Willful Blindness

WillfulBlindnessby Jerry Richardson3/20/15
Is there such a phenomenon as willful blindness?  If so, what does it mean and what is its cause?  Most of us would probably confess to having been willfully blind at least a few times in our life, so we have some idea what it means; but it is difficult to describe in detail, and there are different varieties.

In the recent past, a legal concept of willful blindness has been developed by the courts.  A major occurrence of this concept was explained by Judge Simeon Lake to the jury in the Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay trial that resulted from the Enron financial fraud.  The legal concept hinges upon the notion that a defendant can be held responsible for not knowing something if he could have known and should have known something that instead he made an effort not to know.

Also there is the common every-day variety for which people attend psychological counseling: The unawareness-of or inattention-to destructive behavior in their personal lives.

But I’m interested in a variety of willful blindness that haunts everyday life on a collective scale, not the ad hoc pretend-blindness that is attempted when someone tries to avoid a loss in court due to neglect of reasonable duty.  I’m primarily interested in one particular variety that is endemic in our modern world: Ideological willful blindness.

Willful blindness is sometimes characterized as being, in simplest terms, self-deception. But what does that mean? How does it work?  How is it possible for a conscious, self-aware being to actually self-deceive?  These questions have been asked numerous times, in retrospect, about Neville Chamberlain and his obvious duping by Adolph Hitler. Lately many of us have asked these same questions concerning some politicians in regard to terrorism.  How can anyone seriously believe that the terrorist-state of Iran, or any other avowed group of terrorists, will negotiate in good faith?

It is easy enough to say in a truthful, but dismissive way, that self-deception is simply the act of fooling ourselves into believing something that is not true, or not believing something that is true.  But it is more than that.  In the movie A Few Good Men Jack Nicholson in his role as Colonel Nathan R. Jessep made a comment to the military prosecutor, Lt. Daniel Alistair Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) that is very apropos to our discussion: “You can’t handle the truth”!  For a variety of reasons, that statement applies to many people in today’s world when they—sometimes us—are unwilling to deal with the painful truths of reality.  There seems to be more to self-deception than simply fooling ourselves; there seems to often be an actual fear of the truth.

But how is it possible for highly intelligent people, scientists or professional scholars, to fool themselves into accepting a falsehood for truth in a supposed serious search for truth?

There is a simple but not very flattering answer.  Even very smart people are not immune to prioritizing their own vested-interest.  What seems to be a search for truth may in fact be an attempt to prove or support a vested-interest belief or assumption that has been accepted a priori as “the” truth by someone or some group.

When we examine the promoters of a highly politicized ideology such as the global-warming thesis, it is difficult to determine who is displaying what traits; who is displaying ideological willful blindness; who is, due to vested-interest, trying to protect research careers and reputations; who is simply being a con-artist in order to profit; and who is too uniformed or unconcerned to understand the issues. With an ideology we are often dealing with a broad potential mixture of deception and self-deception.

But why should we have a personal concern about self-deception?

Whether we admit it or not; we live-out our “truth”; if that “truth” happens to be a lie, then our life becomes a living lie. And the most spiritually and psychologically damaging lies will be the ones that we are unaware of, or perhaps vaguely-aware of; we will not only live the lies ourselves, we will teach them to others. All of this is true, but it does not give us insight into the actual mental-operations involved.  How does self-deception actually play-out in the mind?  I have not been able to find such descriptions, so I’ll have to paint the picture as I think it is with my own words.

However it works (mechanism not results), self-deception has been around for a long time.  Many students of the Bible believe that self-deception began with Lucifer (Satan) and that both the activity and the results of self-deception are inherently destructive and evil. I share that belief.

As to the how of the mechanism, it seems to be sort of like a child’s game of peek-a-boo played in your mind with truth; now you see me; now you don’t; or rather, now I think it; now I won’t.

Willful Blindness certainly pertains to intentionally-ignored concepts of reality.

However the level of awareness of this blindness does not seem to be a single-valued perception; the awareness appears to operate on a continuum, depending upon the person and the situation, ranging from total-unawareness up to total-awareness: An intentional strategy for the deception of others.

But ignored concepts are likely to linger.  One of Sigmund Freud’s proverbs was that “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” 

Hence the often vehement anger when willful blindness is challenged. The anger undoubtedly results from activating the internal inhibitions.  I think people get angry about concepts that they fear are candidates for truth; fearing that those concepts may undermine vested-beliefs and up-end a comfortable worldview. Why do you think Al Gore gets furious when his “inconvenient truths” are challenged?  All of us do love our comfort zones.

I think the mechanism for willful blindness has to be similar to the mental balancing-act referred to by many people as compartmentalization.   President Bill Clinton’s actions made this term and the concept familiar when he was seemingly able to put aside his emotions and thoughts relative to his misbehaviors with Monica Lewinsky and numerous other women; all the while remaining as President and remaining married to Hillary.

Also I think it must be similar to what is known as dissonance reduction. That term comes from a psychological theory that states that people seek consistency between their expectations and their reality.  They seek to reduce conflict between their thoughts and actions.  If there is great cognitive dissonance (mental conflict) and if a person cannot or will not adjust their actions, then some of their concepts or beliefs will have to be ignored or compartmentalized or anesthetized (brainwashing) to achieve consistency between thoughts and actions.

The concepts of Compartmentalization, dissonance reduction, and brainwashing can be viewed as similar or perhaps part of the same mental-mechanism as that which enables willful blindness which conceptually can be equated to a nifty term used by George Orwell:  Doublethink, found in his novel 1984.

Winston [‘s]…mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies…to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again…
Orwell, George (1983-10-17). 1984 (pp. 88-89). Kindle Edition.

Willful Blindness begins with a false belief; it might be the belief of a lie or an innocent untruth or just an unrealistic assumption.  I believe that the impetus for these beliefs is mostly outside of the person who is blinded; hence the evil effect of propaganda.  However, a tight-grip on a false belief is maintained and continued by lack of corrective self-judgment.  Although these two activities (one of commission the other of omission) are dissimilar, they are in fact both associated with avoidance of reality and truth.

Willful blindness is hurtful and dangerous to those who get in its way; and also to the perpetrator by way of long-term spiritual damage—it violates deeply our operational design. I firmly believe that human beings are designed and created to operate with truth:

…in respect of human rationality itself, like also begets like, and the reason that our cognitive faculties are capable of perceiving truth and reasoning correctly is that they too— when functioning properly in their intended environment— operate as intelligently designed systems that have the formation of true beliefs as their purpose. Only under such conditions does our unspoken faith in human reason make sense.
Gordon, Bruce; Dembski, William (2014-04-29). The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Kindle Locations 559-563). Kindle Edition.

Regardless of the point of origin of false beliefs, willful blindness is basically parasitic; it depends upon the host for its survival. Honest examination of our actions and the beliefs and assumptions that drive those actions is the type of self-judgment that is required to counter it.

One of the most misunderstood and perverted scriptures in the entire New Testament is Jesus’ teaching that deals with judging the behavior of others.  Whenever someone is openly critical of another person’s behavior, words or actions, how often have you heard the following admonition?

Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Matthew 7:1 KJV

There could hardly be a worse ripping of scripture out of context when this verse is misused, stand-alone, to rebuke criticism. The context that is missing is the necessary conclusion to the thought that Jesus was expressing, found four verses later:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:5 KJV

To be a fair and impartial judge of others requires thoughtful and honest self-judgment; and the sinful behavior that the verse above highlights is not the proper judging of others, it is the self-righteous, self-deceiving smugness called hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy can begin with self-deception regarding our own true motives for doing something; and if unchecked, it can grow into a full-blown state of “semi-unconscious intransigence of willful blindness” (Brad Nelson).  Jesus reserved some of his most harsh criticism for the hypocrisy of the learned scribes (lawyers) and Pharisees (religious teachers).

Scott Peck, M.D. in his gripping book, PEOPLE OF THE LIE, stated that “…the central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it”; an apt comment on the hypocrisy rebuked by Jesus in the above quoted verses.

I believe that we can, with scriptural justification, consider hypocrisy to be a proxy for willful blindness.

Probably the most repeated complaint concerning much of the news media today is the rank hypocrisy—double-standards—used in TV interviews, commentaries, and written articles where the not-so-subtle purpose is to criticize the ideologically-based actions of opponents without as much as a mention of the similar or worse actions of friends.   Is it not easy to watch these programs and marvel at the obviousness of their willful blindness?

Media and educational propaganda have been the primary points of origin for much of the deceit behind ideological willful blindness.

To me the most disturbing portion of modern propaganda is not the media’s, as bad as it is; the most disturbing has been the increasing politicalization of almost all USA university curriculums. I think that collectively, Conservatives are being short-sighted in their lack of concentrated concern for this damaging area of progressive-hegemony.  It is not unusual to hear Conservative commentators or Conservative members of Congress chastise the media for their one-sidedness; but how often do you see on TV or read of efforts to restore sanity, in academic studies, to our universities?

One of several people who engage in this arena is David Horowitz.  He wrote a book (2010) about a campaign that he began in 2003 to restore academic standards to America’s universities.  His efforts have been criticized or ignored by the left (he was once one of them) which is understandable; but where are the voices of Conservatives on this critical issue?  Why is Horowitz like a “voice crying in the wilderness”?  Why is Horowitz’ type of campaign so desperately needed?  Here is a good summarizing statement, from Horowitz, of the academic situation in our USA universities:

The new academic orthodoxies teach that America is an oppressive society governed by hierarchies that are “racist,”“sexist,” and “classist.” Far from being academic in the dictionary sense of “theoretical” and “not leading to a decision or practice,” the new curriculum is designed to provide cultural support for doctrines that are sectarian and political and that have immediate practical implications. Engagement in political activism is often incorporated directly into the lesson plan.

For example, a course description at the University of California Santa Cruz explains, “The goal of this seminar is to learn how to organize a revolution.” The character of the revolution is then specified as “anti-capitalist” and “anti-racist,” and the only texts provided are those that articulate and support these specific revolutionary agendas. No skeptical examination of revolution or of the critics of capitalism or of the left-wing perspectives on racism presented in the course is incorporated into its syllabus.
Horowitz, David (2010-08-10). Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign For An Academic Bill Of Rights . (Location 114-125) Kindle Edition.

Meanwhile, propaganda efforts from the left increase in the USA; and so does ideological willful blindness.

© 2015, Jerry Richardson • (3205 views)

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54 Responses to Willful Blindness

  1. Jerry — excellent discussion and one I’ve been having with myself a lot. How do we account for all the nonsense that people glom onto these days? I believe that all of us have a drive to believe — something. After all faith is the way we learn most of what we learn. Our moms tell us that 4-wheeled thing in the driveway is a car and we don’t ask for proof. Our teacher tells us that George Washington was our first president, and though this is not exactly true, we buy it. We are set up to believe.

    The problem comes when we reject the truth. I suspect that opens a whole Pandora’s box of horrors. A vacuum will fill with whatever is handy. Today it’s the leftist propaganda, the Darwinist fanaticism, the holier-than-thou environmentalism that’s handy. Whoosh, it fills the void and refuses to leave, regardless of what new information to the contrary shows up. I’ve watched people’s eyes just glaze over as their souls go into hiding when I presented some piece of truth.

    I thought your reference to “People of the Lie” was apt. I can’t remember reading a book more chilling than that one. I remember the one case of the parents who, for Christmas, gave the younger brother the rifle his older brother had killed himself with. Who does that? What was the message, “Your turn?” Anyway, enjoyed your essay. Thanks. d

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    There are basically 3 different groups here. One is the ideologically blinded, and a closely related group is those who are simply ignorant. It can be hard to tell one from the other, except to say that those who (at least theoretically) study the issues enough but fail to see the truth are more likely to be blinded by ideology and ignorance. The 3rd group is the frauds, and one easy way to tell them is by the fact that they ignore their own alleged principles. In that sense, the Goracle is not truly a zealot, but a dedicated con man. (But after all, he was a politician.) As Glenn Reynolds said of many alarmists, “I’ll believe this is a serious problem when the people who claim it’s a serious problem act like it’s a serious problem.” Most don’t.

  3. Jerry Richardson says:

    Deana,

    The problem comes when we reject the truth. —Deana

    Exactly. There are two sides to being willfully blind. In order to accept a lie or falsehood, one has to reject the truth.

    “People of the Lie”…gave the younger brother the rifle his older brother had killed himself with. Who does that? —Deana

    It is one of those books that I have read and marked, reread and remarked at least three times. It is a chilling, descriptive look at evil and psychopathy by an M.D. who dealt with it up-close. Yes, one of the sets of parents Scott Peck treated gave their son, for Christmas, his brother’s suicide weapon. “Not any gun. That particular gun.”

    Peck points out a number of characteristics of evil. One that has been particularly evident in modern times is “scapegoating”:

    A predominant characteristic, however, of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection. —M. Scott Peck

    Sound like anyone we know?

    Thanks for your excellent comments!

  4. Jerry Richardson says:

    Timothy,

    One is the ideologically blinded, and a closely related group is those who are simply ignorant. —Timothy Lane

    In my opinion, you have pointed-out the coalition that Progressives cultivate and depend-upon the most for their votes and support. Also, I agree with your assessment of Al Gore, “the Goracle is not truly a zealot, but a dedicated con man.”
    But as irritating as this class of deceiver is I don’t think it is nearly as dangerous as the coalition of don’t know and don’t want to know.

    Thanks for you spot-on comments!

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Incidentally, I was reading in Conservative Chronicle an article by David Limbaugh about Barry Screwtape Obama’s self-professed ignorance of all his Gang’s scandals until he reads about them in the newspapers. In some cases (such as Fast & Furious) this might even be true — he may well have known about the general plans, but not the specifics (and especially the dire results, though whether they were dire by Obama Gang standards is another matter). But eventually such blindness, particularly on major Gang projects, is clearly deliberate — though in this case for corrupt rather than ideological motives.

  5. Jerry Richardson says:

    Patrick Moore highlights a common route to willful blindness, conflict of interest; what I labeled in my article as vested-interest.

    By its constitution, the IPCC has a hopeless conflict of interest. Its mandate is to consider only the human causes of global warming, not the many natural causes changing the climate for billions of years. We don’t understand the natural causes of climate change any more than we know if humans are part of the cause at present. If the IPCC did not find humans were the cause of warming, or if it found warming would be more positive than negative, there would be no need for the IPCC under its present mandate. To survive, it must find on the side of the apocalypse.

    The IPCC should either have its mandate expanded to include all causes of climate change, or it should be dismantled.
    —Patrick Moore

    Why I am a Climate Change Skeptic

    This is an excellent illustration of vested-interest (“conflict of interest”) in so-called climate-science from a very high-powered thinker.

    Patrick Moore, Ph.D was a cofounded and leader of Greenpeace for 15 years; but he no longer sees eye-to-eye with them on “global warming,” aka “climate change.”

  6. Jerry Richardson says:

    Jay Leno highlights another common environment for willful blindness, the mindless, robotic world of political correctness (PC).

    College kids now are so politically correct. I mean, to the point where — I’ll give you an example, we had interns at the show, college interns. Like, the last year of the show, one of the interns comes and says, ‘Mr. Leno, I’m getting lunch. what do you want?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, where are you going?’ He said, ‘we’re getting Mexican.’ i said, ‘I don’t really like Mexican.’ He goes, ‘whoa, that’s kind of racist.’ That’s not racist. No, being anti-guacamole is not racist, okay? You have no idea what racism is. That’s not racist, you idiot, you moron” Leno stated.
    —Jay Leno

    Leno: College Kids are now so Politically Correct

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Note that there have also been cases (on college campuses, of course) where parties that used aspects of Mexican culture were denounced as racist because they were in effect stealing that culture. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t — the perfect situation for the politically correct, given that the goal (as Floyd Ferriss let slip to Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged) is to make people feel guilty.

  7. Jerry Richardson says:

    The 2014 willful blindness award should probably go to the groups associated with the Ferguson riots who started and promoted the Hands-up, Don’t shoot lie.

    How much more evidence could possibly be needed or provided to allow a person who is willing to exercise even a modicum of self-judgment to correctly conclude that Hands up, Don’t shoot was based upon an outrageously, unreasonable fabrication—continually promoted by the media.

    MUST SEE VIDEO>>> Liberal Media, Democrats & Race Hustlers Responsible for Spreading “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” Myth [added comment: No, no, no it was not a myth, it was a LIE].

    The infamous “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” mantra was repeated often in the liberal media and by far left Democrats and committed race hustlers.

    But it was a myth [added comment: No, no, no it was not a myth, it was a LIE].

    According to a St. Louis County Grand Jury, the Holder DOJ and numerous witnesses Michael Brown was shot while charging Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson on August 9, 2014. he did not have his hands up. He had just robbed a store and assaulted a clerk.
    —Hands up, Don’t Shoot

    Hands up, Don’t Shoot

    For a description and discussion of all the major responsible (guilty) parties in the destructive Ferguson, Missouri, homemade-terrorism events, read my article:

    The Black-Victimology Coalition

    • Timothy Lane says:

      To be precise, “hands up, don’t shoot” was a myth based on a lie. The Brown accomplice who started the claim was lying (and had a past history of perjury to the police), and the synoptic media were willfully blind to the context because it suited their leftist agenda, but most of those repeating it probably really believed it was true. Their determination to continue believing it regardless of evidence is another matter.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Timothy,

        To be precise, “hands up, don’t shoot” was a myth based on a lie. —Timothy

        Actually, I don’t agree with your characterization of “precise” in this case. I considered my added comment (lie instead of myth) to be a matter of precision in the description of the Ferguson narrative.

        Years ago, when “myth” was used relative to some of the stories in the Bible, it meant a “traditional story accepted as history” without any necessary connotation of the narrative being false; a “myth” in that sense was considered a narrative that contained metaphorical truth usually about history.

        Secular word-smiths, especially those trying to discredit the Bible begin using the term “myth” to mean a false story; that meaning has pretty much taken hold; and the older possible meaning of the word is now often summarily ruled out.

        Of course a false-story is certainly the case with the Ferguson “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” narrative. But in my opinion the automatic use of the word “myth” as a synonym for “false story” serves to disqualify a perfectly good use of the word “myth” for a narrative that does tell metaphorical truth.

        So when it is clear in the context that we are talking about a “lie” and not a narrative that may be true, I prefer the simpler term of “lie” to the ambiguous—in my mind—term, “myth.”

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Also I think it must be similar to what is known as dissonance reduction. That term comes from a psychological theory that states that people seek consistency between their expectations and their reality.  They seek to reduce conflict between their thoughts and actions.

    I think that’s very much true, Jerry.

    One thing I think that connects many of the instances of willful blindness is willful ego. People really like the idea that they are knowledgable, and that those other guys over there across the tracks are the Troglodytes (not even quite yet knuckle-walkers) who are unsophisticated.

    Facts are said to be stubborn things. But facts have a difficult time competing with flattering self-conceptions. This is why I think a number of people don’t want to identify with conservatism. It’s been so badly maligned (often with little or no defense) by the right. It’s therefore tempting to just be a “classical liberal,” a “libertarian,” or perhaps a “centrist” or a “moderate.”

    One of the driving forces in our culture (perhaps this is true to some extent of any time) is to be thought cool. And it is uncool to be a conservative. And we all know that conservatives are anti-science. And we all know that Darwinism is true. Therefore the actual facts on the ground aren’t as important as the social factor, which is to be thought well of, to be cool, and to be amongst those who are “nice,” “tolerant,” and just all-around not the knuckle-draggers or the perennial scapegoats for every ill in society…conservatives (and Christians, and Jews, and capitalism, and heterosexuals, and men, and white people, and etc.).

    In day to day living, being amongst the “cool” people is far more important (and far easier to do) than being conversant with the facts. And if this set of facts (global warming, Darwinism, etc.) is labeled “cool,” that’s all you need to know. It’s cool, so it can’t be wrong.

    So I think much of what is behind willful blindness is that for people with the mindset previously described, there is no upside to facing facts, to considering other opinions. There is a lot invested in themselves as The Smarter People, The Golden Children, the New Prometheans.

    Admitting error is never a human pleasure. But changing one’s mind about something when it threatens to reduce your coolness factor makes it very easy to believe rubbish (willful blindness). The only question I have is if there is some Edgar Allan Poe like “thump…thump…thump” of a conscience inside these people. How blind are they really?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      This starts getting very close to C. S. Lewis’s concern (as illustrated in That Hideous Strength) about people seeking to belong to increasingly elite (and increasingly inner) circles. (Richard Purtill has a nice discussion of this, among many other things, in his study of Lewis and Tolkien, Lord of the Elves and Eldils).

  9. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    The only question I have is if there is some Edgar Allan Poe like “thump…thump…thump” of a conscience inside these people. How blind are they really?—Brad Nelson

    Yeah, I like the “Tell Tale Heart” also.

    This is exactly what puzzles me the most about willful blindness; I can’t quite shake the feeling that it is a pretense, however elaborate. And it is because I have a profound sense of respect for the power of conscience.

    But, I can’t quite buy-into a pretense explanation for willful blindness due to the sobering facts concerning psychopathy.

    “…a little less than 1 percent of the general population, or about 1 in 150 people, will meet criteria for psychopathy. However, the number of psychopaths in prison is much higher than in the community because psychopaths tend to get themselves in trouble with the law.
    —-
    Simply put, psychopaths lack conscience and empathy.
    —Kiehl Phd, Kent A. (2014-04-22). The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience (p. 35,37). Kindle Edition.

    The above book is an excellent read; it also is an excellent resource; mentions the names of other respected experts in the field of psychopathy; and provides psychopathy checklists. I am thinking of doing a follow-up to willful blindness on psychopathy.

    The other hold-up to me for a buy-in into a pretense theory of willful blindness is the teaching of scripture:

    Their moral understanding is darkened and their reasoning is beclouded. [They are] alienated (estranged, self-banished) from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the ignorance (the want of knowledge and perception, the willful blindness) that is deep-seated in them, due to their hardness of heart [to the insensitiveness of their moral nature].
    —Ephesians 4:18 AMP

    Thanks for your excellent comments!

  10. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    One of the driving forces in our culture (perhaps this is true to some extent of any time) is to be thought cool.
    —-
    In day to day living, being amongst the “cool” people is far more important (and far easier to do) than being conversant with the facts. And if this set of facts (global warming, Darwinism, etc.) is labeled “cool,” that’s all you need to know. It’s cool, so it can’t be wrong. —Brad Nelson

    Until you mentioned it, I hadn’t thought about the fact that the desire to be “cool” can easily place one in a position of being willfully blind. Duh! I should have thought of that. Thanks!

    Here’s a previous discussion of mine on “coolness”:

    INFLUENCE #2: Acceptance of “coolness”, by millennials, as indicative of ability or accomplishment

    I think it is impossible not to have noticed how often individual millennials have referred to President Obama as being “cool.” And it is for that reason that commentators, including myself, have referred to Barack Obama as President “Cool.”

    And the flip-side of that adulation was the absence of respect for McCain and Romney—they were “out-of-touch” or “too old.” So part of President Cool’s coolness has been his relative youth in comparison to the other candidates. But age alone cannot account for the perception of “coolness.”

    What is the essence of that coolness?

    We can thank Hollywood for most of it. In large measure Obama’s coolness so admired by millennials is a result of his becoming a Hollywood-mode “celebrity.” Obama achieved Hollywood-mode “celebrity” status by constantly hanging-out with “real” Hollywood celebrities, and by his completely unprecedented, numerous appearances on talk-shows:

    [October 25, 2012] “…President Obama most recently appeared on Wednesday’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” where he and the host chatted about superheroes, Donald Trump and the World Series. Obama is certainly no stranger to these types of chat-show forums, as he’s also appeared alongside Barbara Walters, David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey to discuss current events or simply share a laugh.”

    President Obama’s Many Talk Show Appearances

    So, Coolness from the Hollywood perspective, and make no mistake this is primarily where it comes from, is much like beauty; it is in the eye of the beholder. It is a perception. But the perception must contain a few essential ingredients. And those ingredients are superficial and surface ingredients—you can forget about character or any other inner-qualities such as that.

    A note on the word “cool” found in the New Oxford American Dictionary says:

    “As is often the fate of popular slang, the word itself became ‘uncool’ for a couple of decades, before reclaiming its place as a favorite way of expressing positive feelings (there is some really cool stuff going on at some of these companies | winning awards is such a cool thing) or agreement (if you want to use mine, that’s cool).”

    Why of course, with coolness, we enter the brave un-new world of feelings.
    But coolness is not dangerous, IMO, just because it is an expression (of approval) concerning how you feel toward someone or something. No, I claim, that celebrity-mode coolness is dangerous because it is so often and so easily taken as an indicator of ability. Think about it for a moment:

    Many super-cool characters (actors) in TV and the movies are virtually always portrayed as extremely smart, efficient, and capable at whatever they really want to do. They are also usually very cool about it; they are “laid-back”, relaxed and joking even in the midst of life-and-death crises. They are often detached and unemotional about some endeavor that would be, anywhere but on the silver-screen, extremely difficult to carry out. But they do, most often, carry out the endeavor—think James Bond—without as much as even mussing-up their well-coiffured hair.

    I submit that, in the manner I have described, many millennials, without realizing their terribly-false assumption, view coolness as equivalent to ability. Hence, Barack Obama because he was viewed by many millennials as cool was automatically believed to be very intelligent (“the most intelligent President evah”) and to possess outstanding ability—for what?—for anything, including being President of the USA.

    The Scam that is Obama

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Note that the editor of Time, in explaining why they named Obama their 2012 Man of the Year, pointed out that he had succeeded in getting the low-information voters overwhelmingly on his side, instead of roughly splitting between the two candidates. Without that, he would have lost. I doubt it quite occurred to him what this really meant, but it reflects how many young voters support him because he’s “cool”. That’s why he prefers late-might TV (especially the hip hosts) over serious interviews.

  11. Jerry Richardson says:

    Timothy,

    …but it reflects how many young voters support him because he’s “cool”. That’s why he prefers late-might TV (especially the hip hosts) over serious interviews.—Timothy Lane

    Good point! Any idea of the comparison of “serious interviews” or lack thereof from this President as compared to most Presidents in the past? It’s pretty obvious that appearance on late-night talks shows has never been very big with serious Presidents.

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I just watched a wonderful example of willful blindness in the old detective show, Columbo. The episode is titled “Dead Weight” and guest stars Eddie Albert as the murderer, and an adorable and gorgeous 34-year-old Suzanne Pleshette as the innocent bystander. This was just prior to the premier of “The Bob Newhart Show” in 1972.

    All Columbo episodes are formulaic, and this one is no different. But this one does provide somewhat of an interesting twist: Pleshette is out boating when she sees from her boat, which is just offshore, inside a house on the shoreline where a man in a bathrobe (Albert) shoots a man in a military uniform. There is actually a witness, and a cute and vivacious one at that.

    This is no small accusation by Pleshette because Albert plays a Patton-like character who is known and revered by most. Even Columbo doesn’t initially believe her story. But despite everyone doubting her, she is sure of what she saw.

    Albert gets wind of this witness and eventually finds her. He shows up at Pleshette’s home one night, but not to kill her (as you suppose will happen). He’s in suit-and-tie and introduces himself, trying to dispel the notion that he could ever be the murdering man she said she saw. Pleshette begins to fall under his spell. He wines and dines her, even taking her out in his boat to view his house from offshore (I still thought he might throw her overboard at this point) to show how what she saw was likely just a trick of the light.

    Soon she’s telling Columbo that she didn’t see a thing. She’s fallen for Albert, hook, line, and sinker. One might say “It’s just a TV show.” But I think it illustrates a real phenomenon. It suddenly became advantageous for Pleshette to believe one thing instead of another, so she rationalized her beliefs. There’s nothing particularly controversial about this idea. We see people doing it all the time.

    And perhaps that’s what is behind most forms of willful blindness. The human mind is capable of stupendous feats of rationalization. And we do so because we don’t like to think of ourselves as liars, schemers, manipulators, etc. So we rationalize. We lie to ourselves. There’s likely even a strong biological mechanism that helps this along.

    But I don’t know if willful blindness covers most instances of intransigence or ideological narrow-mindedness. Surely many people just haven’t heard all sides of a story. But it’s those subtle “what’s in it for me” factors that likely make it very easy for people to remain on just one side of the story. Broadening your knowledge on some subject may cause you to lose something else. And a bird in the hand is usually still worth two in the bush. And if you’ve been told that the other side is just a bunch of deceitful propagandizers, you have all the more reason to ignore contrary facts and opinions. This is a central aspect of how cults are held together. And this is surely why a cult-like mindset erupts from those who have narrowed themselves to just one side. They are defensive, and for a reason. They need to keep their game of self-deception going.

    So I’ve got to hand it to that old Columbo series. As formulaic as it was, in this instance I think they hit on an objective truth. Eventually Columbo gets his man. And Pleshette is there when he does. And only upon Albert’s admission that his famous pearl-handled gun was the murder weapon did she finally understand she’d been taken. (And as Patton noted, only a pimp would have pearl-handled guns. His were made of ivory.)

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Checking that episode (which I don’t recall seeing) in The Columbo Philes by Mark Dawidziak, I find that he didn’t consider it a great episode due to a few logic lapses (including the idea that a .45 wouldn’t leave a big mess behind). This was the 5th episode (the first being the pilot, with Gene Barry as a murderous psychiatrist).

      Thinking of “formulaic”, one might note that the particular formula of the series was the somewhat unusual inverted mystery, the invention of which is credited to R. Austin Freeman in his Dr. Thorndyke story “The Singing Bone” (and several other Thorndyke stories, including the superb novel Mr. Pottermack’s Oversight). In addition, Dawidziak mentions that the trademark “one more thing” came from their laziness: having written a scene in which Columbo interviewed the killer, they realized there was another question he needed to ask — and rather than rewrite the scene (or a large part of it), they just added it on.

      Incidentally, Isaac Asimov foreshadowed Columbo in the police detective of his excellent novel A Whiff of Death. He later worried that if he reprinted the novel, people would think the detective was based on Columbo even though the novel came out long before the show.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The Columbo Phile: A Casebook by Mark Dawidziak, I find that he didn’t consider it a great episode due to a few logic lapses (including the idea that a .45 wouldn’t leave a big mess behind).

        I’d never heard of that book. Sounds interesting. And for whatever odd reason, I’ve been watching a lot of Columbo episodes lately. Regarding “Dead Weight,” I would find it hard to rate these episodes. They all tend to be pretty much the same. What tends to make one episode sparkle, rather than another, are the guest stars. And Pleshette and Albert were very good in this regard. I saw a rapport with Pleshette that I haven’t often seen from Falk.

        But I wouldn’t rate it down for the gun because any mess it might have made is irrelevant. Albert had plenty of time to clean up. And this was before the days when some CSI agent was spraying that mist that revealed even minute traces of blood. A criminal could presumably get away with a bit more in 1971.

        Many of these episodes are quite painful to watch. The criminals almost unerringly go out of their way to incriminate themselves. One episode that did stand out because the writing was not so ham-fisted was the one with Richard Basehart and Honor Blackman as the bad guys: “Dagger of the Mind”.

        Where this Columbo stands above the typically trite formula of the others (although I admit to generally liking that trite formula because of Falk’s character) is that the murder isn’t planned. It’s accidental. Of all things, Honor Blackman throws a jar of cold cream in the general direction of the victim (who, I think, is scuffling with Basehart at the time) and accidentally kills him.

        So instead of trying to concoct the perfect murder (no one ever does), they must come up with an ad hoc plan to cover it up. And Basehart is terrific in his Shakespearean character. He’s just short of actual ham. He plays it well. And this episode doubles as a travelogue of London as Columbo visits as many of the iconic sites as he can.

        The only drawback, at least for our immediate purposes here, is there is no willful blindness on display. I’ll have to check out the Asimov novel when I get back into sci-fi again.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Dawidziak notes that “The Dagger of the Mind” was also a first-year Star Trek episode (totally unrelated, of course, except for the coincidence of title), which I noticed (as I was looking up “Dead Weight”) because of that coincidence.

          Incidentally, Dawidziak points out the relative importance of plot vs. character (of detective) at one point. He notes that Banacek had superb plots whereas Magnum PI had a beloved character — and the latter was far more popular. He argues that Columbo rates well in both respects.

          Although Asimov wrote many SF mysteries, A Whiff of Death isn’t one of them, though the protagonist is a chemistry professor (and one of his students is the victim).

  13. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    And perhaps that’s what is behind most forms of willful blindness. The human mind is capable of stupendous feats of rationalization. And we do so because we don’t like to think of ourselves as liars, schemers, manipulators, etc. So we rationalize. We lie to ourselves. There’s likely even a strong biological mechanism that helps this along. —Brad Nelson

    And perhaps some people strongly need to believe that they are part of some esoteric-scene, that makes them special, and is much bigger than themselves? After all, biblically this was pretty-much what was going on with Gnosticism.

    Strong beliefs can make a person willfully blind. This is especially true with beliefs that people think have a proper biblical connection, such as end-time (eschatology) prophecies.

    A prime example is the currently proclaimed, by some, biblical-importance of the so-called Four Blood Moons. I do not believe that the people promoting this narrative have any conscious intent of intentionally deceiving others. But I do think that they are deceiving themselves.

    The exemplarily and silly example of Harold Camping should serve as an example to all, especially Christians, to be very skeptical of self-appointed prophets or self-appointed revealers of “important” “new revelation” from God:

    Camping is notable for issuing multiple failed predictions of dates for the End Times, which temporarily gained him a global following and millions of dollars of donations.

    Camping predicted that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on May 21, 2011, whereupon the saved would be taken up to heaven in the rapture, and that there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011, with the final destruction of the world. He had previously predicted that Judgment Day would occur on or about September 6, 1994
    —-
    After May 21 passed without the predicted incidents, Camping said he believed that a “spiritual” judgment had occurred on that date, and that the physical Rapture would occur on October 21, 2011, simultaneously with the final destruction of the universe by God.

    Harold Camping

    I have no way of knowing, but I don’t believe that Harold Camping was an intentional con-artist. I do firmly believe that he was willfully blind and I firmly believe that he and people like him, for whatever ego-driven reasons, desperately desire to be recognized as prophets of God—of course that would make one special. The result is that they hurt, not help; they hurt the cause of Christ.

    Bona fide prophets of God as described in the Bible always had two recognizable qualities: 1) They, other than Jesus Christ, were usually reluctant to take-on the job of being a prophet and for understandable reasons—study the reluctance and mistreatment dished out to Jeremiah, study the reluctance of Jonah—and even Jesus displayed understandable human reluctance in the Garden of Gethsemane; and 2) The prophecies they made were always characterized by the foretelling of specific events and details and by the fact that the events prophesied along with the details always came true—this is the biblical-test for true prophesy.

    Any self-appointed prophet that does not fit the pattern of the above two characteristics should be ignored and avoided; or at least should be treated with extreme skepticism. Modern day, self-appointed prophets don’t seem in the least reluctant; they seem intent upon taking on a prophecy-job—it becomes a campaign, often very profitable—and then if and when they make specific predictions, such as did Harold Camping, they are inevitably shown to have been promoting error, to the amusement and disservice of unbelievers.

    When we listen-to or read would-be prophets or quasi-prophets, such as John Hagee and Mark Biltz, we find that they will state, at least once or maybe several times somewhere, that they are not offering prophesy; sure, but there is a problem with their rhetoric: They don’t make sure there is no misunderstanding in the minds of people who listen to them; they don’t spend time carefully explaining and teaching the difference between what a true prophet does and what they are doing—instead we see men who appear eager for a spotlight, eager for the job of somehow prognosticating about the future if not prophesying it; and their pronouncements are made in very general and vague terms, not in testable specifics—that’s their out if they can’t claim later that something important happened. Again, I don’t think either of the two men I have mentioned is intentionally trying to deceive others, but I do believe that they are willfully blind concerning what they are promoting.

    Whatever these men may seem to be advocating or promoting, you can be sure that it is not biblically-aligned and biblically-testable prophecy.

    For more details, see my article on Blood Moons:

    Blood Moons

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      And perhaps some people strongly need to believe that they are part of some esoteric-scene, that makes them special, and is much bigger than themselves? After all, biblically this was pretty-much what was going on with Gnosticism.

      I agree, Jerry. And I suppose there’s a good and a bad way to feel a part of something bigger. Also, I ran into a very interesting book the other day: A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature. This is a superb book (so far). I’m only 25% into it, but if I stopped reading it now, I will have gotten my money’s worth.

      First, to your point. And I couldn’t help thinking of libertarians and Paulbots when I read this. This is somewhat out of context but I think the gist of it will come through. Here the authors are talking about materialists. But the authors elsewhere (not in this quote) also acknowledge (mea culpa as I read this regarding a number of things) just how much of this materialist philosophy has threaded its way into the culture, often being unknowingly soaked up:

      In their attempt to master everything, they deny anything that exceeds their grasp. They lose the meaningful whole. If that’s lucidity, then it is a kind of mad lucidity.

      A century ago, G. K. Chesterton described the materialist in very much these terms, one who has become less than human by binding everything by the chains of his own cramped circle of logic:

      Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic’s theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way.36

      So also with the materialist. “As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity,” continues Chesterton. “It has the quality of the madman’s argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out.

      This is what Mr. Kung has often said is the peril of over-simplification. Actually, any of us threaten to do that when we pluck anything out of context and examine it with a microscope. The authors note that this can be a useful technique. But if we forget the overall context, we’re very likely to say a lot of gibberish about the thing.

      Libertarians, for instance, will tell you how all the nasties of today are due to Lincoln and the Civil War. Or the Federal Reserve. It’s a short list. And it’s not that there aren’t various contributing factors (there always are). It’s this blind (willful or otherwise) desire to master everything, and then deny that which exceeds their grasp.

      I’ve sat face-to-face with more than one libertarian who said that all we have to do with Iran is trade with them. And I would say, “Yeah, but what about their financing of terror, their statement that they wish to push Israel in to the sea, and other realities?” They just won’t hear a word of it. And now I understand at least how to talk about this intransigence, this willful blindness. It’s as these authors (and Chesterton…geez, when isn’t this guy relevant?) said.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Thanks for the book tip. Just got my Kindle copy. If you keep suggesting books, I’m gonna go broke. 🙂

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Me too. But, geez, the sample port of it is so outstanding. I’ll do a Bookshelf entry for it and talk about it more when I perhaps get a little further along. Like a good movie at the start, it could flame out. But this is such a comprehensive (not to be confused with dense or complicated) look at this whole political/social subject that it has a ring of truth rarely seen in a similar book. And this also artfully uses art (Shakespeare, in the chapters I’ve read) to make its point. And it does so so well, darned if I don’t feel determined to pick up a copy of Hamlet or The Tempest. If Glenn the Greater is lurking, he should read this, although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he has already.

  14. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    But I don’t know if willful blindness covers most instances of intransigence or ideological narrow-mindedness. Surely many people just haven’t heard all sides of a story. —Brad Nelson

    I think this has to be true.

    Timothy pointed it out, relative to my categories, in one of his comments:

    One is the ideologically blinded, and a closely related group is those who are simply ignorant. —Timothy Lane

    And here was my response:

    In my opinion, you have pointed-out the coalition that Progressives cultivate and depend-upon the most for their votes and support. Also, I agree with your assessment of Al Gore, “the Goracle is not truly a zealot, but a dedicated con man.”

    But as irritating as this class of deceiver is I don’t think it is nearly as dangerous as the coalition of don’t know and don’t want to know.—Jerry R.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Timothy pointed it out, relative to my categories, in one of his comments:

      Indeed, it’s likely true if Timothy said it. 😀 (I’m just pulling his leg.)

      But I do think there is an overall cause, a basic seed, that has grown weeds in a myriad of ways. Again, let me quote from A Meaningful World which I’m reading just now:

      We have fallen down the rabbit hole of unmeaning and had better take our bearings. Many springs and rivulets feed the great river of materialism/ relativism/nihilism, but since the Victorian era, its principal tributaries are Freudianism, Marxism and, above these, Darwinism.

      As we discussed, if one presupposes that Sigmund Freud was correct, then everything in Shakespeare must be reduced to two motives, the fear of death and the desire for sex, no matter how elevated and removed from either it may appear. If we presuppose that Karl Marx was correct, then everything in Shakespeare can be reduced to the pushings and shovings of human beings variously related to the material modes of production, caught and defined in every thought and deed by the shaping force of class struggle.

      Finally, if we presuppose that Charles Darwin was correct, then everything in Shakespeare must be reduced further still to the desire to survive and propagate, caused proximately by Shakespeare’s own desire to use his lucky genetic variations to attract the ladies with his flair for poetry (a more elaborate rendition of a male bird’s seductive mating call) and caused more distantly by some remote genetic ancestor, a primitive troubadour whose musical ululations, gibbered around a dying fire, skillfully wooed his audience of spellbound females. The most ruthlessly consistent and unsparing materialist will dissolve Shakespeare and his fellow geniuses to the pointless concatenations, writhings and bursts of matter and energy. In such a world, the genius is nothing more nor less than what the poet T. S. Eliot described in “The Hollow Men”:

      The stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw…. [Their] dried voices … quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass.6 This is a rabbit hole without whimsy or light.

      It’s probably over-simplifying it to say that this is a split between the theistic/materialist vision, for if anything, the theistic vision also includes Islam, for example. There’s theism and then there’s theism.

      But there’s little doubt that the glue holding (such as it ever nihilistically can) the other side together is materialism. And do we use the term “willful blindness” regarding conservatives? Generally not. It’s a human thing, of course, and can effect all people. But with a nod to Orwell, C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, and many others, the Left does it in spades. And it is the nature of their project. To reduce everything down (to explain-away) is to ultimately destroy something and to destroy any real meaning. All they have left then, of course, is just political meaning. And that kind of meaning is hollow. As these same authors write:

      A strong impetus behind all such readings-from Freud to Erickson to Tennenhouse-is the reductionist presupposition that humans are simply material creatures and that whatever may appear elevated and profound to us, whether it be Shakespeare’s plays or Shakespeare himself, must ultimately be reduced to the lowest urges.

      This is why it makes sense when I talk about being overrun by the “Vulgarians.” Look at Glenn (the Greater’s) recent blog post. It all comes together.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        So we’re back at “The Six Blind Men and the Elephant”. Each sees a portion of the truth and thinks that’s all there is. (Incidentally, the poet who came up with the most familiar modern version, John Saxe, also is credited with the observation that no one should see either laws or sausages being made. Incidentally, while I’ve never seen sausages being made, my grandfather once took us to see a pig being butchered that he had just killed on his farm.)

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          John Saxe, also is credited with the observation that no one should see either laws or sausages being made

          I always thought it was Otto von Bismarck who said that.

          Strangely, I saw a pig being slaughtered on a German farm. What a racket.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I’ve heard it associated with Bismarck too. I looked up the poem on Wikipedia, so the information comes from there. There could easily be more than one person who’s said that, or something very similar.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        To reduce everything down (to explain-away) is to ultimately destroy something and to destroy any real meaning

        The Lowest-Common-Denominator Principle which is the basis for too many institutions in our country. The success of this is seen in the results of things as varied as our education system to our government.

  15. Jerry Richardson says:

    Timothy,

    Incidentally, Isaac Asimov foreshadowed Columbo in the police detective of his excellent novel A Whiff of Death. —Timothy Lane

    Dostoyevsky also foreshadowed Columbo in Crime and Punishment with detective Porfiry who began to suspect and then dog Raskolnikov much as Columbo always did his suspects.

  16. Jerry Richardson says:

    Here’s a good example of how willful blindness develops due to ideology: It is forced.

    Traditional parenting is being drowned out by “gay rights sharia”, the respected journalist Charles Moore has said. Commenting on the recent spat between fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana and Elton John over the rights of gay parents to have children, Mr Moore opined that the holding of socially conservative views is now “teetering on the edge of criminality”.

    “gay rights sharia” … has been allowed to take hold. If you are gay, […] there are certain things you must believe. Nothing else is permitted under the “gay rights sharia.”

    Gay Rights Sharia has Silenced Common Sense

    But, it remains to be seen how well this forced willful blindness with stick:

    In a letter published by The Federalist, addressed to the gay community, Heather wrote: I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think.
    —-
    “Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.”

    Gay Rights Sharia has Silenced Common Sense

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Liberal ideology has long been at war with common sense. I suspect that sooner or later this will lead to the inevitable consequences — which is likely to be extremely bad for any society that has rejected good sense for liberalism, as Europe largely has and American increasingly is doing.

  17. Jerry Richardson says:

    All,

    To reduce everything down (to explain-away) is to ultimately destroy something and to destroy any real meaning. All they have left then, of course, is just political meaning. And that kind of meaning is hollow.

    As these same authors write:

    A strong impetus behind all such readings-from Freud to Erickson to Tennenhouse-is the reductionist presupposition that humans are simply material creatures and that whatever may appear elevated and profound to us, whether it be Shakespeare’s plays or Shakespeare himself, must ultimately be reduced to the lowest urges.

    This is why it makes sense when I talk about being overrun by the “Vulgarians.”
    —Brad Nelson

    The word “meaning” can have many meanings. One of those possible meanings is “design.” The book you (Brad) just recommended says this:

    Polonius’s problem isn’t seeing design where it doesn’t exist: his problem is failing to see design where it really is.

    —Benjamin Wiker; Jonathan Witt. A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature (Kindle Location 362). Kindle Edition.

    Funny how helpful a single good phrase can be. This phrase neatly captures both sides of the phenomenon of willful blindness. In my discussion of the Four Blood Moons, I believe that the promoters are “seeing design where it doesn’t exist.” However, when dealing with materialists and reductionists the problem appears to be their “failing to see design where it really is.”

    Both, of course, may constitute either willful blindness or simply ignorance.

    Now the question I’m left chewing on: Which is worse? Seeing something that isn’t there, or not seeing something that is there? I’m inclined to believe that not seeing something that is there is worse; but I’m not sure I have a knock-down argument for that. Off the top of my head I think that believing that I see a man-eating tiger when none is there is not potentially as serious as not seeing an actual man-eating tiger waiting to devour me.

    Your thoughts?

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Which is worse? Seeing something that isn’t there, or not seeing something that is there?

      I believe the premise of your question is overly simplistic. It is not an either/or problem. The answers to such questions depend on context and the facts particular to any given situation.

      Is the willful blindness in seeing a loving all helping and benign government which isn’t there any less dangerous than your tiger question?

      The effects of one false perception may occur more quickly than the other, but both are dangerous.

  18. Jerry Richardson says:

    KFZ,

    I believe the premise of your question is overly simplistic. It is not an either/or problem. The answers to such questions depend on context and the facts particular to any given situation.—KFZ

    Thanks Kung; of course your answer is absolutely correct. Most operational decisions in life are situational dependent. I realize I didn’t ask the question well. And I’m working to clearly define my puzzlement. I think I’m trying to figure out if there is any important differences in this there/not there situation other than the obvious binary opposition. Specifically any differences that might make one option more dangerous than another in some definable situation: For example when one is involved in an ideological belief, or some other example situation.

  19. Jerry Richardson says:

    I’m going to be on the lookout for people and/or organizations who deserve a willful blindness award. I will probably need some categories. Please join me in this search for well-deserving awardees.

    The 2015 Stubborn Facts Award for most demonstrated Willful Blindness in the category of

    1. World Leaders
    2. Democrat Politicians
    3. Republican Politicians
    4. Classical Newspapers
    5. TV Media including Cable
    6. Academic Progressives
    7. Academic Conservatives
    8. Progressives in Business
    9. Conservatives in Business
    10. Sports Broadcasters
    11. Professional Athletes
    12. Global Warming Alarmists

    ********************************************************************
    The 2015 Stubborn Facts Award for most demonstrated Willful Blindness in the category of Progressives in Business goes to

    The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz

    for his Willfully Blind assumption that issues of racism can be solved by having a bogus national conversation; Schultz has made an effort to start such a conversation by having his baristas (coffee makers) at 12,000 locations scribble Race Together on customer’s cups.
    ************************************************************************

    So, Howard, how’s that workin’ for ya?

    Washington (AFP) – Starbucks has halted its campaign to mix discussions of racism with its coffee after the initiative met with skepticism and sarcastic put-downs.
    —-
    Schultz last week had baristas serve coffee in cups bearing “Race Together” slogan to open the discussions, saying the United States needs a “new level of sensitivity, understanding around these issues.”
    Instead, the company’s senior vice president of global communications Corey duBrowa said he was inundated with such a “cascade of negativity” that he temporarily shut down his Twitter account last week.

    Many saw the initiative as a publicity stunt, and found irony in low-paid servers moderating a national debate on race.
    But Schultz said he hasn’t given up on the idea, insisting the initiative was “far from over.”
    “We have a number of planned Race Together activities in the weeks and months to come,” he said.

    Starbucks Halts Race Campaign

    There a sure indication of Willful Blindness when the blind person insists that his idiotic idea or action is “far from over.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The 2015 Stubborn Facts Award for most demonstrated Willful Blindness in the category of…

      Hahaha. I guess you just elected yourself as the official statistician. That goes along with Timothy who is our official librarian/historian.

      As for who is the most willfully blind of the bunch, it’s hard to beat the those in the Church of Global Warming. And one wonders if Howard Schultz is just willfully blind or another example of the emasculated male. Perhaps that’s just a quibble. I don’t really believe that Howard Shultz believes that writing stupid slogans on a coffee cup is the solution to world peace. It’s just throwing a bone to the politically correct Nazis. But I could be wrong. He could be dumb enough to actually believe this.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        Brad,

        Hahaha. I guess you just elected yourself as the official statistician. That goes along with Timothy who is our official librarian/historian.—Brad Nelson

        Well I figure there no replacement for a little initiative; besides I figured you could always un-elect me. 🙂

    • Timothy Lane says:

      As for the global warming alarmists, I propose Joel Achenbach for a 2015 Willful Blindness award for his National Geographic article attacking skepticism about science, which focused on global warming aka climate change aka climate disruption. Achenbach’s article (which I’ve cited negatively here previously) accepted the entire alarmist spin and showed no awareness that there is an actual case against it. Stephen Moore has a superb refutation of it available at this link:

      http://patriotpost.us/opinion/34088

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        ********************************************************************
        The 2015 Stubborn Facts Award for most demonstrated Willful Blindness in the category of Global Warming Alarmism goes to

        Joel Achenbach

        for his National Geographic article attacking skepticism about science, which focused on global warming aka climate change aka climate disruption. Achenbach’s article (cited by his sponsor Timothy Lane) accepted the entire alarmist spin and showed no awareness that there is an actual case against it.
        ************************************************************************

  20. Jerry Richardson says:

    It is well known by most thoughtful people that con-artists can be very persuasive in one-on-one interactions. Part of that persuasiveness is surely due, at times, to tone of voice.

    We’ve all heard the old phrase “sweet talking” used to describe the verbal act of a person trying to have their way. “Sweet talking” is more than just words, there must be accompanying and appropriate tone of voice to make the “sweet talk” effective.

    Willful Blindness can result from being deceived. Hence, Willful Blindness could result from interpreting, somewhat unconsciously, a soothing or pleasant tone of voice.

    What if a computer could interpret voice tone?

    Well, there are computer algorithms now that make that possible. But it is easy to see that there are some potential drawbacks here. Tone of voice is only one dimension of a person, and it cannot predict whether that person is honest or not.

    If you’re trying out for a job in sales, the person who judges your pitch may not be a person — it could be a computer.

    Job recruitment is the newest frontier in automated labor, where algorithms are choosing who’s the right fit to sell fast food or handle angry cable customers, by sizing up the human candidates’ voices.

    Let’s take a voice you know: Al Pacino. Think back to how he sounds in The Godfather, Devil’s Advocate, Scarface or this recent interview on Charlie Rose.

    The actor speaks with different accents, different emotions, different ages — and his range is stunning. But in every version, Pacino’s voice has a biological, inescapable fact.

    “His tone of voice generates engagement, emotional engagement with audiences,” says Luis Salazar, CEO of Jobaline. “It doesn’t matter if you’re screaming or not. That voice is engaging for the average American.”
    —-
    Through machine learning and multiple feedback loops, it keeps answering and homing in on Salazar’s question: “What is the emotion that that voice is going to generate on the listener?”

    So far, Salazar says, the Jobaline secret formula can pinpoint if a voice is engaging, calming, and/or trustworthy.

    Note: It’s not a lie detector test. You could be a big liar, but just sound like someone honest.

    Now Algorithms Are Deciding Whom to Hire, Based Upon Voice

    Notice the problem here? Consider: “You could be a big liar, but just sound like someone honest.”

    In our ever increasing automated-world, we now have the possibility that someone could place themselves in a position of being Willfully Blind simply because they relied upon an algorithmic evaluation of someone’s job-fit.

    I guess we could term this Computer-Caused Willful Blindness. 🙂

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Incidentally, anyone interested in the history of con games would find The Big Con by David Mauro worth reading. Mauro was a linquist who started out to study thieves’ argot, and it led him to study a related field. The book was a source not only for the movie The Sting (there really was a conman named Gondorff) but also Mission: Impossible (and probably also the short-lived TV series The Rogues). Mauro at some point taught at the University of Louisville. (Incidentally, if the real Gondorff had been doing The String, he would have been the guy at the telegraph office, that being the most important role in that particular con).

  21. Jerry Richardson says:

    ********************************************************************
    The 2015 Stubborn Facts Award for most demonstrated Willful Blindness in the category of Academic Progressives goes to

    Professor Chris Hamilton

    Hamilton is a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, where he is teaching students that Ted Cruz and racist Republicans are resurrecting discrimination in America. “The course curriculum [for the course, Politics of the 1960s to Now] obtained exclusively by Campus Reform, declares that Republicans are resurrecting “discrimination” and the “political battle over the Civil Rights laws,” and concludes that “racism” and “bigotries” in society are part of “ultra-right politics.”
    ************************************************************************

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Sounds like a good choice, but the problem is that a high percentage of college professors would qualify. Leftist bigotry is the norm in the liberal madrassas such as identity-group studies and humanities, very common in the social sciences, and frequent in the hard sciences and engineering.

  22. Jerry Richardson says:

    ********************************************************************
    The 2015 Stubborn Facts Award for most demonstrated Willful Blindness in the two concurrent categories of Democrat Politicians and Global Warming Alarmists goes to

    Virginia Representative Don Beyer

    “Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer [Virginia’s 8th District] repeated the claim that more than 7,000 Americans were killed by “climate change-fueled” natural disasters last year in an attempt to tie burning fossil fuels with extreme weather. The claim, however, is patently false, according to Politifact. It’s also a horribly misleading based on the data…Politifact took a close look at Beyer’s claim and rated it “false.” Beyer’s staff even admitted making an error in the claim, saying it should have referred to global deaths from natural disasters, and not just U.S. deaths. (The number cited by Beyer also includes earthquakes… which aren’t related to climate).”
    ***********************************************************************

  23. Jerry Richardson says:

    What is the willfully blind mistake that President Obama is on the brink of making with Iran? It is not just the probability of allowing Iran a path to a nuclear weapon; it is more fundamental than that.

    In the words of Natan Sharansky we have leaders, especially the President, who do not have “the moral clarity to see evil.” This is, of course, a glaring spiritual problem—a spiritual vacuum, that many recognized in Barack Obama even before he became President.

    The undeniable evidence of President Obama’s lack of “moral clarity” is the well-documented and frequently-noticed fact that the President and his administration are either incapable or unwilling to even call-out, by name, Islamic Terrorism —there could hardly be a clearer indication of a serious moral deficiency. How can anyone possible have “moral clarity” about something they will not or cannot even name?

    The huge literature on the Holocaust, and on Stalin’s mass murders a decade earlier, has largely revolved around a question and a slogan. The question is, “How could it have happened”? The slogan is, “Never again.” They are tied together by the assumption that if we can answer the question, we can ensure that such a thing will never happen again.
    —-
    …we seem still to suffer from Neville Chamberlain’s failure: Our leaders and our intellectuals cannot imagine people so different from our image of human nature.
    —-
    So we have to ask once again, why don’t we see evil when it’s right in front of our faces?
    —-
    …the great enterprise to understand “how could it have happened?” has failed. We have the facts, but we’re unwilling to admit their meaning, and act on it, which is why “never again” is an empty phrase, rendered thus by the daily events of our world.

    Natan Sharansky tells us that the basic lesson of his lifelong campaign for freedom is that for the oppressed in tyrannical countries, the primary challenge is finding the inner strength to confront evil; from those of us who live in free countries, the primary challenge is finding the moral clarity to see evil. We have a hard time reaching and sustaining that moral clarity.

    Just as the West insisted that we could deal peacefully with Hitler, just as we reassured ourselves that Stalin was a decent man and Soviet dictators were just like anybody else, so today our leaders refuse to recognize that other evil regimes are on the march.

    The clearest example is Iran, where an evil regime oppresses its people and wages war against us.

    —Michael A. Leden, ACCOMPLICE TO EVIL IRAN AND THE WAR AGAINST THE WEST , pp. 59, 62, 76

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A liberal is someone who goes to the Holocaust Museum to say “Never again” — then supports enabling Iran to exterminate the Israelis without seeing any contradiction between the two sentiments.

  24. Timothy Lane says:

    Apparently Josh the Not-Earnest is still insisting that Yemen was an example of the successes of the Obama Gang foreign policy. This leads to an interesting question: Is their Middle Eastern insanity a severe case of willful blindness — or deliberate treason?

    • Jerry Richardson says:

      Timothy,

      This leads to an interesting question: Is their Middle Eastern insanity a severe case of willful blindness — or deliberate treason?

      Yeah. That’s the 64 dollars question. However, in practically, if the blindness is extreme, as it is, it may not make much difference. And I’ll trade you this question: What sort of evidence would it take for Congress (both Democrat and Republican) to believe that Obama had committed deliberate treason?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The First Black President? It would require a synoptic media storm to force them to act, and that’s almost unimaginable. If Satan’s Spawn openly admitted that he was really out to help the jihadists and harm America, maybe then, but nothing short of that would work.

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