Getting a lot of "Boss Baby" vibes from this war...
Fellow non-experts on international conflict, let's all stop making asses of ourselves.
Hello, dear readers. I hope you’re having a good day.
I haven’t posted a whole lot about the situation in Ukraine, and there’s a really good reason for this: I’m not an expert, and I try to know enough to know what I don’t know.
This is one of those ideas that I’ve been trying to internalize since reading a really smart piece published by Harvard Business Review, titled, “Do You Know What You Don’t Know?” The article touched on something called the “illusion of explanatory depth,” which is a fancy way to say that people often think they’re more knowledgeable on a given topic than they actually are.1 This is different from simply BS-ing your way through knowing ignorance in that you still believe that you understand the topic at hand, all while subconsciously filling in the gaps with buzzwords and shoehorned in areas of your own personal areas of self-believed expertise.2
Law of the instrument and The Boss Baby
You’ve almost certainly heard of Maslow’s hammer3/law of the instrument/law of the hammer before. The basic idea is that people are inclined to gravitate in the direction of what they know, and is the origin of the idea that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
A more modern take on this is a 2019 tweet from Twitter user @afraidofwasps, reading, “Guy who has only seen The Boss Baby, watching his second movie: Getting a lot of ‘Boss Baby’ vibes from this…”
If you’re a writer who has spent the past several years railing against so-called “cancel culture,” you might try to find a way to link that idea with what’s happening right now in Ukraine. That’s exactly what conservative Washington Post columnist Jason Willick did when he tweeted that the world’s response to Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine was “the first geopolitical ‘cancellation’ of the 21st century.”
On Fox News, former Trump administration Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and right-wing commentator Monica Crowley used a similar line.
Another example of this, as written up brilliantly by Katelyn Burns in a recent Medium post, is the effort to blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on… uh… pronouns?
(This last one really confuses me because 1.) the U.S. doesn’t have any combat troops currently involved in the Ukraine conflict, 2.) I really do not understand why the response to a war would be to… reduce the number of people who can join the military? It’s clear this is just shoehorned nonsense.)
None of that isn’t to say that there aren’t people on the left with goofy and unrelated explanations for the war, but the right’s were the ones that really jumped out at me for how numerous they were.
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The point here is that if tomorrow we found out that an asteroid was going to wipe out all life on earth, the right would find a way to blame it on “pronouns” and trans people and “cancel culture.” There’s a lesson here: these are not critical thinkers, and they should not be taken seriously moving forward when they try to connect various other issues to their pet projects, either. Let this be the moment that their credibility cements its place in history’s dumpster.4
War is hell, and cringe.
I recently watched Renegade Cut’s “Post-Satire Capitalism” video. If you’ve got about 15 minutes, I recommend you do the same. It’s a great look at some of the world’s absurdities (news articles about privatizing the moon, the FBI singing the praises of MLK, Mark Zuckerberg lecturing the world on the importance of privacy, and so on), and how our world has essentially been Quibified.5 We seek out things that are short and digestible, that don’t take too much attention. For instance, significantly more people will see my tweet about this newsletter than will actually read the newsletter. Whatever I put on Twitter needs to convey the message of a 1,000 word newsletter post in 280 characters. It’s hard.