Another epidemic of irrationality

Andrew L. Urban

I must stop smacking my forehead in disbelief. With that undertaking in mind, I referred back to an article of mine in The Spectator Australia published over five years ago, ‘Dysrationalia epidemic’ (28/5/2018, in the context of climate change,* “the ultimate threat to humanity” according to US President Joe Biden the other day). Dysrationalia, I wrote, explains how irrational it is to accept the thrust of global warming alarmism. In today’s context, it also helps to understand why many people, even some who can be described as intelligent (eg journalists, politicians, commentators, etc) make overt or covert criticism of Israel for targeting hospitals. Killing babies.

How else to explain that absurd notion. It’s absurd because it is irrational. Israel is well aware that Hamas is determined to win the PR war, despite its despicable policy of using civilians – including babies – as dispensable human shields. It seems to be winning because widespread antisemitic activists have propelled false narratives to foul Israel’s image, with help from sections of the anti-Israel media.

It is evident from the hysterics of pro-Palestinian demonstrations and the craven media reporting on the conflict, that it is not Hamas that is being held responsible but Israel. Odd, no?

Dysrationalia is defined as the inability to think and behave rationally despite adequate intelligence. It is a concept in educational psychology …and can help explain why smart people fall for things like Ponzi schemes – and biased views about Israel’s military campaign against Hamas. Rationality, by contrast, is the quality of making decisions based on clear thought and reason.

From ministers (eg Australia’s Penny Wong) to national leaders (eg France’s Emmanuel Macron), and some dysrationalia-infected commentators in the media, there is a narrative being put forward that Israel’s IDF targeted hospitals, including babies. Israel is doing everything it can to avoid hurting civilians, primarily for humanitarian reasons that is in its DNA. But it is also desperate to protect its image and the respect of the international community. It has no tactical reason to target hospitals or kill babies. It gains nothing militarily but loses a lot of global support.

Dysrationalia aside, such accusations against Israel are best understood as attempts to demonise Israel and damage its international standing, weaken support for the state and hurt Jewish people. In other words, dysrationalia meets antisemitism.

That mixture exactly mirrors the make up protesters around the world: the angry young ignorant rebels (the naïve as Benjamin Netanyahu calls them) and the ill-willed activists – including the faculties at universities. Dysrationalia manifests in both the inexperienced, uninformed young and the older cohort of the antisemitic.

The term dysrationalia was coined in the early 1990s by US psychologist Keith Stanovich. In 2002, psychologist Robert Sternberg edited a book, Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid, in which the dysrationalia concept was extensively discussed.

The disorder can lead to serious problems, especially when it manifests amongst policy makers and those who influence them.

*Andrew L. Urban is the author of Climate Alarm Reality Check (Wilkinson Publishing).

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