THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2022
Except for matters like this: It's long been a staple of mainstream punditry:
The American people are pretty sharp!
Pundits have uttered this bromide for decades, but it ain't necessarily true.
When a person isn't entirely sharp, that doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is some sort of bad person. That said, if contemporary history has taught us anything, it has taught us this:
A lot of us humans are capable of believing the darnedest things!
We're going to cite two dangerous examples—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), but also Bob Taylor, her father. We'll cite some examples from Elaina Plott Calabro's fascinating profile of Rep. Greene, which has been published by The Atlantic.
The danger lies in the possibility that you will think these examples prove something about The Others but nothing at all about Us. In truth, we blues can believe the darnedest things too. But at least according to Calabro's profile, here's what Bob Taylor believed:
CALABRO (12/5/22): Bob Taylor may not have been overtly partisan, but he rivaled Trump in his tendency to self-mythologize. In 2006, Greene’s father had published a novel with the small publisher Savas Beatie called Paradigm. As best I can tell, this is Taylor’s effort to demonstrate the value of a system he invented called the “Taylor Effect”—which purports to predict the stock market based on the gravitational fluctuations of Earth—in the form of a high-stakes international caper. The story follows twin scientists who discover an ancient Egyptian box in the bowels of the Biltmore estate, the contents of which, they soon realize, could “destroy many of the world’s most powerful families” if ever made public.
He considered his stock-market theory to be “the Genuine Article”; in the afterword, he likened himself to da Vinci, Galileo, Edison, Marconi, and the Wright brothers. “History,” he wrote, “is filled with characters who endured ridicule, imprisonment, and even death because they discovered things we know today with absolute certainty to be true.” Suzanne Thompson, a North Carolina author hired to help Taylor write Paradigm, recalls that Taylor had “a bit of an exalted sense of himself.” She was unaware that he was Marjorie Taylor Greene’s father, and gasped with dismay when I told her. “Oh my gosh, I had no idea. Oh my God.”
According to Calabro's profile, Bob Taylor believed he had invented a system which could "predict the stock market based on the gravitational fluctuations of Earth." As Calabro's profile continues, she describes the way Taylor's daughter began believing various apparently crazy Q-Anon dogmas in just the past few years.
Please note—according to Calabro, Bob Taylor was apparently a highly competent businessman. Here is Calabro's account of his backstory:
CALABRO: Her father was Robert David Taylor, a Michigan transplant for whom a three-story home had never been guaranteed but who had believed acutely in its possibility. Bob Taylor was the son of a steel-mill worker; he had served in Vietnam; he had hung siding to pay for classes at Eastern Michigan University. He had married the beautiful Carrie Fidelle Bacon—“Delle,” to most people, but he called her Carrie—from Milledgeville, Georgia, and rather than continue with college, he had become a contractor and built a successful company called Taylor Construction. For Marjorie Taylor, the first of Bob and Delle’s two children, the result was a world steeped in a distinctly suburban kind of certainty: packed lunches and marble kitchen countertops, semiannual trips to the beach, and the conviction that everything happens for a reason.
Marjorie Taylor Greene and her husband built a successful business too. But according to Calabro's profile, Greene ended up believing this:
CALABRO: QAnon followers subscribe to the sprawling conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by a network of satanic pedophiles funded by Saudi royalty, George Soros, and the Rothschild family. Though Republican officials have insisted that QAnon’s influence among the party’s base is overstated, former President Trump has come to embrace the movement plainly...Yet since its inception, in the fall of 2017, when “Q,” an anonymous figure professing to be a high-level government official, began posting tales from the so-called deep state, no politician has become more synonymous with QAnon than Greene. To an extent, Greene had already signaled her attraction to conspiracy theories, questioning on American Truth Seekers whether the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas was a false-flag operation to eliminate gun rights. But with Q, Greene was all in. She has gone so far as to endorse an unhinged QAnon theory called “frazzledrip,” which claims that Hillary Clinton murdered a child as part of a satanic blood ritual.
Correctly or otherwise, Calabro never suggests that Greene has simply been feigning belief in various QAnon dogmas. The father believed in the Taylor Effect, and the daughter believed in frazzledrip. To a surprising extent, this seems to be what our somewhat imperfect species is actually like.
We humans believe the darnedest things! Until recently, this was a largely unknown anthropological fact. This basic anthropological fact has been brought into public view by the rise of the Internet, with its ability to disseminate wide arrays of the world's least likely beliefs, claims, thoughts and ideas.
("Music men" no longer have to travel from town to town. They can simply stay at home and display their wares on the Net.)
Calabro's profile seems to be quite well researched. We were impressed by the fact that she had located and interviewed Bob Taylor's co-writer.
We humans believe the darnedest things! How should our blue tribe proceed in the face of this startling, unhelpful new fact?