Quotulatiousness

October 17, 2017

This is how conspiracy theories begin and persist

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith handily illustrates how conspiracy theories get started and why they can last for so long (the use of the term “false flag” is a definite tell):

This is where I came in (does that even mean anything anymore?). Something terrible happens at the hands of a “lone gunman” (in this case, five dozen innocent individuals are randomly and cold-bloodedly murdered, and several hundred are hurt, inexplicably by a rogue multi-millionaire). The usual politicians respond by threatening to punish everyone who didn’t do it, by ripping away great chunks of their human, natural. civil, and Constitutional rights. The event is quickly veiled in an impenetrable cloud of contradictory lies which will not be parted, not for decades, and probably never. We have seen this all before, over and over again.

Look: I have no idea what happened in Las Vegas, neither do you, nor does anybody else I know, but based on what we’ve seen since 1963 in Dallas (or 1865 at Ford’s Theater), what I’ve read, and what I’ve heard, and everything like it that’s happened since, I would bet good money that the person or persons actually responsible collect a government paycheck. I keep hearing talk about Manchurian candidates and MK-Ultra, and each time, I’m closer to believing it. I try to keep in mind that, the more the truth is concealed, the more people will tend to make up their own truths. I only know that future historians are going to have a field day with the 20th and 21st centuries.

I’d like very much to know the truth. I’d like to know what invisible forces and events are shaping the world my grandchildren will live (and possibly die) in, but I have given up any expectation I ever had of such a thing happening. The “real facts” about the John F. Kennedy assassination are supposed to come out soon, but again, I’m willing to bet they will only confuse and obscure things. Those future historians I mentioned will probably be swimming in their own sea of bovine excrement.

I do know one perfect, gigantic fact, and it is nothing that anybody ever told me. It is something I figured out for myself. It is this: these things happen because some people have the power to make them happen and to cover them up, afterward. (I never believed the official story about 9/11, not from the first thirty seconds it was launched.) They happen because those with power want more power, and we let them take it — from us. The craving for power and unearned wealth is a deep sickness, a severe form of mental illness, and you can see the effect it has on people. In the end, I’ll bet that Luke Skywalker would have ended up shrunken and shriveled, first like the Emperor, and finally like Yoda. Possibly green, as well. The Force does that to people, apparently.

Now, take a look at George Soros.

October 9, 2017

Reviewing Democracy in Chains as speculative fiction, rather than as history

James Devereaux critiques the recent book by Nancy MacLean which was intended to tarnish the reputation of James McGill Buchanan by tracing the intellectual roots and influences that shaped Buchanan’s life and work.

Nancy MacLean, in her new book Democracy in Chains, has allegedly revealed the master plan of right-wing political operatives, funded by the Kochs and inspired by James McGill Buchanan. MacLean pulls no punches as she describes a right-wing conspiracy meant to bring about “a fifth column movement the likes of which no nation has ever seen.” (page 127) Alas, the major problem with her account, as her fellow Duke Professor Mike Munger summarized, is it is “a work of speculative historical fiction.” MacLean’s contribution is a failure of academic discourse more likely to increase unfounded paranoia and division than to reveal any hidden agenda. MacLean’s bias bleeds into nearly every aspect of this book and taints her interpretation of the facts and sources beyond any reasonable interpretation could support. At one point she ponders the genius of Buchanan but determines it to be an “evil genius” for his work, much of which discusses the difficulties of democracy (page 42).

Why, one may feel justified in asking, dwell on speculative fiction? Unfortunately, when speculative fiction enters the popular culture, is applauded, and treated as fact, a measure of scrutiny is required. MacLean has received a fair share of positive press. NPR wrote that Democracy in Chains is “a book written for the skeptic; MacLean’s dedicated to connecting the dots.” That is if the dots were points on a corkboard tied together with red yarn. Oprah’s book club put it in their “20 books to read this summer” list. The Atlantic’s review praised the book as “part of a new wave of historiography that has been examining the southern roots of modern conservatism.” Slate also wrote a review.

A Deluge of Error

MacLean’s revelation regarding this “stealth plan” for a “fifth column movement” focuses on the relatively obscure, but well-respected, founder of public choice economics Nobel laureate James McGill Buchanan. MacLean weaves a fascinating tale but one that paints Buchanan and sympathizing libertarians as radicals determined to undermine democracy for the purpose of satisfying elitist urges, squashing the underdog, burdening the minority, and exploiting the poor. Unfortunately for MacLean, and those heaping praise, it is clear this tale rests on ransom-note-style citations, cutting and pasting together portions of phrases to change the meaning and support her narrative. In certain places it appears she has woefully misunderstood the source material or did not care – the notes do not match the claims. By cobbling together this mish-mash of selective quotes and speculation MacLean errs twice: first in describing Buchanan’s views and second in describing the motives of Buchanan and anyone sympathetic to his view.

A litany of scholars have examined the book and revealed a deluge of error. Russ Roberts wrote that MacLean owed Tyler Cowen an apology, courteously gave her room to respond, which she used to double down on her claims despite the obvious selective use of unfairly parsed phrases which attributed a view to Cowen he did not hold. Steve Horwitz, Michael Munger, Jonathan Adler, and David Bernstein have found issues with her citations and claims (Adler aggregated them at the Washington Post). Most thoroughly, Phil Magness has dissected numerous errors, misquotes, and general failures of citation found within the book, it appears to be an ongoing project. The errors which have compiled are such that they undermine credibility in the reading. As others have listed her poor citations, mangling of quotes, and selective editing, this will not be the focus of this review.

Since the publication of Maclean’s book, Don Boudreaux at Café Hayek has been hammering her work on an almost daily basis.

August 30, 2017

James May loves airships! MORE EXTRAS – James May’s Q&A – Head Squeeze

Filed under: Germany, History, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 17 Mar 2013

You asked for it! In a previous episode of James May’s Q&A, James discussed the sad demise of the airship as a popular mode of transport. And during filming we literally couldn’t get him to stop talking about them! Clearly he loves airships and loves to talk about airships. A lot! Lucky for all you people we captured it all and can present it now as Exclusive Extended Extras on the rise and fall of airships.

Original clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug5UafJFEYc

James May’s Q&A:
With his own unique spin, James May asks and answers the oddball questions we’ve all wondered about from ‘What Exactly Is One Second?’ to ‘Is Invisibility Possible?’

August 15, 2017

Brendan O’Neill on the similarities of the Alt-Right and the Ctrl-Left

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Posting to Facebook on Monday, he wrote:

It’s becoming so clear now why the war of words between SJWs and the new white nationalists is so intense. It isn’t because they have huge ideological differences — it’s because they have so much in common. Both are obsessed with race, SJWs demanding white shame, the alt-right responding with white pride. Both view everyday life and culture through a highly racialised filter. SJWs can’t even watch a movie without counting how many lines the black actor has in comparison with the white actor so that they can rush home and tumblr about the injustice of it all. Both have a seemingly boundless capacity for self-pity. Both are convinced they’re under siege, whether by patriarchy, transphobia and the Daily Mail (SJWs) or by pinkos and blacks (white nationalists). Both have a deep censorious strain. And both crave recognition of their victimhood and flattery of their feelings. This is really what they’re fighting over — not principles or visions but who should get the coveted title of the most hard-done-by identity. They’re auditioning for social pity. “My life matters! My pain matters! I matter!” The increasing bitterness and even violence of their feud is not evidence of its substance, but the opposite: it’s the narcissism of small differences.

March 8, 2017

QotD: Canadian attitudes to America

Filed under: Cancon, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Canadians’ views on American politics are generally fairly predictable. Being Canadian means a degree of smugness blended with a drop or two of envy and a fairly constant need to assert moral superiority. In a very polite, but persistent way.

The candidacy, nomination and election of Donald Trump gave the better class of Canadian plenty of opportunity to show each other just how intelligent and enlighted they were. The Coynes and Kinsellas competed with each other in the political snobbery sweepstakes. Trump was Hitler, the Republicans the Nazi Party, Steve Bannon was a badly dressed Göring or, more likely, Satan himself. Breitbart News was Der Stürmer, the alt-right was universally the SS, the Trump regime overnight transformed America – save for the brave “Resistance” – into an anti-semitic, racist, fascist, misogynistic state in which freedom of the press and human rights in general were crushed under the jackbooted heels of Trump’s evil to a man (and pretend woman) Cabinet.

It has been tons of fun to watch ostensibly rational, intelligent, people reach immediately for the white supremacist smear tool kit in the face of the unthinkable occurring in our neighbour to the South. The fact that, one month into the Trump Presidency, the worst he seems to have done is be rude to CNN and the New York Times doesn’t deter our good and decent Canadians one bit. They just know that Trump is an evilton and, at any moment, will open the concentration camps and start rounding up Mexicans, Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Women, Queers, NYT reporters and anyone else the human Cheeto and his henchmen find objectionable.

And, to make the entire thing even more ominous, there seems to be a belief that Trump was put into position by none other than Prince of Darkness, Vladimir Putin and that Trump is simply following orders. Or something.

Jay Currie, “Trump and the Canadians”, Jay Currie, 2017-02-25.

February 3, 2017

“In a secular age … it is inevitable that people will attach themselves like limpets to miniature religions”

Filed under: Cancon, History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh draws some parallels between the early Federalists in post-revolutionary America and the mainstream media today: both groups attempted to retain their privileged position in society as that society changed dramatically all around them:

But now the seeds of fleeting confusion have fallen into the fertile soil of Internet crap-mongering. On social media there were immediate, unabashed, conflicting total lies circulating about the identities of the “two” perpetrators. Now, before much is known at all of the actual killer, we are seeing deliberately engineered hints at some kind of inexplicable cover-up by the (Muslim-controlled?!) police of Quebec, or by higher authorities — Liberals, reptoids, George Soros clones? Pick your poison!

Those trivial little wobbles in the initial news coverage are being exploited by journalists and commentators who have abandoned respect for facts like “there are always reports of a second shooter” in favour of efficient, direct manipulation of “the narrative.” The actual full-fledged conspiracy theories are being designed as we speak, and soon will be ready for harvest.

We live in a post-revolutionary media environment, and traditional newspapers and broadcasters are like the American Federalists: we are hoping to stay on top as trusted, sensible informers and teachers. I make no claim that this hope is well-founded or appropriate, but either way, the strategy did not end very well for the Federalists. One notices that they are already in irreversible, humiliating retreat at the moment when Wood’s book begins.

There is money in offering an alternative account, any alternative account of anything important or dramatic, to the gullible. Build a suspicious audience of millenarians and ignoramuses, and some of them will keep following you until you can start selling them protein supplements, bulk food for the apocalypse, religious knick-knacks, or penis pills. (Which business line will Rebel Media break into first? It’s only a matter of time!)

In a secular age, like ours or like the late 18th century, it is inevitable that people will attach themselves like limpets to miniature religions. Today they range from gold-bugs to survivalist “preppers” to disturbingly overenthusiastic Harry Potter fans to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. (My apologies to those readers, and I’m sure there are a few, who are devotees of all four faiths.) Such subcultures are the reliable basis of a bulletproof “news” media model. The horrible part is this: they might be the only such model.

November 30, 2016

Swept along in the wake of Trump’s election victory

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kathy Shaidle didn’t make any friends among the alt-Right with her most recent column:

Weeks later, Trump’s triumph still seems slightly unreal; I permitted myself to purchase Time magazine’s special commemorative issue — can you imagine how much it pained them to put that out? — to serve as cerebral smelling salts and snap me out of those sporadic “Holy shit, he’s the president!” flashes.

But that lapse aside, I put not my trust in princes.

Of course, not everyone shares my horror of personality cults, or the man never would have won. Twitter’s upstart counterpart Gab, for example, is overrun by Trump cheerleaders, for whom fun memes like that “Deplorables” Photoshop or “Donald Crossing the Delaware” aren’t just a split second’s amusement, but the bunting of a burgeoning civic religion.

[…]

Whatever the benefits of a Republican presidency, one of the unavoidable side effects is an emboldening of our side’s flakier elements, who weave two most unsavory obsessions — the occult and “pedophile rings” — into singularly elaborate and ultimately groundless conspiracy theories.

Sure enough, right on cue: Type “Pizzagate” into YouTube’s search engine and soak in the overblown paranoid hysteria.

These kooks and simpletons were harmlessly wrong about Harry Potter turning your kids into witches, and tragically mistaken about the “Satanic panic.” At the very least, they’re a colossal embarrassment, but they also undermine serious business undertaken by serious people.

A big difference this time around is that the president himself won’t be immune to the lure of such twisted, empty-calorie distractions. Trump used to be Birther-in-Chief, remember? And he’s on Twitter.

November 5, 2016

The Gunpowder Plot Exploding the Legend

Filed under: Britain — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

July 16, 2016

Did the coup against Erdoğan fail (or was it intended to fail all along)?

Filed under: Europe, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:39

Michael van der Galien on the coup attempt against Turkish president Erdoğan:

It’s a done deal: the military coup has failed. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AK Parti remain in power and vow to take revenge against those behind the coup.

Or, perhaps better said: against those they say are behind it.

Now that the coup has clearly failed, we can conclude that this must have been the most incompetent attempted takeover in Turkey’s troubled history. When part of the military launched their offensive last night (Turkish time), I immediately checked news channels supporting President Erdoğan. Surprisingly, none of them were taken over. The only broadcaster that was taken over was TRT Haber, the state news channel. But NTV and other channels supporting Erdoğan were left alone.

That was remarkable, but what struck me even more was the fact that these channels — especially NTV — were able to talk to the president and the prime minister. That’s strange, to put it mildly. Normally, when the military stages a coup, the civilian rulers are among the first to be arrested. After all, as long as the country’s civilian leadership are free, they can tell forces supportive of them what to do… and they can even tell the people to rise up against the coup.

And that’s exactly what happened. Both Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called into news programs and told their supporters to go out on the streets and fight back against the soldiers. A short while later, streets in the big cities (Ankara and Izmir) were flooded with Erdoğan supporters, who even climbed on top of tanks. Fast forward a few hours and it was officially announced that the coup had failed, and that Erdoğan and his AK Party remained in power. About 1500 soldiers were arrested.

As I wrote on Twitter yesterday, there were three options:

  1. The coup was staged by a small group within the military, which would severely limit their ability to strike.
  2. The coup was staged by the entire military, which meant Erdoğan’s chances of surviving politically were extremely small.
  3. The coup was a set-up. Think the Reichstag fire.

The main argument against option number three is that there was some very serious fighting taking place, including massive explosions. Dozens of people have been killed. If this was a fake coup, it probably was the bloodiest one ever. That’s why many people are skeptical about this option, and believe it was just an incompetent attempt at a military takeover.

June 30, 2016

QotD: The essential weakness of any conspiracy theory

Filed under: Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Political and occult conspiracy theories can make for good propaganda and excellent satire (vide Illuminatus! or any of half a dozen other examples). As guides to action, however, they are generally dangerously misleading.

Misleading, because they assume more capacity for large groups to keep secrets and maintain absolutely unitary conscious policies than human beings in groups actually seem to possess. The history of documented “conspiracies” and failed attempts at same is very revealing in this regard — above a certain fairly small size, somebody always blows the gaff. This is why successful terrorist organizations are invariably quite small.

Dangerously misleading because conspiracy theories, offering the easy drama of a small group of conscious villains, distract our attention from a subtler but much more pervasive phenomenon — one I shall label the “prospiracy”.

What distinguishes prospiracies from conspiracies is that the members don’t necessarily know they are members, nor are they fully conscious of what binds them together. Prospiracies are not created through oaths sworn by guttering torchlight, but by shared ideology or institutional culture. In many cases, members accept the prospiracy’s goals and values without thinking through their consequences as fully as they might if the process of joining were formal and initiatory.

What makes a prospiracy like a conspiracy and distinguishes it from a mere subcultural group? The presence of a “secret doctrine” or shared goals which its core members admit among themselves but not to perceived outsiders; commonly, a goal which is stronger than the publicly declared purpose of the group, or irrelevant to that declared purpose but associated with it in some contingent (usually historical) way.

On the other hand, a prospiracy is unlike a conspiracy in that it lacks well-defined lines of authority. Its leaders wield influence over the other members, but seldom actual power. It also lacks a clear-cut distinction between “ins” and “outs”.

Eric S. Raymond, “Conspiracy and prospiracy”, Armed and Dangerous, 2002-11-14.

May 12, 2016

QotD: Non-religious religious mania

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The left are secularists, but they are extremely poor secularists. As you may know, I’m a secularist myself. I’m a nonbeliever, and to the extent I’m willing to entertain any belief at all, it’s only because I’m a skeptic. That is to say, I’m skeptical of my nonbelief.

It occurs to me — as a skeptic and secularist — that if you seek to put away Magical Thinking, you put it all away. If you disbelieve in God, then you really ought to disbelieve in Transcendence as well, and Rightwing Sorcerers, and Magic Words, and Sustaining Myth-Lies, and all the rest of it.

One amusement to me, as a lonely disbeliever on the right, is noticing this about the Left: The Left imagines that their disbelief in God frees them from superstition.

In fact it does no such thing. The Left’s disbelief in God does not free them from superstition — rather, it frees the superstition to infect all other modes of their thought.

Rather than thinking in terms of the divine and magic in the area of theology and metaphysics — which is really where thoughts about the divine and magic should be contained — the left, being Bad at Secularism, instead permits superstition, myth, and magic to flood into all other compartments of their ship of the mind.

Rather than keeping religious thought confined to religions matters, as the openly religious do, the left, which is intensely religious but believes it is not, instead employs religious thought in all modes of thinking, particularly in politics (where The Government easily steps into the place of God as the Large, Abstract Power That Lords Above Us), but also in what they call “science.”

You know, the science which personifies the Earth as a deity who seeks vengeance upon polluters and people who drive cars.

These Bad Secularists do not call this religion. They will not acknowledge it as fundamentally magical thinking, “pre-logical” and falling into the same primitive thought patterns still kicking around in the human mind which require that every extraordinary event be conjured by Mighty Sorcerers, or sent by the gods as punishment for a Grievous Sin.

And yet those who preen as being the most Free From Superstition are in fact the most shackled by it, because their very vanity will not permit them to see the ridiculous magical mythology they surround themselves in. Thus, within one single day, the Bad Secularists at the New York Times will posit that magical rightwing sorcerers directed the communist crocodile Lee Harvey Oswald to snatch the Princeling Kennedy from the river’s bank, and the Bad Secularists at the Washington Post likewise weave mythic strands around Lee Harvey Oswald, Marxist, Soviet Defector, and world’s first known Tea Partier.

And thus all the world’s Devils are grouped together, ranked in Might and put into their diabolical hierarchy, Satan on top, Baal and Moloch next, and so on, down to Sarah Palin and the Koch Brothers.

We live in an age of religious hysteria. And the religious hysteria is not coming from the usual quarters, the self-acknowledged religious. Instead it comes from the irreligious, whose liberation from god only loosens the leash of their illogic and preference for mythic structures over reality.

You don’t need God to be religious hysteric.

All you need is a Dogma and a Devil.

Ace, “Enchanted Crocodiles, Mighty Sorcerers, and Lee Harvey Oswald”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2013-11-22.

February 6, 2016

QotD: The addict’s political worldview

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Writing about those rioters who in the summer of 2011 smashed, burned and looted shops across Britain, [Russell] Brand writes that their actions were no worse than the consumerism which he describes as having been “imposed” upon them. And this, I cannot help thinking, is an especially revealing phrase — entirely at one with a popular world view. That view sees “us” as poor victims of forces and temptations which are not only pushed upon us, but to which, when they are pushed upon us long enough, we will inevitably and necessarily succumb. If you are in a “consumerist” society long enough how could you be expected to just not buy crap you can’t afford when you don’t need it? No — the answer must be that of course you will succumb. And from there any bad behaviour — even looting and burning — will be excused because it will be someone else’s fault.

This is the world view of an addict. And the answer to all our society’s problems of the addict Brand is one answer which some addicts seek for their addiction — which is that everyone is to be blamed for their failings except themselves. Grand conspiracy theories and establishment plots offer great promise and comfort to such people. They suggest that when we fail or when we fall we do so never because of any conceivable failing or inability of our own, but because some bastard — any bastard — made us do it, has been planning to do it and perhaps always intended to do so. Of course the one thing missing in all this — the one thing that doesn’t appear in either of these books or in any of their conspiratorial and confused demagogic world view — is the only thing which has saved anyone in the past and the only thing which will save anybody in the future: not perfect societies, perfectly engineered economies and perfectly equal, flattened-out collective-based societies, but human agency alone.

Douglas Murray, “Don’t Listen to Britain’s Designer Demagogues”, Standpoint, 2015-01.

January 26, 2016

Inventing ISIS

Filed under: Middle East, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Strategy Page looks at some of the prevailing beliefs about the origins of ISIS among refugees:

Interviews with refugees from the fighting in Iraq and Syria as well as people still in those countries shows that over 80 percent believe the Islamic terrorists in general and ISIL and al Qaeda in particular are creations of the West (particularly the United States) and Israel as a means to destroy their countries and Islam. This is nothing new and while all this is unbelievable to most Westerners and largely ignored by Western media and politicians it is very real and has been for a long time. Media in these countries is full of even more fanciful (to Westerners) inventions. This has caused problems for Western troops operating in those countries, although some have figured out how to take advantage of it.

All cultures have a certain belief in magic and what Westerners call “conspiracy theories” to explain otherwise unexplainable events. In the Islamic world, there is a lot of attention paid to sorcery and magic, and people accused of practicing such things are regularly attacked and sometimes executed because “sorcery” is a capital crime under Islamic law. Conspiracy theories are also a popular way to explain away inconvenient facts and this is often found useful in countries that are hostile to other forms of sorcery.

For example back in 2008 many Pakistanis believed that the then recent Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India was actually the work of the Israeli Mossad or the American CIA and not the Pakistani terrorists who were killed or captured and identified. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when Moslems, particularly women and children are among the victims. In response many Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, many Moslems again blamed Israel for staging those attacks. A favorite variation of this is that, before the attacks on the World Trade Center, a secret message went out to all Jews in the area to stay away. Another variation has it that the 19 attackers (all of them Arab, 15 from Saudi Arabia) were really not Arabs but falsely identified as part of the Israeli deception. In the United States some Americans insist that the attack was the work of the U.S. government, complete with the World Trade Center towers being brought down by prepositioned explosive charges. While few Americans accept this, the CIA and Mossad fantasies are widely accepted in the Moslem world. Even Western educated Arabs, speaking good English, will casually express, and accept, these tales of the Israeli Mossad staging the attacks, in an effort to trick the U.S. into attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are shocked at this, but the Moslems expressing these beliefs just shrug when confronted with contradictory evidence.

December 17, 2015

A slightly more plausible conspiracy theory about “The Donald”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle isn’t normally a spinner of conspiracy theories, but here’s one that might appeal to you if you’ve been feverishly searching for the reason behind the Trump Insurgency:

If the news media actually operated like the tacit conspiracy that many conservatives imagine, we would have all quietly gotten together and agreed to bury Trump. He could rant in the privacy of his own home, as reporters graciously declined to broadcast his latest pronouncements. Instead, every time he says something, everyone in the media rushes to condemn, fact-check, analyze, highlight, mutilate, fold and spindle it. All this media outrage, of course, only improves his ratings with people who believe in the conspiracy.

Why does this happen? It’s a collective action problem. If other people are reporting on Trump, then he’s news, which means you have to report on him too. Witness the fact that I am writing something like my sixth or seventh column on a man who I still don’t think will be the Republican nominee, much less the president of the United States.

It’s obvious that media moguls didn’t meet in a smoky back room to silence coverage of Trump. But there’s a slightly more plausible theory: That the Hillary Clinton supporters among the news media see Trump’s nomination as the best thing that could possibly happen for the Democratic Party. Unless the Grand Old Party nominated the disinterred corpse of Richard Nixon, there’s probably no surer path to Clinton’s victory.

Trump consistently underperforms folks like Marco Rubio in head-to-head matchups against Democratic candidates. As a nominee he would motivate massive turnout among Latinos who want to vote against him. And the party operation he’ll need to actually get supporters to the polls in November 2016 is not going to rally behind him with any great enthusiasm even if he somehow manages to secure the nomination. Trump supporters should be absolutely clear on this point: A vote for Trump in the primary is a vote for Clinton in the general.

It’s a slightly more plausible theory, but let’s get real: Journalists are covering Trump because he’s newsworthy. It’s an unintended side effect that coverage of Trump helps Clinton.

December 11, 2015

“It’s fun to read a real scientific paper than says ‘bulls***’ 200 times”

Filed under: Cancon, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Doug Bolton reports on a recent Canadian university study:

A new scientific study has found that those who are receptive to pseudo-profound, intellectual-sounding ‘bulls***’ are less intelligent, less reflective, and more likely to be believe in conspiracy theories, the paranormal and alternative medicine.

PhD candidate Gordon Pennycook and a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, tested hundreds of participants to make the link, detailing their findings in a paper entitled ‘On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bulls***’, which mentions the word ‘bulls***’ exactly 200 times (surely some sort of record).

Defining bulls*** is a tricky task, but Pennycook and his team tried their best in the paper.

As an example, they gave the following ‘pseudo-profound’ statement: “Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty.”

The paper says: “Although this statement may seem to convey some sort of potentially profound meaning, it is merely a collection of buzzwords put together randomly in a sentence that retains syntactic structure.”

[…]

Almost 300 test subjects were asked to rate the profundity of these sentences on a scale of one to five.

The mean profoundness rating was 2.6, indicating the quotes were generally seen as between ‘somewhat profound’ and ‘fairly profound’. Around 27 per cent of participants gave an average score of three or more, however, suggesting they thought the sentences were profound or very profound.

In the second test, the team confronted the participants with real-life examples of bulls***, asking them to read tweets posted by Deepak Chopra, a writer known for his New Age views on spirituality and medicine, as well as using the computer-generated statements from the first test.

The results in this test were very similar, indicating many participants were unable to spot the bulls***.

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