Saturday, 1 July 2017

Brandolini's Law explains why arguing with lefties is so exhausting - and pointless

The proposition that "The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit... an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it" was formulated by Alberto Brandolini, an Italian software developer (he's the chap in the photograph). It's also known's as the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle. It explains a lot: in fact, it damn near explains everything.

The British TV series, Paul Temple, used to open with the indistinct figure of a man running directly towards the camera down a long corridor. Despite evidently expending a vast amount of energy, he barely seemed to get any closer to his target. A clever use of perspective, probably. Arguing with left-wingers - especially if you allow them to set the terms of the debate - feels a bit like being that frantic running figure: you never get to that point where they shrug and ruefully admit that there is absolutely no evidence for the outrageous theory they originally put forward. 

I think the problem for conservatives is that we're trying to get at the truth (after all, reality is almost invariably conservative): we remain convinced - despite all evidence to the contrary - that the left-winger we're arguing with is also attempting to arrive at the truth, and that, by proving our case using a mixture of logic and evidence, we can convince them that their original assertion isn't valid. Occasionally, we right-wingers might even wind up accepting that there is, after all, some merit in the theory propounded by our interlocutor (although, to be honest, this doesn't happen very often).

It is impossible to argue meaningfully with someone who isn't interested in objective truth. Most left-wingers are obsessed with their own emotional "truth" - they adore theories that make them feel better about themselves, rather than theories which might actually be true. Here's a short list of self-pleasing left-wing theories:

Man's insatiable greed has created climate change.

The Grenfell Tower fire was caused by Tory cuts.

The NHS is the envy of the world.

Any social problem can be solved by throwing other people's money at it. 

Only war-mongers approve of nuclear weapons. 

Everything can be paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthiest 1%/5%/10%.

Jobs created by the government and paid for with our taxes are as good for the economy as private companies creating jobs and funding them from profits.

Increasing the minimum wage will create more jobs. 

Islamophobia creates Islamic extremism.

Capitalism is innately immoral, socialism is innately good.

Far right extremists are a far greater threat to us than Islamic extremists.

If Israel ceased to exist, there would be peace in the Middle East.

Fracking is inherently evil.

Real socialism has never been tried.

Conservatives want to crush the poor... etc.

Most of these propositions are demonstrably false, some are meaningless, and one or two may contain a tiny kernel of truth. But just the thought of actually having to explain to their proponents why these propositions are false, almost entirely false, or utterly meaningless is just so bloody exhausting.  Now - thanks to Brandolini's Law, I know why - a sensible person has to use far more energy demonstrating the wrongness of  a bullshit idea than the bullshitter expends coming up with it in the first place. Why? It's probably because, as the bullshit theory is based on the emotional satisfaction it affords its propounder rather than on logic or reality, it can't be refuted with arguments based on logic or evidence. Consequently, arguing with most leftists feels rather like running down an endless corridor, trying to reach a target which is inherently unattainable. 

"To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal [left-winger], tell him the truth." It's unclear whether it was Theodore Roosevelt or Rush Limbaugh who first said that - but I definitely said, "Truth is Kryptonite to lefties." 

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