Must Believe, May Believe, and Make Believe

How is it possible that after more than two months of continuous lies 77% of Republicans believe President Trump is an honest man? Just as perplexing is the contrast with Democrats. Living in the same country and with the same information available, 90% of them have concluded that Trump is not honest.

An article I read recently (sorry I can’t remember where) gave an answer that made sense to me. People who want to believe something look for reasons they may believe it; those on the other side want to know if they must believe because the evidence is overwhelming.

So when Trump claims that President Obama tapped the phones at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, Trump’s loyalists look for any scrap of evidence that it may be true. When news breaks that Trump’s associates were picked up as a byproduct of surveillance of other people and not at Trump Tower, the story gives them just enough cover to say, “I knew there was something going on! President Trump’s claim has been vindicated!”

Meanwhile, the skeptics on the other side say, “Hold on a minute. You still have not presented any evidence that Trump Tower’s phones were tapped.” They will not believe it until the evidence forces them to (they must believe).

Sometimes, this gets started with an act of make-believe. If you visit PolitiFact on any given day, you can see the latest “pants-on-fire” claims. (I note with chagrin right now 90% of the pants-on-fire lies listed on the home page are from bloggers!) They range from the laughable (“Nancy Pelosi was just taken from her office in handcuffs”) to the incendiary (“Muslims get their way — Illinois will permit wearing burqas in driving license photos”).

I’m sure we all agree that we should not form our political, religious or scientific opinions based on make-believe, but what about may-believe versus must-believe? Which is better?

That will be the subject of the next post.

One response to “Must Believe, May Believe, and Make Believe

  1. Pingback: Why You Don’t Have To Check Every Nutty Claim | Path of the Beagle

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