A once-powerful country, now ruled by a TV showman being propped up by religious fundamentalists, its nerves laid bare by disease and economic collapse, is eating itself alive as a militarized police, which already targets a particular minority group for persecution and abuse, responds to the exercise of free expression rights in order to protest this behavior with new levels of violent ferocity, arresting and assaulting members of what was once a free press, and sparing no mercy even for children or the elderly.
The president, meanwhile, encourages the violence (and invents an imaginary culprit), and when a social media company gently points out that this might be problematic, the president threatens to shut that company down. Apparently seeking the favor of the regime, the head of another and far larger social media company appears on a propaganda outlet to broadcast that his company will in no way hinder or judge the regime’s falsehoods, despite internal debate over the issue.
Wouldn’t want to have to live in that country. Sounds awful.
Reporting on how the Trump administration is taking advantage of the pandemic to further marginalize and harm the LGBTQ community, The American Independent talks to CFI’s Jason Lemieux:
“You can identify yourself as a Christian organization, but that service you provide needs to be a government service just like you’d provide for any organization, so you can’t use the money to fund religious programming or inherently religious activities,” he said. …
… “You [couldn’t] discriminate” under the Obama administration’s rule, he added. “You have to provide services to beneficiaries on the basis of their eligibility under federal requirements and you can’t require that people be members of your religion or turn away people based on your religious conscience, which we see happen with LGBTQ people. That is now being eliminated just completely.”
CFI’s Nick Little was among the panelists on an online conference by Muslimish: “Abolishing Blasphemy Laws – The Road Map.”
Philip Ball and Amy Maxmen at Nature report on the efforts being undertaken to understand and combat the misinformation pandemic:
By studying the sources and spread of false information about COVID-19, researchers hope to understand where such information comes from, how it grows and — they hope — how to elevate facts over falsehood. It’s a battle that can’t be won completely, researchers agree — it’s not possible to stop people from spreading ill-founded rumours. But in the language of epidemiology, the hope is to come up with effective strategies to ‘flatten the curve’ of the infodemic, so that bad information can’t spread as far and as fast. …
… Many of the falsehoods online don’t have obvious sources or intentions. Rather, they often begin with niche groups mobilizing around their favoured agendas. … The study says that a “hate multiverse” is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to spread racism and other malicious agendas, focusing an initially rather diverse and incoherent set of messages into a few dominant narratives, such as blaming Jews and immigrants for starting or spreading the virus, or asserting that it is a weapon being used by the “Deep State” to control population growth.
Facebook is where anti-vaxxers and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists go to spread disinformation. Australia’s ABC reports:
When the discredited coronavirus pseudo-documentary, Plandemic, was released online earlier this month, for example, anti-vaccination networks on sites like Facebook and Instagram helped it go viral and trigger a spike in complementary mainstream media interest …
… Australian-run Facebook page 99% unite Main Group “it’s us or them”, which helped promote recent anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne and also dabbles in anti-vaccination material, was cited as being one of the Facebook groups behind its spread.
YouTube is also gonna YouTube. A study in BMJ Global Health showed that a quarter of YouTube’s videos on COVID-19 had false information. Tara Haelle at Forbes reports:
More than one in four videos, 27.5%, contained false information, and those videos had more than 62 million combined views. They also made up about a quarter of all viewership and came from entertainment news, network news, internet news and independent consumers. …
… “While the power of social media lies in the sheer volume and diversity of information being generated and spread, it has significant potential for harm,” the authors wrote. “The proliferation and spread of misinformation can exacerbate racism and fear and result in unconstructive and dangerous behavior.”
Although government and professional videos had the most accurate and thorough information, they made up only 11% of the videos, and only 1 in 10 viewers saw these videos. Again, the authors pointed out this missed opportunity: “YouTube is a powerful, untapped educational tool that should be better mobilized by health professional to control information and influence public behavior.”
Oh good lord, Joseph Mercola has a book on how 5G is going to kill you called EMF*D. Braden MacBeth reviews it for Science-Based Medicine. Is it any good?
Amazon please, remove EMF*D from your store.
That’s a no.
Tom Warren at The Verge politely asks us not to be dumbasses and not to buy an anti-5G USB dongle thing:
Scammers are trying to sell a $350 USB key with just 128MB of storage as an anti-5G solution. The “5GBioShield” went on sale recently in the UK priced between £280 and £330 ($343 and $405), and promises to use “quantum holographic catalyzer technology” to protect a family home against 5G. Unsurprisingly, the USB key is fake, and it’s actually a regular $6 USB stick that only has 128MB of storage. That hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists from promoting it, however.
Yeah, the real crime is how little storage is on that thing. What year is it???
CBC talks to Tim Caulfield about the misinformation pandemic, who encourages an openness about science’s self-correcting mechanisms:
“If you are a science-based decision-maker, like a public health authority … it is a badge of honour that you’re changing your mind. It’s a badge of honour that you’re willing to look at the evolving evidence and reframe a recommendation,” he said. …
… “I think we need to be honest and open about the state of the science, no matter what the topic is,” he said. “Because if you’re not, you’re going to lose the public trust.”
Braden Klassen at The Runner advocates for inculcating critical thinking skills early in life:
Skepticism is a helpful mindset to adopt when looking for the truth. Choosing not to fully believe that something is true without verifying evidence for oneself is a genuinely important aspect of critical thinking. The problem is that, sadly, without adequate education on how to think critically, a lot of people don’t actually understand how to parse fact from fiction effectively, even when the evidence supporting one claim over another is overwhelming.
Scott Gavura at Science-Based Medicine does a new round-up of quack COVID-19 treatments, including—holy flapping crap—drinking aquarium water. I’m going to be sick.
At CFI’s Free Thinking, Jamie Hale looks into the claims about nootropic products, and yeah, there’s not much to back it up. Hale says:
Before supplementing I recommend focusing on strengthening the foundations of brain health: exercise, nutrition, cognitively challenging activities, positive social interactions and minimizing excessive stress.
But that’s so much haaaaarrrrrdeeeerrrrrrr.
The Boston Globe reports on the crumbling of pseudoscientific forensic evidence in criminal cases:
… the list of what now constitutes basically junk forensics is getting to be a long one, according to Michelle Feldman, state campaigns director for the Innocence Project. In addition to bite mark analysis, that old staple of TV murder mysteries, the list now also includes footwear analysis (remember those Sherlockian plaster casts of footprints in the mud?), microscopic hair analysis, the matching of duct tape shreds, and less than complete fingerprints.
Efforts had been underway under the Obama Justice Department to “take out the junk forensics trash,” but guess who put a stop to that:
… under the stewardship of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, [the DOJ] pulled the plug on the National Commission on Forensic Science, an independent panel of judges, lawyers, scientists, and law enforcement personnel that had advised the attorney general on issues related to scientific evidence in criminal trials.
The DOJ’s Science Advisory Board was abandoned in 2018, and Sessions pretty much told states and localities that when it came to sorting through the thicket of forensic evidence they were on their own.
This weekend also saw at least some kind of triumph as a SpaceX rocket brings two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
Make the Jump to Hyper-Faith
Marc-André Argentino at Religion Dispatches digs into the idea that QAnon is a contemporary, “hyper-real” religion:
What this means is that technology and the marketplace of ideas have inverted the traditional relationship between the purveyors of religion and the consumers of religion. Thus, we see religious doctrinal authority (that is, those who can contribute to the religion’s teaching) being created by popular culture.
For example, the QAnon cosmology (how the world/universe appears; what it looks like; its characteristics, and types of creatures that populate it) and anthropology (ideas about human beings, their origin and destiny) are rooted in conspiracy theories, historical facts, and mythical history from film and popular culture. …
… When taking into account how much neo-charismatics, American evangelicalism, theological conspiracy theories, and spiritual warfare is influenced by the distrust of the everyday reality as being false (with their reality being ‘true’), one could make the argument that QAnon theology is not only influenced by pop culture, but is in fact, deeply rooted in the conception of the sacred within a hyper-real world.
Earlier this month [May], the CDC issued a report warning about “superspreader” events where the coronavirus might be “highly transmissible in certain settings, including group singing events.” That report described a choir practice in Washington state in March at which one person ended up infecting 52 other people, including two who died.
I did not see this coming. The Supreme Court sides with the state of California by refusing to overturn its limitations on church gatherings. SCOTUSblog reports:
Roberts wrote a short opinion to express his agreement with (and to explain) the denial of the church’s request. He began by noting that COVID-19 “has killed thousands of people in California and more than 100,000 nationwide,” but there is “no known cure, no effective treatment, and no vaccine.” Moreover, he added, people “may be infected but asymptomatic” and therefore can infect others unknowingly. The California order at the heart of this case, he observed, temporarily restricts the number of people who can gather in public “to address this extraordinary health emergency.”
The relief that the church had asked for – an order blocking the state from enforcing the restrictions on gatherings – faces a high bar, Roberts explained. And in his view, the church could not meet that bar. The restrictions appear to be constitutional: The state has limited the size of similar, non-religious gatherings like plays, concerts and sporting events.
Gracie Bonds Staples at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out that staying the hell home is a good way to live out one of her faith’s guiding principles:
Health experts keep telling us that wearing a mask, that social distancing isn’t about protecting ourselves. It’s about protecting our neighbors. And so for me, the answer to this comes down to a simple question — do I love my neighbor enough?
If that sounds like just another “Jeopardy” query, remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 22: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” On these two commandments, he continued, hang all the law. All of it.
George Will (who we must remember is an atheist) has had it with his fellow conservatives who are “feeling the allure of tyranny”:
[Harvard Law School professor Adrian Vermeule] thinks the Constitution, read imaginatively, will permit the transformation of the nation into a confessional state that punishes blasphemy and other departures from state-defined and state-enforced solidarity. His medieval aspiration rests on a non sequitur: All legal systems affirm certain value, therefore it is permissible to enforce orthodoxies. …
… The moral of this story is not that there is theocracy in our future. Rather, it is that American conservatism, when severed from the Enlightenment and its finest result, the American Founding, becomes spectacularly unreasonable and literally un-American.
Hemant Mehta talks to Jeff Pastor, a member of the Cincinnati City Council, who is a black Republican atheist. And also maybe Jewish? It sounds complicated.
Charles Sumner, writing at the Tennessean, explains why the Bible has no business being the “official state book” of Tennessee:
The bill is divisive because it excludes non-Christians. Tennesseans practice a variety of faiths, and some do not believe in God. This bill sends a message that those people are disfavored by their government.
This legislation would run contrary to the fundamental American value of religious freedom, which ensures that all members of our religiously diverse population are welcomed and treated equally.
Pope Francis seems to down with the idea that the founder of the Knights of Columbus, the priest Michael J. McGivney, could become a saint because of a miracle he allegedly performed 125 years after he’d already died. Sounds legit.
Thanks to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Army’s Chief of Chaplains has issued new guidance to stop chaplains from proselytizing.
A ten-year-old girl in Algeria is killed undergoing a “faith-healing” perpetrated by a man who subjected her to “blows and burns.” He’s been arrested.
Jillian Russell of Ohio shot her, um, friend, Marcus Turnage, after he revealed he was an atheist. WKBN reports:
Reports said the witness told investigators that Russell became “enraged” after Turnage told her he didn’t believe in God, then the witness heard several gunshots.
Turnage managed to say, “Why did you do that?” before he died, the witness told police. …
… Russell ran to a field across the street and hid the gun next to a large cross, reports said.
Kenneth Copeland, who is an example of what happens when you cook a Ken doll in a microwave, says you should give even more money to him when you don’t have money. To quote the president, “What’ve you got to lose?”
We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.
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.