Listen to this story
The thing that happened really matters. Or doesn’t. The only way to learn whether it does or not is to read this think piece.
By reading this think piece, you’ll learn that what you thought happened didn’t actually happen. Only people who aren’t smart will think that what they thought happened, happened. While it is true that on some level, yes, that thing happened, what actually happened was something a lot more important. Only smart people — the kind who read this think piece — will understand what actually happened and realize its true importance.
The reason why what happened is important is because of this number:
In this paragraph, you should start to feel confirmed in your belief of how smart and informed you are. There will be a reference to the Peter Principle. You know people to whom the Peter Principle applies, and you also like to read articles that know when to use the word “whom.”
You are not a Peter.
This is the middle part of the think piece
This part includes a reference to something else that is very important, something about which you care.
At first glance, the other thing that is important, the thing that you care about, might seem unrelated. But because this is a think piece, you know that this paragraph will connect the thing that actually happened (which only smart people, like you, truly comprehend) to this other thing, the important thing (which only smart people, like you, know to treat as important).
It doesn’t matter how these two concepts are connected. It doesn’t even matter whether the connection is valid. They’re connected merely by virtue of being mentioned in the prior paragraph. You like the phrase “merely by virtue” and make a note to use it in your next meeting with Amanda.
What matters most is that you feel smart for knowing about the connection, because you know other people won’t know. This means you’re smarter than them. You knew that already, but the think piece helps confirm that belief about yourself. You’re especially convinced of this belief when you get to the section about the dangers of confirmation bias — which you already knew about. There are statistics. You know to be careful when it comes to statistics, so you are cautious. P-values can be hacked. You feel secure knowing about the replication crisis.
In this paragraph, you will be nodding at least twice per sentence. You are already thinking about sharing the think piece on Twitter because it will make you look smart to people you want to impress. You will share it on Facebook to infuriate the people you don’t need to impress. The think piece describes this phenomenon as social signaling — which you already knew.
You are definitely smart and well-informed.
Now, the think piece eases into its final section
There is no pivot here. You see this coming. Barreling toward its conclusion, the think piece raises more issues about which you care. While terrible things are indeed happening, the situation is not completely dismal because some good things are happening, too.
The think piece points out — accurately, you note — that the terrible things could be stopped if only everyone else were as smart as you. Or, at the very least, if they read think pieces like this.
Everyone is not as smart as you. You think about the people you know who don’t vaccinate and resolve to try harder to make sure everyone else is nearly as smart as you — but no smarter.
This think piece was very important. You learned things you didn’t know. You would have already known them if you had the time to spare, but you don’t, because you are not a Peter. You are glad; reading this think piece was an efficient use of your precious time.
Now you need to let other people know how smart you were to read it. Most importantly, you need to let them know you read it before they did.
New information has come to light since this think piece was published. You should read “An Important Update To Yesterday’s Think Piece.”