Dupes Down a Rabbit Hole

“I have said, and said it calmly, that this is the curiousest world I ever see in my life.  And I shan’t take it back.  I hain’t one to whiffle round and dispute myself.  I made the statement cool and firm, and shall stand by it.” 

Marietta Holly, My Wayward Pardner (1880)

“It was ordained that an age, a dupe to the frantic rage of impiety substituted to reason, a dupe to the oaths of hatred and the wish of crushing all religion, mistaken for toleration . . . to ignorance for science, to depravity for virtue, a dupe in short to all the intrigues and plots of the most profound wickedness mistaken for the proceedings and means of wisdom; it was ordained, I say, that this Age of Philosophy should also be a dupe to the plots of the rebellious Sophisters, mistaken for the love of society and the basis of public happiness.”

 Abbé Barruel, Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (1799)

Readers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland know that those who go “down a rabbit hole” find the familiar world growing “curiouser and curiouser.”  Indeed, the farther they venture into the rabbit hole, the more likely they begin to say, and say it in a way from which they can never after “whiffle round” and dispute, “that this is the curiousest world I ever see in my life.”

To “go down a rabbit hole” nowadays means to independently investigate a question, normally by aid of the internet, and by so doing discover that the answer is not the answer you were taught in Sunday or any other school.   The answer you find “down a rabbit hole” is instead much more ambiguous than, or even the flat opposite of, the answer you were furnished aboveground by “the best authorities.”

This is why anyone who goes “down a rabbit hole” will sooner or later exclaim, like the fictional Alice, “curiouser and curiouser.”  Or like the fictional Samantha Allen, that “this is the curiousest world I ever see in my life.”

* * * * *

Many who go “down a rabbit hole” also sooner or later emit another exclamation that begins with the letter c, and this exclamation is, of course, conspiracy!

There are many parts in a “conspiracy theory,” and conspirators use many of these parts to distract attention from the main part, which is the conspirators’ manipulation of the dupes.  We have this word dupe from the jargon of French criminals, who themselves had it from the name of a bird called the hoopoe, which is, incidentally, the national bird of Israel. French criminals regarded the hoopoe (or dupe) as especially stupid, and therefore the word dupe as a fitting name for a stupid person who is easily tricked.

A person is duped when he is tricked, or fooled, into acting as an unwitting accomplice in a conspiracy against himself.  A dupe is thus a cat’s paw, a patsy, a mug, a tool.

The British Prime Minister and novelist Benjamin Disraeli made the meaning of the word perfectly clear in his novel Vivian Grey (1826), where the eponymous hero says, mistakenly,

“I am not, I trust, the dupe, or tool, of anyone whatever.”

Vivian Grey’s illusion of clear-sightedness will not survive a plunge “down a rabbit hole,” because a plunge “down a rabbit hole” teaches a man that he has been the dupe of conspirators who have blown smoke in his eyes, and that no one is more completely duped than the dupe who is sure that he, for one, sees things clearly.

* * * * *

“There lives not a more complete dupe than he who sees through half the design of an accomplished dissembler.”

Sir Arthur Helps, Thoughts in the Cloister and the Crowd (1883).***

No one returns from a plunge “down a rabbit hole” with his illusions intact.  Everyone returns feeling the chagrin of a disillusioned dupe.  Everyone returns smarting with the knowledge that he has been hoodwinked and played by devious and designing men.

All are not, alas, humbled by this new knowledge of their susceptibility to mind-control and manipulation, and too many presume that, having “gone down a rabbit hole,” they have reached its very bottom.

This is why a partially disillusioned “conspiracy theorist” is so easily made the dupe of deeper conspiracies, and what the British statesman Sir Arthur Helps meant when he said that the most complete dupes are men who see through “half the design of an accomplished dissembler.”

Every successful conspirator is an accomplished dissembler because to dissemble is to dupe with a false appearance.  To resemble is to look like something.  It is to appear similar.  To dissemble is to look like something other than what you really are.  In fact, it is to appear as the opposite of what you really are.

As Abbé Barruel makes clear in my long epigraph, the great conspiracy of modern history is itself an accomplished dissembler that appears as the opposite of what it really is.  Dissembling madness, it appears as philosophy and reason.  Dissembling fanaticism, it appears as liberal toleration.  Dissembling ignorance, it appears as science, dissembling depravity, it appears as virtue, dissembling malice, it appears as as philanthropic love.

And the only way to penetrate these false appearances is to “go down a rabbit hole” and see what goes on down below.

But those who go down a rabbit hole must never forget that a rabbit hole is itself very dark, that it gives way to an vast warren of innumerable twisting tunnels and doubtful dens, that there are at least as many accomplished dissemblers in the rabbit hole as out of it, and that the completest dupes are those who imagine they have found the bottom of the rabbit hole when they have not.


*) Marietta Holly, My Wayward Pardner; or, My Trials with Josiah, America, the Widow Bump, and Etcetery (Toronto: Rose-Belford Publishing Co., 1880), p. 19.
**) Abbé Barruel, Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, four vols., trans. Robert Clifford (Hartford: C. Davis, 1799), vol. 1, p. 225.
***) Sir Arthur Helps, Thoughts in the Cloister and the Crowd (Glasgow: Wilson and McCormick, 1883), p.100.

22 thoughts on “Dupes Down a Rabbit Hole

  1. All are not, alas, humbled by this new knowledge of their susceptibility to mind-control and manipulation, and too many presume that, having “gone down a rabbit hole,” they have reached its very bottom.

    This is why a partially disillusioned “conspiracy theorist” is so easily made the dupe of deeper conspiracies, and what the British statesman Sir Arthur Helps meant when he said that the most complete dupes are men who see through “half the design of an accomplished dissembler.”

    It is indeed all too easy to think that if one individual or group is discovered to be lying or otherwise wicked, anyone who opposes that individual or group must, therefore, be honest/righteous. This ignores the possibility that both sides may be lying or otherwise wicked, just to different degrees, to different ends, or even that their opposition to one another is merely a façade to conceal a common purpose.

    Cowardice and recklessness are opposites, but neither is a virtue. Democrats and Republicans oppose one another; however, both want to grow the state and erode tradition, merely at different rates. One’s opposition to a wicked regime says nothing about one’s motivation for doing so. One may be seeking righteousness, opposing the regime because it is wicked; alternatively, one may be seeking wealth/power, opposing the regime because one is envious of it and desires to seize its wealth/power for oneself.

      • Belief in a flat earth is a enlightenment myth that was invented to discredit the Christian middle ages. Christian authors like Cosmas published flat-earth models based solely on scriptural data, but educated people had known the earth was a sphere since at least 500 B.C. Uneducated people never thought about the question. But the whole flat-earth trope was invented as modernist propaganda to defame the ancients as ignorant cretins, and we should not let ourselves be duped by it.

      • “Christian authors like Cosmas published flat-earth models based solely on scriptural data”

        Much misinterpretation is mistaking the purpose of poetry and prose. Poetry mustn’t be taken literally. But prose should be in many cases in addition to real place names and real historical figures the prose references:
        https://apologeticspress.org/does-the-bible-teach-a-flat-earth-5428/

        Genesis 2:4 onwards is definitely prose. Genesis 1 to 2:3 is poetry. And the Garden of Eden is located in a place that also likewise references real rivers like the Euphrates:
        https://archive.ph/qKi3a

        Hence Adam and Eve are to be regarded a real literal ancestors of all humanity. And the existence of Adam is necessary for Jesus’ Sacrifice to make sense in light of history.

        Young Earth creationism makes that mistake all too often.

  2. “the completest dupes are those who imagine they have found the bottom of the rabbit hole when they have not.”

    I would regard all secular/ non-religious explanations in that way. They may identify groups, explain methods – but fail to understand the bottom-line motivations – which are spiritual.

    Indeed, any explanation that finishes with a group, rather than an individual/ a being; is likely to be distortingly deficient – by leaving-out whatever it is that keeps the group together, and with coherent motivation and goals, over time. .

    • “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” Ephesians 6:12. The bottom of the rabbit hole is not the darkness of this world, but the rulers of the darkness. I take “wickedness in high places” to mean spiritual wickedness.

      • It’s definitely a universal human trait to have preconceived notions and biases, and to prefer theories that confirm those biases; it seems almost as universal for human beings to believe that they somehow do not have preconceived notions and biases on some given subject and subject matter or other.

        Saying that the Jan. 6 protesters “killed” Capitol police officers is like blaming the deaths of the officers killed in the helicopter crash at Charlottesville in 2017 on the right-wing “rioters” at that event, instead of acknowledging that human error is what caused that crash.

        The only person I personally know of who was killed at the Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021 was Ashley Babbitt. And I consider the LEO who shot her to be a despicable coward and a cold blooded murderer who ought to be serving time in a federal prison for that murderous act. But those are my preconceived notions and biases telling on me again.

  3. Winstonscrooge @ You can express contrarian opinions at the Orthosphere using your own words, but I won’t let this site be used to propagate fake news manufactured by malignant media outlets that aim to destroy things I love. Quoting the New York Times to me is as effective as quoting the Bible to Richard Dawkins. I realize this is a symbolic gesture, since one link in an Orthosphere comment thread will not tip the balance of history, but intolerance is a virtue that will grow lax and liberal if it is not exercised daily.

      • As I told you, those that confirm my biases. I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating those biases and I mean to protect them from the the canker and rot of alternative points of view. The New York Times is not giving space to my interpretation of January 6th, or anything else. Why should I give space to theirs. If my readers wish to infect themselves with the pox, they can find their way to that journalistic brothel without me letting you post advertisements here.

      • Although my biases may look like pig-ignorance to you, they are in fact the fruit of 64 searching for the truth. There are questions on which my mind is now closed, and that’s what I call a bias. I’ve listened to the arguments, examined the evidence, and formed the best opinion I could. I would not pester or persecute a man who formed a different opinion, but listening to his familiar arguments either puts me to sleep or out of temper. A young man should be openminded. The mind of a mature man should be for the most part closed.

      • I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating those biases and I mean to protect them from the the canker and rot of alternative points of view. The New York Times is not giving space to my interpretation of January 6th, or anything else. Why should I give space to theirs.

        It’s always a bit alarming when conservatives are more postmodern than the postmoderns.

        Having your own private reality bubbles is all very well until it comes time to live together and make decisions as a society, which requires a measure of agreement on facts and values. This liberal dream may not be achievable.

        Speaking of facts, while the NY Times certainly has its biases, in keeping with its liberalism it gives ample space to right-wing cranks https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/magazine/dinesh-dsouza-looks-ahead.html

      • I felt the temptation to make that connection. If I can allow my biases to define my truth then there is no truth. But I suspect the point is that one’s biases are based upon one’s greater appreciation of one’s greater appreciation of actual Truth.

      • I think you and I use the word bias differently. For me a bias is a settled conviction. A bias is not just ignorant bigotry.

      • When you deny the truth (eg the Jan 6 attack on the capitol was not violent when there is direct evidence to the contrary) it appears to me to be ignorant bigotry.

      • Good to see you are still among us. I think we agree in principle on this point. If people are going to live together, they must have quite a few beliefs in common, and some of those beliefs will have to be myths. We know that myths can be sometimes combined in a syncretic mythology, but that doesn’t seem likely in our unhappy times. Too many of the myths on both sides of our divide defame the other side. I can well understand why a leftist can’t take on right-wing myths since those myths are so unflattering to leftists. I spend enough time among leftists to know it works the same way with them.

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