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Poisoning the well on the journey to crazy town

by Greg Krehbiel on 28 December 2013

From time to time we discuss the virtues of trying to get out of our own self-referential views of the world and challenge our minds with a different perspective. If you’re a conservative, try to understand a liberal. If you’re a skeptic, try to understand a believer. Etc.

But if you’re in the business of trying to keep people within the fold, you don’t want that. You don’t want your congregation of tree huggers to go listen to the Libertarians.

There are a few different techniques people use to keep their flock in check, but they seem to huddle around the basic idea of keeping your mind pure from evil thoughts. I think this might be one reason why liberals like to caricature conservative thought as hateful. “He sounds just like a Nazi!”

Liberal college students shout down the opposition because such things shouldn’t be heard. They’re impure.

I recently bumped into a conservative religious version of this (which I’d heard many times before, but hadn’t encountered recently). The idea is that you want to limit the things that influence you to make sure they’re pushing you along the straight and narrow. You don’t want to open yourself up to “attacks from the enemy,” or listen to a message that has a “bad anointing.”

This works because there’s actually some sense to this. It is easy to fall off the straight and narrow, and you really don’t want to get led astray by a charismatic Nazi.

But there’s a line you don’t want to cross. At some level you do want to limit the inputs into your life, but once a person accepts the “pure us vs. evil them” view of the world, he just digs himself further into crazy town.

(I was trying to think of a way to get Crazy Train into this, but it didn’t seem to fit.)

-- 2013-12-28  »  Greg Krehbiel


  1. smitemouth
    29 December 2013 @ 12:03 am

    Yeah, you can poison the well too by calling someone a “pure Marxist.”

    I’ve met plenty of people who have ridden the crazy train. I remember out in California when I knew some guys who were friends with a bunch of gibberish speakers. They would say that if something wasn’t a song directly glorifying God, then it was of the devil. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star–of the devil. I wonder how many of those guys actually believe anything now 25 years later.

    Lots of Pink Floyd songs/albums deal with the alienation between people and the categorization people like to do of Us vs Them.