I don’t know how often most of you notice the occasional noises of Flat-Earthers online, and particularly on social media, but I notice. Encountering such absurdities can at times lead a reasonably educated person to feel that the world is going mad, that society is collapsing, and that—despite the cornucopia of information available to us—humans are breathtakingly stupid.
However, I’ve recently been reading John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” and it gave me a new insight: The fact the we encounter such vociferous and seemingly ridiculous expressions of contra-factual ideas is a sign of the health and strength of our discourse, rather than its deterioration. Continue reading “Flat-Earthers and “hate speech” are good for us”
There’s an interesting scene in the movie The Dark Knight in which the Joker confronts Harvey Dent in the hospital, and conveys to him what he sees as the misplaced and irrational prioritization of alarm among human populations. The scene is wonderful for many reasons—it’s well-written, well-directed, and brilliantly acted—but I think it is also conveys an important point about which many of us don’t think carefully enough.
In the scene, the Joker says that he’s noticed that “nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan’. Even if the plan is horrifying.” He then adds, “If tomorrow I tell the press that, like, a gang-banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blowing up, nobody panics, because it’s all ‘part of the plan’. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”
This is a deeply important point, because it highlights a profound illogic in our moral prioritization of who is important, who is to be protected, who is an “acceptable loss”, and who is “hands off.” We become more outraged—or at least more exercised—when one of our “leaders” is threatened or even killed than when soldiers, or even ordinary citizens, are put in jeopardy. This is not morally defensible. Continue reading “One little old mayor”