Thursday, 3 August 2006

Wannabe psychics

Keep your eyes peeled for wannabe psychics and you'll find no lack of examples in newsrooms, in blog posts and, it goes without saying, open-line radio shows. Comment sections in far too many blogs are positively crawling with them.

What I'm talking about is journalists and pundits and common citizens who are evidently convinced they are psychic, as they reveal to you what Politician X or Celebrity Y or ethnic group Z is REALLY thinking/intending/planning. This is far too often in defiance of the public record, but they are only too eager to display their esoteric knowledge and advanced comprehension of the inner workings of the human heart.

Well, I don't know about you, but this does strike me as being a tad presumptuous. It's happened to me so many times in my life that when I have a really good conversation with someone that I am genuinely surprised by what comes out. I really would have expected something different judging from superficial appearances, but lift the lid and you find something quite different in the pot. Now maybe I'm particularly obtuse and everybody else has figured out how to find that elusive window into the human soul, but somehow I doubt that I'm all that unique in my deficiencies. I can think of any number of times that I myself have been judged by others who mistook my exhaustion for coldness, my inexplicable restrictions for adult stupidity (yes, I AM the mother of teenagers), my questioning of a right-wing doctrine for left-wing lunacy, my questioning of a left-wing doctrine for crass conservatism... You get the idea.

Armed with all this evidence of my inability to read privileged information in other people's eyes and their obvious inability to see into my psyche, I get really antsy when coffee shop pundits, newspaper editorialists, or anybody else tries to tell me what makes someone they've never met tick. Politicians in particular get this treatment constantly and they dish it out just as frequently, especially on the campaign trail.

There was a pretty flagrant example over at Wizbang a few days ago when Jay Tea tried to persuade us that the statement on CAIR's website on the shooting is Seattle was just a smoke screen for what they really meant.
I'd claim a full point for the "blame Israel," but that one you gotta read between the lines. They're blaming the "violence in the Middle East," but it's pretty much understood that that violence is Israel's fault. (emphasis mine

At least Jay had the decency to point out his attempts at mind-reading; most people are not that open about it.

Reading Mel Gibson's heart has become an international sport in the last week or so, while everybody and his dog weighs in on what Mel "really" thinks.

In the play, The Admirable Crichton, a mother warns her son to be wary of the words "to tell the truth" because they almost invariably signalled a lie. I am equally leery of the word "really", because it so often seems to precede unjustified conjecture.

May I humbly make the suggestion that we restrict ourselves - even in the case of politicians we don't want to vote for - to judging people by their real actions and their real words, not by what we presume to read behind them?

The really scary thing is that once you start watching for this, you'll find out how often you're tempted to play the game yourself. Or maybe I'm misjudging you...

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