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Uploaded:2018-05-22
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In which John discusses the ligers of his dreams, humans' conspiratorial impulses, and jumping from conclusions.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. 

Last night I dreamt that there were two ligers walking through my backyard, a liger being the offspring of a male lion and female tiger. This struck me as pretty unusual and conceivably impossible so I began to investigate the situation within my dream. I considered for instance that there is often wildlife in my backyard: deer, coyotes, foxes, one time I saw a beaver.

It did seem unlikely that there would be two ligers given their rarity, but I reassured myself that they were probably brother and sister. Also ligers are not, uh, native to Indianapolis, so they had probably escaped captivity, and if you were an escaped liger in central Indiana my backyard is one of the places you might seek out because it is wooded and contains lots of potential food mostly in the form of 4 million chipmunks. All in all it seemed perfectly possible to me that sibling ligers had escaped their cages to dine in my backyard. the problem of course, is that my investigation of the liger situation began with the conclusion: there are ligers in my backyard. And then I worked my way back to the story of how they came to be there rather than pausing to consider that the ligers I thought I saw might have been, for instance, deer or that I might have been, say, dreaming.

My friend Amy Cross Rosenthal once said that nothing is less interesting than other people's dreams, and I apologize for introducing you to my subconscious but I mention all of this because it seems to me that the liger delusion is at the heart of a lot of contemporary discourse, especially around politics. You start with what you already know to be incontrovertibly true; that Republicans are crooks that only want to line that the pockets of their wealthy donors or that Democrats are crooks who want the government to control every aspect of human life, and then you look for the how and why. I mean these days it can be difficult to even know when you believe in a conspiracy theory, in part because conspiracy theories are sometimes true, and in part because, no matter the subject, the closer you look, the more you see. Put another way, the more you consider ligers might be roaming Indianapolis, the more explanations you'll find for why.

Take for instance the following conspiracy theory, which may, of course, prove to be true. Republican donor Elliot Broidy paid a woman over a million dollars no to discuss their alleged affair that's known but the conspiracy theory holds that the actual affair was between that woman and Donald Trump and then Broidy steepen in to cover up that affair and make the payment. Now if you look for explanations of why Broidy might have done this, you will find them.

Broidy has profited tremendously from the Trump presidency. He also has a history of covering up affairs for, this friends and no - Stop because none of that means he covered up an affair for Trump. Of course the same happens on the right where conspiracy theories from Benghazi to pizza gate are presumed true by many but my worry is that many of us are falling into the trap of believing that we, however, we define that, are the ones alive to the real reality while those who disagree with us are mere sheeple, a term that literally dehumanizes others.

You see this all the time with people saying 'wake up' or 'keep dreaming' as if only those who we disagree with can fall prey to the liger delusion. What I have found while looking for ligers is this: I am far more likely to believe an allegation to be true or to be important if it confirms my pre-existing worldview, and if it would challenge my worldview I am likely to believe it to be false or else irrelevant. Sometimes on TV news or political radio or podcasts you'll hear the phrase, 'we don't yet know all the facts, but' then after the 'but' come somes speculation or a statement of implication.

Like, we don't yet know all the facts but someone saw two ligers in the backyard, we know that. Hank I have to stop beginning with the conclusion, I have to stop speculating ahead of the story and instead wait for the facts to come out, and I have to stop saying 'but' after 'we don't yet know all the facts'. But I don't know how.

This is the part of the video where I turn it around and find reasons to be hopeful and make a call to action. But I don't know how. I do think being aware of the conspiratorial instincts can be helpful, but I don't know how to escape the liger delusion.

Hank I'll see you on Friday.