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Aughts

The Encyclopedia of Counterintuitive Thought

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Critically acclaimed authors are terrible.
2001, Magazine.

Almost every single widely praised contemporary author of fiction is a charlatan. The “cultural elite” wants us to believe that boring or fussy prose is good. Writers like Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx are too inaccessible.
B. R. MYERS, “A READER’S MANIFESTO,” THE ATLANTIC, JULY/AUGUST.

Cultural imperialism is good.
2002, Book.
What looks like the homogenization or Americanization of world culture is actually markets bringing people the culture they want. “Cross-cultural trade” (e.g., jazz exported to France, Persian rugs imported to America) is making local traditions more vibrant and relevant than ever.
TYLER COWEN, CREATIVE DESTRUCTION: HOW GLOBALIZATION IS CHANGING THE WORLD’S CULTURES.

Delaware is one of the country’s biggest problems.
2002, Magazine.
Delaware is a vast, corrupt, corporate scam of a state, and they are ripping us all off.
JONATHAN CHAIT, “ROGUE STATE: THE CASE AGAINST DELAWARE,” THE NEW REPUBLIC, AUGUST 19–26.

Drinking is good for you.
2007, Book.
Enjoying alcohol (in excess—“moderation” is the watchword of the joyless) is a pastime with an admirable history.
BARBARA HOLLAND, THE JOY OF DRINKING.

Drug dealers don’t make more money than poor people with “straight” jobs.
Despite its portrayal in popular culture as a way out of poverty and into a flashy ride, the average street dealer makes less than the minimum wage.
LEVITT AND DUBNER, FREAKONOMICS.

Drugs are good for you.
2003, Book.
The drug war is bad not just because it is immoral and impractical, but because drugs (and not just weed—the “serious” ones, too) are fun to do, and don’t have to be harmful. Many successful people engage in recreational drug use without destroying themselves.
JACOB SULLUM, SAYING YES: IN DEFENSE OF DRUG USE.

Drunk driving is safer than drunk walking.
If one assumes that the percentage of miles walked drunk each year is the same as the percentage of miles driven drunk, fatality statistics indicate you’re more likely to be killed while walking.
LEVITT AND DUBNER, SUPERFREAKONOMICS.


Illustration by Andrew Rae  

Evidence of Osama bin Laden’s guilt is irrelevant.
2001, Website.

Marshaling “evidence” that Osama bin Laden is responsible for 9/11 will only waste precious time we could be spending killing Osama bin Laden.
ROMESH RATNESAR, “THE CASE AGAINST A CASE,” TIME.COM, SEPTEMBER 26.

Exercise is bad for you.
2004, Magazine. The fitness culture is oppressive and societal obsession with health is dehumanizing. Exercise is “a set of forms of bodily self-regulation which drag the last vestiges of biological life into the light as a social attraction.”
MARK GREIF, “AGAINST EXERCISE,” N+1, FALL.


Illustration by Andrew Rae  

Fat doesn’t make you fat.
2007, Book.

It’s actually refined carbohydrates that are to blame for obesity and heart disease (and exercise doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss).
GARY TAUBES, GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES: CHALLENGING THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM ON DIET, WEIGHT CONTROL, AND DISEASE.

Feminism is exploitative.
2004, Magazine.
Modern feminists are responsible for the subjugation of the working class (powerful working women need cheap labor to take care of household duties, like child-rearing).
CAITLIN FLANAGAN, “HOW SERFDOM SAVED THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT,” THE ATLANTIC, MARCH.

Gay marriage is good for conservatives.
2003, Magazine.

Conservatives like it when people get married, because it makes people more conservative—so conservatives should like it even when gay people get married.
ANDREW SULLIVAN, “THE CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR GAY MARRIAGE,” TIME, JUNE 22.

Gay marriage oppresses gay people.
2009, Magazine.

An array of free-love-style social/sexual relations is far freer and more fun than repressive monogamous marriage.
MARK GREIF, “ON REPRESSIVE SENTIMENTALISM,” N+1, FALL.

Giving your product away is better business than selling it.
2009, Book.

Everything you produce should be free, because no one will pay for it anyway and it’s the last reliable way to build an audience (which will eventually help you turn a profit).
CHRIS ANDERSON, FREE: THE FUTURE OF A RADICAL PRICE.


Illustration by Andrew Rae  

Global warming isn’t a big deal.
Cutting emissions would prove way more difficult and probably be way less effective at battling climate change than technological solutions that will be easy to implement.
LEVITT AND DUBNER, SUPERFREAKONOMICS.

George W. Bush is a liberal.
2004, Website.

George W. Bush is a “utopian internationalist,” like liberal presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and FDR.
WILLIAM SALETAN, “BUSH THE LIBERAL,” SLATE, SEPTEMBER 21.

Google is hurting civilization.
2008, Magazine.

Because of Google, we cannot concentrate and we skim instead of read. “The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.”
NICHOLAS CARR, “IS GOOGLE MAKING US STUPID?,” THE ATLANTIC, JULY/AUGUST. A YEAR LATER, THE ATLANTIC PUBLISHED AN ESSAY ABOUT HOW GOOGLE IS MAKING US SMARTER.

Government transparency is bad.
2009, Magazine.
Because the public cannot interpret or understand much of the data released by the government, transparency leads to wrong conclusions about actions and motivations of elected officials and civil servants. Learning which industries fund your senator can lead to harmful cynicism about the political process as a whole.
LAWRENCE LESSIG, “AGAINST TRANSPARENCY: THE PERILS OF OPENNESS IN GOVERNMENT,” THE NEW REPUBLIC, OCTOBER 9.


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