9/​11 as mindkiller

Noah Mill­man wrote:

In ret­ro­spect, what suffered the most last­ing dam­age from the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of ten years ago was my be­lief in my own ra­tio­nal­ity. I be­lieved that I was think­ing things through se­ri­ously, and com­ing to difficult but true con­clu­sions about what had hap­pened, what would hap­pen, what must hap­pen. Here is part of what I wrote, to friends and fam­ily, sev­eral days later:
Our Pres­i­dent has made it clear: we are at war. I do not an­ti­ci­pate that this will be a short or an easy war. Our en­emy has op­er­a­tions in dozens of coun­tries, in­clud­ing this one. He is sup­ported, out of en­thu­si­asm or fear, by many gov­ern­ments among our pur­ported friends as well as among our en­e­mies. He has shown his cun­ning, his ruth­less­ness, and most of all his pa­tience, in his suc­cess­ful plot to kill thou­sands of in­no­cents and bring down the sym­bols of our civ­i­liza­tion. And in strik­ing at him, as we must, we will bring down oth­ers who will in turn seek their own vengeance upon us.
There is not a sin­gle fac­tual as­ser­tion in that para­graph that I had any rea­son to be­lieve I could sub­stan­ti­ate. I did not know any­thing about the en­emy. I had no idea whether or not there were “op­er­a­tions” in dozens of coun­tries – I don’t even know what I meant by “op­er­a­tions.” I know what I was refer­ring to with the busi­ness about be­ing “sup­ported” by friends and en­e­mies, but “sup­port” is a de­liber­ately fuzzy word; I wouldn’t have used it if I was try­ing to make a con­crete as­ser­tion with clear im­pli­ca­tions. The pur­pose of that as­ser­tion, like ev­ery­thing else, was to build up my first as­ser­tion. We were at war. And it wouldn’t be short or easy. Be­cause that con­clu­sion, though grim, was one that im­parted mean­ing to the mur­der of 3,000 peo­ple. I thought I was be­ing se­ri­ous – ex­am­in­ing the facts, calcu­lat­ing the likely nega­tive con­se­quences of nec­es­sary ac­tion, prepar­ing my­self for the un­for­tu­nate ne­ces­si­ties of life. But I wasn’t do­ing any­thing of the kind. I was en­gaged in a search for mean­ing in which rea­son was purely in­stru­men­tal.

Link (which in­cludes ad­di­tional good ret­ro­spec­tives) thanks to Am­per­sand.

This ar­ti­cle may have more poli­ti­cal con­tent than is suit­able for LW—if you’d rather dis­cuss it el­se­where, I’ve linked it at my blog. I’ve posted about it here be­cause it’s an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of up­dat­ing and of rec­og­niz­ing mo­ti­vated cog­ni­tion even if well af­ter the fact.