Oh, hornswoggle! I’ve felt so much cognitive dissonance through the pandemic. I had hoped against hope that this feeling would lessen in 2021, but it has not. I need a way to put a marker by something that strikes me wrong so I can decipher why in my own time. I’m choosing the word hornswoggle as my red flag word.
In the strictest terms, hornswoggle means to trick or deceive. Telling me one thing is true while contradicting it with your next sentence feels like trickery. I experience this day after day after day from the news, from Twitter, from blogs that feature headlines contradicted by the story beneath and other blogs that misstate the results of a study.
I feel frustrated and weary from this. When it affects me directly, I feel angry. When it means horrible government and governing, I sometimes feel helpless. I know that my ability to affect positive change is related to the size of my platform and the amount of time and energy I’m willing to devote to my message.
But I have very real time and energy limits. I have priorities that sometimes supersede my public policy concerns. And increasingly, I am choosing to change the flow of my days to a kinder, gentler flow. I can only combat so much hornswoggle in one day. But I can flag it when I see or hear it. And you can too. Perhaps “Oh, hornswoggle!” can become a battle cry to combat misinformation.
Unfortunately, misinformation sometimes comes from seemingly credible sources. Or it’s delivered without full context. This creates loopholes that make it easy to argue with science. I hate this. We need evidence-based information!
I also hate the role that credentialed professionals sometimes play in dissemination of hornswoggle. This is often done with good intentions, but it’s harmful and ultimately creates distrust.
One of the most prevalent themes in hornswoggle is that there’s an immediate fix for everything. Have a pain? Take a pill. Need to lose 10 lbs? Eat only protein. Have PTSD? Try psychedelics. Want to be stronger? Use steroids. Can’t sit still? Take a pill. Annoyed by your kids? Give them a pill. You know the routine.
And many of these solutions work short term. The question is whether they actually promote healing of the underlying problem or just lead to dependence on repeated short-term solutions.
Beyond that, I’ve begun to wonder whether frustration over widespread failure to address underlying problems is contributing to the increase in violence we see playing out at grocery stores, hospitals, and on airplanes. The stats on airplane violence are sobering. Forbes Magazine reports that “Through May, about 2,500 such incidents have been recorded, and those categorized as “unruly” reached 394, compared with well under 200 for each full year of 2019 and 2020.”
And we’re confronted with mass shootings every week. I’m hearing an increase in gunfire in my neighborhood recently. If you’re interested in tracking this particular type of violence, visit the Gun Violence Archive. They’ve been doing evidence-based research since 2013 and the site offers detailed charts.
In addition to glossing over underlying conditions, hornswoggle’s demand for immediacy can impede due process, in-depth conversation, and carefully considered consequences. I can’t see the positive gain from immediacy if those are things we give up. The cost is simply too great.
I think we’re feeling all of this under the surface. When we try to express it, we may be dismissed or demeaned or canceled or bullied or shamed or, very possibly, never acknowledged at all. And then we’re faced with the choice of how to respond.
In order to avoid feeling dismissed, humiliated, shamed, or unheard, some of us suppress how we’re feeling. But at some point, we may not be able to do it any longer. And if anger is the first emotion to reach the surface, it may explode into violence.
I’m not going to tell you that hornswoggle is the cause of all violence or that removing it tomorrow will solve our problems immediately, but seeing it for what it is and refusing to perpetuate the narrative can help raise awareness. Calling hornswoggle when you see it can put a pin in topics that require thorough examination and thoughtful consideration.
And maybe if we slow down a moment, we’ll come to our senses and realize no one should have to repeatedly swallow hornswoggle.