Tolstoy Syndrome

October 10, 2006 at 6:02 pm | Posted in Iraq, King George | 2 Comments

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative blogger who has turned on Bush and Republicans in general, has discovered the best terminology for Bush and his supporters: The Tolstoy Syndrome.

It states:

Tolstoy Syndrome is a description of a behavior of humans who ignore the truth despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.[1] The behavior is named after a quote from Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910):

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life”.

A related Tolstoy quote is “The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.”

As an example of the Tolstoy Syndrome, Alfred Wegener, a physicist and metereologist, noticed the jigsaw fit of West Africa and South America and proposed continental drift when he found fossil evidence to suggest these continents were once joined.[2] Geologists mercilessly ridiculed Wegener[3] until his hypothesis was recognized as plate tectonics. This recognition, however, occurred long after Wegener was lost on a glacier in Greenland in November 1930.

How accurate!

The problem is that Bush does care in his heart about protecting America, but he’s so fearful of telling the truth, because it would mean he would be seen as a weak leader, that he would rather carry a false optimistic message, regardless of how off message it is.


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  1. As a new Tolstoj fan I ask myself how it comes that telling the truth is always painful or writing poetry, like it comes from an other pool than the general information.
    Good about Tolstoj is that he was sceptical about the ideas of Darwin, and classified them as materialistic.

  2. The Tolstoy Syndrome–Yes, all we need do is look around us and reflect upon our own behavior in order to witness the truth of the description. What a pity for a nation, a culture, a Church, even a family to be caught up in its throes. Possibly a way to gradually escape its clutches is none other than conversation, conversation, conversation filled with compassion and as much listening as speaking. Wearing the shoes of one another continues to unite people the world over.

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