The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech.  Sure, they pay lip-service to the idea now and then, but when you watch them in action, it’s clear they don’t much like wide-open discussions and free-wheeling debates.  You may recall, for example, what happened when Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, was invited to be part of a nutrition panel at the National Food Policy Conference:  members of the Center For Science in the Public Interest and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee threatened to boycott unless she was disinvited … which she was.

I wrote at the time that the CSPI weenies were afraid Teicholz would kick their asses in a public debate.  I still believe that’s part of the explanation, but recent events (which I’ll cover in later posts) got me thinking there’s more to it.

To explain, let’s start by quickly summarizing the Wisdom of Crowds concept:  when ordinary people share their experiences, ideas and insights with each other, the right answers tend to eventually bubble up to the top.  Notice that the Wisdom of Crowds doesn’t mean the majority is always correct, and it certainly doesn’t mean everyone’s ideas are good ideas.  It simply means that when ideas and information are freely exchanged within that big ol’ crowd, the good ideas tend to take hold.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the U.S. are based on a similar concept.  The Founders believed in what’s often called the Marketplace of Ideas.  Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote that it’s safe to tolerate error of opinion where reason is left free to combat it.  Fredrick Siebert put it quite nicely in Four Theories of The Press:

Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other.

Notice what both the Wisdom of Crowds and the Marketplace of Ideas have in common?  That’s right … they’re based on faith in ordinary people.  Given access to lots of information and competing ideas, most people will come to the correct conclusion most of the time.  So people who believe in the Wisdom of Crowds view the prospect of debate and discussion with an attitude of Bring it on!  I’ll make my case, you make yours, and we’ll see who wins.

The Anointed, by contrast, view wide-open debate and discussion as a threat.  Why?  I used to think it’s because they know their Grand Plans are based on flimsy or non-existent evidence.  As Thomas Sowell points out in both The Vision of The Anointed and Intellectuals and Society, The Anointed tend to fall in love with bold, new, exciting ideas.  They don’t like waiting for solid evidence to support their bold, new, exciting ideas, and are quite adept at ignoring or dismissing evidence that their bold, new, exciting ideas are wrong.  So I figured they’re hostile to debate out of simple fear someone will prove them wrong.

But that doesn’t jibe with a fundamental trait of The Anointed: their extreme confidence in themselves and their ideas.  So after noodling on it for awhile, I decided their hostility towards debate and discussion is rooted in two of their most dearly-held beliefs, which are:

1.   They are very, very smart.
2.   The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.

Therefore, The Anointed aren’t afraid they’ll be proven wrong – heck, they don’t believe it’s possible for them to be wrong.  Rather, they’re afraid the rest of us are too stupid to discern how right they are.  When we hear lots of contrary opinions, we (unlike The Anointed) don’t have the intelligence to weigh the evidence and come to the correct conclusions.  So as far as The Anointed are concerned, an open debate is nothing more than an opportunity for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be led astray.

That’s why so many of them long for the good ol’ days when a relatively small number of information gatekeepers decided what most of us see and hear.  That’s why so many of them are angry about the emergence of talk radio, social media, blogs, and other forms of what they derisively call the “pajamas media.” (I’m not wearing pajamas at the moment, in case you’re wondering.)  The information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates, which means the Marketplace of Ideas is a vastly larger and more diverse marketplace than it once was.

That’s what allows the Wisdom of Crowds to flourish.  But The Anointed don’t believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, so they consider all that debate and discussion a problem.  We’ll look at how they (ahem) “solve” that problem in the next couple of posts.

52 Responses to “The Anointed and Free Speech, Part One”
  1. KevinF says:

    “But that doesn’t jibe with a fundamental trait of The Anointed”

    THANK YOU for that rare correct use of the word J-I-B-E, instead of using J-I-V-E, which is what 99% of professional writers and editors would use in that context because they’re stupid.

  2. Trump2016 says:

    I’m curious about the “Grand Plan” I’ve been seeing in some of your posts. I know plenty of Conservatives, Liberals, and anti-Libertarians, aka, Trump Supporters like me, who wish to bring about accelerationism and unleash the technological singularity. What are your thoughts about those who wish to see that particular “Grand Plan” fulfilled?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      My definition of a Grand Plan is borrowed from Thomas Sowell. It means a plan that requires spending other people’s money and/or restricting other people’s freedoms in order to achieve a goal The Anointed deem worthy. Grand Plans are usually imposed on others whether they want it or not — for their own good, of course.

      I’m against that kind of Grand Plan, no matter which party or politician wants to impose it.

  3. Craig says:

    Reminds me of when one of Obama’s policies was wildly unpopular after he went around making speeches about it. He basically ended up saying people were too stupid to realize how amazing and great his ideas were. It’s a common battle cry in politics: “Don’t let people choose, they might make the wrong choice! Force it on them. It’s for the greater good.”

  4. Andrea says:

    I think part of what’s going on with them is cognitive dissonance. Part of them knows they’re wrong, but they can’t accept it. When you REFUSE to accept what you KNOW is true, you become the kind of person who shouts your opponents down rather than engaging in discussion.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Could be, but I sometimes wonder if it’s even possible for them to know they’re wrong. Many of their ideas aren’t logical in the first place, which means they’re quite capable of ignoring logic.

      • Jennifer Snow says:

        It’s not–the entire ethos of the Anointed is based on philosophical ideas in which there is no such thing as “reality”, only subjective constructs. So, yes, they literally do believe that it’s IMPOSSIBLE for them to be wrong. If they don’t get what they wanted, it’s not because their plans are idiotic and useless. It’s because us unreconstucted people actively opposed them in creating their “perfect world”. And, of course, because they’re enlightened (because they say so–since that is the only criteria you need when there’s no reality but what you imagine), anyone who opposes them is clearly evil.

        They rarely articulate this anti-reality stand outside of academia, but it’s painfully obvious if you ever run across them. The reason why they act like toddlers having a tantrum because their parents won’t let them run out into the street is because they LITERALLY believe that the street isn’t dangerous, you’re just MAKING bad things happen to them.

        In their universe, EVERYTHING bad that happens is, quite seriously, “someone’s” fault.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Well said.

          • Jennifer Snow says:

            This is also why they freely smear anyone who objects to anything they propose as “racist” or *insert smear du jour here*. Because it doesn’t matter WHAT you say or what your evidence is. What matters is that their magical subjective vision is going to magically eliminate bad thing if only enough people subscribe to it. So if you oppose their magical vision, it’s because you must ACTIVELY SUPPORT the existence of bad thing. You are INTENTIONALLY CREATING the bad thing.

            Now, the hardline proponents of this metaphysical default are rare, but what they accomplish is to provide the activists with infinite ammunition for dismissing anything they don’t like. Nobody REALLY believes–fully–that there’s no such thing as reality and that wishing truly will make it so. Not even the people who have supposedly “proven” that this is true. They know they don’t live in mystical fairy land. But they’re willing to pretend because this makes their wishes unassailable.

            • Tom Naughton says:

              Well, you’ve got to admit, deciding reality is whatever you say it is has a certain appeal. As Stephen Hicks, author of “Understanding Post-Modernism” wrote, an objectivist thinks like this: If it’s true, I’ll believe it. A subjectivist thinks like this: If I believe it, it’s true.

    • Tom Welsh says:

      Exactly. One of the great errors that people make about “1984” is to believe that Orwell thought doublethink would be invented in the future. On the contrary, it is deeply etched on every single page of human history. Although cognitive dissonance can be uncomfortable. I have seen it argued that, when someone tells a lie for long enough, he becomes acutely uncomfortable with the need to “doublethink”. So he starts to believe the lie, even though he used to know it was a lie. Something like Stanislavski’s “method acting”, where you act yourself into the part.

  5. Wayne Gage says:

    “1. They are very, very smart.
    2. The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.”
    I see this attitude in most of the career politicians.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Goes with the territory.

    • JMH says:

      And academics.

    • Tom Welsh says:

      For those who are interested only in amassing money and power, anyone who hasn’t successfully done that seems very stupid. After all – in their view – what else is intelligence for? Others like to use their intelligence to understand how things – and people, and systems – work. To them, the insensate pursuers of money and power may seem the foolish ones.

      As Isaac Asimov liked to say, “Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do”.

    • Brandon says:

      I think a lot of well-educated people fall into this category, not just career politicians.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        To quote Eric Hoffer, who wrote in the 1950s:

        “The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.”

      • Likewise, as Hayek put it in The Fatal Conceit (1991), “intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence…”

        This would be the same problem with “accelerationism” or the “technological singularity” BTW.


    • JillOz says:

      We are stupid enough to allow them to run and to vote for them and help themselves to giant lifelong pensions (Australia), so yes, in that case I would agree with the career politicians! 😉

  6. lemoutongris says:

    That restrictive vision of freedom has become even more obvious with the “fake news” scare all over. Sure, websites like Breitbart and Info Wars are questionable, but so are ALL “mainstream” media, who blatantly lie to our face when it comes to economics or food. If it weren’t for his bogus pamphlet, Morgan Spurlock wouldn’t have landed a show

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Good point, and one that’s in my draft of the next post.

    • JillOz says:

      If it weren’t for the venality of Morgan Spurlock the upright and amusing Tom Naughton and Fathead would never have existed.

      While I am no fan of evil, I have been reflecting lately that if it weren’t for certain types of evil, the seriously amazing people who emerge to fight it would be forever submerged.

      This does not mean I am thankful for pedophiles, Jewhaters etc! It does mean that incredible freedom fighters pop up tp do battle and prove themselves very inspiring in the process.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        Thus supporting the Marketplace of Ideas theory: the cure for people promoting bogus ideas is other people disputing those bogus ideas.

    • Rick Bauer says:

      Two words: Brian. Williams.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        I was sorry to see what happened to Brian Williams. He was one of the few mainstream news types who understood why alternative media became so popular. He once said something along the lines of liberals complain about Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, but it was liberal bias in the traditional news media that created the need and the market for Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

        That’s not an exact quote, but it’s the gist of what he said.

    • Glenn says:

      We should separate sites that interpret news or selectively report news that support a point of view (Breitbart, Fox, NPR) from true fake news that are nothing but pure fiction wrapped in a website that looks and feels like a reak newspaper website. This is good example of true fake news.

      • Elenor says:

        “We should separate sites that interpret news or selectively report news that support a point of view (Breitbart, Fox, NPR)…”

        Sorry-WHAT?! Were you off-planet during this whole election fiasco?!?! Did you miss the ENTIRELY fake news promulgated with such glee and vitriol by all those “interpreters” and “selective reporters” I assume you would consider “true news” rather than your “true fake news”?! Was there one SINGLE “news” program that did not engage in most malicious lying and misleading!? I’m more likely to give Brietbart’s “news” a second thought than “Fox/Faux News OR NPR! Was there ANY mainstream media you could think” okay, maybe they actually got this tiny bit correct”? (I’d say: no, absolutely not!)

        The whole point of the Alt-Right and Alt-Tech is to **crowd-source** (wisdom of the crowds, as Tom says) what’s actually going on. See, e.g.: Infogalactic, “The Planetary Knowledge Core” (the replacement for the *highly* censored Wikipedia) and (replacement with a FREE SPEECH mission for twitter which is censoring and banning people wholesale!)

        “…website that looks and feels like a real newspaper website”

        So, you think if it LOOKS and FEELS like a “real newspaper website” you can believe what it’s sellin… er… telling you?! Hell, I can put one of those up in about an hour!

  7. JCM1953 says:

    “That’s why so many of them long for the good ol’ days when a relatively small number of information gatekeepers decided what most of us see and hear.”

    Are you fucking nuts? Media consolidation is the order of the day. Fewer than six corporations determine what YOU, Tommyboy, see and hear on ALL media platforms. I know this rant of yours is immensely pleasurable, and that you get a little thrill out of pecking out The Anointed over and over, but try to stay within the bounds of fact.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      You SERIOUSLY believe there are fewer voices and less diversity in media now than 30 years ago? What planet are you living on? It used to be NBC, CBS and ABC, who all sang from the same prayer book. Now there are several cable news stations, hundreds of talk radio stations, and a gazillion news sites, podcasts, YouTube channels and blogs — many of which have broken major news stories — etc., etc., etc. If you believe six corporations own all those news sites, podcasts, YouTube channels and blogs, it’s time to take off the tin-foil hat.

      Unlike when I was a youngster, there are conservatives with hugely popular shows (much to the chagrin of liberals, who miss the days when all major media news broadcasts were populated with liberals), liberals with TV or radio shows, libertarians with TV or radio shows, etc. There is far more diversity in news and information than there used to be.

      Yes, the old (and not particularly diverse) print and broadcast media have consolidated to try to survive. That’s because they’ve lost much of the audience to alternative — and far more diverse — media.

      • Rick Bauer says:

        Tommy Boy. Decent flick. If only Chris Farley went LCHF and into rehab…

      • Nick says:

        There is a flip side to this though. With the huge amount of choices including questionable ones it is too easy to almost completely isolate yourself from opposing views. Here is a long article/study on political polarization and media habits –

        The same could be taken on things such as nutrition, or any other topic. If you really want you can find things to support your views without even giving a chance to opposing views. So it is much easier to fall into the same thought trap that the anointed have where they ignore any views but their own. The wisdom of crowds will not work if you isolate yourself from all other views and distrust facts when presented with them if they run counter to your beliefs.

        I for one am willing to change my views when presented with facts and compelling arguments. And I hope many others too. I worry when I see some of the political discourse or even some of the primal/paleo discourse that some are falling victim to the same trap. After all I think the change in views over tubers in the primal/paleo community is a perfect example. A few years ago a potato was a high-carb food and therefore bad. But now it is accepted as even Tom found out it can be good

        • Tom Naughton says:

          That is the downside, yes. But it’s not as if people being isolated from opposing views is a new development. Before the explosion of alternative media, the opposing views rarely saw the light of day. Low-carbers may limit themselves to diet and health sites that say saturated fat is fine, for example, but back in the days when I was a health writer at a magazine, you couldn’t find that opinion in the media. Everyone sang from the low-fat prayer book.

          The truly good news is that traditional media have been forced to pay attention. We see more and more articles in major media declaring that the anti-fat crusade was a mistake. I believe that only happened because the contrary opinions gained traction in alternative media first, then bubbled up to traditional media.

    • JillOz says:

      “Are you fucking nuts?”

      Tom, I think you should advise your contributors to lay off your actual and implied sex life. 😉

  8. Gilana says:

    Bought Sowell’s “Anointed” a few months ago. Sitting on the Kindle for iPad. I have to read it. Why have I not read it?

  9. Steve says:

    Hey Tom,

    I think all of us have to be careful of becoming the ‘anointed’ within our own bubbles. It’s easy for us, the ones not making the big decisions, to criticize and insult. In doing so, we end up anointing ourselves as the owners of the truth because of the belief that we could do it better or make the right decision. Unfortunately, it is way more complex than we can imagine.

    Democracy is a mess – the policies we see are a super watered down version of what everyone wants. It isn’t one person making the decision or policy, its special interests, monied interests, a little bit of the public…etc.

    I get your point about the anointed – but if you put us in that position – we would end up in the same place making our own big policies. The question is – how do we take back control or improve this process? Its fun to shit on them, but that doesn’t accomplish anything.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Keep in mind, simply believing in your version of the truth doesn’t make you one of The Anointed. The Anointed are those who feel entitled to spend other people’s money and/or restrict other people’s freedoms in order to impose their version of the truth. They often make those “big decisions” when no big decision was even necessary. To name just one example, was it really necessary for the USDA to dictate to schools what kind of lunches they can serve?

      That’s the difference. I believe a low-carb or paleo diet is best, but I have zero interest in restricting other people’s freedom to choose whatever diet they prefer. Unlike The Anointed, I also have zero interest in restricting other people’s freedom to write, speak, tweet, post or whatever, even if they’re promoting ideas or diets I don’t like.

  10. Deb says:

    Thanks for posting this, and for encouraging free speech. The Anointed have intimidated the voice of regular folks for too long…

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