Jolly Ol’ Phil


When Prophecy Fails - Cognitive Dissonance (combined)

Condition #5

The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

These five conditions specify the circumstances under which increased proselyting would be expected to follow disconfirmation.


In 11 seconds this clip encapsulates what America has become

One morning I walked into a gym and forgot to say, “Thank you!” to the front-desk attendant who handed me a towel. I got about twenty-five feet and turned around to say, “Sorry about that — my mind was off somewhere else and I forgot to thank you.”

What does it cost to keep an eye out for others in the tiniest of ways?

Keep that in mind when you consider the players in this ploy — another in a long line of refusals to give your fellow man a thimble of thoughtfulness or one second of sincerity. If you’ve read “The Rest of the Story” then the atomic clock above probably clued you into this next one.

I was well aware of the Atomic Clock of Comedy’s history of unhinged hackery on Facebook, and I had never bothered to contest his partisan pettiness. I preferred to preserve his image in the light of his humor. That policy would have remained had it not been for one Saturday morning of scrolling by something that stunned me — the Atomic’s toxic tantrums being implicitly challenged by one of his best buds — our mutual friend the Peacemaker.

Had it been anybody but him I would have moved right along, but in Peacemaker I saw an opportunity. He has such a pleasant personality that it’s hard to imagine him offending anyone, so I saw him as something of a diplomat who could reach Atomic in a way that I couldn’t.

They’ve been close friends and colleagues for many years, but where they vastly differ is that Peacemaker is far more cerebral in expressing himself (though they’re both very smart). To my knowledge, he rarely says anything about politics — so it spoke volumes that he questioned the Clock’s routine rage in the gutter games of government.

The only problem with Peacemaker’s well-written post is that it was such carefully-veiled criticism that the Atomic predictably glossed right over it. Knowing that such subtlety has no chance of breaching the Clock’s hermetically sealed casing, I thought I would chime in with something concrete. I figured that since the Peacemaker kicked off the conversation, the Atomic might be more inclined to behave in a manner that somewhat resembles his buddy’s expectations.

No matter what Peacemaker says or does, he’s never a jerk about it. I thought that would matter to the Atomic. I was wrong.

The Peacemaker’s opener was inspiring but so sanitized that even the likes of Clock could agree with it. As much as I appreciated the post, he might as well have been wishing for world peace — since diplomacy without specificity is pointless. defines diplomacy as “the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way.” Peacemaker has the former part down pat but he lacks in the latter, as his ambiguous language does not elicit a response that involves the acceptance of responsibility.

And that’s where I came in — to provide a framework that Peacemaker and I could use to conduct an actual conversation. Atomic had no intention of playing along.

After offering up my carefully crafted arguments, the Clock summarily dismissed facts to insist that I was stating opinion. When challenged on that, he doubled down to claim that “everything’s just an opinion” — which is tantamount to saying that the composition of air is just another “point of view.”

quote - Half the Harm

A fact is a “truth verifiable from experience or observation.” When you enter into a discussion with someone who pooh-poohs demonstrable proof, they will reroute the dialogue in any other direction.

Atomic skated right over my in-depth offering until he found something that he could seize on (the brainless belief in “all opinions are equal”).

Nowhere in that man’s mind were questions that conform to the conventions of conversation. To uphold time-honored traditions of discussion, it was necessary for him to consider at least some form of the following (not to mention that it was the courteous thing to do).

Just asking himself one of these questions could open to the door to the others:

  • Does Rick look like he knows what he’s talking about?
  • Does Rick’s offering make sense?
  • Since I haven’t heard any of this information before, how much more am I missing?
  • As I voluntarily entered into this discussion, shouldn’t I consider his arguments in the interest of understanding — and ask questions for any clarification needed?
  • If I challenge Rick’s submission, what exactly am I basing my beliefs on?
  • Did I ever investigate the matter on my own, or did I just believe what I was told?
  • What does it all mean if Rick’s right about this?
  • Am I willing to admit that I’m wrong — and do I have the courage to share that realization with others (especially those who are equally incorrect)?

So instead of having the dialogue I had hoped for, we had the “all opinions are equal” debate. Peacemaker posted another challenge that delicately disagreed with his best bud, but it was so generic that the Clock even “Liked” it.

The “opinion” debate would have likely fizzled out with no harm done, but in typical Facebook fashion — a mutual friend of theirs shows up out of nowhere to say:


Gosh, just saw all this. If I didn’t have a life, I may have read it.

So, you don’t want to participate in the discussion — but you take time out of your day to drop some derision about your lack of interest — advertising your wonderful life while you’re at it.

How gentlemanly of you!

The “all this” was the substance that I diligently delivered for our conversation. I’m of the mindset that we should have the decency to recognize when something is of great importance to someone else, and that we should not take pleasure in showing up to demean such serious-minded concerns.

When I shared my aversion to being treated with unprovoked scorn, Phil cried foul in his immaculate “innocence” to unconscionably claim: “Interesting that I haven’t disparaged you once, but you’ve now done it to me a few times.”

To which I replied, “Your entire purpose in showing up was to disparage!”

And how many times have I have seen this crap:

I hope you are fortunate to find happiness one day.

Whenever I’ve offered evidence on Iraq WMD — contempt almost invariably comes with the program. And lo and behold, my “happiness” has often been fraudulently floated as a concern.

How they contort reality to engineer the appearance of propriety is a sickening sham

I’d swim miles across a river of rudeness if we could get to the truth on the other side — so let’s dispense with any notion that this is about getting my “feelings” hurt.

To put it in a lighthearted way, I’ll borrow from something Jon Stewart once said:

I’m not offended as a taxpayer — I’m offended as an attention payer.

You don’t do a documentary like mine expecting to be embraced — as my scrutiny spares no one in the saga of absurdities that have crippled this country.

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Ironically, the worst culprit in cognitive dissonance in this story is not Atomic or Jolly ol’ Phil — but rather the Peacemaker. He’s one of the nicest, brightest, and wittiest guys you could ever meet — but in his risk-averse ways, he pampered his pals instead of seizing on a great opportunity. No way in hell he would have hurt his friendships with those guys (at least not with the Clock, anyway) — so he had a lot of room to work with.

It’s so rare to have someone of that statesman-like stature in a debate — a figure that all sides see as so good-natured that surely he will do right by everyone involved.

Alas, it was just a dream

The Peacemaker naively absolved them both (never mind that he initiated the exchange by sharing his concerns about our culture that craves this kind of conflict). Jolly Ol’ Phil’s “constantly making quippy comments on Facebook,” didn’t ya know?

Apparently I’m supposed to assume that when a stranger shows up to say, “If I had a life . . .” it’s all in good fun.

In leveling his assessment of the situation, Peacemaker’s first words in a personal follow-up were: “Rick I am going to be very frank here . . .”

That I get the “very frank” version of Peacemaker — while he won’t even move up to “frank” with his buddies is beyond belief

Regardless of how wildly off base his letter was — it was from the heart (and from someone who understands me pretty well).

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s delusional.

And Peacemaker passed along his pearls of wisdom about my history of conflict and how “we’ve seen all this before”:

He has quite the selective interest in “seen all this before” — since none of the following qualified for consideration:

  • The long history of ugliness plastered all over Atomic’s wall (and I suspect I’d find the same on Jolly Ol’ Phil’s)
  • The invariable idiocy & incivility on Iraq WMD intel for over a decade at that time — by know-nothing know-it-alls behaving exactly as they did
  • Peacemaker conveniently ignores that Jolly Ol’ Phil would never have seen anything like what I was writing that day — so as adults, don’t ya think we have some responsibility to adjust accordingly? If being an online agitator is your thing — maybe you should you stick to your own kind instead of stepping into the ring with someone who’s gonna call you on your game.

Now it might seem like I’m abusing the Jolly Ol’ Phil bit (and I wouldn’t blame ya for thinking that) — but the reason I repeatedly used it is because “jolly” is the only prism in which Peacemaker sees him.

Whatever my criticisms of Peacemaker, I still love the guy and always will (it would almost be impossible for anyone not to like this guy). But spending his life avoiding risk the way he has, he doesn’t know human nature like I do (nor does he read and write about it).

Peacemaker‘s behavior fits right into Festinger’s formula — as he held my “history” over me as a way to absolve his closer friends of any blame. It wouldn’t have bothered me at all if he had spread his criticism around — that would have been fantastic. But to ONLY criticize the person who was simply trying to have a conversation in the interest of truth — is outrageous.

For all those who ignore the elephant in the room while having no shortage of scrutiny for those who dare to ask, “Wouldn’t we be able to move around more freely without this elephant in the way?”

They have a name — and it’s called “The Critic”

man in the arena quote poster

In light of how far we have fallen — I have to wonder how many will even see this for the rudeness it really is.

I introduced Michael Strong’s The Habit of Thought in Rules of Engagement — and as part of our correspondence about his book — out of curiosity, I asked him how he would handle the folly of Phil, and I thought his response was perfect:

Apparently your conception of “having a life” does not imply working together to understand each other. I am personally committed to dialogue with those who have a commitment to increasing levels of truth and mutual understanding. Let’s not waste any more time together.

Habit of Thought - book cover -- with list - 3

I’ve tried to keep that in mind — and I’ve increasingly stayed away from discussions that have no chance of going anywhere

No Respect for Space

I was once having lunch with a fairly-new colleague who sat there texting as if I was not even there. I said:

Ya know, if you’re gonna do that then there’s no point in us being here.

An occasional text over lunch is hardly cause for concern, but the regularity of it has gotten totally out of hand. My dental hygienist told me that on a number of occasions she’s had patients take a call right in the middle of her working on them. Times have changed, but the courtesy of not being a distraction should be timeless.

I might have fallen into the same technology trap as others, but when I got my first cell phone back in 2001, I established click-over rules that are still in place today.

Barring a few exceptions, I will not switch over for anyone — even if I would rather talk to the person on the incoming call. I believe in respecting that space and allowing the conversation to come to its natural close. If I’m expecting a call then I will click over, but I make sure that my current caller is aware of that when I make the switch.

Another caveat is that work-related calls almost invariably take precedence. The last condition is that if someone has called a few times one right after another, then I will certainly switch over.

My attitude is that my attention is being given to the person on the phone at the time, and that he or she deserves that courtesy until the call has concluded.

On a lighter note, when I didn’t click over for a girl of interest many years ago, she jokingly said, “So, I’m not click-worthy?” I thought that was priceless and it became an ongoing joke. One friend sent me an email stating:

That’s a whole new low — when I’m not even click-worthy when you’re leaving ME a message and I’m calling YOU!

I still laugh about that. It didn’t happen exactly that way, he just saw an opportunity to have some fun with the “click-worthy” concept — and rightly so!

I’m not out to indoctrinate anyone on my phone-answering preferences (and I think nothing of it when people click over on me). But by not adopting every aspect of convenience in our tech-driven times, I can more easily see how behavior has changed over the years.

Keyboard CommandoHad my conversation between Atomic and Peacemaker been in person — do you think Jolly Ol’ Phil would walk right up to us and say:

Gosh, I just overheard all this. If I didn’t have a life, I might have joined in.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would do that

But it’s a whole other world online, as people get a thrill out of derailing dialogue — as long as they can deal their disdain from afar as keyboard commandos.