In which our intrepid hero hops up on his soapbox.

My friend, Patrick S, sent me a link to this segment by Penn and Teller, about their hoax campaign to ban dihydrogen monoxide. It’s an old joke, but it seems that a lot of people haven’t heard it yet:

To be fair, it’s certainly not a phenomenon restricted to the Left. I guess they just make easier targets for Penn and Teller’s politics.

Penn’s points hold true, though: saving the world is sexy, and many people in popular movements are just joiners—they sign up without reasoning it out first. Hitler pointed out pretty much the same thing:

[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.

Although I’m not inclined to believe in moral absolutes, if anyone were to be labelled evil, Hitler would definitely be up there. The man and his followers were genocidal maniacs, and the Nazi perversion of the Nietzschean übermensch is superhuman only in the extent of his madness.

However, men like Hitler and Goebbels are valuable to history precisely because of their insight into this evil. Their meticulous analysis of the subversion of an entire nation serves as a powerful warning to everyone in the modern world: if you decline to think, then others will do it for you.

Democracy emphatically doesn’t work if it’s peopled by mindless drones—Penn and Teller make this point well. The question, then, is when did we in the West (or, for what it’s worth, specifically in the Anglosphere) lose our ability to make informed decisions?