You’ve no doubt seen it on a bumper sticker or a button: I’ve made up my mind – don’t confuse me with facts. Certitude is one riotously funny anecdote after another to illustrate the number of powerful, successful, even intelligent people who doggedly cling to their misguided opinions in the fact of evidence to the contrary.
Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, may have written of a thoroughly logical detective, but Doyle himself was easily taken in by a couple of little girls. Presented with photographs the girls had taken of fairies in their garden, Doyle apparently made no attempt to determine the validity of the claim; rather, he accepted the improbable story and even defended the fantasy in his book The Coming of the Fairies.
General George Armstrong Custer must have had some amount of strategic intelligence to earn that rank, yet his last known words were, “Hurrah, boys, we’ve got them!” This optimistic pronouncement was made as he led his small band of men to a bloody death at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
From politicians to popes, religious zealots to Hollywood icons, the plague of certitude (“the state of being certain of the truth or rightness of something”) remains unchecked. Adam Begley has collected in this slim volume forty-nine of the most arrogant, ill-warranted, and downright stupid examples of I’ve made up my mind moments. No one is exempt from the malady, it seems, or from Sorel’s clever caricatures and Begley’s wickedly funny depictions. But here’s the caveat: as we sneer at the racists, the liberals, the conservatives, the hawks, and the doves who expressed their firm convictions, we must never be certain that they are wrong.
Short, sweet, and vicious, Certitude is proof that misstatements and mistakes can be even more entertaining than carefully crafted intentional comedy.