I believe it, therefore it is true.

Consider these sentences.

1. I believe it, therefore it is true.

2. It is true, therefore I believe it.

Two radically different statements, and the difference between them is why Rick Santorum scares the hell out of me.

We like to think brains follow the pattern of statement 2: we build our beliefs on solid facts and sound reasoning. Researchers are discovering, though, that we spend most of our time in the world of statement 1. We hear a claim and evaluate it subconsciously in the black box of our prior beliefs and life experience. If it fits, the black box spits out TRUE! and our conscious mind manufactures — or seizes upon — a set of reasons to believe it.

That’s not terrible; it’s just human. It’s also essential. You can’t survive, you can’t even make it across town in heavy traffic, if you analyze your every choice in painstaking detail. It’s also human, though, to wake up from the world of statement 1 and push yourself into statement 2. To say, Whoa, is this really true? when it’s appropriate and when you have the time.

I fear Rick Santorum because when it comes to the presidency, he seems to operate entirely in the realm of I believe it, therefore it’s true. We saw this in his vomitous reaction to John F. Kennedy’s speech on religiously freedom:

To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?

As Jon Stewart put it “How do you hear, All faiths are welcome, as No faiths are welcome?” The answer’s easy, though. Santorum believes religious freedom is under attack, therefore Kennedy was attacking religion. I believe it, therefore it’s true.

We saw this in his policy statements on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

…we would move forward in conformity to what was happening in the past, which is — sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself — whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual.

How can you say with conviction that straight soldiers never talked about sex in the past? Easy: Santorum believes traditional values are under attack by gays asking for special rights, therefore it was always the case that no soldiers ever got to reveal their orientation. I believe it, therefore it’s true.

Recently Santorum claimed:

In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly. And the bracelet is: ‘Do not euthanize me.’ Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized — 10 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness.

False. But Santorum believes ObamaCare is an assault on freedom, therefore any report of a government killing the sick to save money must be a fact. I believe it, therefore it’s true.

Santorum seems willing to believe almost any report that confirms his strange and faulty view of the world. And he shows no willingness to check whether these things are true before going on TV and spreading them to a national audience. That would be irresponsible in a pundit. It’s tragic in a president. Especially one who seems so eager to start a war with Iran.

Yes, I’m tying this to Iran. Santorum’s mental machinery reminds me of how Bob Woodward described Cheney’s obsession with finding WMD in Iraq:

Cheney was acting as a kind of super-investigator, trying to ferret out the elusive WMD, Kay concluded [David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group]. But there were always loose ends in intelligence, disparate bits of information that could lead to all kinds of wild conclusions. But by focusing in on only a few items and assigning them great significance, they could wind up with a skewed picture. It continued to remind Kay of the blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code, in which a Harvard professor and a French policewoman piece together clues ¡ri the Bible and in great works of art and myths that supposedly reveal a giant conspiracy to hide the true nature and life of Jesus Christ.

Emphasis added. It won’t matter how many experts (inside the military and out, including the former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency) oppose an attack on Iran. Facts won’t matter to Santorum when it comes to Iran, just as they don’t matter on religious freedom, gays, or healthcare. Santorum will always be able to find disparate bits of information that can lead to wild conclusions, bits he can focus on and assign great significance. We’ll end up with an administration that has nothing to do with reality as it exists, and policies that function only in the counterfactual ground zero of Santorum’s brain.

H/T to Slacktivist, in an article well worth reading.

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7 comments to I believe it, therefore it is true.

  • 1
    Russ Manley says:

    Brilliant analysis as usual, Rob.  I’m totally repulsed but not so much afraid of him – he’s doing a fine job of hanging himself as it is, he can’t possibly last until the election.  What I *am* afraid of, though, is the millions of addlepated wingnuts who think he speaks truth – God only knows who and what they would vote for, given a chance.

  • 2
    Ben In Oakland says:

    I’ve often put it as the difference between “I’ll believe it when I see it” and “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

  • 3
    Regan DuCasse says:

    The more media I read and analyze myself, or the comment styles of people who care to express an opinion, I guess I’m amazed at how truly stupid (and mostly lazy) some people can be about what is credible and factual and what is not. I was born very analytical and inquisitive. Which is a good thing for working in the crime sciences. There are people who can engage wider and more complex information all at once than other people. There was a time when people who could do this, commanded respect. Those who committed to vast amounts of study, were understood as people who’d done a great deal of work and disciplined themselves. Depending on the prejudices certain people harbor, it’s a way of needing to believe in ways that keep them from being CULPABLE, and responsible for what they do because of those beliefs.
       It’s a need to keep from being individually weak, therefore, participating in a MOB is preferable. Disregarding how dangerous that might be, nor having the critical thinking skills or backbone necessary to resist doing that, we are confronted with less and less interest in questioning any possibility of being wrong. Even if the results of being wrong are obvious, and there is no essential change in the quality of life that person will lead.
    For example: when I’ve given my credentials with working with the police and degree in crime analysis, I’m used to expecting a person to ASK me if I know about statistical information regarding major crimes, incarceration rates and so on.
      When I comment on TownHall’s weekly gay bashing articles, rather than anyone ASK me if the assertions about pedophilia or crimes against children is true, the typical opinions remain convinced about that connection. And then I get attacked as ENABLING criminals because of my support of gay people.
        I’m seeing the breathless gushing over Kirk Cameron, after his responses on Piers Morgan’s show were criticized. Most of his supporters go on about how ‘brave’ he is for ‘standing up’ for his Christian beliefs.
       A few of his supporters I know personally. I also know they are some very insulated young white people whose experience with the results of defamation or discrimination would be non existent. Same for Kirk Cameron. He’s never had to really deal with any systemic discrimination or actual restrictions on his life’s choices because of constant defamation.
    Indeed, even the definition of free speech and the responsibility to it escapes this same demographic. Now Michael Brown has weighed in on the criticism and intolerance towards Cameron and once again asserts how bigoted gay people are towards those who ‘disagree’ with them.
    We know the difference between a disagreement, and outright DEFAMATION. We know what libel, slander and incitement to panic and threat are. And the typical cowardice not to own it, or the results of that defamation are very clear.
         I used to give people a lot more credit for being a bit smarter. Been so wrong about that.  And those who keep claiming the spotlight, engage the media as often as possible, and apparently ALL their life’s work involves denigrating gay people, more than doing anything actually meaningful to the betterment of society, I have to wonder at the emptiness in their lives.

  • 4
    JCF says:

    I think for Santorum—and the Fundamentalist mindset—truth comes from People of the Truth (people being assigned to either the Truth, or Satanic Lies teams, by means of very simple patriarchal&homophobic…gut instincts, more than anything else).
    If you’re not a person on Santorum’s Truth Team, then it doesn’t matter WHAT you’ve got to contribute (all the way down to “2+2=4″). It’ll just be screened out: “Lies from Team Satanic Lies!”
    [See re Richard Hofstadter and The Paranoid Style in American Politics.]

  • 5

    […] course, we don’t expect the truth from Rick Santorum. That makes it no less frightening. He promises a world in which […]

  • 6

    […] course, we don’t expect the truth from Rick Santorum. That makes it no less frightening. He promises a world in which […]

  • 7
    jayn says:

    interesting blog post, thank you for the info

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