The most dangerous thing in the world is an anecdote, a story that encapsulates a viewpoint so well that it stands as the archetype for the entire world. It’s a perverse power for a word that comes from the Greek for “not to be published,” but maybe that says it all about the way we support our views these days.
In a country of 330 million people, you can find an example of anything, but it seems some people keep using the same example over and over again. After a while, I get the feeling that some of my friends think these events happened to them, not to some friend of a friend of a guy I saw on the bus. It’s a bit like Munchausen Syndrome, with a dash of politics, and it’s all based on a true story.
Well, sometimes it’s based on a true story, and sometimes it’s based on a story that could conceivably be true, or not. Anecdotes don’t need to be true to be effective, and it seems the fake stories are the best at proving whatever point someone wanted to make in the first place. If it fits the narrative, almost true is good enough, especially when it’s MY truth.
In Chicago, nobody goes out of business because they have a bad product or bad marketing or bad management. It’s always crime and taxes, which don’t seem to affect the other businesses that continue to thrive in my home town. Some businesses do suffer from crime and there’s no question our taxes in Illinois are pretty stupid, but a million things combine to bring a company down and no company announces they are closing because, “We sucked at running a business.”
Whoever puts out the press release controls the narrative, at least at first, and the story is a Rorschach test for whoever passes it along.
Property insurance rates are rising? Clearly, it’s global warming, unless it’s the Fed’s interest rate increases, or profiteering, or rising losses on claims. What a beautiful anecdote, offering so many options for anyone who wants to use it to prove whatever point they want to make.
Did you hear about the guy who died within three days of getting his Covid shot? Did you hear about the politician who voted to outlaw abortions and paid for one for his mistress? Did you read that story about the liberal think tank that created a toxic environment for its minority workers? Of course, you did, and many of us will be using these stories to paint a picture broader than the horizon.
The best thing we can say about anecdotes is that they boost productivity. Imagine how many work hours we’d lose, how many school programs parents would miss, how many cable shows would fail, if we actually had to search for new examples of the things we hate, or support, or hate others for supporting. Even better, the same anecdote can be used by the legendary “both sides” of an issue, with only the blame changed to fit the narrative.
That’s what makes anecdotes so powerful, so appealing, and so lethal. In fact, I knew a guy who knew a guy who had a friend who was starting to tell an anecdote, but then he died right in the middle of the story. Clearly, these things are even more dangerous than fentanyl and drag shows combined.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.