‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Thursday, April 01, 2021


 Social media teach us that facts and logic make very little difference in argument.

The Israeli-born (now US-based) writer Tuvia Tenenbom has written a series of books recounting his experiences in the assumed guise of a non-Jew (he is blond and Western-looking), to get people to divulge their real feelings.

Arriving in Jerusalem, he encounters a Palestinian professor who is looking forward to an interview with a German journalist, so he can tell him the truth of issues in Israel:

'What is the truth? He shares it with me: the Israelis make sure that he, being a Palestinian, can't own a house [...] he proudly shares with me, he is not a man only of the mind but also a man of means: he owns a house in east Jerusalem, and he also owns another one in a place called Shuaffat.

'There are people who are alcoholics and there are people who are recovering alcoholics, meaning they've stopped drinking. I happen to be a recovering intellectual [Tenenbom was raised in an ultra-Orthodox family] and I draw from my former self to understand this intellectual. Logically it's impossible for a man who owns nothing also to own two houses. But "intellectually," you can explain away everything.'

Shortly after, the writer meets a couple of German girls who have volunteered to work with the Palestinians. He asks one, why:

"Three years ago I volunteered for Israel and I fell in love wth the Jewish people."

"And that's why you decided to come again?"


Three years ago you fell in love with the Jews and that's why you are now helping the Palestinians?

She looks at me in disbelief, very upset: "What are you trying to say?"

In the late 1970s, one of my Birmingham housemates was a young Yemeni who had escaped north through Saudi to Europe. He invited some Libyan students over one evening, and we got talking. They were full of praise for what Gaddafi was doing for the people.

They were also convinced of the Irish Republican cause. They thought they knew all about it, though they had never been there, seemed unaware that the IRA was a decided minority within the Catholic minority, and so on and on. I thought it best not to tell them of my father's several tours of military duty in Northern Ireland. But they were like so many people: on subjects that mattered to them, they 'just knew.'

Cartoonist and writer Scott Adams said recently on his podcast that you should abandon facts and logic and use psychological trickery instead. For example, with someone stolidly repeating the untruth that Trump advocated drinking bleach to kill Covid-19, you could ask their position on the Loch Ness Monster etc, saying that you were testing just how gullible they were.

Bad news, if Adams is right and most debates are bullsh*t contests.

Still, I recall overhearing two Asian lads talking in a secondary school, and one quoted what was obviously an old saying: 'When two people speak, one of them is lying.'


A K Haart said...

Doublethink? I'm moving on to triplethink.

DiscoveredJoys said...

I recall Richard Dawkins pointing out that 'communication' was really about one person trying to manipulate the brain of another. The manipulation may be well intended (Look out! There's a snake!) or it may be self serving (Look at how much wealth I have, will you have sex with me?).

At best politicians and activists are trying to achieve a socially desirable end - at worst they may be trying to promote their selfish interests. Just as people have 'manipulation skills' others also have 'manipulation detection skills'. An evolutionary arms race, perhaps.

James Higham said...

'When two people speak, one of them is lying.'

Unless they’re in agreement. In which case both are?

Paddington said...

1. I was just one tour, in Londonderry.

2. Trump did, in fact, suggest the internal use of bleach and UV light. I have both watched the press conference, and read the transcript.

Sackerson said...

1. I stand corrected, though one in Londonderry was more than enough, I'm sure.

2. Links, please.

Paddington said...

Here is a youtube.com link to the press conference. You only have to watch the first 50 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33QdTOyXz3w and here is a transcript: https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-suggests-infecting-disinfectant-video-transcript-2020-4

Hopefully, you can access at least one of them.

For a bonus, you can see him talk about the 'invisible' F-35 fighter jet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htyNQ8MK3xU

Things like this are why I find comments about Biden's mental health from republicans to be laughable.

Sackerson said...

@P: Okay, seen and read, though he didn't say 'bleach,' he said 'disinfectant.'

Clearly he is ignorant scientifically (which isn't the same as suffering from dementia), but unlike professional politicans he doesn't stay schtum - the pro thing is to smile, cuddle a calf for the Press photographers a la Thatcher, say some pleasing generalities and move on.

What I see here - and I'll grant you all that you say about his lying and cheating habits (so unlike the pros) - is someone who 'explore through talk' as we used to say in English teaching; tosses around ideas to see what the experts will say; not afraid to ask a dumb question. And this is a gift to the journalists, bloggers etc.

Storm in a teacup.

Sackerson said...

P.S. Wasn't/isn't penicillin injected as a 'disinfectant'?

I'm not here to defend or support Trump, I just think there's a 'gotcha' mindset among the media. Reading Tenenbom I'm taken aback by the deceit of Press, NGOs etc when they report on Palestine, plan to write something about that later.

Paddington said...


You are officially reaching:

a) penicillin is not a 'disinfectant', it is an antibiotic.

b) His comment came immediately after a discussion of bleach killing coronavirus in vitro. Lots of things do that to bad cells, including cancer. The trick is not to kill too many healthy cells.

As for Trump and his supporters, they are after Biden and his gaffes. Fair enough, but also remember Trump talking about the troops capturing the airfields in the Revolutionary War, or suggesting buying Greenland from Denmark, then canceling an official visit when they said no. Or, when he told Teresa May that any trade deal with the UK had to include selling the NHS to US interests. The man is a complete buffoon. Last week, he crashed a wedding reception at Mar-a-Lago, where he lives, grabbed the microphone, and rambled on for some time about how the election was stolen.

Paddington said...


And what about his habit of viciously attacking people, as long as he perceives them to be weaker, including talking about menstruating women, making fun of a reported with a disability, and so much more?