Posted by Curt on 17 May, 2021 at 4:51 pm. 1 comment.


by Ben Dreyfuss

There is a wonderful scene in Inglorious Basterds where the undercover allied GIs accidentally reveal that they are not German by signaling the number three wrong with their hands. The character signals to a bartender for three drinks by meeting his pinky to his thumb. The Nazi character goes “aha! In Germany we only signal the number three by folding in our pinky and our ring finger. You must not be German!”
I used to think that this scene was totally unbelievable. I had never thought about how I made the number three. If you had put a gun to my head and asked me how Americans as a rule do it, you’d have to pull the trigger. But in the film, the Nazi is so secure in his belief that there is one Germanic way of signaling three that he challenges the nationality of his nominal superior. There must be lots of people in Germany who make three in a way that this one dude does not. It’s a big country! What a psycho to be so certain that he and only he knows the way one can signal three innocently!
Apparently, I was wrong. People do indeed make whacky judgments like that!
Ben Smith has a story in the New York Times about a recent Jeopardy kerfuffle. Some guy went on Jeopardy and won three days in a row. After the third win, he made a 3 with his fingers by touching his index finger to his thumb. Immediately some people who really need to go for a nice walk in the park and get some fresh air shouted, “Nazi! He’s a nazi! Secret nazi!”
A bunch of former Jeopardy contestants took to a private Facebook group and decided that they had to speak out against the secret nazi who had sullied the show they had once been contestants on by making a “three” in a sort of unorthodox way. In a fresh and frothy lather, the good townsfolk took to Medium to publish an open letter about how the man was a nazi, and Jeopardy producers are basically Vichy for not editing it out.
“This is stupid,” people basically said. “It’s just the number three.”
“You fool,” the smart trivia contestants basically replied. “Forsooth, not only did the man do the 3 (nazi) he also got a question correct earlier in the show the answer to which was ‘gypsy.’ He said ‘gypsy’ on television!”
“But that was the correct answer to the question.”
“Oh so racism is correct?”
“That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying the question had one right answer and the man was playing a game and he had to say the right answer to win the question.”
“Have you seen little Eichmann’s Facebook page?”
“The guy who won the Jeopardy thing and you think is a Nazi? No, I have not seen his Facebook page.”
“There is a photo of him in a Maga hat! What do you say to that one brainiac?”
“I guess he’s probably a Republican? Doesn’t mean he’s a nazi.”
“Who’s being naive now, Kay?”
“I’m looking at his Facebook page and he has written a post explicitly saying that he was not trying to signal anything to white supremacists. He has responded to this rumor.”
“He’s a liar!”
And it went on like this, people talking past each other. But this ragtag group of eminent and intelligent Jeopardy contestants sent a copy of their letter to the Anti-Defamation League so that they could get some support from the racism authorities.

Pray, the ADL came and what did they say?

“Thank you for reaching out regarding your concern over a Jeapardy [sic] contestant flashing what you believed to be a white power hand signal,” wrote Aaron Ahlquist, of the A.D.L., according to text posted to the group by the contestant who had emailed the group. “We have reviewed the tape and it looks like he is simply holding up three fingers when they say he is a three-time champion. We do not interpret his hand signal to be indicative of any ideology. However, we are grateful to you for raising your concern, and please do not hesitate to contact us in the future should the need arise.”

So that settles that right?
Of course not.
The ADL is in on the conspiracy.

“Is anyone else feeling gaslit?” asked one two-time champion, according to the screenshots. “We saw it. We know we did. But a lot of people (including the goddamned ADL) are telling us we didn’t. That’s some classic gaslighting.”

Ben’s whole story is great and really hits at something I think is important. These are smart people! They are smarter than me! They know facts about the seas and stuff! They are not popping Ambien in the daytime and listening to QAnon. (Well, maybe they’re popping some Ambien in the daytime.) But here they are, mad. Mad in the sense that they are angry but also mad in the sense that they are bonkers.
There is this psychological thing called the third-person effect, which is that people tend to think that they are not as susceptible to dumb stuff as other people. They are somehow more sophisticated than the average Joe. They recognize the sophistry of something and believe they are thus immune from it. But of course, that’s nonsense. We’re all more susceptible than we like to believe. Everyone is…even the winner of the Daily Double.
How does someone get here? How do they become a person who sees a person make a three sign and end up accusing the ADL of gaslighting? Well, it takes a village.

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