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Thinking in Herds

In “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” a history of such national follies as England’s South Sea Bubble and Holland’s Tulip Frenzy, the Scottish historian Charles Mackay observed: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

He also concluded that people are more prone to believe the “Wondrously False” than the “Wondrously True.”

“Of all the offspring of time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder’s welcome,” Mackay wrote, adding that “a misdirected zeal in matters of religion” befogs the truth most grievously.

You can have an opinion on the New York mosque, for or against. But there aren’t two sides to the question of whether Obama is a Muslim.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

- Maureen Dowd, "Going Mad in Herds," New York Times, 8/21/2010

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