Proud ignorance and the prospect of a free society

Of course, as Elon Musk suggests, there is some possibility that the attack against Mr. Pelosi covers some as-yet-unknown reality (Kurtis Lee, “Elon Musk, in a Tweet, Shares Links to Sites Known for Disseminating Fake News,” The New York TimesOctober 30, 2022):

In a reply to Mrs. Clinton’s tweet, Mr. Musk wrote, “There’s more to this story than meets the eye,” and then shared a link to an article in the Santa Monica Observer. The article alleged that Mr. Pelosi was drunk and fighting with a male prostitute.

To explore that possibility, however, one should not look to individuals and websites known to invent information or accept it only when it fits their vague ideologies and unimaginable beliefs; Sources that demonstrate a lack of rational approach to the search for truth should not be relied upon.

If we believe now Story, Mr. Musk, who later deleted his post, is not entirely immune to that error himself:

A 2021 Los Angeles Times editorial about websites “masquerading as legitimate local newspapers” noted that the Santa Monica Observer, “owned by one-time City Council candidate David Ganzer, is notorious for publishing fake news.” In 2016, for example, the publication made a claim that Mrs. Clinton was dead and sent a body double to debate Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump.

But anyone unaccustomed to the discipline of research is easily fooled by dubious sources.

A good story by Ravi Sove because Donald Trump himself gives an idea of ​​how he thinks (“Paul Pelosi Conspiracy Theory Embarrassing for Right,” Nov. 2, 2022). In addition to the credibility of the homosexual prostitution theory, Trump repeated another “alternative case” that appears to have been invented:

You know, maybe, you and I better not talk about it. It looks like the glass is broken from the inside out and, you know, so, it wasn’t a break, it was a break.

“It seems,” uncharacteristic of Trump’s intuitive certainty, seems at odds with the rest of the phrase.

The rise of the Internet, and especially social media, has revealed a disturbing truth: how ignorant portions of the general public are and how easily they fall for implausible theories — that Sandy Hook was a government-organized hoax, that the 2020 election was stolen, etc. Being awake isn’t good and usually doesn’t excuse a lack of education—though perhaps “education” should be cited as fear. I think one can be wise and intellectually honest on either side of the orthodox left-right divide; But this is not the current state of public debate.

Suddenly, with the internet and social media, proud ignoramuses are able to publish their uncomfortable insights for the whole world to see, at almost zero cost. The big difference is this almost zero cost. The idea of ​​charging a price for efficient access to social networks could be part of the solution; Perhaps it would be better for Twitter to charge much more than Musc suggests. The higher the price, the fewer the number of people who think it’s worth echoing the implausible story; They will go back to their TV sets. To be clear: these people are respected as long as they don’t use their proud ignorance to force their preferences and values ​​on others.

Where does the proud ignorance displayed by both the enlightened masses and the conspiracy theorists leave the enlightened promise of popular education, the perfection of mankind, and the possibility of a free society? On that challenging question, it is useful to read James Buchanan’s short book, Why I am, too, not a conservative (Or, as a poor alternative, mine regulations reassessment).

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