The terror and the mystery of Conventional Wisdom

 CONVENTIONAL WISDOM / the generally accepted belief, opinion, judgment, or prediction about a particular matter. Merriam Webster

FROM: New York Times / Soothsaying / “A scorecard on Conventional Wisdom”

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith coined the term “conventional wisdom” in “The Affluent Society,” his 1958 book. He was describing expectations commonly ascribed to an omniscient “public sentiment.” In that time, a small, powerful class of broadcasters, columnists, thinkers and political leaders trafficked in such assumptions, often faulty (e.g., “a Catholic will never become president”)

Today, new swarms of self-styled pundits can formulate conventional wisdom, or merely advance it, in any number of forums — e-mail, cable, blogs, talk radio. Conventional wisdom now just seems to bubble up, fatherless, with minimal brain work or reflection behind it. Its life cycle — the creation, debunking and subsequent hand-wringing of “old” conventional wisdom — has been radically compressed.


The “conventional wisdom” now current is that “nothing can be known for certain.” This is incredible.

Example: Malaysia flight MH370 vanished more than one year ago. It did not land anywhere (conspiracy theory); it is not flying around somewhere in airplane heaven (hope); the passengers are not hovering in a quantum state (they are both alive and dead at the same time.) If Schroedinger’s cat had hijacked the airplane, and the wreckage is found, “opening the box” will not produce a live cat. The passengers are dead. And yet, hours and hours of TV time are spent “disbelieving” the facts that are known. No one affected seems to grasp the reality that the airplane crashed. No one died unless the plane itself is found; the plane must be found.

The millions of dollars being spent on trying to locate the wreck could instead be applied to installing location transponders on airplanes and designing data recorders that can be recovered (release and flotation) for flights that regularly cross ocean environments.

Aviation companies, governmental investigators, “experts” on airplane design and  manufacture are grilled over and over, their statements “nullified” by magical interpretations on the part of news consumers (who obviously flunked common sense 101) who keep pressuring these folks for statements that would allow for overturning the laws of physics. Why can’t the experts turn on their X-ray eyes and see the wreckage? These idiotic interviews often close abruptly with the newsreader stating, “So anything is possible, then?”

“So anything is possible, then?” No. But conventional wisdom believes so.


Another piece of conventional wisdom is very old, but persists, and has increased in popularity: American citizens have the right to a jury trial of their peers. Innocent people have nothing to worry about. People with a mental illness, who are accused of a crime, have been diagnosed by appropriate services. 

  1. Normal people (overwhelmingly male) commit domestic violence and spousal rape. It’s what “guys do.”
  2. Individuals who commit violent acts during commission of a crime are criminals. (Robberies, gang-related or drug-related crime.)
  3. Individuals who plan and carry out “mass” attacks are overwhelmingly male and are “mentally ill.” This has become an automatic diagnosis on the part of the public and the media.
  4. Groups who carry out “mass” attacks are terrorists, and therefore are outside the protection of law. They can be assassinated, held in secret without due process indefinitely, and be tortured.  They are “evil” and must be wiped from the face of the earth.
  5. Serial killers and rapists become celebrities: TV shows are based on their crimes, especially if their “modus operandi” involved torture and sexual sadism against women or children.

Upwards of 90% of people arrested and charged with a crime plea bargain their case. Plea bargaining is coercive: There is a HIGH penalty for exercising the right to a trial.



Crime goes down: incarceration goes up. Magic? No, plea bargaining, mandatory minimums and the threat of stacks and stacks of charges instead of one crime.


Who is mentally ill – in a criminal way?

I think at this point in time, Americans are rightly confused. The number of Americans diagnosed with “mental health issues” has shot up alarmingly. Where do mentally ill people end up?



Note that those in category #3 above (the automatically mentally ill) are candidates for the death penalty. Everyone knows the perpetrator will be found guilty, and yet millions of dollars are spent on excruciatingly long and detailed investigations and show trials, which are intended to make everyone “feel better.” Not much effort or money is spent on prevention.




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