The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense

Reviewed by Deane Barker tags: critical-thinking

The author of this book is very angry about misconceptions that people have and the fact that they continue to have them.

He comes down pretty squarely on the political Right, but he never actually articulates a political position. He’s furious about “political correctness.” He’s also not a fan of transgenderism or social justice – things like that.

He jumps around a lot, but he essentially feels that a lot of things can be proven by a mountain of circumstantial evidence (he calls them a nomological network of cumulative evidence).

The author is a Lebanese Jew who fled the country during the Civil War, and he leans on this a lot. He’s fairly anti-Arab, and anti-Islam. Maybe that’s too strong, but he presents a lot of evidence that he feels demonstrates that Islam is a violent religion and that this justifies things like limiting Islamic immigration.

He’s also a college professor, and he talks a lot about the Left-ward bias of universities and how this needs to change. (I don’t know how this can possibly change without the Right just starting a bunch of universities, but whatever.)

At the end, he blatantly pushes confrontation as a solution. For example, here are the section headings from the final chapter:

  • Believe in the power of your voice
  • Do not be afraid of judging others or giving offense
  • Do not virtue signal
  • Be the penalty kicker (interpretation: take every chance to prove your point, even obvious ones…I think?)
  • Activiate your inner Hony Badger (interpretation: be aggressive and merciless)

Essentially, when someone disagrees with something you feel to be true, you should confront them, argue with them, and beat them, no matter how small the point.

I don’t disagree with most of what he says, but he’s really going for obvious points here – the low-hanging fruit. A lot of the book are anecdotes and cherry-picked examples of people on the far extremes, which are really easy to poke fun at and undermine.

What’s harder is someone like me. This absolutely might be self-idealization, but I consider myself someone with a nuanced point-of-view. I’m Left on some issues; Right on others. I feel that I rarely make a point I can’t defend, and I admit when I’m wrong.

Come to think of it, I guess I’m just not the target of the book. The author wants to go after the extremes, which I find a little superfluous, because I don’t really take them that seriously in the first place.

It also needs to be said that the author is a little narcissitc. He constantly paints himself as a courageous warrior for truth. It gets a little tiring.

(Also, at one point he discusses how he “engaged with Charlize Theron” on Twitter to argue with her about something. Near as I can tell, it was just him responding to one of her tweets, which she likely neither knew nor cared about.)

So, a mixed bag. Always good to see another perspective, and he makes some good points. There’s just a lot of posturing and narcissism to wade through. On the plus side, he writes well and the book is never boring.

Book Info

Gad Saad

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