Dr.Dawg

Confabulation

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paranoia.jpgSuppose a person is asked to remember the colour of the sky, and says “It’s red.” He is entirely serious. You take him to the window and point to the sky. “Well, it’s blue now,” he says. “Are you trying to play a trick on me?”

Moving away from the window, he remembers part of an old saying: “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning,” and throws it down triumphantly. The word “warning” send him off on a tangent. He begins to talk about threats—to him, to our way of life. He talks excitedly for several minutes.

When you can finally get a word in, you tell him that the saying is about sunrise and a possible storm at sea. He will have none of it. You show him the sky again. He shakes his head; he gets noticeably upset, bearing down on his original statement with force and fury. The more you try to show him, the angrier he gets. You realize that, for him, you are part of the problem.

In this scenario, the person is not lying. There is no such thing as truth or lies in his agitated discourse, only a narrative. And that narrative is maddeningly consistent. He mentions the movie “Red Sky,” and a book by Amir Tahiri, somehow ignoring the metaphorical usage altogether. “More than a million hits on Google Scholar,” he says. “Are you calling these people liars?” After an hour or so, you rub your eyes and almost begin to doubt your own position. He’s so utterly sure of himself.

The clinical behaviour of the person I have been describing is called confabulation. The confabulator has no malign intent, even if his words can be wild and hurtful to others. He genuinely thinks he’s right.

I am being completely hypothetical, of course, and not necessarily making a leap to this piece by Jonathan Kay. Yet I am beginning to wonder if some of the more colourful and gloriously wrong political fantasists that we on the Left routinely excoriate should be more pitied than censured. Could it be that—for a few of them, at least—conservatism really is, as I have not-so-seriously snarked in the past, a diagnosis rather than a politics?

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This page contains a single entry by Dr.Dawg published on November 29, 2014 9:13 AM.

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