Let’s define the Contrarian!
Contrarian singular, n., An individual who contradicts popular belief despite any empirical basis for his/her opinion.
Casual Movie Goer: Batman V Superman is nice movie, I’d like to see how DC would follow up with the Wonder Woman movie next!
Contrarian Critique: Batman V Superman is a terrible movie beyond all reason. There is nothing to love about it, and anybody who enjoys this piece of trash is beyond doubt devoid of taste in movies.
And have you ever met a Contrarian before? If you did, I feel sorry for you. Because they are terrible people to be around with. Contrarians exhibit an emptiness with in them where they just have to reject everything that doesn’t conform to their way of seeing things (regardless of how delusional they may be!).
Contrarians aren’t particularly stupid (despite most evidence to suggest otherwise), but are just extremely misinformed. And it would take a lot to change a contrarians opinion, because they will hold a powerful sense of obligation to propagate their ideals until the contrary fact becomes accepted.
Let’s put this current situation in the Philippines about former dictator and 2 time Philippine Basketball Association Finals MVP Champion*, Ferdinand Marcos’ Burial.
After being put to the ground recently, a huge number of protests have exploded all over the country, and it wouldn’t be a big deal, but he was buried in what Filipinos consider sacred ground: The Libingan ng mga Bayani (lt. Burial Ground of Heroes). The protests are motivated by a sense of injustice by victims of Martial Law; a dark age in Philippine History where hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were either executed, involuntarily confined, tortured and executed as Ferdinand Marcos continued to hold the country under a military dictatorship. And having him buried in the Cemetery of Heroes gives him the honor of being buried among the heroic dead, an honor he clearly forfeited when Presidential Proclamation 1081 subjugated an entire country for decades.
A sensible person would side with the protesters in this matter, not because it’s the popular belief, but because it is just respecting history.
But let’s put in a contrarian in the story.
Contrarians of the country claim that Marcos deserves to be buried in the Hero’s Cemetery. That his (unproven) merits during World War II gives him the right to be buried among the other soldiers. Contrarians dismiss the facts and push their beliefs, despite being unpopular and wrong.
The Types of Contrarians
The Fanatical Contrarian
As you (hopefully) can see, Contrarians are dangerous individuals, who distort the truth for various reasons. Above it’s FANATICal, contrarians hold on to a statements they like to believe and use it as the sole argument against the facts because of delusional world views.
Such as Flat Earth Believers use absurd claims based on observable phenomenons to be proof that the earth is flat. Because they are mis-/under-/un- educated to basic concepts of science, such as how light bends because of major forces affecting the universe such as gravity.
Fanatics are a dangerous group of contrarians, because despite being perfectly functional in all sense of the word, they lack a rational world view that allows societal progression. If fanatics had their way in the past, our models for the universe will be a flat plane of existence ruled by a pantheon gods, whose temperament affects how we live our lives.
And we have historical events that shows the dangers of fanaticism: Adolf Hitler held a strong belief that “… the Aryan people and Germany was destined to rule the world. He also felt that democracy and workers’ rights would disrupt society.” (The Holocaust Explained). This strong belief led to his rise to power and one of the great tragedies of the modern world, the Holocaust.
Fanatics can be seen as charismatic, passionate individuals who follow their beliefs to great extremes, that sometimes their bravado can be seen as proof of their credibility and intelligence. But if you are a sensible person, the debate of Ken Ham and Bill Nye should be more than enough reason for you to see that charisma and passion do not equate to rationality.
The Popular Contrarian
Here is a less dangerous version of Contrarians, and as their name suggest, are quite common. Their behavior is much like the example I placed at the beginning of this text. Popular Contrarians (as I like to call them), are more annoying than dangerous. They are the type of contrarians who aren’t motivated ideologically, but extrinsically (most of the time).
These contrarians uphold, as the name implies,the contrary in casual conversations.
A: I think this pizza is delicious
B: I’ve had better, this tastes like a dry sock
A: The ambiance seems lovely here, don’t you think?
B: Are you blind? They surely have a terrible interior designer!
A: Oh, I think I left my phone at home…
B: I bet you don’t even have a home.
The last one may not be the best example, but they contradict for the sake of contradicting. Not to push an agenda, but because not going with the popular consensus makes them appear insightful and intelligent.
This may be due to the rise in popularity of the classy elitist, such as wine tasters (frauds) or modern art critiques (frauds) who think that they can taste the difference between wines and that the image below is considered art, and everybody who doesn’t think so simply have bad taste, or not refined enough to appreciate the subtle differences of wines.
As I have said, these kinds of Contrarians are more difficult than dangerous; and unless you are suggesting to NOT drink a bottle of cyanide, then you should be fine most of the time with these kinds of people.
And it’s fairly easy to identify the kind of Contrarian you are dealing with. Popular Contrarians are typically dealing with matters of a subjective matter, where either side or an argument have no quantifiable means of measurement. Such as popular culture, because you can’t really measure culture? A 5/10 rating on a movie can be viewed as half good or half bad, depending on the viewer, or the 5/10 rating of one critic can be vastly different from the 5/10 of another. But when there is a popular consensus, Contrarians will definitely go against it.
Fanatical Contrarians on the other hand deny actual facts. They deny the existence of evidences that contradict their world view because they hold on the evidences they passionately believe as the real truth, despite being obsolete or irrational. They are dangerous because their beliefs are regressive, and sometimes contradictory to societal norms. Unscientific Models of Reality such as the Flat Earth Model, or Outdated Traditional Cultural behaviors such as beheadings or arranged under aged marriages.
The point is: anyone who goes against established facts without clear measurable intentions are contrarians.
What Can Be Done?
So when faced with a contrarian, what should you do? When facing a popular contrarian, the solution should be as simple as ignoring them. They get their kicks from correcting you when you disagree, and avoiding them will devoid all fuel from stoking their irrational fire. Because in the end, popular consensus will drown out their opinion quickly if they’re ignored. But when that opinion is dangerous, in the sense that they deny solid fact, then it would be irresponsible not to call them out, and correct their false claims.
When possible, educate the people around them so that they can’t be converted to their irrational beliefs. Do not attempt to argue with a contrarian because in most cases, they have made up their mind, and only a professional is qualified to help them.
Now it would only be prudent to clarify an important point of this essay.
Not all people who contradict popular consensus is automatically a contrarian. When an opinion against something has valid points, rational, and can be tested in the same avenues as what is popularly believed, then that person is NOT a contrarian. Take note that certain topics of discussion have no real middle ground, and that it can take points from both sides of an argument. Such as the legality of marijuana. Or the ethics of self driving cars. Or Gun Regulations. There are many things that can be debated on, and both sides can have valid points. Dismissing one side to be a contrarian just because they don’t agree with you is irresponsible if they have a valid point to make.
With that in mind, when you encounter a contrarian, check their facts first before making a decision. Because today, the only real decision is an informed one, not influenced by the miseducation of other people.
*This is a joke, anyone who takes this as fact are the reason why contrarians exists.