I see this everywhere: in major publications (eg Economist, WSJ), in blogs, commentaries and op-eds (eg NYT, Atlantic), and I hear it on a daily basis from otherwise clear-thinking people. And I fear that it has spread like a metastasizing cancer from political commentary to most other fields of discourse as well.
Paul Krugman points out a recurring cycle in economics that indicates a pattern of deflation, and is bewildered why people who know this continue to ignore it, in his words
What I’ve never quite understood is why so many investors still loooove the likes of the WSJ editorial page, while they hate, hate, hate people like, well, me — when believing anything the former says has historically been a very good way to lose a lot of money.It's a fair question. And not just an economic one. An anecdotal aside: I was watching a documentary on WWII last night, and perused some of the online comments other viewers had left at Netflix. The comment that stood out was from a viewer who thought it was an excellent documentary, except he couldn't believe that some of what was shown to have occurred really occurred. Therefore he urged people to disbelieve it.
The desire to believe the accuracy of an ideology or belief in the face of evidence to the contrary used to be considered a sign of madness. Now it is starting to be counted (apparently) as a sign of strength.
In a similar vein, on the always frustrating and valuable blog of Andrew Sullivan, he points out some discussion between Gary Shteyngart and Ross Douthat on the value of the information soup that is the interwebs. Apparently, they are arguing that crap information is a gateway to valuable information; that
MySpace and lolcats make you more likely not less to go on, through serendipitous link-wanderings, to read, say, The American Scene, which in turn makes you more likely to read, say, Dos Passos.The profoundly misguided and dangerous mistake in this thought is the error of assuming that most people consume all information equally in a high-speed rapid consumption environment.
What it may do is make people more likely to look at a comment about Dos Passos. But not actually read Dos Passos. The world of wikipedia has made it far easier to digest information at a slightly sub-Cliff Notes level, and provides no reward to the average internet user for actually engaging with content at a higher level.
People create more, but there is no incentive to create better.
What we are creating is is a universe of information similar ot a fast food emporium, where you can get a cheap, ugly hamburger that tweaks all the immediate gratification centers of your brain, only you have a choice between the burger called "The Filet Mignon Supreme", or the "Super-Health McPatty Deluxe", or even (if you're a masochist) the "B-Grade ground meat from animals treated like hell and processed in a sweat shop in Asia". But they're all effectively the same product, with the same content despite the packaging and labeling. And they all leave you in the same state of poor health.
This is just another process which is training us to disbelieve what we discover through experience and assessment, and rely on the structures of our own dysjunctive beliefs. It's as though, along with universal literacy, the scientific method is busily been tossed on the trash heap of human past, along with the rest of the achievements of the Enlightenment.