme. But there is a difference between extremely strong beliefs and highly irrational beliefs. Haidt does not address this. Why do wingnuts remain committed to beliefs in spite of being obviously wrong? Why do they avoid facts and information which proves they are wrong, and deny they exist? These examples of behavior are extremely irrational, almost psychotic. Why do followers also embrace the extremely irrational beliefs and behavior of the presenter? The explanations need to ring true. Haidt's position is flawed (weak and inadequate) because he assumes he offers reasons for extreme behavior and solutions without evaluating the impact of the environment, the impact of the media on people.
Similar observations are included in another book, Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide published in 2011. It is noted that when like-minded people gather in groups, they tend to become more extreme in their views than they were before. He also notes that it has been proven that when you separate individuals from society physically or psychologically, they tend to take on extreme views. But again, while this helps us understand extremely strong views, it fails to explain why the views are extremely irrational.
There are also a few books on wingnuts. A book written in 2010 by John Avlon, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America has given rise to his new 2014 book Wingnuts: Extremism in the Age of Obama. In both books he talks about people who lose touch with reality, and says they have become unhinged. In his 2014 book, Avlon does mention that many people in the United States are getting tired of extremism. However, the 2015 Primaries and the words of Donald Trump tells us that we need to continue to be deeply concerned.
This problem really is serious:
Some Wingnuts have contact with children, and their irrational and toxic behavior can cause harm. These wingnuts don't get feedback by being on television, so they don't realize they are abusive, that they are not normal. The late night comedy shows realize that wingnuts and their irrational behavior are great entertainment. It is more than just wrong, their behavior is so irrational that it is hilarious. Yet people lack concern with this issue. When children are being mishandled and abused by their wingnut parents, there is no face to point at. When they only hear a statement or a statistic, they lack empathy. So, I like to quote Joseph Stalin who said that "one man's death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."
When I talk of society falling apart, irrational decisions, and wingnuts, it really is something that requires our deep concern. I am also talking about child abuse around the world, on an enormous scale. While we can see this as abstract, it is real, and it is massive. Our schools need to respond, everyone needs to respond. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times says our changing world needs to develop norms, habits, and behaviors. It should be easy to convince people that we all need to work to avoid extremely irrational behavior, its impact on society, and its impact on children.
Lapham suggests: we are moving towards dreams, magic, and legends.
This creates an environment which
encourages jihadists and
In the introduction to McLuhan's book, Lapham suggested that due to the media, society is moving from one extreme to another, from being civilized to being barbaric. On the civilized extreme, he included quality art, history, and science, and then suggested we are moving towards the other extreme: more dreams, legends, and magic respectively. This is creating a problematic environment for people to live in. There has been a recent trend to value facts, experts, and reality less. This is reflected and enhanced by the media which in recent years has tried to offer less negative news and more entertainment. Also, in the past few years talk radio has criticized survey people and scientists. So there are some people who thrive in this kind of environment. They can enjoy their own dreams, think up magical and real video game action, and then act it out so they become a legend. So as more lose touch with reality and rational thought, we have more jihadists and mass murderers.
For both jihadists and mass murderers there is something really attractive about it. It fits their feelings, is a dream they like in which they have a magical experience, and at the end of it all they become a legend. Many jihadists have turned out to be educated Canadians, well informed and concerned about society. So becoming a Muslim may be only a start. They can take it a step further by simply finding material on the Internet to read which agrees with their unsettled emotions. There are short glitzy videos with messages that have a big impact with the youth. So this can help in recruitment. Fighting for a black flag and an Islamic state is an exciting commitment that they like. My theory is that some are not brainwashed, they simply find and accept ideas which agree with how they feel inside. When they dream up action which is like a video game, it suits their dreams in which violence is fun, attractive, and an exciting adventure. Some projects are irrisistable, almost addicting, so some will respond to their plans which remind them of dreams and magic, something that can turn them into a legend for their online friends to admire.
In the case of Justin Borque, the 24 year old in Moncton person who killed three police, he wasn't angry at the police he had contact with, or the ones he killed. His background didn't include contact with abusive police. Instead, he just focused on anti-establishment issues that fit with his pro-marijana beliefs. He did post strong statements on Facebook in which he made innocent police the logical target. His irrational assessment felt good, so he had a strong committment. Afterwards, in an interview with police, he said that the police who were killed just happened to be on the wrong side. He also responded to his boring life by telling a friend about his magical dream, that "he wanted to go out with a bang and bring people with him." It would make him a legend. No doubt he fell in love with his project. When Borque sacrificed so much, was it due to the issues he was concerned with, or due to the attractiveness of his actions? It was probably both. So when certain people deliberately select extremely irrational behavior, the explanation that rings true for me comes from McLuhan.
Thomas Friedman has recently suggested that society needs to develop habits, behaviors, and norms in order to live in the new world that technology is helping to create. The term "wingnut" may be an effective sanction, discouraging people from engaged in extremely irrational thinking. While North Americans will emphasize that it is important that everyone be free to hold an opinion, there is a need for society to discourage wingnut thinking, at all levels. It needs to be labeled as highly irrational, as being a factless opinion which borders on the insane. Should we politely stand by and value the opinion of a lunatic simply because we carry the outmoded belief that all opinions are valuable? With the introduction of the Internet in which radical people can connect with each other, in which someone can become famous with their radical friends for doing perverted actions, we need to respond. The Internet environment requires awareness and action, from everyone. We need to encourage rational thought and a focus on facts and reality.