David McRaney, who explains the real reason why you cannot change someone’s mind (and why it is so difficult)

  • David McRaney talked to people who have changed their mind 
  • They were expelled from groups because they had changed their minds 
  • One person changed his mind regarding 9-11 and no one in the group was willing to listen.  

 PSYCHOLOGY

 HOW MIND CHANGE

by David McRaney (Oneworld £18.99, 352pp)

If you have ever had an argument with someone about one of the live issues of the day — and you surely have — you will know how difficult it is to change anyone’s mind. 

Trump Loathers and Trump Supporters, Brexiteers and Trump Loathers. Corbynistas. . . The argumentations continue and there is never a compromise. “We will have to agree not to disagree” is a phrase we often use when trying to discuss something with a pigheaded idiot on the other side. But David McRaney might differ. 

A self-described’self delusion expert and psychologist nerd from Mississippi, he once wrote a book entitled You Are Not So Smart. This was about the many ways we fool ourselves. Here he attempts to understand not only how to influence other people, but what makes us believe the things we do. 

Charlie Veitch is an 9-11 “truther” who believes it all was just a plot job, planned and executed in vain by the Americans. All his conspiracist friends excommunicated him immediately. 

No one can change your mind. David McRaney says that you can only make changes to your mind. Stock image by David McRaney

Veitch, a rising star within the conspiracy industry, had become a friend and collaborator of Alex Jones (an American basket case) and David Icke (who still believes that the world is run by interdimensional Lizard Humanoids (the Duke Of Edinburgh being one). 

Andrew Maxwell was hired by BBC to host Conspiracy Road Trip. In it, Maxwell loaded several extremists on a bus and took them to others who knew better. He tried to convince them they were wrong. 

Maxwell would gather his road-trippers after each episode to discuss the show with them and determine if any of the presented facts had changed their mind. They didn’t change their minds. They could not convince themselves that the ridiculous conclusions they made were true. 

A group of truthers walked through the sites of the 9/11 attacks, meeting experts in demolition and explosives, and talking to relatives of victims. They also met with the national operations manager for the Federal Aviation Administration. 

McRaney talks to several people who changed theirs and suffered exclusion from tight-knit little groups of maniacs and loons (stock image)

McRaney interviews several people about their experiences with changing their lifestyles, and how they were excluded from tightly-knit loons or maniacs. Stock image

They didn’t want any part of this. The people they had met assumed that the experts they encountered were actors and that facts were merely suppositions. Veitch was not so sure. The flight school, architecture firms, and demolition specialists had all diminished his certainty, making it possible that he could be mistaken. The grieving relatives confirmed the truth. He found out back at the hotel that he wasn’t the only one who felt the same way. 

Finally, he uploaded a YouTube video telling of his epiphany. There was a swift and violent backlash. A conspiracy theorist stated that Veitch had been told by his producer friend, Veitch, that Veitch had been manipulated by Derren brown’s psychologist. 

There were rumors that he was an FBI agent or CIA agent who infiltrated the truther movement to discredit them. You might think they did an admirable job. 

His mother was contacted by someone who sent him images of child pornography that had Veitch’s head superimposed over them. Alex Jones created a video, in which he claimed that Veitch was double-agent. Veitch was done. Veitch changed his name and makes a living by selling properties around the globe. 

No one can change your mind. Only you can change your mind, which is quite difficult. McRaney speaks to people who have changed theirs, and were expelled from small-knit groups of loons and maniacs. This is a complex book, but it’s also fascinating at times. It is highly recommended for conspiracy theorists and flat-Earthers as well as climate change deniers and Trump supporters.

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