Easy Targets

Here’s a mental trick to be aware of:

Let’s say someone says something really dumb, like “the Earth is flat.” Then, some well-known authority figure points out that it isn’t, and accompanies this insight with some jests about the stupidity of the first person. Apart from being a little mean maybe, nothing really wrong has happened yet.

But “the Earth is flat” is an easy target, and that’s where the trick comes in. You’d think, “why even bother pointing out that the Earth isn’t flat? Apart from a small handful of kooks, nobody thinks it is. What does the authority figure have to gain by wasting their breath?”

Here’s what they have to gain: the next time someone says something they want to disagree with, even if that thing isn’t foolish, they can pretend it is by making allusions to the prior easy target.

So now someone says something controversial or heterodox but not untrue. The authority figures can say something like, “woosh, where do people like you and the flat Earth people even COME from?!” See the trick?

Don’t get fooled. Being right about one thing doesn’t make you the arbiter of truth, especially if you were picking easy targets to begin with.

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