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Zealots, Kooks, Extremists, Impostors, and Spies

November 4, 2019

Undercover reporters from UK’s The Telegraph get video of homeopaths telling patients not to get their kids vaccinated, claiming that the vaccines will cause learning difficulties, autism, mood changes, and loss of speech. It’s jaw-dropping.

Facebook says it doesn’t tolerate the bullying and abuse of those expressing support for vaccinations. CNN begs to differ:

Our investigation found Facebook sometimes allows users to stay on its platform even when they repeatedly violate Facebook’s standards on bullying and harassment, and verbally abuse others in the most hateful and violent of ways.

For example, the woman who received the message calling her the n-word and telling her to slit her wrists reported the message to Facebook. Facebook determined that the message violated its community standards, and that the sender was a repeat offender — but still, the sender was allowed to stay on the platform until CNN started asking questions. …

… “The vaccine space is exquisitely sensitive in that highly vulnerable lives — newborns, cancer patients, those with immune diseases — are hanging in the balance,” [NYU medical ethicist Arthur] Caplan wrote in an email to CNN. “Facebook should have no tolerance for or room for anti-vaxx zealots and kooks.  They need to be monitored or if reported, checked and then blocked and banned pronto.  Public health must override misinformation and threatening behavior in the domain of vaccines.”

Also in the realm of Facebook-is-terrible, a fake cancer cure is flourishing on the platform, according to BuzzFeed News:

Black salve, a caustic black paste that eats through flesh, is enthusiastically recommended in dedicated groups as a cure for skin and breast cancer — and for other types of cancer when ingested in pill form. There’s even a group dedicated to applying the paste to pets.

A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that these groups don’t violate its community guidelines. This summer, it launched an initiative to address “exaggerated or sensational health claims” and will downrank that content in the News Feed, similar to how it handles clickbait. But it’s not clear how it defines what a “sensational” health claim is. Citing user privacy, Facebook would not say whether or not it had downranked the black salve groups in the News Feed.

Cosplay enthusiasy Autumn Dayss got the anti-vax crowd all riled up by choosing as her Halloween costume a woman “with her unvaccinated child,” which was a skeleton toy in a baby carrier. Yowza.

Rather than investigate Trump’s political enemies, perhaps Ukraine could look at why half their population does’t believes that vaccines work. Reuters reports:

This year, from March to August, the group “Vaccination. Free choice” held demonstrations to protest the requirement that children be inoculated.

Veronica Sidorenko, its head, said she doesn’t trust data cited by the government and UNICEF, and believes a powerful pharmaceutical lobby is behind “mass hysteria” about the current measles outbreak. She said the outbreak of measles itself sparked an “intensified vaccine policy” which included what she described in an email to Reuters as “psychological pressure on parents and manipulation of statistics and information.”

Bill. Bill, Bill, Bill. … BILL. Come on. Bill. HEY. BILL. Look at me when I’m blogging at you. BILL? Eyes here. Bill. …………… STOP IT.

The New York Times goes scuba-diving in the swamp of Trump’s Twitter feed, and, ugh, it’s not pretty:

The result, including new data analysis and previously unreported details, offers the most comprehensive view yet of a virtual world in which the president spends significant time mingling with extremists, impostors and spies.

Fake accounts tied to intelligence services in China, Iran and Russia had directed thousands of tweets at Mr. Trump, according to a Times analysis of propaganda accounts suspended by Twitter. Iranian operatives tweeted anti-Semitic tropes, saying that Mr. Trump was “being controlled” by global Zionists, and that pulling out of the Iran nuclear treaty would benefit North Korea. Russian accounts tagged the president more than 30,000 times, including in supportive tweets about the Mexican border wall and his hectoring of black football players. Mr. Trump even retweeted a phony Russian account that said, “We love you, Mr. President!”

In fact, Mr. Trump has retweeted at least 145 unverified accounts that have pushed conspiracy or fringe content, including more than two dozen that have since been suspended by Twitter. Tinfoil-hat types and racists celebrate when Mr. Trump shares something they promote. After he tweeted his support for white farmers in South Africa, replies included “DONALD IS KING!” and “No black man can develop land.”

Wow, this seems crazy-unconstitutional. Like, bananapants, off-the-rails, you-absolutely-cannot-pull-this-crap violation territory. But this is the Darkest Timeline, so here we go: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo creates the State Department’s first faith-based “affinity group” called GRACE (which I guess you’re supposed to shout), “to highlight the value added by the perspective of people of faith in general, and Christians in particular to the Department and its mission.”

Trump’s HHS department is looking to formalize its anti-LGBTQ position on adoption, proposing to roll back anti-discrimination rules so that anyone can turn away LGBTQ clients as long as they make religion their excuse.

Humanists UK have released materials for British schools’ morning assemblies that are, naturally, free of religion: “Assemblies for All.”

Mayor Pete says the idea of a secular outreach director for his campaign is “interesting,” but he’s very busy.

The Internet Archive is scanning a ton of books so that Wikipedia can actually cite them and link back. This is excellent.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried is once again being interviewed by Nevada local news about UFOs, though at least this time it’s to clear some things up about the military’s investigations into unidentified aircraft:

“[A Defense Intelligence Agency scientist] said, ‘I don’t understand what we’re seeing around the world with all these unidentified flying objects, and I want to be able to have an intelligent conversation in this regard,’” Reid said. “… I became terribly interested in this, and rather than think about it, I said I’m going to do something about it.”

Reid says there is no mention of space aliens or flying saucers in the program names or documents, nor did they use the term UFO, in part because those words and names carry so much baggage. The senator says no one can say for sure where these mystery craft originate, which is why he initiated a study in the first place.

Naomi Oreskes, who has a new book called Why Trust Science?, tells The Guardian how scientists can bridge the trust gap with the public:

It isn’t by giving people more scientific information. Rather scientists need to talk about the values that motivate them and shape the science they do. In many cases, scientists’ values are less different from the people who are rejecting science than you might think. And where values overlap, trust can be built. We may think of people who reject vaccination as being “on the other side” but we all love our children. A scientist’s “biodiversity” might be a religious believer’s “Creation”, but they are cherishing the same thing. Scientists being willing to talk about themselves and their experiences can also go a long way. In my book, I talk about something deeply personal: my own experiences with the contraceptive pill and depression. It may not be persuasive to everyone, but people are much more likely to accept factual information from those they can relate to or have a human connection with.

Meanwhile, the Universe is out of whack. Yeah tell me something I don’t know.

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