Pain tolerance and truth avoidance: why smart people keep believing obvious lies

Pain tolerance and truth avoidance: why smart people keep believing obvious lies. By John Carter.

I don’t think I’m alone in my continuous incredulity over the last two years, watching what seems like most of the human species throw reason to the wind as they fall for the largest psychological warfare operation in recorded history. …

Sure, [the intellectual class], like everyone, have been targeted by advanced psychological warfare techniques, scaled up versions of the methods used by abusive cults. And, sure, they’re no more immune to the societal dysfunctions that plague all of us than anyone else — they too must struggle with alienation, atomization, insecure employment, and all the rest, and are therefore just as emotionally primed to respond to a mass formation event as the next guy.

But in all honesty I know a lot of highly intelligent people inside the academy, and with a tiny handful of notable exceptions they all fell for it, and they’re all continuing to fall for it.

At the same time, I know plebs with minimal education and who don’t strike me as exactly brilliant, who saw through all of this right away.

So what gives? Why have academics proved to be so remarkably immune to seeing what’s happening in the world, despite the fact that the evidence is beating them over the head on a daily basis?

Here’s my theory: The truth hurts.

Unlearning is painful:

I mean it quite literally: the truth, when it contradicts what you think is true, is interpreted by your brain as more or less the same thing as physical pain….

Learning takes effort at a biological level. The brain has to grow new connections, which means it has to invest time and energy in that rather than in just using the existing pathways. That’s hard enough when it’s learning something that doesn’t contradict previously assimilated information. It’s much worse when it contradicts something that is already believed. In that case, the brain has to go back and undo connections that were already made, as well as make the new connections. …

If you’re reading this you probably have some personal experience of what I’m describing. In all probability, a couple of years ago you were a normie, happily going along to get along, and then … all this happened. …

Maybe it was during Russiagate; maybe it was Trump’s election; maybe it was Brexit; maybe it was the migrant invasion of Europe; maybe it was Black Lives Matter, Zimmerman, ‘Hands up don’t shoot!’; maybe it was the 2008 housing crash; maybe it was 9/11. Maybe you’re a boomer and you’ve been a conspiracy theorist since Iran/Contra or JFK. There have been many opportunities over the last two decades.

If you went through it, you know just how wrenching it is, as the awful realization sets in that you were lied to, that you were gullible enough to be deceived, and that you now have to re-examine everything you once believed about the world. To say nothing of the isolation that comes with the knowledge that, with most people, you simply cannot speak of these things.

If you did this, congratulations — you felt the pain of truth, and rather than shying away from it, you moved forward, into the pain. Something inside you understood that the pain was a small price to pay for the truth. …

We are a soft and decadent people, in love with our comforts, reluctant to experience physical hardship. Pain makes us shy away. It’s no surprise that almost everyone fails at their diets — giving up in the face of the pain of mild hunger. It’s no accident that the gyms fill for a few weeks after every New Year, only to empty again when the pain of the workout overcomes the half-hearted resolution to finally become fit and strong.

Some people withstand pain more easily:

My life has been no harder than many, and easier than most, but through the luck of the genetic lottery I was born with a relatively high tolerance for pain.

I realized this near the end of my military basic training, when we went on a long route march in full battle rattle. My feet started hurting a bit some way through, but I pushed past it and kept walking. Another trainee was wailing like a little bitch all the way through; while I had no particular liking for him, I was glad that whatever discomfort I might be feeling, the damage to my feet had to be nothing compared to the injuries he must have sustained to be carrying on like that.

That is, I felt that way until the march was complete, and we peeled off our combat boots so the medics could inspect our feet. The individual in question had a small blister on his heel, maybe the size of the end of my pinkie finger. You had to squint to see it. My feet, meanwhile, had turned into four overlapping blisters each the size of the palm of my hand. I was put on light duties for a week. Comparing our respective injuries, the other troops were amazed that I’d said barely a word; needless to say, my counterpart became an immediate target for the brutal bullying males use to weed the weak out of the pack (and yeah, he was gone soon enough).

That incident was one of the first times I realized that, when it comes to physical pain, I’m wired differently from most people. It’s not that it didn’t hurt. It was agonizing. It was simply that my brain registered the pain, and then put that information aside because achieving the goal was a higher priority than stopping the pain.

I’ve noticed this pattern in other laterally thinking political dissidents I know. Many of them seem to have experienced excruciating physical pain at one time or another in their lives, due for instance to severe sports injuries, and then — crucially — they pushed through that pain to rehabilitate themselves. Later, they demonstrated the ability to ‘redpill’ themselves: systematically confronting all of their previously held assumptions and ruthlessly discarding them when the observable facts contradicted what they’d previously believed. It’s no accident that they’re usually in pretty decent physical shape. These guys tend to be both smart and tough.

Highly intelligent academics with little tolerance for pain:

Now, returning to our highly intelligent academics, and their inability to acknowledge that we’ve been lied to and abused by preening sociopaths …

They’re soft.

Go to any campus, walk around, and look at the professoriate. Evaluate them as physical specimens. They’re either scrawny, or obese, or skinnyfat — that particularly odious combination of noodle arms and pot bellies. Their bodies are a reflection of their lives. They don’t work out. They don’t watch their diets. They don’t engage in dangerous competitive sports: they’re physical cowards.

They are, in a word, highly averse to pain. They live lives of comfort — an abundance of hyperpalatable foods delivered to their climate-controlled living quarters as they entertain themselves in front of screens that require nothing more from them than their presence.

Over the years — for the youngest, over their entire lives — this comfort has eaten away at whatever inborn capacity they had to resist pain. Having lost their ability to overcome physical pain, their ability to move through intellectual pain likewise atrophies.

The body and mind are one.

And the truth hurts. So if they avoid the hurt, it follows that they avoid the truth.

And so it is that their impressive intellects count for nothing.

Well that explains a lot.  And don’t expect those with a low pain tolerance to fight for their country either.