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Deal With All These Lies

November 14, 2019

Lucky Tran at The Guardian looks at anti-vaxxers’ use of “firehosing” as a propaganda strategy, and they’re hardly alone in using it:

Firehosing relies on pushing out as many lies as possible as frequently as possible. That’s typical for propaganda, but the aspect that makes firehosing a unique strategy is that it doesn’t require the propagandist to make the lies believable. That seems counterintuitive, but … firehosing is effective because its goal isn’t to persuade. It’s to rob facts of their power. Firehosing inundates us with so many wild opinions that it becomes exhausting to continually disprove them. In this scenario, reality is reduced to positioning and who can sell their position best.

Steven Novella weighs in:

The relatively innocent firehoser is just naive, and perhaps intellectually lazy. They accept the volume of evidence offered without evaluating any single piece in detail, and without considering alternative explanations. Essentially theirs is a sincere failure of critical thinking. But this end of the spectrum also blends into the more sinister end, where firehosing is used as a deliberate propaganda strategy.

At this end the firehoser knows what they are doing. They are not intellectually lazy, they are intellectually dishonest. They know they are spouting falsehoods, or are indifferent to their truth status. The purpose of their communication is not to persuade, but to confuse and befuddle, even to distract. Go ahead, deal with all these lies. I can pile them on endlessly. While you’re busy doing that, I will make my emotional and ideological appeals. I will build a compelling narrative, and you will lose before you even realize you are playing the wrong game.

CFI’s podcast Point of Inquiry has Jim Underdown in conversation with the brilliant and hilarious Richard Wiseman.

Jamie Hale at the CFI blog looks back at Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World:

Even if there is no objective reality, we must accept the “idea of reality” (some have suggested an approximation of reality); it is necessary for everyday living and understanding the world. A useful model of reality is the model Sagan promoted: a scientific materialistic model. … Scientific thinking is hard, but it is worth the time investment. As Sagan argued throughout his life, science is the great reality detector; it is the candle in the dark.

Atheists: To know us is to love us! A report from the Interfaith Diversty Experiences & Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — no, wait, sorry, I.D.E.A.L.S.) looks at how college students make friends across religious lines:

Students come to college with experience in interworldview friendship formation. Muslim students and political liberals have the most exposure to friendships across religious and worldview divides. Close friendships with atheists are more common than close friendships with religious minorities.

One the survey’s researchers, Gordon Maples, writes at Friendly Atheist:

Interestingly, IDEALS has also found that atheists generally have some of the most durable friendships across ideological differences of any religious, spiritual, or non-religious identity. Atheist respondents reported a higher “relational endurance” — a measure of retaining friends after a disagreement about religion — than other religious/spiritual/nonreligious identities, followed by evangelical Christians and Mormons.

That’s not necessarily because either side is less secure in their beliefs, but because atheists don’t have much of a choice. We’re used to being close to people who don’t share our non-belief because what other choice do we have? If we cast aside anyone who was a believer, our circle of friends would be a dot.

A pale blue dot, AMIRITE??? Lord, I’m funny.

At The New Republic, Udi Greeberg reviews the book Reimagining Judeo-Christian America: Religion, Secularism, and the Redefinition of Democracy by K. Healan Gaston, and reflects on how the term “Judeo-Christian” isn’t so much about honoring the “Judeo” part:

Even though this concept ostensibly encapsulates an ancient spiritual tradition that stretches back to Moses and Jesus, it is a recent invention. Coined by writers in the 1930s, it became popular during World War II and the Cold War, when Americans embraced the claim that their democracy stemmed from a “Judeo-Christian heritage.” Yet Judaism’s place in this political-spiritual complex was often ambiguous. While some used the term to empower the Jewish minority and call for religious pluralism, others invoked it as a cover for a very specific Christian (and mostly evangelical) agenda, especially on education and abortion. Some thinkers on the radical right even rely on it while spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. …

… There is little point on insisting that progressive agendas fulfill long-standing American “virtues,” especially those that have become linguistic mainstays of conservative politics. New realities are instead more likely to emerge by discarding such historical concepts altogether. And among the first terms to be retired should be Judeo-Christianity.

USA Today reports on how priests accused of sexual abuse just sort of move along and become “the priest next door” somewhere else. Get ready to feel unsafe:

They live near schools and playgrounds, close to families and children unaware of their backgrounds or the crimes they’ve been accused of. In some cases, they’ve taken on leadership roles in new communities, becoming professors, counselors, friends and mentors to children. Their movements are unchecked by both the government and the Catholic Church in part because laws in many states make it nearly impossible for victims to pursue criminal charges decades after alleged abuse.

I’ve avoided mentioning this news item from Turkey where there is an uptick in suicides, and in one instance, there was an attempt to blame it on someone’s reading of The God Delusion. Elif Safak at The Guardian takes a step back to view the larger issue:

Suicide is always an immensely difficult and sensitive issue, and we never fully know why a person ends their own life. But in a country where there is no freedom of speech and no room for a sensible, nuanced debate on anything, the reaction to these cases has been ugly, to say the least. After the initial shock of the tragedy, what followed was extremely judgmental and politicised coverage in which the victims were accused, shamed and sentenced one last time. Stripped of any empathy or context the suicide was also regarded as a rebellion against God, and an act of defiance against the authorities and the existing order.

Those who write critically about the socioeconomic factors behind the dramatic rise in Turkey’s suicides are immediately accused of being “betrayers”, and of having a “hidden agenda”. There are now even suggestions that Turkey should enact punitive laws against academics and economists who make gloomy predictions about the Turkish economy. …

… Whenever and wherever democracy is shattered to pieces, and human rights, freedom of speech, diversity and pluralism are trampled on, self-worth is also taken away from people.

Apparently there is a superstition that a President of the United States will drop dead soon after being elected every 20 years, and 2020 is upon us. Except George W. Bush (elected 2000) is fine, and Ronald Reagan (1980) served two full terms. Nonetheless, the belief exists, and “the presidential curse of the prophet” is addressed by Timothy Redmond in Skeptical Inquirer:

…we should take solace in the fact that the hex has more to do with human psychology than the alleged malevolent musings of a nineteenth-century medicine man, and we should take this opportunity to remind ourselves that a correlation doesn’t necessarily imply a causation, that unlikely events are often quite likely, that we should consider the misses as well as the hits, and that we can change our minds rather than our standards of proof.

Skeptical Inquirer‘s Benjamin Radford is the guest on Psychic Spectrum Radio from KKNW.

In Savannah, Georgia, a man is arrested for sexually soliciting minors, while his wife is arrested for trying to convince the guy’s victims that their experience with him was a “psychic vision,” not reality. Wow, that is some straight-up evil right there.

In a letter to the Wisconsin State Journal, one Mark K. Allen remarks upon the state legislature’s move to establish a “Bible Week”:

I hope Wisconsin lawmakers will read Jesus’ words on the poor and the outcast, then consider if their actions have lived up to those words. … I would [also] suggest reading the works of noted atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or Penn Jillette to understand we do not need to have a god. These works can also help us understand that goodness and generosity is in our hearts and not in some books.

Apparently Kanye West is here “to turn atheists into believers.” Good luck with that!

A federal court in Kentucky says the state has to allow this dude to have a license plate that says “IM GOD” if that’s what he wants. Sorry, Kanye.

How’s this for an inviting idea for an outing to enjoy some art, via Chicago Reader:

You Will Die: This latest exhibition will feature artists who make work in the extreme metal genre and the psychic terror of modern existence and human form. The exhibition will be accompanied with merchandise by artist Noelia Towers as well as a pop-up show at the Empty Bottle, and a closing reception on February 14th.

Aw, Valentine’s Day.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.