Someone on the Internet has a Theory

Every Halloween, for the last three years, I’ve been listening to Dead Man’s Bones. I kill it over the week leading up and then I put it away after Halloween and get it out again the next year. I’m somewhat forcing Halloween associations on music that is truly more just good than Halloween oriented but it does have a children’s choir singing about zombies and graves so it works.

I heard one of the songs at work and bought it on the strength of that sound wanting something specific to play around Halloween at my new house. This is also the band you can’t hear about without also hearing Ryan Gosling is in it. I don’t know how involved he is, but I think he’s one of the main musicians. His name isn’t just in there for publicity.

I linked one of the songs I like to my facebook page but also scrolled through some comments on the link, that sort of reflexive scroll down to read the comments that’s more from modern day inertia than interest. Mostly it was fans sharing how much they love the music, but then one guy, who apparently doesn’t, stated that he thinks people don’t really like the music as much as they like Ryan Gosling and want to like his music so much that they were able to convince themselves they liked it without even realizing they were doing it, you know, subconsciously, so that if someone says they weren’t doing that he can keep saying they were but just didn’t realize.

This is a guy whose ‘I think’ translates to ‘Listen everybody, here’s the story,’ although I could just be a guy who conveniently translates I thinks into Listen everybody, here’s the storys, but since I admitted it that proves I’m not, except since I just said that I might be again, but now I’m not, but now I am again. And so on.

This couldn’t have been about anything more trite so it seemed funny, except it’s not, because people felt a need to defend their musical tastes against a character attack and one with some misogynist undertones. Dead Man’s Bones probably got a lot more listens because of Ryan Gosling’s popularity, and some of his popularity is tied into him being considered a male heartthrob, and maybe people gave more of a chance to a unique sound because of him, but it’s a giant leap to suggest people didn’t really like it but forced themselves to because of him. And why even go there?

Because this guy didn’t like the music, and he wasn’t comfortable with people liking it because that didn’t fit his construct of the world. He was more comfortable inventing a theory that made him feel right about his taste in music. I got belatedly interested in David Foster Wallace and I gleaned this from something of his, it might have been his “This is Water” speech I listened to online, but I also read Infinite Jest and it could have been tucked somewhere in there, but the idea is that we’re most comfortable where we already are and we’re threatened anytime anything shifts us off that. This is a human tendency, also known as cognitive dissonance where our brains develop neural pathways for what we believe and after time these pathways become so worn rerouting those neurons becomes painful. (I don’t know if that’s literal or not, I’m not a neurologist, but that’s how it was described in a book I read about scientific blunders, where some of the most brilliant minds of our time, in their older age, couldn’t shift off theories they’d spent their careers working out, even when everyone else in the scientific community was incorporating new evidence that proved the old theories either wrong or limiting.)

We were discussing this theory at work and someone said that’s not true because a lot of people enjoy variety in people’s opinions, enjoy discussion with people who think differently. That’s true, and I wouldn’t even call those exceptions. I only think that tendency is operating in us and we’ve learned to override it, in many cases, but when we’re not vigilant we slip back into that natural human tendency. I catch myself falling into it. This guy fell into it when he blurted a theory off the top of his head to match the opinions of random people online about a style of music to his, maybe not to be snarky, maybe simply because it felt better.

Or maybe he’s not the someone on the internet with a theory maybe I am.

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