Pristoop testified to a Senate committee that marijuana is so harmful that 37 people died in Colorado on the first day of legalization there.
Many of us were immediately laughing at Pristoop, because we recognized the story of the 37 dead people as satire making fun of the crazy claims and fears of the drug warriors. Only an idiot could be blind enough to fall for that, right?
Although I laughed at Pristoop, too, I quickly started thinking about something else. What happened to Pristoop happens to all of us at times. We might not embarrass ourselves as publicly as Pristoop did. We might not fall for such obvious satire as he did. We might even be a lot smarter than he is.
But I’ve noticed that we all have our own blind spots. We all have assumptions we’ve made that we can’t even consciously identify. We all have beliefs that are so deeply held that we don’t question them. And as a result, we can all be fooled by anecdotes that support what we’re already inclined to believe.
Pristoop has spent his career as a cop in the context of the “war on drugs,” so he’s inclined to believe that recreational drugs are evil and dangerous. So every story of someone abusing drugs and paying a price resonates with him. He believes those stories — whether they’re true or not — because they reinforce something he’s already certain about.
He’s completely sure that Colorado made a horrible mistake legalizing drugs. Since much of the focus of police work ever since he’s been a cop has been arresting people who use and sell those drugs, he has to maintain his belief or else admit that he’s spent much of his career doing something pretty evil. No normal person wants to believe that. It’s easier to simply stick to what he’s been taught.