Occam’s Razor

Last week I was downstairs in my office, speaking for a virtual event in California. When I came back upstairs, I noticed the back door was slightly open and cold winter air was blowing into the great room.  Right before I had gone downstairs, I had filled the basin in the waterfall feature in the backyard.  Therefore, when I saw the open door, I immediately thought, “Someone with nefarious motives has come into our little neighborhood of 72 houses up a canyon in a virtually crime-free town and crept into my backyard, waiting for just the right moment to come through my back door and steal all my valuables.  You know, like my vinyl records of the Advocates, my vocal band from the 70s.” I immediately ran from the house screaming to everyone in the neighborhood that a vinyl burglar was in my house.

Either that, or when I saw the open back door, I thought I must not have shut the door tightly enough and the wind blew it open. So, I went over and shut the door.

Occam’s Razor is a scientific and philosophical rule that says that the simplest of competing theories should always be preferred to the more complex theory.  Occam’s Razor would assume I had not closed the door tightly.  But what if I was incapable of admitting to any mistakes, ever, including leaving a door unlatched?  What if my ego structure was so weak that if I admitted to the tiniest of failures, it would bring my entire house of cards tumbling down?  If that were the case, I would have called the police to root out the burglar. And when they couldn’t find any burglar, I would have assumed he escaped.  And when I couldn’t find any missing valuables, I would have assumed I must have interrupted him before he had a chance to steal anything.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined in the DSM V– the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 301.81, is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts. It includes a sense of entitlement, being interpersonally exploitative, seeing others as little more than an extension of one’s self, showing arrogant behaviors or attitudes, and never admitting to any kind of wrongdoing.

So, about the election. It is technically possible that there was a vast incredibly complicated conspiracy that occurred only in swing states that was so cleverly contrived that its nefarious nature was not visible to the naked eye.  That would explain why every court presented with lawsuits related to said conspiracy would not be able to find any evidence worthy of consideration.  The judges were not clever enough to see into the dark complex web of deceit that had been perpetrated upon the American people.

Either that, or Donald Trump is a narcissist who cannot admit defeat. So, rather than admit he lost the election by 7 million votes, he has to believe the election was rigged.  Which brings us back to Occam’s Razor – the simplest of competing theories should be preferred to the more complex theory.  Yeah, you get the idea.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can move on to the bigger issue.  How can 68 percent of Republicans, part of the 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump, prefer a ridiculously implausible explanation to an obvious one? How can they rally in opposition to Occam’s Razor? Now, that is a puzzle without a simple solution.

I will start with what I believe is the most convincing explanation.  It is not okay to admit you see Black and Brown people as inferior to you.  If you cannot admit that but it is a significant element of your worldview, you’ll do anything to keep the president in office who obviously, if not publicly, agrees with you.  He vicariously holds your worldview. It’s awfully suspicious that the vast majority of those who believe that the election was stolen are White. I believe a part of their willingness to say the election was rigged was because they want to deny the reality of systemic racism.  I mean, any way you put it, 74 million people voted for someone who would not denounce White supremacists. That means something.

A second explanation is that if you are not college educated and resent the intellectual elites on the coasts who you believe have tilted the world against you, you will find a way to initiate a class warfare with those elites. If educated elites say the sky is blue, you’ll say it is bright red just because you’re not about to agree to anything those coastal elites or Hollywood types say.  You’ll even vote against your own interests and elect people who change the tax law to screw you while increasing the wealth of the one percenters.  You’ll do it out of spite, because that is how much you hate the elites who opposed the changes to the tax code. And you’ll say the election was stolen just because it’s satisfying to watch the reaction of your exasperated opponents.

A third explanation is that there is a vast difference between where college graduates and non-college graduates get their news.  Right wing media pedals a steady stream of disinformation.  Many who consume a steady diet of right wing media have never been taught to compare news sources to discern objectivity, because no matter how objective news sources try or do not try to be, they all get it wrong at least occasionally.  Comparing sources to discern which ones usually get it right is critically important. I have personal experience with biased news media.

I was the secondary news subject of a Fox News story about a Pennsylvania university student. Mainstream media looked at the story and realized it was bogus, never giving it traction.  Fox News, on the other hand, wrote exactly twenty-five words related to me, eight of which were completely inaccurate.  No one reached out to me to verify what they wrote.  On the other hand, in 2017 the New York Times wrote a 3,000 word feature-article about Jonathan and me and they fact-checked so carefully that when they made one single tiny error, they corrected it immediately. It matters where you get your news.

I’m not sure what to do about all of this, because each of my three observations will feel like threats to half of our population.  My thoughts will seem condescending and will be dismissed out of hand.  We know that humans do not take in new information unless it comes to them in a non-threatening way.  No one wants to be told that their Trump support is hidden racism, or being on the hard side of class warfare, or because they haven’t been taught how to discern the objectivity of news sources. This column would just make them angry. But they already aren’t reading my blog, because they don’t like LGBTQ+ people. My very identity makes me their enemy.

It’s probably obvious by now that for the past few posts I have been trying to work out what is happening in our nation right now, and what I can do about it.  I have to work through what I might and might not be able to do to close the gap between us.  The future of our democracy is hanging in the balance.  We all need to do what we can.

Nice thoughts for Christmas week, don’t you think?  Well, it is 2020.  What’d you expect?