Thursday, July 17, 2008


No, it doesn't have anything to do with losing weight.

I found the fascinating Italian word dietrologia in a book that I just finished reading - The Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston. The book tells the story of the inept, often ludicrously mismanaged and ultimately unsuccessful 20-plus year search for a serial killer in the vicinity of Florence, Italy (the story of the search for the Monster of Florence was also worked into the plot of Hannibal, Thomas Harris's superb sequel to The Silence of the Lambs).

An Italian nobleman explained the meaning of dietrologia to author Douglas Preston this way: "Dietro - behind. Logia - the study of...Dietrologia is the idea that the obvious thing cannot be the truth. There is always something hidden behind, dietro. It isn't quite what you Americans call conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory implies theory, something uncertain, a possibility. The dietrologist deals only in fact. This is how it really is."

I think dietrologia is an absolutely wonderful word that we desperately need in every language, right now. Today. Consider some of the things that some people absolutely believe, regardless either of overwhelming evidence to the contrary or the lack of the least amount of supporting evidence:

Polio vaccine is a CIA/Jewish plot to sterilize Muslim children (this one comes from Pakistan, where moronic clerics with ossified brains have caused a polio epidemic by convincing parents that the vaccine is an insidious Western weapon against Muslims).

The CIA and the Israeli Mossad actually carried out the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by firing a missile at the Pentagon and planting explosives in the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Having survived the attack on the Pentagon, I find this one particularly stupid and insulting.

AIDS is an artificial disease secretly created by the U.S. Government to eliminate blacks and other minorities.

Barak Obama is a Muslim.

I try to be a skeptical fellow and look for the real evidence behind bizarre claims like these. I try to keep an open mind, but I regularly visit The Urban Legends Reference Page (, The Annenberg Political Fact Check (, and other myth-debunking websites, and try to read all sides of arguments before taking a position on a particular issue. I have even been known to change my opinions on issues (gasp - Bilbo flip-flops!).

Unfortunately, many people aren't so skeptical of wild claims. They'll believe anything, not matter how outrageous or stupid (see Michael Shermer's marvelous book Why People Believe Weird Things for an excellent analysis). Dietrologia is their religion. There just has to be some other explanation for the obvious, no matter how bizarre and stupid.

All together now, class - what is Bilbo's recurring mantra?

"Don't let anyone do your thinking for you."

The world is full of problems and the stakes are high on many fronts. You owe it to yourself and to everyone else to look for the truth, not to believe the first agreeable baloney you hear. Andre Gide once cautioned us to "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it."

Listen to the man. He's on to something.

Have a good day. Eschew dietrologia. More thoughts tomorrow.



Gilahi said...

I read a fairly interesting article on why people tend to believe some of these things, particularly when it comes to disasters. It's because we tend to make certain people larger than life, and we can't wrap our brains around the idea that something so ordinary could bring them down. Princess Diana couldn't have been killed by a drunken chauffeur. Elvis couldn't have died while sitting on the toilet. One guy couldn't have gone into a tall building and shot John F. Kennedy. People just don't want to believe that stuff, so conspiracy theories abound.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I just got Monster of Florence from the BOMC!

And my mantra?

It's not polite to kill people :)

Amanda said...

Those really are bizarre things to believe. I like the websites you've listed since I'm always trying verify if stories I receive in email are true or not.

rimafauzi said...

In the past, many Indonesians believe that the tsunami was a result of a nuclear bomb planted by the US and Israel to wipe out Muslims.

The same Indonesians also believe that the Asian Monetary Crisis is the Jews and American's effort to destabilize Asia and Muslims in Asia.

Many other idiotic conspiracy theories Indonesians believe that almost always involve America and Israel.

But none of them think twice about spending billions of dollars annually of the Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia which profits those arabs, the same arabs who constantly torture Indonesian domestic workers.

Mike said...

So what's the REAL reason your wtiting about this? Are you making money off these books your promoting?

Bilbo said...

Gilahi - interesting point...I hadn't thought of that before.

Andrea - I like your mantra, too!

Amanda - Welcome back! Your letter should be here any day.

Rima - you and I are thinking the same way.

Mike - no, I'm not getting any kickbacks or anything. I just keep hoping that I eventually get someone here who actually can read.

Team Gherkin said...

Amen! preach it, brother! hahahahaaa. [just kidding]
Mal :)

John said...

"An Italian nobleman explained the meaning of dietrologia to author Douglas Preston this way: "Dietro - behind. Logia - the study of..."

Doesn't that make dietrologia the study of the behind? Or better yet--the study of the ass that came up with whatever stupid idea that is in question?

rimafauzi said...

"no, I'm not getting any kickbacks or anything. I just keep hoping that I eventually get someone here who actually can read."

Ouch.. I know I a bit of a retard and a dyslexic too, but at least I'm reading your blog.. lol

Bilbo said...

Team Gherkin - g'day, mate! Welcome back!

John - now that I think about it, your definition wins the prize!

Rima - Oops...what I meant to say was that I go out of my way to attract to my blog beautiful, exotic, and interesting ladies who enjoy thoughtful discourse. It worked, eh?