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Text as Credence


If its “based on a book”, an idea holds more power. Text-based ideas or beliefs with a connection to a document gain greater traction with an audience simply on the basis of this textual relationship. Humans seem to grant trust on this basis of connection. Why is it that certain ideas hold value simply because a text can provide support? ‘

Consider how “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and “Birth of a Nation” hold sway in racist culture and become tools for those interested in spreading racist ideas. These items of culture become tools whereby racist ideas are spread and supported. Henry Ford’s distribution of the “Protocols” text was said to be so prevalent that he kept copies in his office. Did Ford see in these texts an ally when working to convince others?

All texts are malleable in the hands of a distributor. Beyond even the author’s own ideas, those who actually distribute a work can shape its meaning. Whether a text is created for racist purposes is moot when a distributor supplies others with this goal in mind. Strangely, bad ideas with textual connection have greater sway. Audiences invest more trust when a text is present.

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