The psychology of stated truth

So, I recently went on a African safari – a lot more about this later, including pictures and the like – most of the trip was amazing, but it did have a few disturbing moments. Today I’m going to talk about the one in which someone asserted a number of untruths as facts.

The whole thing started because I was talking about the opiod epidemic and mentioned marijuana in a list of “relatively harmless” drugs. Someone at the table I was at – and this person will remain nameless, but I’m fairly sure they have a significant mental illness – asserted that MJ had killed many, many people.

It came out that his sister was killed by a drunk driver who also had MJ in his system. And, I agreed with a couple of his points, which I’ll get to later – but he kept asserting increasingly obviously fictional, increasingly disturbing statistics.

Now, I’m generally disposed to believe things people present as facts, with the obvious exception of certain political figures who I know lie constantly and without limit. It wasn’t until he stated something directly opposed to personal experience and also widely reported group experience that I realized that he was, in fact, insane. Or else trolling me, but I prefer to believe insanity.

I do feel for him that he lost someone he loved. I do feel confident that he totally misidentified the root cause – the root cause is humans driving cars – we really shouldn’t drive cars, we’re not good a it – and the secondary contributing cause would be the alcohol. MJ earns tertiary status.

I finally told him to drop it – which is rather out of character for me, but once I had done some internet searches and confirmed that the things he was saying were not true, I found it *very* disturbing to listen to him talking about the subject because I knew he was injecting false information into my mind. I suspect he’s got a cohort of anti-MJ friends who egg him on and tell him things that *he* believes are true, although it’s possible that he makes all this stuff up himself. I also am fairly sure he didn’t *know* the things he was telling me weren’t true – but he certainly wasn’t ready to listen to a dissenting opinion. He was not in general willing to let anyone get a word in edgewise.

I’m sure I have been that person in terms of talking too much. I hope I haven’t been the one presenting utter fiction as fact.

Part of what I found interesting is how, as I listened to him, his point of view which was opposite of mine seemed more reasonable and plausible until he made statements which were clearly and obviously false, at which point I found listening to him frustrating and alarming. I do hope he finds whatever help he needs – I seem to know a lot of people that start to throw the baby out with the bathwater after losing a sister. (I am not sure if I’ve written about why I am absolutely against Marsy’s law for all, but that would be another example of someone pushing for a excessive solution because their sister died)

Anyway, I kept running web searches to verify that the “facts” he was telling me weren’t. One of the thoughts I of course had is it’s possible I am the insane one, and my mind was swapping out the text the web sites were returning with the text that I expected to see. But there’s no way to tell if that’s the case. It’s possible he and I live in two different universes and in his all the things he said are true. Again, no good way to know.

Another thing I noticed is he has the typical disease of certain lawmakers and other individuals of thinking that addicts are worthless and should be jailed for life or killed at the first convenient moment. I of course understand both that many addicts are also our most creative people, and that history owes much to people who were flawed in that particular way. But, see elsewhere, the people who tend to end up in power are the worst of us – because the best of us generally don’t want power over anyone but themselves. And probably thus will it ever be. I can only hope my insane table-mate doesn’t end up with any political power, because I have no doubt that he would make the world a worse place.

OK, to bring this back home to the original topic.. one of the weaknesses of the way humans are put together, as we know from the Milgram effect, is we tend to trust authority more than we should. Authority apparently can be something as simple as speaking in a authoritarian tone of voice. This is alarming because it means I might have many “facts” stored which aren’t, simply because they were spoken in a authoritarian tone. He *really* had to say something obviously not true (he stated that MJ has no medicinal value and that the idea that it is one of the best anti-nausea substances we know of was completely false – of course part of his defense of that statement was that it was listed as something to use only when all else had failed – which I’m not surprised, big pharma doesn’t make much of a profit on MJ. I note that TMS for PTSD sufferers is also listed as something to use only when all else has failed, whereas I would use it as one of the first things I would attempt. Big Pharma owns the medical industry and has no ethics at all. but we all already know that, and I digress..)

One other interesting thing to take away – if he had let it go after our first discussion, I would have researched it much more heavily than I am now likely to. I am pretty thoroughly convinced that adding MJ to the list of legal drugs has gained us far more (in terms of bright, creative, helpful people we are no longer putting in jail) than it has cost us (traffic fatalities might go up by a few)

I will mention there are a few points he made that I agree with – 1) You shouldn’t drive when stoned. It does increase your RT. 2) You DEFINITELY should not even THINK about driving when stoned and drunk. I don’t know exactly what that would do, but nothing good. 3) We are breeding more and more potent weed, and we should think about whether that’s really such a hot idea.

As you all know, I don’t partake myself so I don’t really have a horse in this race, other than a number of my friends do and I don’t think any of them belong in jail. I actually think the people *putting* them in jail are the people who belong in jail.

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