Irrational Fears

Conspiracy soup, skewed facts, and how they are used against us.

Irrational Fears

If I ever get attacked by a shark, I'm going to ask him to finish the job. Because why have a snack when you can have an entire meal? Why put me through that and expect me to get past it? Being an appetizer unfinished is a fear of mine even if it's irrational to lend it prime real estate in the mind space.

If a shark were to attack, while vicious, it‘s understandable that it can’t resist making man soup of me, but it's not the attack itself I fear most, but the afterwork of having to adapt to a life of less. When Stone Temple Pilots said, "I'm half the man I used to be," it may as well have been based on the true stories of the high seas that take place each year.

Whether I'm half or even 83% of the man I used to be, coping with the loss of self, even in small portions, is the greatest of my irrational fears.

To be rational would be to recognize that what might be the worst thing that ever happened to me may not be as bad as not learning from it afterward. But who's thinking ahead when you can tremble every time you enter the ocean? To have an irrational fear is to avoid facing it.

We all have them. I only have a few, but they are as real as the risk of having car trouble in the winter without a coat. Mine range in scope, from sharks to polysaturated-unctuous hypothermiaphobia. Or, the fear of cold butter, which I explain in this article at length.

Why I am afraid of cold butter
How the boogieman became fat when fat became the boogieman. I always get nostalgic during this time of year as we enter into the Holiday season. I begin to get a tingling feeling in my belly that I call anticipation. Anticipation for perhaps the most precious thing in our lives.

The treatment of irrational fear is as varied as the infliction, including exposure therapy, being belittled by a priest for not having enough faith, and of course, Zoloft. When it comes to exposure therapy, one of the more effective treatments, caking your entire body in butter, is a known treatment that works at exposing one safely to butter for the sake of developing a healthier relationship to it. But the same treatment is counterproductive at preventing shark attacks because it creates a more appetizing subject for the shark. Either way, even exposure is not a sure thing because exposure to a shark attacks doesn't make the fear of sharks disappear.

So, what does help us overcome our irrational fears? Rational explanation, commonly referred to as "mansplaining," certainly doesn't. For example, the chances of getting attacked by a shark, a question you will find prominent in my Google search history, are calculated at about 1 in 11.5 million, but knowing this is wholly ineffective at helping me and others overcome our fears because fears, by nature, are not rational.

Just like Robert F. Kennedy Junior.

Robert would have you believe he's talking sense into the political discourse these days, but a closer look reveals that "sense" is not really the right word. Still, he continues to have enough wind in his sails to stay in the race for President. At least enough for his calculations, which, if they are as sound as his many other claims, are not worth the envelope they're calculated on.

The reason Robert is in the polls and maintaining the following of any voters whatsoever is because of irrational fears. It's the focus of his platform, and his messaging strategy is to make the irrational sound rational.

So, let me talk about something rational for a second.

The Florida Museum of Natural History says that less than one person is killed by a shark in Florida each year. But let's dig into that for a moment. Aren't most sharks in the ocean and not actually in Florida, a mass of land in the shape of a 'thumbs down'? I think we have a right to know about these sharks that have been making it to land and killing almost one person each year, but it seems to me we're being misled.

I'm not anti-shark. I'm just asking the questions.

See. This is a classic Bobby Junior approach. Start with credible data and call it into question with what sounds like a reasonable challenge that is impossible to research. Then deliver it to people who are too busy being suspicious and feeling heard to bother looking it up, preventing them from finding out your statements are epistemologically nonsensical (a.k.a. bullshit).

Robert's most popular positions are those on public health. Perhaps first in line is a fan-favorite, his anti-vaccine message, and second–that he's not an anti-vaxer. He's known for focusing on parents who have children with autism or other disorders who are convinced a vaccine caused their kid's diagnosis. He'll get into the weeds by talking about thimerosal, which contains a form of mercury, and mercury as we know, is deadly. The issue is that he's comparing ethylmercury to methylmercury, which sounds equally dangerous based on spelling alone but, in actuality, is more like comparing a Coors Light to gasoline. They may be the same color, but if you drink one at a party, it will kill you. Drink the other, and you'll just be called a sissy.

That's the key to capitalizing on irrational fears. You have to make a good case, but you don't have to make sense, because no one will ever know. However, it's important to note that Robert makes many good points. In fact, he makes some that are critical points worth considering. He points out that autism diagnosis have soared, and that chronic diseases have soared, and that eating aluminum is bad for you. This is all true. And as I explain in The War On Weeds, is that no bad guy is ever as simple as we want them to be. Vaccines may be the sharks of the public health industry, killing someone every year, but sharks are critical for the ocean's ecosystem and ultimately our food supply, specifically clams and scallops, rendering a new england meal nearly pointless.

In the same way, Robert presents some evidence pointing to real risks of vaccines, and other public health factors, that if avoided would likely save lives, while increasing the deaths from other causes. Like any point, when surrounded by eight good points, even a bad one sounds credible. But the sensational one, a shark attack, capitalizes on our irrational fears–that that one person could have been me. No one should ever surf.

On the Joe Rogan show, Robert bloviates at length on his exploration of vaccinations. I've enjoyed all three hours on your behalf to understand what I'm talking about, and what he's talking about. He refers to a constituent of moms (who are known to be experts at being moms, historically) that followed him around, begging him to take up the vaccine versus autism topic. He's since earned wide recognition for the topic.

in a June 15 episode, in a segment about vaccines for children, he says, “None of the vaccines are ever subjected to true placebo-controlled trials, It’s the only medical product that is exempt from that prior to licensure.”

Again, it sounds pretty scary on the face of it. But it's the details that matter. Your first reaction is, "Why would you not do a placebo-controlled trial!" And the answer is that we're not studying sleeping pills. We're studying vaccines. Today, most vaccines are built on prior vaccine technology, and a prior version of a vaccine offers a perfect alternative for a placebo made out of saline, which is how nearly all vaccines are tested today.

But reasoning a mom's group out of their irrational fear of vaccines is harder than getting them to vote for you. So that's the route Robert F. Kennedy is taking. He's capitalizing on people's irrational fears under the guise that he is "just asking questions." Many say he's the only level-headed guy in the race. The only one listening to what voters are concerned about.

This doesn't get into many other topics Robert is known for, like that the 2004 presidential election was stolen, anti-depressants are to blame for school shootings and that Wi-Fi causes cancer and leaky brain, and many more very strange ideas that could totally be true, but probably are not.

Robert said "This is what happens when you censor somebody for 18 years." at his campaign kickoff in Boston. And he's right. He has been censored at times, be he is not an abscure figure. By publishing articles in Rolling Stone and Slate and appearing on Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson's podcast. He's receiving leading new coverage, even if it focuses on criticism of his message. Robert is polling high for an independent at 14% in at least one poll this month.

As a leading candidate for President, Robert F. Kennedy works in conspiracy soup, often with skewed facts, built on misguided conclusions about inflated suspicions.

He's preying on our irrational fears. Just like every other politician. And that's why we shouldn't elect them.