Category Archives: Society

All the World’s a Scam: Pseudoscience, Psedoreligion, Pseudobusiness, and Donald Trump

TrumpRegrets is a new Twitter account that’s almost as hilarious as it is disheartening. A catalog of voter remorse, the account retweets messages from former Trump supporters who somehow–miraculously–didn’t anticipate the turn things have taken. Some of the tweets are poignant. Others are just abusive.

I save the latter, because they cheer me up whenever I’m forced to contemplate the thin-skinned, bloviating flesh bag we’ve just inaugurated president.



Those of us who didn’t vote for Trump may wonder how the other half got duped into supporting a man who looks like a three-week-old Jack o’lantern and talks like a smackhead with a closed-head injury, but it’s really not so mysterious. Generally speaking, people respond well to being told what they want to hear.

I’m not exempting myself from that assessment, by the way. When I stumbled across alleged evidence of Trump photoshopping his hands to look bigger, my first instinct wasn’t to fact check. It was to wallow in feelings of validation.

You vain, pathetic little man, I thought. Aren’t I clever for not having voted for you.

In reality, I has nothing to do with cleverness and everything to do with having been burned in the past (well, okay, and a sizable differential in conscious racism–but that’s beside the point). Trump, at his core, is a con artist, and I’ve been targeted by con artists before. Any vulnerable member of society has. Me as a poor kid. You as a member of the LGBTQIA community. Her as a woman of color. Many people learn to recognize the signs of a scam, chief among them that “a-person-with-power-is-being-suspiciously-nice-to-me” feeling.

Some people, though. Someone people are just a little too desperate–or clueless, or isolated, or bigoted, or whatever–to run things by their internal fact-checker. And that’s when people like Donald Trump can convince them to act against their own best interests.

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Candy in a Bowl: A Social Experiment in Harvard Yard

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Here are some Reese’s peanut butter cups. If you saw a bowl of them sitting out on a stool, positioned invitingly near a sidewalk, beckoning to passers by and clearly unattended, would you take one? What if you left for an hour, came back, and they were still there? Would you rationalize it? (“I’m in the center of a college campus, and it’s almost Halloween. Maybe some student activities group put them here for people to take?”) Or would you moralize? (“Stealing is stealing, no matter the circumstances.”) Your answer may depend on whether you think you’re part of a stupid social experiment.

I’m not a fan of social experiments. I’m enough of an asshole without being manipulated into unethical behavior.

Are humans inherently greedy?

“Yep!” I say, stuffing eight peanut butter cups into my mouth.

Will humans compromise their morals if they think they can get away with it?

“Definitely,” I say, cramming the remaining peanut butter cups into my pockets.

What are the limits of the human capacity for self-justification?

“Boundless,” I say, swiping the bowl and sticking it down my pants to enhance my already full posterior.

To be honest, I’m actually more likely to behave poorly if I think I’m part of a social experiment, because screw you, sociologists! You don’t own me. Your results don’t count if I corroborate your thesis intentionally. What now?

Taking a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-Social experiment

I’m so counterculture.

When I saw the bowl of candy sitting out in Harvard Yard, I went from hungry to pissed almost instantaneously. I began scanning the area for any suspicious characters–sociology students crouching in the shadows with a camera and/or notepad, congratulating themselves on finally exposing the rotten core of humanity. I walked away for a while. I came back. I watched from afar as other people examined the bowl, probably asking themselves the same question I’d asked: Is this a social experiment?

People don't take any candy from the bowl in Harvard Yard.

These people didn’t take any candy. (background, center)

“How dare they?” I told my friend, Caitlin. “How dare this social scientist try to control us? I didn’t consent to be a part of this experiment!”

“I don’t really feel like candy right now,” said Caitlin.

“That’s not the point!” I replied. “It’s the principle of the thing!”

These people didn't take any candy, either.

These people didn’t take any candy, either.

So I finally took a peanut butter cup. And I ate it. And it tasted like freedom.

If whatever underhanded undergraduate set up this experiment is reading this now, know that you have have lost. I behaved in an unethical fashion on purpose. I ate your candy. I ATE IT UP. You can report that to your professor, if you want, but the truth will burn out your insides: I knew exactly what I was doing, which invalidates your results.

You’ve been dunked on, sucker!