Monday, September 10, 2007

What pink elephant?

In law there is a concept known as "willful blindness". As its ordinary meaning would suggest, it refers to someone who engages in criminal (or civilly actionable) behavior where the malfeasor has good reason to suspect that his/her actions are wrong, but avoids looking far enough into the situation to determine this to a certainty in an attempt to shield themselves from liability while still engaging in the behavior and benefiting from it in some way.

An example would be where a person who is about to travel across a border is given a mysterious package, and told that if they deliver the package to the other side, they will be paid $1000. Instead of asking what is in the package, or looking for themselves, they decide to go ahead and deliver it. When caught at the border with a kilo of coke, the person can honestly claim that they didn't know what was in the package. (Hint to potential smugglers: this defense does not work, ever.)

I explain this because (of course) it appears to be the position of many of the less stupid defenders of our current government's terrible policies. In particular (of course), Iraq. This really only applies to the "less stupid", because the more stupid people truly do not have the mental acuity to know the things that make it evident that the policies are terrible. For example, as shown by this poll (scroll down to question 88), 33 percent of Americans "think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon". Yes, these are the stupid ones.

On the other hand, I have seen commenters on blogs, people who are clearly intelligent enough to read and write and think somewhat analytically, and who are in possession of or have access to a computer and an internet connection, who, despite the mountain of readily available evidence to the contrary, not only strenuously support the government's terrible Iraq policies, but also appear to support each and every one of the shaky, false, or transparently idiotic premises that such policies are built upon.

Given that these folks aren't stupid, this is clearly "willful blindness" at work. They don't want to know. Why? Well, there are various explanations I can think of, but the most likely seems to be that a person, having invested so much time, emotion, and mental resources in a particular idea, would suffer a devastating blow to his or her ego if he or she were forced to admit such a profound error to himself or herself.


bgirl said...

I often wondered how much energy these individuals expend trying to talk themselves back into believing the bullshit. It must take an awful lot.
Although, I think if you submerge yourself deep enough into the "cause," only watching certain news programs and only talking with like-minded people, it may be easier than I think?

bgirl said...

There I go commenting on one post before reading the next - your NEXT post more succintly explores what I was rambling about...the head in the sand theory.