To believe or not to believe
I taught art in a public school for a year (K - 12) and then was a substitute teacher for many years after. It was always frustrating when a teacher would come to me and point out the "troublemaker" students. I know it was meant as a goodwill gesture to give me a heads up, but what it did was color my understanding of them before I had a chance to interact with them on my own. A "good" student and a "troublemaker" could do the same thing, but when teachers were programmed to think that troublemakers caused trouble, the response was doled out accordingly. It could be difficult to hear a "troublemaker" insist on innocence, or see them as needing help. They were known for the trouble they caused, and not much else. That was unfortunate, obviously, because even the kids who made a habit of causing trouble had something to offer. And frankly, some of the "good" kids were passive aggressive bullies.
This is how we operate: there are good people and there are bad people, and if you are determined to be bad, you will never offer anything good. Or, more subtly, if you have a known bad thing associated with you, you and what you offer can never be taken as good; it must always be suspect.
Not one of us is pure as the driven snow, yet we use found imperfections, whether small or big, to dismiss an entire person. It doesn't matter if the fault happened a long time ago, happened only once, if the person has changed since then, if it is a current struggle or habit, if they are sorry, if they admitted it, or if it has any particular relevancy to the question at hand. We are looking for saint heros of perfection who we can trust because they're perfect and will never fail.
There was only one of those. He lived/died/lived about 2,000 years ago.
Right now we have a woman accusing presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault. When Trump was running for president, I watched as women were outraged over the audio clip of him joking about grabbing women in a certain place. Now we have another candidate who seems to actually have done it, and there is no outrage. It appears we can suspend belief or disbelief at will, based on what we would prefer to believe. Our Saint Hero's gross imperfections can be justified in some way so he or she is still a saint.
Of course, we all do that.
We all have a particular paradigm (concepts, thought patterns, models, ways of understanding) that we operate under, and any change to that causes a kind of glitch to the brain in which everything seems up for question and nothing seems solid. Some people have a process to look into a paradigm shift and come out the other side either with the same paradigm, confident in the reasoning, or with a new pardigm, confident in the reasoning. Others simply run from any change to the paradigm.
A recent video came out (repeatedly pulled down by YouTube and Vimeo but wisely available for download) in which a woman named Judy Mikovits is interviewed and has some surprising things to say about the pandemic and those calling the shots. Mikovits had some legal issues in the past, which she talks about at the beginning of the video. What she says appears to conflict with what websites like Wikipedia and Snopes has to say, as they indicate she did take intellectual property and deserved to be arrested.
The Dakota Access Pipeline protest is the gift that keeps on giving in that I got to see firsthand how mainstream media, social media, and websites such as those mentioned above manipulate, twist, and outright lie about what really happened. Because it got so bad, I wrote a 500-page book, with sources, illustrating this. Nevertheless, that area of question is being used to dismiss all that Mikovits has to say.
In an age where we celebrate the educated expert, Mikovits has the science credentials. However, as we see in the sciences and in other fields of expertise, those kinds of credentials magically wither and blow away if you go off of the reservation. The minute you extract yourself from the goosestepping parade of your particular field, you cannot be taken seriously. I've also seen people picking up on her referring to the country as a republic (yes, we are a constitutional republic) in the video as some kind of dog whistle for nutters.
I don't know. Maybe Mikovits is a nut. I'm pretty sure I am, based on various definitions out there. Does that mean I am not to be heard or believed any of the time?
In February, before the pandemic craziness hit, I was fired. It was a distressing situation not just because I lost my job and income, but because I worked at my church. I effectively lost my church family. After years of building friendships and connections, I could count on one hand how many contacted me afterwards. I also found out that when people asked why I was fired, they were told something untrue.
To be honest, I don't know if anyone would believe me, anyway. Any establishment, whether it's church leadership or academia or the medical community, has the power. It's established. It's been around the longest. It's what people have known for the greatest amount of time. By default, we trust it for its longevity because surely, if there was a problem, it would have been found out by now. Since it has survived, there must be no problem. We forget that what is established can be a machine that exists to stay established, and the reason few things have been brought to light is because the machine is successful at silencing them by denying grants, jobs, certifications, due process, the ability to speak or publish, and then using the lack of grants, work, certifications, and publication as proof they are not legitimate.
It's a clever Catch-22. The establishment touts expertise as proof, and it is often the one who controls how we determine expertise.
People raging against the machine are peripheral weirdos (until those weirdos reach critical mass and suddenly, there's a new accepted paradigm...but we forget how that has happened repeatedly in history).
In my case, even though I could prove my case with photos, audio recordings, notes, and emails, I would not be believed by some because it is a bridge too far for them to question their paradigm. It is easier and requires less effort to stay in the train car and move along with the rest of the people. Questioning authority is scary. For those few who were mildly motivated to at least inquire about what happened, having those in authority lightly put my character into question makes disbelief even easier to justify. And believe me, you won't find any lack of faulty character traits in me. Their presence becomes the justification for dismissing what I might have to say. There's a reason for the "blame the victim" phenomenon (even though I do not consider myself a victim), in which the victim gets put on trial instead of the one who did the victimizing. A bad experience might have caused the victim to lash out and do things as a result; how unfortunate that we would choose to look at that response as an excuse to dismiss a victim and ignore what led up to it.
So what about Mikovits?
"If she's lying about the arrest, she's lying about everything else."
She no doubt has character flaws. But is that statement really correct?
If you lie about A, will you lie about B? Is that a given? Because B leads to C leads to D and that means if we are able and have told one lie, all we all do is tell lies.
Unless someone is truly a clinical compulsive liar, that's not a legitimate equation.
We all lie. Myself included. You do to. And you KNOW from your own life that you do lie about some things but not everything. Imagine if that equation was applied to you, that because you can and do lie, you never tell the truth.
The things I lie about and the things I am passionately insistent about are rarely the same thing. People often have "shame" compartments of failures and mistakes where lies are used to make us appear less bad because we know others will use our imperfections as an excuse to not listen to what we have to say that is true. In a sense, because we know our imperfections will be used to silence us, we lie about our imperfections and failures. If people were able distinguish between imperfect humans and important information, we wouldn't feel compelled to make ourselves more saintly or believable.
The real equation isn't "she lies, so she's a liar all the time" but instead that we can and do lie about things, and we can and do tell the truth about things.
"Well, even if she's not lying about some stuff, she has an agenda so she's going to share an opinion that reflects that."
Show me the person whose opinion doesn't reflect an agenda, whether it's some grander scheme or even a personal, unconscious agenda. Of course opinions reflect an agenda. They are logically connected. You don't have one without the other.
At the heart of who to believe and who not to believe is understanding a lot of fine lines. Expertise is valuable, but it isn't a for-sure. Expertise is knowledge and experience, and those can be used to help or to hurt. Power and stature might be worth considering, but you should never negate those without it because the powerless are always on the receiving end whenever power is abused. A person known to be "good" is worth acknowledging, but so is the fact that every "bad" person was a "good" person until something exposed them; you have no idea which side of the exposure you're on in the timeline. You might be pretty good at reading people, but some people are master manipulators and will completely blindside you.
So with all of those asbstracts, how is it we make decisions on what we'll believe or not?
1. Know what you have a propensity for.
We all have prejudice in regards to how we view particular sources, power structures, leadership, etc. So that's going to come into play. I know I tend to be easily turned against whatever is popular, and so telling me that everyone is doing it and it is the smart thing to do will immediately get me to question and resist. I also know I'm ridiculously trusting and a sucker for manipulators. It's good to know how you tend to respond in situations so you can evaluate if you're responding out of habit or out of careful thought.
I recently had an interaction where an article I shared was called into question because the doctor who wrote it, though an MD, had an interest in holistic medicine. The conversation went something like this:
"He's an MD just like any other doctor."
"When a class of doctors graduates, even the worst student gets a diploma."
Sometimes the only website that will take an article from someone is a website others disregard. It's a shame when we use source prejudice to disregard potentional information. By doing that, we default and give informational authority to the "gatekeepers" and establishment. You can find nutsy information on any website, even mainstream media sites.
And don't forget, what you consider a solid source, someone of a different political or ideological vein probably considers nutsy. It's circular.
It doesn't hurt to take the source into account; I would encourage that for sure. But saying that weirdos always trust a particular site's information is similar to saying you never would; both are dismissive and knee-jerk.
2. Figure out who benefits (cui bono).
This is about following the money, but also looking further at other benefits.
First, despite what people keep saying, the Bible doesn't say that money is the root of all evil, but the love of it is. When you love money above all else, you'll do terrible things. People who give away their money in a manner that maintains power and connections with world leaders or systems are not the same as someone giving away money without seeking power or renown. Giving away money can be good, but it can also be manipulative and self-serving. The minimum-wage worker who leaves a $20 tip is doing more than the billionaire giving away millions, from this perspective.
People will hurt, lie, manipulate, and whatever else to build their own power and money empire, even if it's in the guise of philanthropy or some other outward good. A person who will do anything for more money, for popularity, for power, for control, for celebrity...is a person who will do anything. They can justify any horrible behavior because it serves their purpose (which they think is good).
You have to figure out the benefit, and if it is simply residual and unplanned, or part of an actual goal geared towards building up themselves in some way.
3. Look for proof; demand due process.
Is there tangible proof or is it word against word? Perhaps both parties have proof and it appears to be a case of two sides of the same coin.
Finding proof is tough. It should be easy with the internet, but it's not easy to determine what is a great source or not (as we just discussed). Plus, our prejudices come into play and we tend to dismiss sources whether they should be or not.
It may come down to simply hearing to opinions in conflict, and you having to decide.
Proof or sources aside, we must also demand due process. Whenever due process is not present, no matter how much of a show those in charge put on, everything is in question.
We have due process in a formal, legal sense, but we also have it in another sense: whose voices are allowed to be heard, and whose are not? Two people with equally compelling information, but only one gets a platform? Happens all the time on the internet, but that's not "due process" in this informal sense. That's where you have one person being forced to provide articles and interviews to websites and sources people generally mock, because it's the only platform that will give them a chance.
Due process is crucial; it's the best system we have for making sure innocent people aren't destroyed, that they have a chance to be heard and present evidence to support what they have to say. It gives power to the powerless. I still find it amazing that one man in 30 minutes ended seven years connection with my church and no church leaders came and inquired or gave me a chance to present my case afterwards. Even if due process (in the informal sense) isn't happening, you can make it happen for your own decision-making situation by finding the places where an opponent to a popular idea might be presenting conflicting information.
4. Look for patterns.
I can't recommend this enough. You can even use this with the lying issue, where a pattern of continued lying on all kinds of topics indicates a habitual liar.
Is there a pattern of behavior or happenstance? Is the person regularly caught in lies, or a certain type of lie? Is the accuser known for accusing? Is there a pattern that could be related to what is being said that could be used to support the truth of the claim? Does the person always seem to be a victim of everyone and every situation, or is this a solitary victim claim? Is their life one of helping others or is it self-serving?
Patterns can be found in all areas of an issue or topic. They can be found on social media, in how things are banned, pulled down, or "fact checked." Patterns are everywhere, if you'll pay attention and see them. Patterns of behavior, of transmission, of information, of minimum explanation -- all kinds of patterns all over.
5. Brush up on logical fallacies.
We almost all use a logical fallacy when debating a topic. They are easy to slip into.
The ones I see used the most is the appeal to authority ("the experts say this, so it is correct") and the strawman. Read up on them and learn to avoid them in your internal thinking as much as applicable, and also to identify them when discussing things with others. Most people are easily persuaded by the use of these, and we'd all be better off learning to spot them so we know why people are believing something that seems illogical to us.
6. Look to the True Authority.
As a Christian, my ultimate authority isn't a system, a government, a culture, a habit, a newspaper -- it's God. I can get all the way to the end of a debate (internally, or with someone else) and maybe not have arrived at anything better as solid proof other than the sense, after praying about it, that this is what I am to do.
I can't give a reason. I don't want to use the word "feel." But there it is. More than once I've made decisions contrary to all of the logical decision-making that I could muster, and in hindsight, I could see that while it didn't make sense to me or those around me, my obedience to what I thought God wanted me to do was exactly the right thing to do in the long run.
One of the many reasons I love this country is because our Constitution allows us to do exactly that, to make vast numbers of decisions whether others approved or not. It is why freedom in this country matters so much, and why we must protect our rights and not let their infringement be excused by appeals to authority, social pressure, or safety. We must be free to read, consider, and decide for ourselves--even if others see our decision as unreasonable to them--within the boundaries of our Constitution. People seem to think that we are not allowed to possibly cause hurt to others because we are exercising our rights. But we have free will, and I would say the laws (for the most part) are meant to keep us from purposefully seeking to hurt people [See: Mask Shaming] but not protect them from any discomfort or regular trial of mortal life. When we are all free, we will have moments of discomfort because free people bump into each other. They aren't in cages.
People don't know all of the facts of my job firing. I don't know all of the facts of Mikovits. But here's the thing: I'm interested in hearing what she has to say and letting myself and others decide no matter what the Google YouTube thought police have to say.
The question is: will you listen to someone who doesn't have power and authority--truly listen, not just patronize them for a time--or will you mostly choose to believe only those who come from established and accepted places? Are you so set in your paradigm that you won't even consider, or will you take the chance and hear something that might blow your understanding out of the water?
Your choice. For now.
UPDATE: I want to point out another pattern to watch for, particularly in regards to the Mikovits example. We've not only seen the video repeatedly removed from online platforms, but now we have a slew of people online aggressively attacking it. They don't want you to see it, and in the emptiness of not being able to see it for yourself, they want to fill that gap with assurances that only crazies and loons would consider it at all.
There's a doctor on YouTube/Facebook who has a schtick of doing humorous videos for the medical community. He's funny initially (I used to watch his stuff on Facebook, particularly the Darth Vader bit), but after a while, unless you're mean-spirited, you can see his approach is mockery and belittlement of the "other" in whatever segment he's doing. It's wearying, and after a while, I stopped watching his stuff. That kind of comedy, where you call people names, and do all you can to reduce their reputation or stance in the eyes and ears of your own followers by making them out to be a joke, is the work of a weak mind. I did watch some of the video this guy put out to refute the Plandemic video, but after a while, I couldn't take the superiority and wink-wink "surely you viewers aren't these crazy conspiracy nut loons who would be so stupid to believe this, right" approach he uses.
Look at his comment below. "The conspiracy loons in the comments (laughing so hard I'm crying) PS for those with a non-zero attention span see also: (website with links to articles against Plandemic and Mikovits)
Do you see what he is doing?
"If you even dare consider what Mikovits said was legit, you are clearly crazy, you make me laugh at you, and I'm assuming you have zero attention span so you're probably not educated and maybe aren't able to read and comprehend much."
That's disgusting. And that's a sloppy, weak debate technique right out of the gate. Mockers defame and dehumanize their opponents to make themselves seem the rightful authority figure. Any peacock could do it.
I would daresay that many people who don't go along with Group Think aren't the ones unable to stop, read, consider. There are plenty who blindly follow the platformed experts without doing much of their own research, either. Yet they aren't called loony, stupid, and unable to comprehend. Has ZDoggMD read Mikovits' book, the one blurbed by MIT scientists and a Nobel Prize Laureate, and gone through her footnotes? If not, I'm not sure where he gets off hinting at other's alleged short attention spans.
Again, look for a pattern. The consistent censoring. The barrage of attacks. Is this doctor attacking a person, or ideas? And if it is ideas, does he have the experience or knowledge to refute them? Does he successfully defend his position against the whole of the ideas (the book and speeches included) or just a short 25 minute video (because of his short attention span)? Or does he rest most of his case on attacking the possible failures of a person and then appeal to authority (his, or linking to others who also do similar hit pieces, as if sheer number of supporting articles is enough)?
Remember, there are other opinions out there, and in significant numbers, but they don't get the "due process" i.e. the platform. Some are pulled down. Some are on wonky looking blogs without the slick sites and follower counts that you get when you're still goostepping with the accepted crowd. The reward is for those continuing to goosestep; it is easy for them to shout loud and long, because they are given the microphone without fear of losing a grant or reputation. If 1000 people scream a lie, it is not made true simply by nature of volume.
It's fine for him and others to disagree, to have different opinions, to make videos and write about it. But we have to watch out for mockery and reduced platforms of other ideas.