"Imagine thinking..."

You've probably read a lot of tweets opening with those two words. I've written them before.

But it's a bad rhetorical habit and not just because it's snarky; it's that it fundamentally means the opposite of what it says.
The author is NOT actually encouraging an act of imagination; rather, they are saying that the object of derision is so outlandish that they *can't* imagine it being correct.

But that often says more about the author than it does the object. It's a failure of their imagination.
I suppose I take this seriously because I'm a historian. We spend a lot of time training our brains to do an unnatural act, which is to temporarily step outside of our personal experiences, time periods, and cultural contexts and attempt to inhabit the point of view of another.
This is a hard, often unpleasant, even sometimes dangerous thing to do. But it's a vital and humanistic practice.

Historical imagination or empathy is like a muscle. It has to be worked at, exercised, torn down and built back up. Don't use it and it atrophies.
And so when I see someone tweet (or when I tweet!) "imagine thinking...", it makes me sad for them, that they are living a life without intellectual empathy, which must make it a very two dimensional, monochrome experience.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Paul Matzko

Paul Matzko Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @PMatzko

29 May
Have you heard about the white evangelical backlash against critical race theory? Let me explain.

First, it's important to note that this is just the latest manifestation of a running conflict within American evangelicalism.
That conflict is now entering the middle stages of a neo-fundamentalist split. But unlike earlier fundamentalist movements, which were as much motivated by doctrinal as cultural differences, this split is fueled primarily by culture war rhetoric and political tribalism.
There has been a growing divide b/t college-educated evangelical clergy & non-college laity. The clergy are more likely to either sympathize w/ or at least be sensitive toward broader social changes in America.
Read 37 tweets
24 May
Just a reminder that if we had individual social security accounts, almost everybody could retire as a millionaire.

Let's use the example of Jill. She makes $25,000 a year, and we'll posit that she never makes any more than that.
Social security costs her 12.4% (6.2 directly, 6.2 indirectly) of her earnings, but in our example that money will go into a government mandated investment account composed of index funds.
That means Jill will contribute $3100 a year. Let's say that she does so from the age of 22 to retirement age at 68. At the historical average, inflation-adjusted, annualized return of 7%, she will retire with $1,017,496.
Read 13 tweets
13 May
It's important to understand the machinery of reactionary thinking so that we can see it as it's happening. The reactionary fears change that is disruptive to the social institutions they value & which undermines the cultural power they wield via control of those institutions.
Take the recent debate in conservative & Christian circles over Critical Race Theory. For those of us with scholarly training, this is bizarre not least because CRT (and the intellectual headwaters from which it flows, critical theory and the Frankfurt school) are old news;
they are products of theoretical trends in the mid-20th century. It's a bit like if your preacher, today, suddenly started decrying the trend of women with bobbed hairstyles and wearing flapper dresses.
Read 15 tweets
10 May
A good example of how a classic libertarian critique -- in this case anti-competitive rent-seeking -- only gets traction on the Left when plugged into a culture war framework w/ a victim from a sympathetic group.

A new ice cream store was delayed by months because an existing ice cream store filed a complaint w/ the Planning Commission.

San Fran has created a regulatory regime that discourages new entrants at the expense of consumers who pay out the nose for goods, services, and housing.
And certainly, the hypocrisy of the incumbent ice cream shop owner rankles! The attempt to frame their store as a small business and the competitor's store--which has one other shop in NYC--as some kind of corporate chain is risible.
Read 6 tweets
8 May
The signs of an impending, inflationary economic collapse are all around us: manufactured unemployment + massive fiscal stimulus + unlimited corporate lending + overheated stock market + increasingly exotic hedges + historic levels of corporate & governmental debt.
I mean, any *one* of these trends would be disconcerting, but it's all of them at once! Image
Read 5 tweets
27 Apr
If we did resurrect the Fairness Doctrine, it would have vast, negative, unintended effects. You couldn't just target Tucker Carlson or whatever pundit/outlet you dislike.

How do I know that? Because I wrote a book about those effects last time we tried the Fairness Doctrine.
First, let me note that the Fairness Doctrine didn't prevent "deadly lies." That was never in its remit. It was meant to balance points of view. So if your goal in resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine is to stop folks from lying, you'll be sorely disappointed.
Second, for half of its functional history (1949-1963), the Fairness Doctrine was essentially unenforceable. I could go into more detail, but for sake of time, think about how many people you'd need to employ to monitor every broadcast outlet to make sure they were being "fair."
Read 19 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!