Emotion trumps facts



I subscribe to the conviction that decisions should and can be influenced and guided by facts. So, for example, in the political world, I try my best to ferret out the provable facts on an issue after studying different sides of the argument, come to a tentative conclusion, question the conclusion against the findings of “Fact Checkers” when possible and try to make my case as logically as I can.

I may fail at times, but I firmly believe John Adams when he said, “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

The problem with this approach is that it very often does not carry any water. Facts are indeed stubborn things, but they are often no match for emotional commitments. As Nedra Weinreich puts it, “In a battle between logic and emotion, emotion will win over facts most of the time. Feelings of frustration, patriotism, nostalgia, jealousy or fear, and deep-seated underlying concerns can easily outweigh well thought-out, logic-based arguments. The cold, hard facts fail to persuade people rationally why they should do the right-healthy-socially beneficial thing. And sometimes they can drive people to make up their own ‘facts’ that, repeated often enough, take on a life of their own.”

Take, for example, the idea of the “Deep State,” the belief that hordes of government officials are now working in concert in the shadows to undermine the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

From time immemorial, bureaucracies have been criticized for being incompetent, inefficient, wasteful, duplicative, and hopelessly uncoordinated. Presidents of both parties have tried unsuccessfully to reform the multiple, often warring bureaucracies, but found them to be hopelessly irremediable and unmalleable.

In the words of Honore de Balzac, “Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pigmies.”

Now, all of a sudden, critics of the multiple, frequently competing bureaucracies in the federal government are charging these disorganized, inept, wasteful, redundant, unmanageable silo dwellers of developing and executing a minutely detailed, secret plan to destroy President Trump. This unidentified group of unelected government and military officials are secretly manipulating and directing the destruction of President Trump. The “gang that can’t shoot straight” has been miraculously transformed into elite members of a vast army of coordinated snipers. Honest. Believe me. It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s true. Check it out on Fox News or President Trump’s tweets. Do you want to challenge this view? Lots of luck. Conspiratorialists are multi-taskers; that is, they can make two contradictory arguments at the same time.

And then there is this: According to a recent Monmouth poll, 74 percent of Americans believe that the Deep State “definitely” or “probably” exists.

The Enlightenment, the “Age of Reason,” was an inspiration to our Founding Fathers. For many Americans today, the “Age of Reason” is dead.