AuthorTopic: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?  (Read 1044 times)

Offline Surly1

  • Administrator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 16127
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?
« on: August 05, 2018, 05:27:15 AM »
Most provocative article I'v read today. But it's still early. The writer throws a lot of stuff at the wall, and it reads like late Ted Kaczynski. As yes, I know, long AF. But it addresses one of the subjects often in discussion here: how do we know what we know, and what do we really know about it? One ought to question everything. Old time journos were taught, "If your mother says she loves you, check out out."

Quote
This is the only life we get. Time is our total capital. Why waste it allowing our potential, our scope of awareness, our personality, our values to be shaped, crafted, and boxed up according to the whims of the mass panderers? There are many important issues that are crucial to our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being which require time and study. If itís an issue where money is involved, objective data wonít be so easy to obtain. Remember, if everybody knows something, that image has been bought and paid for.

Real knowledge takes a little effort, a little excavation down at least one level below what ďeverybody knows.Ē

Pitch perfect for the Diner Forum.

The Doors of Perception: Why Americans Will Believe Almost Anything

The Doors of Perception: Why Americans Will Believe Almost Anything

By Tim O’Shea

August 04, 2018 "Information Clearing House" - Aldous Huxley’s inspired 1954 essay detailed the vivid, mind-expanding, multisensory insights of his mescaline adventures. By altering his brain chemistry with natural psychotropics, Huxley tapped into a rich and fluid world of shimmering, indescribable beauty and power. With his neurosensory input thus triggered, Huxley was able to enter that parallel universe glimpsed by every mystic and space captain in recorded history. Whether by hallucination or epiphany, Huxley sought to remove all bonds, all controls, all filters, all cultural conditioning from his perceptions and to confront Nature or the World or Reality first-hand – in its unpasteurized, unedited, unretouched infinite rawness.

Those bonds are much harder to break today, half a century later. We are the most conditioned, programmed beings the world has ever known. Not only are our thoughts and attitudes continually being shaped and molded; our very awareness of the whole design seems like it is being subtly and inexorably erased. The doors of our perception are carefully and precisely regulated.

It is an exhausting and endless task to keep explaining to people how most issues of conventional wisdom are scientifically implanted in the public consciousness by a thousand media clips per day. In an effort to save time, I would like to provide just a little background on the handling of information in this country. Once the basic principles are illustrated about how our current system of media control arose historically, the reader might be more apt to question any given story in today’s news.

If everybody believes something, it’s probably wrong. We call that

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

In America, conventional wisdom that has mass acceptance is usually contrived. Somebody paid for it. Examples:

        Pharmaceuticals restore health
        Vaccination brings immunity
        The cure for cancer is just around the corner
        Menopause is a disease condition
        Childhood is a disease condition
        When a child is sick, he needs immediate antibiotics
        When a child has a fever he needs Tylenol
        Hospitals are safe and clean
        America has the best health care in the world.
        Americans have the best health in the world.
        The purpose of Health Care is health.
        Milk is a good source of calcium.
        You never outgrow your need for milk.
        Vitamin C is ascorbic acid.
        Aspirin prevents heart attacks.
        Heart drugs improve the heart.
        Back and neck pain are the only reasons for spinal adjustment.
        No child can get into school without being vaccinated.
        The FDA thoroughly tests all drugs before they go on the market.
        Pregnancy is a serious medical condition
        Infancy is a serious medical condition
        Chemotherapy and radiation are effective cures for cancer
        When your child is diagnosed with an ear infection, antibiotics should be given immediately ‘just in case’
        Ear tubes are for the good of the child.
        Estrogen drugs prevent osteoporosis after menopause.
        Pediatricians are the most highly trained of al medical specialists.
        The purpose of the health care industry is health.
        HIV is the cause of AIDS.
        AZT is the cure.
        Without vaccines, infectious diseases will return
        Fluoride in the city water protects your teeth
        Flu shots prevent the flu.
        Vaccines are thoroughly tested before being placed on the Mandated Schedule.
        Doctors are certain that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh any possible risks.
        There is a terrorist threat in the US.
        The NASDAQ is a natural market controlled by supply and demand.
        Chronic pain is a natural consequence of aging.
        Soy is your healthiest source of protein.
        Insulin shots cure diabetes.
        After we take out your gall bladder you can eat anything you want
        Allergy medicine will cure allergies.
        Your government provides security.
        The Iraqis blew up the World Trade Center.
        Wikipedia is completely open, unbiased, and interactive

This is a list of illusions, that have cost billions to conjure up. Did you ever wonder why most people in this country generally accept most of the above statements?

PROGRAMMING THE VIEWER

Even the most undiscriminating viewer may suspect that TV newsreaders and news articles are not telling us the whole story. The slightly more lucid may have begun to glimpse the calculated intent of standard news content and are wondering about the reliability and accuracy of the way events are presented. For the very few who take time to research beneath the surface and who are still capable of abstract thought, a somewhat darker picture begins to emerge. These may perceive bits of evidence of the profoundly technical science behind much of what is served up in daily media.

Events taking place in today’s world are enormously complex. An impossibly convoluted tangle of interrelated and unrelated occurrences happens simultaneously, often in dynamic conflict. To even acknowledge this complexity contradicts a fundamental axiom of media science: Keep It Simple.

In real life, events don’t take place in black and white, but in a thousand shades of grey. Just discovering the actual facts and events as they transpire is difficult enough. The river is different each time we step into it. By the time a reasonable understanding of an event has been apprehended, new events have already made that interpretation obsolete. And this is not even adding historical, social, or political elements into the mix, which are necessary for interpretation of events. Popular media gives up long before this level of analysis.

Media stories cover only the tiniest fraction of actual events, but stupidly claim to be summarizing “all the news.”

The final goal of media is to create a following of docile, unquestioning consumers. To that end, three primary tools have historically been employed:

deceit
dissimulation
distraction

Over time, the sophistication of these tools of propaganda has evolved to a very structured science, taking its cues in an unbroken line from principles laid down by the Father of Spin himself, Edward L Bernays, over a century ago, as we will see.

Let’s look at each tool very briefly:


DECEIT

Deliberate misrepresentation of fact has always been the privilege of the directors of mass media. Their agents – the PR industry – cannot afford random objective journalism, interpreting events as they actually take place. This would be much too confusing for the average consumer, who has been spoonfed his opinions since the day he was born. No, we can’t have that. In all the confusion, the viewer might get the idea that he is supposed to make up his own mind about the significance of some event or other. The end product of good media is single-mindedness. Individual interpretation of events does not foster the homogenized, one-dimensional lemming outlook.

For this reason, events must have a spin put on them – an interpretation, a frame of reference. Subtleties are omitted; all that is presented is the bottom line. The minute that decision is made – what nuance to put on a story – we have left the world of reporting and have entered the world of propaganda. By definition, propaganda replaces faithful reporting with deceitful reporting.

Here’s an obvious example from the past: the absurd and unremitting allegations of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction as a rationale for the invasion of Iraq. Of course none were ever found, but that is irrelevant. We weren’t really looking for any weapons – but the deceit served its purpose – get us in there. Later the ruse can be abandoned and forgotten; its usefulness is over. And nobody will notice. Characterization of Saddam as a murderous tyrant was decided to be an insufficient excuse for invading a sovereign nation. After all, there are literally dozens of murderous tyrants the world over, going their merry ways. We can’t be expected to police all of them.

So it was decided that the murderous tyrant thing, though good, was not enough. To whip a sleeping people into war consciousness has historically involved one additional prerequisite: threat. Saddam must therefore be not only a baby-killing maniac; he must be a threat to the rest of the world, especially America. Why? Because he has weapons of mass destruction. For almost two years, this myth was assiduously programmed into that lowest common denominator of awareness which Americans substitute for consciousness. Even though the myth has now been openly dismissed by the Regime itself, the majority of us still believe it.

Hitler used the exact same tack with the Czechs and Poles at the beginning of his rampage. These peaceful peoples were not portrayed as an easy mark for the German war machine – no, they were a threat to the Fatherland itself. Just like the unprovoked Chinese annihilation of the peaceful Tibetan civilization in the 1940s. Or like Albania in the Dustin Hoffman movie. Such threats must be crushed by all available force, under the pretext used by every strong nation in history to subjugate a weaker one.

With Iraq, the fact that UN inspectors never came up with any of these dread weapons before Saddam was captured – this fact was never mentioned again. That one phrase – WMD WMD WMD – repeated ad nauseam month after month had served its purpose – whip the people into war mode. It didn’t have to be true; it just had to work. A staggering indicator of how low the general awareness had sunk is that this mantra continued to be used as our license to invade Iraq long after our initial assault. If Saddam had any such weapons, probably a good time to trot them out would be when a foreign country is moving in, wouldn’t you say?

No weapons were ever found, of course, nor will they be. So confident was the PR machine in the general inattention to detail commonly exhibited by the comatose American people that they didn’t even find it necessary to plant a few mass weapons in order to justify the invasion. It was almost insulting. Now nobody asks any more. In 2010 a poll of US soldiers in Iraq showed 60% believed the Iraqis blew up the World Trade Center.

So we see that a little deceit goes a long way. All it takes is repetition. Lay the groundwork and the people will buy anything. After that just ride it out until they seem doubtful again. Then onto the next deceit.

SELLING WAR

Did you ever wonder how all the war leaders down through history were able to persuade armies of thousands as individuals to leave their homes and families and risk their lives for vague, obscure reasons? How do they sell that? How do you get people to go off to war?

With rare exceptions, it’s been the same formula right down the line: sell idealistic young men the lie of the glory of war, defending their country and home from some imaginary enemy, some contrived foreign threat, from a place of alien culture. Then any oppposition to the ‘war effort’ are then lily-livered, unpatriotic, etc. Patriotism – the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Hermann Goering summarized it eloquently at Nuremberg:
 

        ‘Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.’

      This technique holds true right up to the present time, intensified exponentially by the magnitude of incessant, pervasive online media. Worked great for Bush and Obama in their marketing of war.

      DISSIMULATION

      A second tool that is commonly used to create mass intellectual torpor is dissimulation. Dissimulation simply means to pretend not to be something you are. Like phasmid insects who can disguise themselves as leaves or twigs, pretending not to be insects. Or bureaucrats and who pretend not to be acting primarily out of self-interest, but rather in the public interest. To pretend not to be what you are.

      Public servant, indeed.

      Whether it’s the Bush/Obama in Iraq or Hitler in Germany, aggressors do not present themselves as marauding invaders initiating hostilities, but instead as defenders against external threats.

      Freedom-annihilating edicts like the Homeland Security Act and the Patriot Act – still the law of the land – do not represent themselves as the negation of every principle the Founding Fathers laid down, or as shaky pretexts for looting the country, but rather as public services, benevolent and necessary new rules to ensure our SECURITY against various imagined enemies. To pretend to be what you are not: dissimulation.

      Other examples of dissimulation we see today include:

          pretending like the world’s resources are not finite
          pretending like more and more government will not further stifle an already struggling economy
          pretending like programs favoring “minorities” are not just a different form of racism
          pretending like drug laws are necessary for national security
          pretending like passing more and more laws every year is not geared ultimately for the advancement of the law enforcement, security, and prison industries
          pretending there is a bioterrorist threat in the US today
          pretending there is a terrorist threat in the US today
          pretending the present regime has not benefited from every program that came out of 9/11

        To pretend not to be what you are: dissimulation.

        DISTRACTION

        A third tool necessary to media in order to keep the public from thinking too much is distraction. Bread and circuses worked for Caesar in old Rome. Marie Antoinette offered cake when there was no bread. The people need to be kept quiet while the small group in power carries out its agenda, which always involves fortifying its own position.

        Virtually all new policies of the regimes since 9/11 may be explained by plugging in one of four beneficiaries:

            Oil
            Pharmaceuticals
            War gear
            Security industry

          Every act, every political event, every bill introduced, every public statement of the present administration has promoted one or more of these huge sectors. More oil, more drugs, more weapons, more security.

          But the people mustn’t be allowed to notice things like that. So they must be smokescreened by other stuff, blatant obvious stuff which is really easy to understand and which they think has a greater bearing on their day to day life. A classic axiom of propaganda is that people shouldn’t be allowed to think too much about what the government is doing in their name. After all, there’s more to life than politics, right? So while the power group has its cozy little wars and agendas going on, the people need to have their attention diverted.

          All the strongmen of history would have given their eyeteeth to have at their disposal the number and types of distractions available to today’s regimes:

          TV sports, its orchestrated frenzy and spectacle, where the fix is usually in

      Super Sunday

      the endless succession of unspeakably boring, inane movies, short on plot, long on CGI, re-working the same 20 premises, over and over

      the wanton sexless flash of ‘talent shows’ with their uninspired lack of talent, a study in split second phony images

      colossally dull TV programs which serve the secondary purpose of instilling proper robot attitudes into people who have little other instruction in life values

      the artistic Mojave of modern music, with its soulless cyber-droning, a constant quest for the nadir of reptilian brain stimulation, devoid of lyrical competence, instrumental proficiency, or human passion

      the ever-retreating promise of financial success, switched now to the trappings and toys that suggest success, available to anyone with a credit card

      organized superstitions of all varieties, with their requisite pseudo-spiritual trappings

      the constant sensationalization of crimes and “issues” throughout the world whose collective goal is the humble and grateful acknowledgement of “how good we’ve really got it”

      dwelling for months on the minutiae of unsupported allegations of impropriety, preferably sexual, of a celebrity personality

      non-events presented as events, brought to life by media alone, employing one of the Big Three hooks: sex, blood, and racism

      With these ceaseless noisy, banal distractions, the forces promoting the general decline in intelligence and awareness jubilantly engulf us on all sides. Media science holds the advantage: as people get dumber and dumber year by year, it gets easier and easier to keep them dumb. The only challenge is that their threshold keeps getting lower. So in order to keep their attention, messages have to become more obvious and blatant, taking nothing for granted.


      Too long to post without an html line overrun. Read the rest here.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 07:40:45 AM by Surly1 »
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

  • Administrator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 16127
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
The Lasting Trauma of Alex Jonesís Lies
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 01:32:23 PM »
Reposting it because it belongs in this thread, and because the solution to pollution is dilution, as the old environmental scientists used to say. This will be of a piec ewith subsequent articles I have chosen for this thread.

The Lasting Trauma of Alex Jonesís Lies

The Lasting Trauma of Alex Jones’s Lies

The systems that have for so long helped to enforce the notion of collective truth in America are no longer sufficient: Deception is everywhere. And it is dangerous.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

This week,the new york timesreported that Alex Jones,InfoWarsfounder and professional peddler of lies, is seeking more than $100,000 in court costs from the family of Noah Pozner, one of the 20 children who were murdered in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Jones is seeking that amount to recover the court costs involved with his legal defense: Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, Noah’s mother and father, sued Jones for defamation because of the conspiracy theories he spread about the Sandy Hook murders. Jones insisted that the kids’ deaths were a great hoax, a performance staged by gun-control activists backed by the American government. As a result of that, Noah Pozner’s family says, they have been stalked and subjected to death threats by Jones’s legions of epistemically gullible yet digitally savvy followers—a fact that has, doxxing by doxxing, forced them to move seven times over the past five years, ever farther away from the body of their slain son.

To reiterate: Alex Jones is seeking money from the parents of a murdered child because of a series of lies that have cruelly compounded the family’s suffering since the initial tragedy—lies that Jones, himself, has spread.

There was once a time when the people who think about such things lamented the rise of information silos and filter bubbles and echo chambers: the newfound ability for people to choose their own adventures when it comes to the types of information they consume. Those concerns remain; they also, these days, seem decidedly quaint. Competing truths—“alternative facts”—are no longer the primary threat to American culture; competing lies are. Everything was possible and nothing was true: Conspiracies now smirk and smog in the air, issued from the giant smokestacks atInfoWarsandTheGateway Punditand the White House itself. Hannah Arendt warned of the mass cynicism that can befall cultures when propaganda is allowed to proliferate among them; that cynicism is here, now. And it is accompanied by something just as destructive: a sense of pervasive despair. Americans live in a world of information pollution—and the subsequent tragedy of this new environmental reality is that no one has been able to figure out a reliable method of clearing the air.

The summer of 2018, even more stormy and even more Stormy than a typical one, has also been termed “the summer of scam.” It’s a title that nods to the popularity of stories about the grifters who lurk among us: Anna Delvey,Elizabeth Holmes, the “Con Queen of Hollywood,” and, in a broader sense, the smooth purveyors of “wellness” who balk at the notion of fact-checking and serve as reminders of how readily snake oil can dissolve in the water we all swim in. But the title is also partially sardonic: The scam, of course, is not a seasonal thing. It is thoroughly evergreen. The country’s current leader built his political reputation ona racist lie. He was elected, quite possibly, with the help of untruths that were designed, specifically, to go viral. Trolls, of foreign vintage and homegrown, proliferate, virtually unchecked, on Twitter and Facebook, and Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg and their fellow members of the small fraternity who are responsible for Americans’ new digital infrastructureshave  proven themselves, again and again, to be at a loss for how to combat them. And for good reason: As Kevin Roose, a technology reporter forThe New York Timesrecently put it, “How the hell do you build something that can accurately and completely rid a platform of misinformation that has 2 billion people on it?”

Sean Hannity, last year, spent weeks peddling falsehoods about the death of Seth Rich on Fox News; he faced,effectively, no repercussions. Members of the American media engage in al ong debate about whether to refer to the stuff that spews from the mouth and the iPhone keyboard of the president as “baseless claims” or “misleading statements” or “lies.” Meanwhile, the untruths proliferate, heating the atmosphere and making it, day by day, just a little bit harder to breathe. In a press briefing this week, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sandersimplied—based on a thoroughly debunked urban myth—that the press, in reporting on intelligence about Osama bin Laden in the late ’90s, might have an indirect responsibility for 9/11. Sean Spicer, who preceded Sanders as an issuer of such inaccuracies from the White House briefing room, is currently engaged in an ebullient cross-country book tour promoting the memoir he was contracted to produce in part because he proved to be so entertaining as he spouted his lies.Slate, tapping into the zeitgeist, recently offered an extensive explainer about the nuanced differences between the grifter and the grafter.

This summer, Michiko Kakutani, the celebrated former chief book critic ofThe New York Times, released her book The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump.The volume offers, despite its slight length, an impassioned argument about what is at stake when the president’s disregard for empirical reality is allowed to trickle down to the rest of us—how easily Americans could descend into the epistemic chaos that so easily becomes the breeding ground for autocrats and despots and tyrants. Kakutani’s gathered elements of wisdom—from George Orwell, from Hannah Arendt, from Jacques Derrida, from F. Scott Fitzgerald, fromFight Club—are infused, finally, with anguish: What, truly, can be done about this? What happens when the lies become environmental?

The Death of Truthhas been criticized in some quarters for its tendency to diagnose the problems of a post-truth world rather than offer solutions to them; you could read the diagnosis itself, however, as its own revealingly sad conclusion. The questions that infuse Kakutani’s work, after all, are repeated in several otherrecent booksthat grapple with the power of lies. Books with telling titles like, yes, Post-TruthAnd Truth Decay:An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. And Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us. And On Truth, with its simple title reading, revealingly, as its own rebuke to the status quo.

The books are building on the fact that Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism have been enjoying a resurgence on Amazon—a popular attempt to grapple with the new state of things, before it becomes irrevocably solidified into Americans’ habits of thought and heart. “Ironically, at a time when the president’s supporters mock liberal sensitivities,”The Washington Post’s book critic, Carlos Lozada, notes, “Trump’s untruth sells best precisely when feelings and instincts overpower facts, when America becomes a safe space for fabrication.”

That space, as Lozada also points out, has been long in the making. Stephen Colbert, long before Donald Trump made good on his expressions of interest in a presidential run, mocked George W. Bush and his ilk for their belief that “we create our own reality.” Here’s how Colbert summarized his new and enduring coinage,the word truthiness, in 2005:

Now I’m sure some of the Word Police, thewordanistasover at Webster’s, are gonna say, “Hey, that’s not a word.” Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true, or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books. They’re all fact, no heart.

There are some things that are more important than truth: This is one of the core premises of Trumpism, defined far before it occurred to the man in question to burnish his own presidential ambitions by questioning Barack Obama’s right to the same. The idea lurks in every new lie issued from the White House, in every new conspiracy theory that is moved into the mainstream discourse, in every new instance that “fake news” is summoned as a rebuttal or,worse, as a joke. P.T. Barnum’s crucial insight, as he stitched the desiccated head of a monkey onto the desiccated tail of a fish and insisted that his Frankenbeast was the shrunken corpse of a “FeeJee Mermaid,” was that people, on some level, like to be fooled. “Humbug,” as Barnum termed it, wasn’t merely a scam. It was also a game: an entertainment, adistraction. The kind of puzzle-at-scale that is reiterated when, for example, adherents of QAnon tell people that the “truth” of the world and its workings can be learned if only they “follow the White Rabbit.”

In her 2016 book the confidence game,an exploration of the minds and methods of con artists, Maria Konnikova argues that cons thrive, in particular, during times of transition—in the cultural chaos that typically results from the lurchings of economic and political shifts. That is because con artists are skilled above all, Konnikova notes, at “exploiting the sense of unease we feel when it appears that the world as we know it is about to change.” Now, in this time of American upheaval—populism, the digital transition, the storms of a stifled planet—con artists like Alex Jones have been given a microphone. And, with it, a megaphone.

Here is a headline that CBS News ran on Thursday: “Alex Jones’s Lawyer Makes Case Against Sandy Hook Parents Who Claim Death Threats.” It’s a summary of events that makes clear, in its concision, the upside-down moralities of the Jones case, which involves an attempt to gloss over the lies Alex Jones has told with normalizing legal niceties: arguments that his conspiracy theories are merely “opinion,” and that they therefore constitute speech protected by the First Amendment. Arguments that the parents of Noah Pozner, by virtue of their involvement in Sandy Hook as a news event, are public figures, and therefore required to prove that Jones spread false claims as a result of actual malice, rather than mere confusion or callousness or negligence.

Which is to say: arguments that suggest a tacit acknowledgement of how thoroughly lies have infiltrated the very systems that were developed, over time, to arbitrate truth in America. Arguments that engage in a great performance of equivalence: the lies on the one side of the table, the truths on the other. Arguments that participate, in that, in a somber metaphor for a time in which journalists are mocked as liars and threatened as theenemies of the people, and in which expertise is dismissed as elitism, and in which truth has been allowed to be treated not as the only thing that matters, but rather as a choice—an option that is often, beingall fact and no heart, an imposition.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

  • Administrator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 16127
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
QAnon is terrifying. This is why.
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 01:45:53 PM »
Scary only if you have a taste for evidence based reporting and a loathing for insecure people force-fed conspiracy and hate.

QAnon is terrifying. This is why.



QAnon is terrifying. This is why.

During President Trump’s rally on July 31, several attendees held or wore signs with the letter “Q.” Here’s what the QAnon conspiracy theory is about.(Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

“The Storm is coming,” say the conspiracy theorizers whose grotesque imaginings terrifiedthe country to attention this week. Maybe they’re right.

QAnon adherents encourage those seeking the truth to “follow the White Rabbit,” but it’s hard to hop down this hole without getting totally lost in their horrorland. The simplest description of the plot line goes something like this: President Trump isn’t under investigation; he is only pretending to be, as part of a countercoup to restore power to the people after more than a century of governmental control by a globalist cabal. Also, there are pedophiles.

A figure named “Q,” who supposedly possesses Q-level security clearance ,disperses “crumbs” that “bakers” bring together to create a “dough” of synthesized information. (This is not how baking works, but that seems the least of our worries.) Because Q is the 17th letter in the alphabet and 17 is also a number Trump has said a few times, among other clearly-not-coincidences, he is the real deal, not an Internet troll engaged in an elaborate example of live-action role-play.

It’s obvious that this is scary, but it’s less obvious exactly why. To start, the sheer scope of the supposed conspiracy should cause alarm. By combining the tales tinfoil-hatters have told over time, these truthers have packaged everything attractive about this type of propaganda in one tantalizing product. And that means more and more people will buy what they’re selling.

Then there’s QAnon’s path to prominence — from 4chan to 8chan to more mainstream sites such as YouTube and Twitter and, finally, to a Florida Trump rally and television screens across the nation. In the cesspools where the theory first flourished, registration is either not required or not possible, and the “rules,” such as they are, look nothing like the terms of service for a site like Facebook. The intelligentsia is already at odds over how the more-established entities should regulate themselves, or be regulated. It’s even harder to have that conversation about a site like 4chan or 8chan that eschews responsibility for its content entirely.

Now that it’s clear that what starts on the fringe doesn’t stay there, it is a real concern. QAnon’s lurch from online to off hasn’t manifested only in T-shirted ralliers wielding weird signs. Last week, a “baker” appeared outside Michael Avenatti’s office because Q sent him there. Others have started searching for child sex camps in the desert outside Tucson. A man in an armored truck blocked a bridge near the Hoover Dam demanding the release of a report that Q claimed the government was withholding. He had two guns.

What’s scariest of all, though, might be what motivates Trump’s base to believe in so byzantine a conspiracy. QAnon isn’t your average story of all-powerful actors exercising complete control over a helpless populace. This time, the heroes are already in charge and, still, the theorists see themselves as victims. Why, even with their man in the Oval Office, do they feel embattled?

One explanation has to do with the on-the-ground reality of this presidency. Perhaps the men and women who buy into this gibberish aren’t so confident that they’re in charge at all. The special counsel looks ever closer to proving ties between Trump and Russia and, in the meantime, Trump appears more erratic. If he really is under investigation and not just pretending to be, all his supporters’ hopes evaporate.

But this anxiety also ties into a more amorphous sense among these voters that, though the Republican Party controls Congress and the executive, the country is still rigged against them. Trumpism has always been about insecurity: As a candidate, the president played on the paranoia of Americans who thought the country they knew was being taken away from them — by immigrants, by an overreaching government, by adversaries overseas.

The “forgotten men and women of our country” didn’t stop feeling forgotten when their self-proclaimed avatar walked into the White House. There was too much dissent, too much doubt cast on his (and, by extension, their) legitimacy and ability to lead. Now, they’ll only be assuaged by the destruction of everything and everyone that stands in their way, through the mass arrest of those who they say connived against them and the installation of a state filled only with loyalists.

That’s what QAnon followers really want, after all. That’s where their “storm” motto comes from. Most Americans were puzzled when, in a meeting with military leaders months ago, Trump said, “You know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” But these theorists thought they knew exactly what he was talking about. Trump was pointing at the officers’ uniforms.

The storm QAnon truthers predict will never strike because the conspiracy that obsesses them doesn’t exist. But while they wait for it, they’ll try to whip up the winds, and the rest of us will struggle to find shelter. QAnon is scary because it’s getting bigger, it’s scary because we don’t know how to stop it, and it’s scary because the people behind itwon’tbe stopped, and, until their illusory storm arrives, they won’t be satisfied.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Eddie

  • Global Moderator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 17502
    • View Profile
Re: QAnon
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 03:00:48 PM »
So, really, whomever the hoaxster is who makes these stupid Q tapes or audios or whatever, is fomenting chaos and probably sitting back in his parents' basement and having a good laugh at our collective expense.

This is not free speech that should be protected, any more than Alex Jones making innuendos that sent some nutjob into a pizza restaurant with an AR-15 should be protected.

The little creep should be hunted down and tried for public endangerment...and more than that, should be outed for what he really  is, a clever little worm with a microphone and and computer and a job sweeping floors somewhere.

« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 03:28:50 PM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Agent Graves

  • Rookie
  • Bussing Staff
  • *
  • Posts: 227
    • View Profile
Re: QAnon
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2018, 03:06:19 AM »
So, really, whomever the hoaxster is who makes these stupid Q tapes or audios or whatever, is fomenting chaos and probably sitting back in his parents' basement and having a good laugh at our collective expense.

This is not free speech that should be protected, any more than Alex Jones making innuendos that sent some nutjob into a pizza restaurant with an AR-15 should be protected.

The little creep should be hunted down and tried for public endangerment...and more than that, should be outed for what he really  is, a clever little worm with a microphone and and computer and a job sweeping floors somewhere.

Q anon is obviously DT himself. Aside from a lot of it sounding the same as his tweets, fotos posted are of inside the whitehouse, presidential pens and desks etc, not some basement. He slipped Vincent Fusca a fiver, maybe more. One thing is for sure, since the start with the  mexico wall bombshell. Trump looks for new markets and tosses everyone something, tinfoil market was ripe for the electoral taking.

I will bet anything u like, nobody can trace a timestamp of a q-anon post to when we know he was busy doing something else.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2018, 03:32:45 AM by Agent Graves »
Junior  Operative, FBI Counter-Doomsdaycult Taskforce

Offline Eddie

  • Global Moderator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 17502
    • View Profile
Re: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2018, 03:58:56 AM »
Never considered that. Could be, I suppose.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline K-Dog

  • Global Moderator
  • Sous Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 3157
    • View Profile
    • K-Dog
QAnon
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2018, 08:26:46 AM »
So, really, whomever the hoaxster is who makes these stupid Q tapes or audios or whatever, is fomenting chaos and probably sitting back in his parents' basement and having a good laugh at our collective expense.

This is not free speech that should be protected, any more than Alex Jones making innuendos that sent some nutjob into a pizza restaurant with an AR-15 should be protected.

The little creep should be hunted down and tried for public endangerment...and more than that, should be outed for what he really  is, a clever little worm with a microphone and and computer and a job sweeping floors somewhere.

Don't be too sure that the laughter is coming from a parents basement and not from behind closed doors in an office building.  That is far more likely.  Consider that guy in the photograph.  Clean fitted T-Shirt with the perfect message.  Exactly 4 days growth of beard.  Not clean shaven, but no beard, is a huge hint.  A Navy Seal physique.  Look at his eyes, he's at work.  My money is you are looking at an agent provocateur.  My guess is he is one of the team that masquerades as a black hat anarchist on May Day when a few windows need to be smashed by the men in black who always escape.  Same supply chain that supplies the black outfits supplied that T-shirt I say.

As built as he is he could have helped stack up the plywood in the basement the day before a black hat attack so it was all ready to cover over smashed panes.  Time from breaking the windows to covering them with plywood was15 minutes the last time they did it, and that was a big fuck-up.  JSP didn't notice, I did.  I'm sure they won't make that mistake again.  A woman reporter did manage to get the cameras on the stack of plywood but it all had to be played off cool so nobody would get in trouble.  A different team got the plywood in place of course.  They probably just put the job on the building super and had it delivered from Home Depot.  But I digress, back to 'Q'.



Think about this.  This effort is beyond the capabilities of amateurs.  Basement mix tapes by kids my ass.  That said think of how many professionals could do national organization? 

The Koch Bros?


No

These operation require interaction with law enforcement.  Training exercises to the rank and file.  Nothing like post graduate seal teams practicing their response to terrorist mayhem to keep America safe and could you get that F ucking B ig I mbecile elephant out of that damn jar.  A private organization lets hope, does not yet have that kind of pull.

I'd like a jelly bean.

For years 'Q' who plays alpha dog grammar politics at Clusterfuck Nation has been regularly posting. http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/on-the-beach/#comment-362450

Is that a coincidence or something else?

Quote
Q. Shtik July 30, 2018 at 7:16 pm #

I posted one last night near the end of the previous thread. Iím planning to re-post in this thread tonight. The postings will be in several increments as it totals 21 typed pages and I donít want to overwhelm and piss Jim off.
Reply   

It could all wind up being whipped by the winds of justice.



"As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay...The Shadow knows!"

or not, most likely not.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2018, 08:42:53 AM by K-Dog »
Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

Offline Eddie

  • Global Moderator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 17502
    • View Profile
Re: QAnon
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2018, 09:02:51 AM »
I haven't actually watched any of the "material" and I have no ideas as to whether it would take pros to do it, so I'll admit to complete ignorance.

But...if it is the types you describe, are they just cowboys off the rez, trying to blow smoke for Trump because they like him? I thought the FBI hated Trump.

What's the motivation, if it's a black op?

I saw this, which is somewhat interesting. Check it out and tell me what your think.


https://www.vox.com/2018/8/8/17657800/qanon-reddit-conspiracy-data

Sounds like the Diner.

Maybe we need to invent a shadowy narrative. (I'm already thinking about what that might be like, LOL.)

« Last Edit: August 09, 2018, 11:10:14 AM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

  • Administrator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 16127
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
Re: QAnon
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2018, 12:44:55 PM »
I haven't actually watched any of the "material" and I have no ideas as to whether it would take pros to do it, so I'll admit to complete ignorance.

But...if it is the types you describe, are they just cowboys off the rez, trying to blow smoke for Trump because they like him? I thought the FBI hated Trump.

What's the motivation, if it's a black op?

I saw this, which is somewhat interesting. Check it out and tell me what your think.

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/8/17657800/qanon-reddit-conspiracy-data


^^^ This article is the shit. This, right here. Data, and cross-reference analysis. Not surprising that a handful of users put up most of the data (irony alert fully taken) but no one said Pareto was wrong.
A handful of yokels taking the rubes for a spin.

Great find.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline K-Dog

  • Global Moderator
  • Sous Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 3157
    • View Profile
    • K-Dog
Re: QAnon
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2018, 11:20:55 PM »
I haven't actually watched any of the "material" and I have no ideas as to whether it would take pros to do it, so I'll admit to complete ignorance.

But...if it is the types you describe, are they just cowboys off the rez, trying to blow smoke for Trump because they like him? I thought the FBI hated Trump.

What's the motivation, if it's a black op?

I saw this, which is somewhat interesting. Check it out and tell me what your think.

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/8/17657800/qanon-reddit-conspiracy-data


^^^ This article is the shit. This, right here. Data, and cross-reference analysis. Not surprising that a handful of users put up most of the data (irony alert fully taken) but no one said Pareto was wrong.
A handful of yokels taking the rubes for a spin.

Great find.

Interesting they identified a core group of 200 leading a huge contingent of parrots.  The core group is too big to be chance but simple data analysis can't say who they are.  The article takes the position that a core group could be launched by a single person posting a cryptic list on the internet. 

Ridiculous.

People ignore cryptic shit.  Everybody is so overloaded with information that a conspiracy is not going to be launched by a cryptic spark from a list of clues that make you go WTF?  This thing is exactly the right size to be launched by a dedicated team.  The data presentation in the article is great but I'm not sure what conclusions to draw.

Trolls would follow the same track and a 20 man troll army with the right software could manage 10 identities each.  I'm totally speculating here.  I have never been part of a troll army so I'm guessing but thats what the data suggests to me.

Why?

Practice and spending budgeted money to keep the money coming is reason enough.  The world is not fair and everybody here, myself included, has a habit of thinking too much at times.  This is because some of us are gifted and because some of us are deranged.  We do in fact post in a venue which has a lot more viewers than the level of participation indicates.  That is not unusual for a forum so that aspect of the data set comes as no surprise.  'Commenters' are outliers who perhaps expect order and reason to the madness when there is none to be found perhaps more than most readers.  Way more than those who are not even looking for any for sure.  Readers always outnumbers posters by at least ten to one.  The size of that ratio says something.  What I don't know.



« Last Edit: August 09, 2018, 11:23:21 PM by K-Dog »
Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

Offline Agent Graves

  • Rookie
  • Bussing Staff
  • *
  • Posts: 227
    • View Profile
Re: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2018, 01:17:29 AM »
This topic has been read 83 times as of now. 11 posts from 4 commenters, whose own 'views' to reply would make up maybe half that. Lets say there are another 4 active participants who have not commented, they would have made up much of the rest of the 'views' or times it was read.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 01:21:59 AM by Agent Graves »
Junior  Operative, FBI Counter-Doomsdaycult Taskforce

Offline Surly1

  • Administrator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 16127
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
Re: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2019, 01:06:57 PM »
Time to return to a theme that is becoming all-too-familiar today.

https://qz.com/obsessions/


Fact-checking

March 15, 2019

Getting to the bottom of it


The internet has revolutionized human society more than any invention since the printing press—but it’s also made it more complicated. In recent years, the spread of “fake news” and partisan misinformation has caused real-world damage, from potentially impacting elections and referendums to fueling potentially deadly conspiracy theories like #Pizzagate.

The more accessible and instantaneous information becomes, the harder it gets for people to trust what they read. In response, politicians, educators, and concerned citizens have invested money and time into coming up with solutions, including media literacy classes and transparency mandates for online platforms. But these initiatives seem to have hardly moved the needle.

Now, a new trend is emerging, and it involves turning to the members of a profession that has existed since well before the internet was invented: Fact-checkers. But which of the skills that fact-checkers possess can be transmitted to the general public, at scale? And what is it that fact-checkers even do? Let’s do a read-through.

🐦Tweet this!

🌐View this email on the web


BY THE DIGITS

70:Number of people in Der Spiegels fact-checking team (as of December 2018)

17: Size of the New Yorker fact-checking department (as of February 2018)

938: Number of questions a New Yorker fact-checker emailed the Church of Scientology to check a 30,000-word piece by Lawrence Wright

160:Active fact-checking sites

Forever: Lifespan of a mistake in print (or email 😬)

THIS ONE WEIRD TRICK!

How to think like a fact-checker


Sam Wineburg, a professor of education and history at Stanford University and the founder of Stanford History Education Group, has been working on the issue of misinformation and news literacy for years, and he argues that the best way to avoid getting fooled by fake news online is to think like a fact-checker. In a 2017 working paper, Wineburg and his colleague Sarah McGrew studied the fact-checking process of 10 PhD historians, 10 professional fact-checkers, and 25 Stanford University undergraduates. They found that the professional fact-checkers were about twice as successful as historians at evaluating the trustworthiness of two different online sources on school bullying, and five times more successful than students.

Why? The fact-checkers looked at where the website fit into the larger information ecosystem, checking what other sources said about the website, who owned or operated it, and whether it had ever been accused of spreading misleading or false information.

“When you land on a site offering ‘nonpartisan’ information, forget about the fancy logo, ignore the .org designation, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put your faith in the About page,” Wineburg wrote. “Search the organization’s name along with a canny keyword like ‘funding’ or ‘credibility.’ And just because you aced the SAT, don’t think you can outsmart the shrewdest ruses on the web…. One fact checker told us, ‘hubris is the enemy of fact checking.’ Tape this to your screen.”

Richard Hornik, who directs overseas partnerships at the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University, explains that fact-checkers read laterallyin addition to reading vertically: they move from site to site, gathering information along the way. Hornik says that the way to harness those skills is teaching students to “interrogate information instead of simply consuming it,” “verify information before sharing it,” “reject rank and popularity as a proxy for reliability,” “understand that the sender of information is often not its source,” and “acknowledge the implicit prejudices we all carry.”

CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

On the culture of fact-checking


“Being fact-checked is not very fun. Good fact-checkers have a preternatural inclination toward pedantry, and sometimes will address you in a prosecutorial tone. That is their job and the adversarial tone is even more important than the actual facts they correct…. [F]act-checkers serve as a valuable check to prevent writers from lapsing into the kind of arrogant laziness which breeds plagiarism and the manufacture of facts. The fact-checker (and the copy-editor too actually) is a dam against you embarrassing yourself, or worse, being so arrogant that [you] don’t even realize you’ve embarrassed yourself. Put differently, a culture of fact-checking, of honesty, is as important as the actual fact-checking.”

—Journalist and authorTa-Nehisi Coatesin The Atlantic

“The truth is that fallibility is deeply embarrassing. Most writers are grateful, gracious. A few realize they’ve built a house of cards, and in their panic they lash out. For our part it’s humbling to saywe, accepting responsibility for errors we haven’t made, extending forgiveness to the writer and to ourselves. Fact-checking is a test of character for both sides, an experiment in generosity.”

—New York Times Magazine fact-checkerJamie Fisherin The New York Times

Giphy
WORTHY INVESTMENT

Fact-checking in book publishing: A scandalous history


Misleading or false information isn’t only an “online” problem. A recent controversy over former New York Timeseditor Jill Abramson’s bookMerchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Factsreveals that the book publishing industry has a fact-checking problem, too—even when the book in question is a book about facts. That’s because, as Constance Grady wrote in Vox, “the standard rule in book publishing is that accuracy is the author’s problem.” Editors “refine and shape” manuscripts, copy editors fix grammar, and lawyers read for libel, but fact-checking is atypical.

Many people aren’t aware that books aren’t usually fact-checked, but every once in a while, a controversy over inaccurate facts or misquoting—as with Abramson’s book or Sally Kohn’s The Opposite of Hate—will restart the conversation. Some authors pay for their own fact-checkers, but the costs are prohibitive, and many people argue that book publishers should take on the costs.

There are signs that the industry is changing. But as Grady writes, it’s not changing fast enough: “Everyone makes mistakes. That’s human. Good systems assume that mistakes will happen and build in redundancies to handle them. When it comes to fact-checking, book publishing hasn’t gotten there yet.”

QUOTABLE

“The worst checking error is calling people dead who are not dead. In the words of [fact-checker] Josh Hersh, ‘It really annoys them.’”

John McPhee in The New Yorker

POP QUIZ

How many times has Donald Trump made false or misleading claims since becoming president, according to the Washington Post?

If your inbox doesn’t support this quiz, find the solution at bottom of email.
Giphy
BRIEF HISTORY

1913:Isaac White and Ralph Pulitzer launch the “Bureau of Accuracy and Fair Play” at the New York World.

1923:Time magazine’s first issue comes out. It is verified for accuracy by a team of female researchers known as “checkers.”

1927:The New Yorker begins fact-checking after it published a profile of Edna St. Vincent Millay that “was so riddled with errors that the poet’s mother stormed into the magazine’s offices and threatened to sue if an extensive correction was not run.”

1933:Newsweek begins fact-checking.

1938: One of the earliest printed references to journalistic fact-checkers appears in an ad for Time published in Colliers. The ad flaunts Time’s readership and staff growth, and the expansion of its research and fact-checking team “from ten to twenty-two.”

1970: 46 female checkers and researchers at Newsweek file a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing the magazine of discriminating against them and pushing them into “a subsidiary role.” Newsweek agrees to recruit men as fact-checkers and promises to hire and promote more women. This marks the beginning of a wave of similar suits from female checkers in newsrooms like The New York Times and Time.

2003: The Annenberg Public Policy Center launches one of the first full-time political fact-checking websites, FactCheck.org.

2005: Britain’s Channel 4 launches “FactCheck” to cover the UK’s parliamentary elections, then makes the feature permanent.

2007: The St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly team up to launch Politifact.com, which offers “a ‘truth-o-meter’ that rates statements by the 2008 presidential candidates on a scale from ‘true’ through ‘half true’ to ‘pants on fire.’”

2007: The Washington Post launches “The Fact Checker” to cover the 2008 US presidential election, and re-launches in 2011 as a permanent feature of the Post’s coverage.

FUN FACT!

In 2018, when Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe was preparing for his role as a magazine fact-checker in the Broadway show The Lifespan of a Fact, he spent time in the New Yorker newsroom and fact-checked a review of a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn. He later said: “Nothing I do today will be harder than that.”

WATCH THIS!

Be your own fact-checker


The News Literacy Project, a US-based nonprofit, teaches kids how to evaluate the credibility of information they get online. Over 3,300 educators from the US and 69 more countries have adopted the group’s news literacy curriculum. Quartz visited George Jackson Academy in New York City and talked to some of the teachers and students using the curriculum.

📚Read more from Quartz’s series on Rewiring Childhood.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
POLL

How often do you check the accuracy of information before sharing or discussing it?

💬LET'S TALK!

In yesterday’s poll about sentiment analysis51% of you said “we’re already living in a dystopia.”

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

  • Administrator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 16127
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
The Backfire Effect
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2019, 02:55:34 PM »
I was watching a TV show today, "Adam Ruins Everything" and the topic was conspiracy theories. And I heard for the first time about the "Backfire Effect." The backfire effect is the tendency of some to resist accepting evidence that conflicts with their beliefs. In other words, in the face of contradictory evidence, established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger.

The effect is evident when people presented with such conflicting information become even more convinced of their original beliefs, and then double down and bring the crazy. We've all seen this in evidence.

Quote
What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs.
óYou Are Not So Smart ó The Backfire Effect

The Backfire Effect
More on the pressís inability to debunk bad information


Which of these headlines strikes you as the most persuasive:

“I am not a Muslim, Obama says.”

“I am a Christian, Obama says.”

The first headline is a direct and unequivocal denial of a piece of misinformation that’s had a frustratingly long life. It’s Obama directly addressing the falsehood.

The second option takes a different approach by affirming Obama’s true religion, rather than denying the incorrect one. He’s asserting, not correcting.

Which one is better at convincing people of Obama’s religion? According to recent research into political misinformation, it’s likely the latter.

The study was led by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, two leading researchers examining political misinformation and the ways in which it can and can’t be refuted, among other topics. Their 2009 paper, “The Effects of Semantics and Social Desirability in Correcting the Obama Muslim Myth,” found that affirming statements appeared to be more effective at convincing people to abandon or question their incorrect views regarding President Obama’s religion.

I found their work courtesy of an exhaustive post on You Are Not So Smart, a blog about “self delusion and irrational thinking” by journalist David McRaney.

McRaney spends several thousand words explaining the “backfire effect,” which he nicely summarized in one sentence: “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

As I detailed in a recent column, the backfire effect makes it difficult for the press to effectively debunk misinformation. We present facts and evidence, and it often does nothing to change people’s minds. In fact, it can make people dig in even more. Humans also engage in motivated reasoning, a tendency to let emotions “set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about”.

These two important cognitive effects can have a significant impact on society and debates in the public sphere. They also end up negating some of the debunking and reporting work done by the press. My recent attempts to understand the backfire effect and motivated reasoning has transformed into a search for ways to combat these entrenched human phenomena.

I sought out Reifler, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia State University, to learn more about his and his colleagues’ findings regarding affirmative statements and their effect of the Obama Muslim myth. I asked him if there are other other ways of presenting information that can debunk lies.

“I’m sure that there are but I don’t know what they are,” he told me, ever the cautious researcher.

Nevertheless, he did offer some encouragement.

“I think we’re moving in that direction,” he says.

Part of the process of discovering what works is to rule out what doesn’t. I listed a some of them in my previous column, and Nyhan and Reifler provide more evidence in a 2010 paper, “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions,” published in Political Behavior. (Note that their definition of a correction is different from the ones used in the press.) Their study saw respondents read a mock news article “containing a statement from a political figure that reinforces a widespread misperception.” Some of the articles also included a paragraph of text that refuted (or “corrected”) the misperception and statement.

One article, for example, led with President George W. Bush talking about Iraq and the possibility it “would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks.” It then transitioned to a graph that cited information from a CIA report that Iraq did not in fact possess illicit weapons at the time of the U.S.-led invasion. Would these corrective paragraphs influence respondents who believed Iraq had WMDs?

As the researches write, the corrective sections “frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group.”

Then there’s that familiar term: “We also document several instances of a ‘backfire effect’ in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.”

So perhaps a single, credible refutation within a news article isn’t likely to convince people to change their views. But other research suggests that a constant flow of these kind of corrections could help combat misinformation. The theory is that the more frequently someone is exposed to information that goes against their incorrect beliefs, the more likely it is that they will change their views.

“It’s possible there is something to be said for persistence,” Reifler said. “At some point the cost of always being wrong or always getting information that runs counter to what you believe is likely to outweigh the cost of having to change your mind about something. We need to figure out what is the magic breaking or tipping point, or what leads people to get to that tipping point. I think we’re just scratching the surface.”

He pointed to a 2010 paper in Political Psychology by David P. Redlawsk and others, “The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever ‘Get It’?”

The researchers sought to determine if a tipping point exists that could cause voters to abandon motivated reasoning and view facts in a more rational way.

“We show experimental evidence that such an affective tipping point does in fact exist,” they write. “… The existence of a tipping point suggests that voters are not immune to disconfirming information after all, even when initially acting as motivated reasoners.”

This tipping point is far from being identified, but it’s encouraging to think that repeated efforts to debunk misinformation, or to simply to spread the truth, may have an effect.

One final cause for hope is that Reifler and Nyhan are conducting studies to see if the visual presentation of information can impact its level of persuasion. As none of this work has been finalized, Reifler declined to share details on the record. But the overall point is that after decades of research that has demonstrated the human propensity for motivated reasoning and the backfire effect, researchers are moving towards identifying keys that can unlock our closed minds.

Good news, right? Not exactly, according to Reifler.

He said researchers first began looking at these forms of persuasion after World War II in order to understand how Nazism could persuade millions of people. As a result, researchers were initially encouraged to discover the human resistance to persuasion.

“The difficulty of persuading people was seen as good thing,” Reifler said. “It meant that it would be more difficult for really, really terrible things to happen. Anytime we’re talking about persuasion or getting people to change their beliefs there is always a good side and a dark side.”

Craig Silverman is the editor of RegretTheError.com and the author of Regret The Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech. He is also the editorial director of OpenFile.ca and a columnist for the Toronto Star.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline azozeo

  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 9060
    • View Profile
Re: WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW?
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2019, 06:44:52 PM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/e86omL8uzks&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/e86omL8uzks&fs=1</a>
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why youíre here. Youíre here because you know something. What you know you canít explain, but you feel it. Youíve felt it your entire life, that thereís something wrong with the world.
You donít know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

Offline Surly1

  • Administrator
  • Master Chef
  • *****
  • Posts: 16127
    • View Profile
    • Doomstead Diner
The Population Bust
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2019, 08:21:09 AM »
Interesting piece of contrariana here. Interesting argument.

The Population Bust
Demographic Decline and the End of Capitalism as We Know It


In This Review

The Human Tide: How Population Shaped the Modern World
The Human Tide: How Population Shaped the Modern World
By Paul Morland
PublicAffairs, 2019 352 pp.PURCHASE

For most of human history, the world’s population grew so slowly that for most people alive, it would have felt static. Between the year 1 and 1700, the human population went from about 200 million to about 600 million; by 1800, it had barely hit one billion. Then, the population exploded, first in the United Kingdom and the United States, next in much of the rest of Europe, and eventually in Asia. By the late 1920s, it had hit two billion. It reached three billion around 1960 and then four billion around 1975. It has nearly doubled since then. There are now some 7.6 billion people living on the planet. 

Just as much of the world has come to see rapid population growth as normal and expected, the trends are shifting again, this time into reverse. Most parts of the world are witnessing sharp and sudden contractions in either birthrates or absolute population. The only thing preventing the population in many countries from shrinking more quickly is that death rates are also falling, because people everywhere are living longer. These oscillations are not easy for any society to manage. “Rapid population acceleration and deceleration send shockwaves around the world wherever they occur and have shaped history in ways that are rarely appreciated,” the demographer Paul Morland writes in The Human Tide, his new history of demographics. Morland does not quite believe that “demography is destiny,” as the old adage mistakenly attributed to the French philosopher Auguste Comte would have it. Nor do Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, the authors of Empty Planet, a new book on the rapidly shifting demographics of the twenty-first century. But demographics are clearly part of destiny. If their role first in the rise of the West and now in the rise of the rest has been underappreciated, the potential consequences of plateauing and then shrinking populations in the decades ahead are almost wholly ignored. 

The mismatch between expectations of a rapidly growing global population (and all the attendant effects on climate, capitalism, and geopolitics) and the reality of both slowing growth rates and absolute contraction is so great that it will pose a considerable threat in the decades ahead. Governments worldwide have evolved to meet the challenge of managing more people, not fewer and not older. Capitalism as a system is particularly vulnerable to a world of less population expansion; a significant portion of the economic growth that has driven capitalism over the past several centuries may have been simply a derivative of more people and younger people consuming more stuff. If the world ahead has fewer people, will there be any real economic growth? We are not only unprepared to answer that question; we are not even starting to ask it. 

The next generation: at a day care in Florida, February 2000

The next generation: at a day care in Florida, February 2000

Ed Kashi / VII / Redux

BOMB OR BUST?

At the heart of The Human Tide and Empty Planet, as well as demography in general, is the odd yet compelling work of the eighteenth-century British scholar Thomas Malthus. Malthus’ 1798 Essay on the Principle of Populationargued that growing numbers of people were a looming threat to social and political stability. He was convinced that humans were destined to produce more people than the world could feed, dooming most of society to suffer from food scarcity while the very rich made sure their needs were met. In Malthus’ dire view, that would lead to starvation, privation, and war, which would eventually lead to population contraction, and then the depressing cycle would begin again. 

Yet just as Malthus reached his conclusions, the world changed. Increased crop yields, improvements in sanitation, and accelerated urbanization led not to an endless cycle of impoverishment and contraction but to an explosion of global population in the nineteenth century. Morland provides a rigorous and detailed account of how, in the nineteenth century, global population reached its breakout from millennia of prior human history, during which the population had been stagnant, contracting, or inching forward. He starts with the observation that the population begins to grow rapidly when infant mortality declines. Eventually, fertility falls in response to lower infant mortality—but there is a considerable lag, which explains why societies in the modern world can experience such sharp and extreme surges in population. In other words, while infant mortality is high, women tend to give birth to many children, expecting at least some of them to die before reaching maturity. When infant mortality begins to drop, it takes several generations before fertility does, too. So a woman who gives birth to six children suddenly has six children who survive to adulthood instead of, say, three. Her daughters might also have six children each before the next generation of women adjusts, deciding to have smaller families. 

The population bust is going global almost as quickly as the population boom did in the twentieth century.

The burgeoning of global population in the past two centuries followed almost precisely the patterns of industrialization, modernization, and, crucially, urbanization. It started in the United Kingdom at the end of the nineteenth century (hence the concerns of Malthus), before spreading to the United States and then France and Germany. The trend next hit Japan, India, and China and made its way to Latin America. It finally arrived in sub-Saharan Africa, which has seen its population surge thanks to improvements in medicine and sanitation but has not yet enjoyed the full fruits of industrialization and a rapidly growing middle class. 

With the population explosion came a new wave of Malthusian fears, epitomized by the 1968 book The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich, a biologist at Stanford University. Ehrlich argued that plummeting death rates had created an untenable situation of too many people who could not be fed or housed. “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” he wrote. “In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now.” 

Ehrlich’s prophecy, of course, proved wrong, for reasons that Bricker and Ibbitson elegantly chart in Empty Planet. The green revolution, a series of innovations in agriculture that began in the early twentieth century, accelerated such that crop yields expanded to meet humankind’s needs. Moreover, governments around the world managed to remediate the worst effects of pollution and environmental degradation, at least in terms of daily living standards in multiple megacities, such as Beijing, Cairo, Mexico City, and New Delhi. These cities face acute challenges related to depleted water tables and industrial pollution, but there has been no crisis akin to what was anticipated. 

Yet visions of dystopic population bombs remain deeply entrenched, including at the center of global population calculations: in the forecasts routinely issued by the United Nations. Today, the UN predicts that global population will reach nearly ten billion by 2050. Judging from the evidence presented in Morland’s and Bricker and Ibbitson’s books, it seems likely that this estimate is too high, perhaps substantially. It’s not that anyone is purposely inflating the numbers. Governmental and international statistical agencies do not turn on a dime; they use formulas and assumptions that took years to formalize and will take years to alter. Until very recently, the population assumptions built into most models accurately reflected what was happening. But the sudden ebb of both birthrates and absolute population growth has happened too quickly for the models to adjust in real time. As Bricker and Ibbitson explain, “The UN is employing a faulty model based on assumptions that worked in the past but that may not apply in the future.”

Children in the playground of a nursery school in Ukiha, Japan, May 2017

Children in the playground of a nursery school in Ukiha, Japan, May 2017

Jun Michael Park / laif / Redux

Population expectations aren’t merely of academic interest; they are a key element in how most societies and analysts think about the future of war and conflict. More acutely, they drive fears about climate change and environmental stability—especially as an emerging middle class numbering in the billions demands electricity, food, and all the other accoutrements of modern life and therefore produces more emissions and places greater strain on farms with nutrient-depleted soil and evaporating aquifers. Combined with warming-induced droughts, storms, and shifting weather patterns, these trends would appear to line up for some truly bad times ahead.

Except, argue Bricker and Ibbitson, those numbers and all the doomsday scenarios associated with them are likely wrong. As they write, “We do not face the challenge of a population bomb but a population bust—a relentless, generation-after-generation culling of the human herd.” Already, the signs of the coming bust are clear, at least according to the data that Bricker and Ibbitson marshal. Almost every country in Europe now has a fertility rate below the 2.1 births per woman that is needed to maintain a static population. The UN notes that in some European countries, the birthrate has increased in the past decade. But that has merely pushed the overall European birthrate up from 1.5 to 1.6, which means that the population of Europe will still grow older in the coming decades and contract as new births fail to compensate for deaths. That trend is well under way in Japan, whose population has already crested, and in Russia, where the same trends, plus high mortality rates for men, have led to a decline in the population.

What is striking is that the population bust is going global almost as quickly as the population boom did in the twentieth century. Fertility rates in Chinaand India, which together account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s people, are now at or below replacement levels. So, too, are fertility rates in other populous countries, such as Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, and Thailand. Sub-Saharan Africa remains an outlier in terms of demographics, as do some countries in the Middle East and South Asia, such as Pakistan, but in those places, as well, it is only a matter of time before they catch up, given that more women are becoming educated, more children are surviving their early years, and more people are moving to cities.

Morland, who, unlike Bricker and Ibbitson, is a demographer by training, is skeptical that humanity is on the cusp of a tectonic reversal in population trends. He agrees that the trends have changed, but he is less prone to the blanket certainty of Bricker and Ibbitson. This is not because he uses different data; he simply recognizes that population expectations have frequently been confounded in the past and that certainty about future trends is unreasonable. Morland rightly points out that even if fertility rates fall dramatically in Africa, there will be decades left of today’s youth bulge there. Because he is more measured in his assessment of the ambiguities and uncertainties in the data, Morland tends to be more circumspect in drawing dramatic conclusions. He suggests, for instance, that China’s population will peak short of 1.5 billion in 2030 and then stagnate, with an aging population and gradual absolute decline thereafter. Bricker and Ibbitson, on the other hand, warn that China’s fertility rate, already in free fall, could actually get much worse based on the example of Japan, which would lead China to shrink to less than 700 million people in the second half of the century. Morland does agree with Bricker and Ibbitson on one important point: when it comes to global population, the only paradigm that anyone has known for two centuries is about to change. 

A placard outside the UN headquarters in New York City, November 2011

A placard outside the UN headquarters in New York City, November 2011

Xinhua / eyevine / Redux

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The implications of the coming population bust occupy a large portion of Bricker and Ibbitson’s book, and they should occupy a much larger portion of the collective debate about the future and how to prepare for it. The underlying drivers of capitalism, the sense that resource competition and scarcity determine the nature of international relations and domestic tensions, and the fear that climate change and environmental degradation are almost at a doomsday point—all have been shaped by the persistently ballooning population of the past two centuries. If the human population is about to decline as quickly as it increased, then all those systems and assumptions are in jeopardy.

Both books note that the demographic collapse could be a bright spot for climate change. Given that carbon emissions are a direct result of more people needing and demanding more stuff—from food and water to cars and entertainment—then it would follow that fewer people would need and demand less. What’s more, larger proportions of the planet will be aging, and the experiences of Japan and the United States are showing that people consume less as they age. A smaller, older population spells some relief from the immense environmental strain of so many people living on one finite globe. 

That is the plus side of the demographic deflation. Whether the concomitant greening of the world will happen quickly enough to offset the worst-case climate scenarios is an open question—although current trends suggest that if humanity can get through the next 20 to 30 years without irreversibly damaging the ecosystem, the second half of the twenty-first century might be considerably brighter than most now assume. The downside is that a sudden population contraction will place substantial strain on the global economic system. Capitalism is, essentially, a system that maximizes more—more output, more goods, and more services. That makes sense, given that it evolved coincidentally with a population surge. The success of capitalism in providing more to more people is undeniable, as are its evident defects in providing every individual with enough. If global population stops expanding and then contracts, capitalism—a system implicitly predicated on ever-burgeoning numbers of people—will likely not be able to thrive in its current form. An aging population will consume more of certain goods, such as health care, but on the whole aging and then decreasing populations will consume less. So much of consumption occurs early in life, as people have children and buy homes, cars, and white goods. That is true not just in the more affluent parts of the world but also in any country that is seeing a middle-class surge. 

The future world may be one in which capitalism at best frays and at worst breaks down completely. 

But what happens when these trends halt or reverse? Think about the future cost of capital and assumptions of inflation. No capitalist economic system operates on the presumption that there will be zero or negative growth. No one deploys investment capital or loans expecting less tomorrow than today. But in a world of graying and shrinking populations, that is the most likely scenario, as Japan’s aging, graying, and shrinking absolute population now demonstrates. A world of zero to negative population growth is likely to be a world of zero to negative economic growth, because fewer and older people consume less. There is nothing inherently problematic about that, except for the fact that it will completely upend existing financial and economic systems. The future world may be one of enough food and abundant material goods relative to the population; it may also be one in which capitalism at best frays and at worst breaks down completely. 

The global financial system is already exceedingly fragile, as evidenced by the 2008 financial crisis. A world with negative economic growth, industrial capacity in excess of what is needed, and trillions of dollars expecting returns when none is forthcoming could spell a series of financial crises. It could even spell the death of capitalism as we know it. As growth grinds to a halt, people may well start demanding a new and different economic system. Add in the effects of automation and artificial intelligence, which are already making millions of jobs redundant, and the result is likely a future in which capitalism is increasingly passé. 

If population contraction were acknowledged as the most likely future, one could imagine policies that might preserve and even invigorate the basic contours of capitalism by setting much lower expectations of future returns and focusing society on reducing costs (which technology is already doing) rather than maximizing output. But those policies would likely be met in the short term by furious opposition from business interests, policymakers, and governments, all of whom would claim that such attitudes are defeatist and could spell an end not just to growth but to prosperity and high standards of living, too. In the absence of such policies, the danger of the coming shift will be compounded by a complete failure to plan for it. 

Different countries will reach the breaking point at different times. Right now, the demographic deflation is happening in rich societies that are able to bear the costs of slower or negative growth using the accumulated store of wealth that has been built up over generations. Some societies, such as the United States and Canada, are able to temporarily offset declining population with immigration, although soon, there won’t be enough immigrants left. As for the billions of people in the developing world, the hope is that they become rich before they become old. The alternative is not likely to be pretty: without sufficient per capita affluence, it will be extremely difficult for developing countries to support aging populations.

So the demographic future could end up being a glass half full, by ameliorating the worst effects of climate change and resource depletion, or a glass half empty, by ending capitalism as we know it. Either way, the reversal of population trends is a paradigm shift of the first order and one that is almost completely unrecognized. We are vaguely prepared for a world of more people; we are utterly unprepared for a world of fewer. That is our future, and we are heading there fast.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound