I think I'm figuring out why I have such trouble with certain social aspects.
Consider Milgram's experiments on authority - in a nutshell, test subjects were induced to give what they believed to be highly painful (and if they were real, potentially fatal) electric shocks to "students" who answered questions improperly. Even when the "students" were in obvious extreme pain and begging to be let go, the "teachers" (the actual test subjects) continued administering the shocks according to the instruction of the "authority."
I don't have any illusion that I'm somehow immune to this sort of thing myself, but I've also always been very resistant to obeying authority simply because it claims to be authority – “because I said so!” or “the Bible is the inviolate Word Of God, and I know this because it says so right here in the Bible,” and so on - and I don't understand those who refuse to do so.
Consequently I find myself frustrated when writing on subjects in which I have some legitimate authority, through a combination of experience and education, and yet I'm regularly ignored by the majority of people - even my friends - in favor of trumped up BS. I could spend a lifetime proving that the sun rises in the east...but one well-produced commercial with a Morgan Freeman voice-over will have people arguing with me about it until I die.
I see this same thing in the ongoing question of corporal punishment. For the vast majority of Americans, agreeing that spanking is useless and wrong means defying the ultimate authority - the prime authority - their own parents. Nevermind what some ivory-tower academic pundit has to say about it, my parents spanked me and I turned out just fine. And then you have reinforcement from an even higher authority - "God" and "scripture."
To that deference to authority, add aversion to discomfort...and who among us finds it *comfortable* to consider the possibility that we're abusing our kids? I sure don't.
But I did, whether I'm comfortable with it or not. I'd always thought that simply the fact that I'm willing to admit that, by way of helping to establish the reasons why my position on the issue has changed radically in the last several years, would be inducement enough for people to find their own courage. "Jeez, this guy can do it - maybe I can too?" But a weird thing happens - people who *do* spank their kids look down their noses at me because I "abused my child," but they totally disconnect that the abuse in question is likely not particularly more severe than what they themselves justify in dishing out to their own kids.
Then we play the old used-car salesman's trick of contrast. "Well, *I* only use my hand, not a belt like some parents, so what I do is better." You see this broken logic in discussions of troop behavior - it's okay for US to waterboard prisoners, but if it's our own guys being tortured then geez, that's totally wrong, everybody knows torture doesn't accomplish anything.
I'm only using the corporal punishment question as an illustration here. These things are common errors in human logic. Deference to authority; being more likely to buy something we don't need if we're first offered something more expensive that we need less; being more likely to buy something from an attractive person; being more likely to give credibility to those who *perceive* as credible, even when we know intellectually they're not. The actor Robert Young made a fortune for Sanka decaffeinated coffee by doing TV ads extolling the medical virtues of decaf...because for years he played Marcus Welby, MD, one of the most popular medical dramas of the 1970's.
Similarly when a voice we trust tells us something, we find it credible. I can't remember the subject of the commercial, but in my social influence class a couple of weeks ago, some 90% of my colleagues rated a commercial featuring a voiceover by Morgan Freeman as "highly credible." The commercial offered exactly *zero* relevant product information. It was nothing but mood/environmental shots and Mr. Freeman's pleasing voice. Even when answering questions to justify their choices afterwards, many of my colleagues plainly cited Freeman's voice as a key influencer in their perception of credibility, as if they literally could not hear their own words and how silly their decision was.
Even after years of established accuracy in predicting the course of events, people will argue with me about things that are self-evident.
This is also true of familiarity and comfort. People who don't know me well personally tend to show - and, I believe, feel - more respect for my work, because I'm not fully human to them. The more human I become, the less they respect me. The more they know me not as "that guy on YouTube" or "that guy who writes the killer political articles" but as "JH, a human being who is fallible and imperfect just like the rest of us," the harder it is to convince people to share links or make contributions.
There's an almost palpable sense of betrayal in people when they realize that I'm just a person, like them, who happens to be pretty smart about some things. I'm met with overt hostility from people who have praised me to the skies only days before when I say something - with no less authority and no less evidence and no less valid logic - that they disagree with, or that causes them to ask uncomfortable questions of themselves.
This isn't universal, mind you - I do have friends who at least seem to have just as much if not more respect and affection for me after many years of friendship - but it's far more often the case than not. Same thing with my family - and I mean no criticism of them by saying so, but it's true. I can say something that a thousand strangers will agree with, but my Dad will still dismiss it, or my daughter will still argue with me about it, or whatever.
This set of realizations leaves me confused and sad, because it seems like the only way to maintain credibility...is to never let anyone know much about myself as a real human. As long as I'm that object, that other, that "guy on the internet," then I have credibility. If I make spurious claims to esoteric or arcane knowledge - cf. THE REAL TRVTH ABOUT CHEMTRAILS or spewing popular buzzwords like "Austrian school" and "rational self-interest" that don't actually mean jack shit - then people nod wisely and consider themselves quite perceptive for agreeing with me.
But if I say "it's wrong that in the richest nation on earth, I can't afford to pay my bills because I spend more time trying to make the world better than I do making money," then I'm just a whiny hippie liberal looking for a handout. CLEARLY my only interest is in scamming people out of money, because hell I just *said* I was broke, right, so I must have that as an ulterior motive...even though I just openly admitted that yes, I am trying to get paid; even though there's exactly zero logical reason to believe or even suspect that I would be willing to mislead people *so* I can get paid. (If I was, I'd never have to worry about money again.)
Ron Paul can pick up $28 million in donations by passing off a raft of populist nonsense as being in their best interests, and I can't keep my rent paid by rejecting dishonest and manipulative techniques and simply being straightforward and honest. If I admit I'm not entirely certain about something, I've lost credibility; but the guy flat-out making shit up off the top of his head is taken at face value because he's wearing a power tie.
I don't know, it's just a series of observations. I'm beginning to be afraid that I'm just not ever going to really make it in this world; that I'm going to be stuck with the fate of so many others, and the vast majority of people will really hear what I've had to say until I'm dead and gone.
It makes me sad, that we're so screwed up about these things. Not because of my own ego, but because I know the things I say *are* valid and *are* good indicators of how we might break the stranglehold of greed and ignorance in which we currently struggle.
But here's the part I haven't figured out yet:
How do I manage to be a human being, and still get people to listen to what I'm trying to say to them? How can I be honest in admitting my own fallibility and shortcomings and past mistakes, when doing so only results in being taken as less credible than someone who simply lies to themselves and everyone around them about what they're doing? I can engage in all the tried and true compliance-influence methods, easily. I understand them all intellectually, I just find them largely unethical. I feel like if I have to rely on smoke and mirrors to get my point across, then my point lacks validity.
That seems obvious to me...but people want the smoke and mirrors. Most people don't seem to care if I'm right - they care if I can make them feel good while being wrong.
They don't seem to care that I put myself out with no protective coloration; but if I strap on some macho facade and start flaming the shit out of people, even without any kind of justification, then they cheer me on.
If I tell someone I love them, honestly, they run away. If I feign indifference, they'll kill themselves trying to get my attention.
And how to I overcome this without selling out my own principles? Am I really doomed to never seeing truth in the world, but only hoping that if I put enough of it out there, *maybe* after I'm gone someone will pick up on it?
Am I really left with my only choices being selfish concern for my own material comfort, gained through crass manipulation of the credulous, or selfless effort to find and reveal truth and untruth while screaming impotently into a void with a voice that will only be heard long when it's gone silent after a lifetime of constant poverty, struggle, pain, loneliness, depression, frustration, and an overriding sense of futility?
Whoever designed this system had their head up their ass, and I don't appreciate it. It seems ridiculous that the only way to really gain and hold the attention and respect of the majority of people is to clearly be undeserving of either.