Friday 17 June 2022

Fact-checking, shmact-checking: Why are people blindly repeating sh*t?

Recently, I've had a number of my social media posts "liked" by various people. Out of curiosity, I went to see their stuff and discovered a myriad of crazy sh*t from the right end of the political spectrum. And I mean crazy! What the f*ck is the matter with people?

Shortly after the Uvalde school shooting, I saw this meme reposted repeatedly and immediately wondered if this could be in any way true. Within the space of sixty seconds, I found all sorts of legitimate sources debunking this claim. In fact, it turns out the picture is of a trans person who is now complaining they're being targeted by haters when they had nothing to do with the shooting at all.

Partly based on a rumor started by an anonymous user on the /pol/ imageboard on 4chan, Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) made unsubstantiated claims, on Twitter the day after the shooting, that the perpetrator was a "transsexual leftist illegal alien"; the tweet was taken down within two hours. The claims were further spread by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and other far-right House Republicans and conservative media figures and social media users, despite authorities identifying him as an American citizen. -Wikipedia

Trans woman's photo used to spread baseless online theory about Texas shooter, NBC News, Mar 25/2022
The theory, which began on the forum website 4chan, was spread by right-wing Facebook pages and even Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona.

I see several important issues in all this.

1. Nobody fact checks
People blindly forward stuff without ever verifying if what they're forwarding is, in fact, right. Why? The answer seems to be confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes. The effect is strongest for desired outcomes, for emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched beliefs. Confirmation bias cannot be eliminated, but it can be managed, for example, by education and training in critical thinking skills. -Wikipedia

Do I look at this purely from a political angle and blame the Right more than the Left? A further reading of the Wikipedia article shows that this issue exists everywhere. Flawed decisions due to confirmation bias have been found in political, organizational, financial, and scientific contexts.

But the confirmation bias on the Right strikes me as quite out of control. Why? Over and over again, journalists have pointed out how the political polarization is no longer a difference of opinion about conservative and democratic ideas, it is now about hate. The Right actually hates the Left. There seems to be some underlying psychological phenomenon here. The Right wants to return to the world of the 1950's Leave It To Beaver. Whites dominated; blacks were segregated, gays were in the closet, and immigrants knew their place and were pretty much unseen. An unskilled white man with no more but even less than a high school diploma could get a factory job, working on the assembly line and making enough to buy a home and support a family of four. That world is long gone with pundits pointing to Republican policies sometimes being at fault for how the world has drastically changed.

What's both amusing and frightening is how things like Fox News are allowed to contribute to reinforcing this mindset. A billion-dollar media empire panders to the worst impulses of Americans in order to get their ratings up to make a profit. They are counting on their viewers to never bother to fact check what they report.

2. Somebody deliberately did this.
They didn't post the picture because they thought it was true, they did it to stir up emotions. But who did it and why? I look at the above sources which point to 4chan, an anonymous chat system. I read analysis by the BBC, Slate, and AP News, and we return to the broader problem of racism and intolerance toward transgender people and immigrants.

“It’s a tactic that serves two purposes: It avoids real conversations about the issue (of gun violence), and it gives people who don’t want to face reality a patsy, it gives them someone to blame.” -disinformation expert Jaime Longoria, director of research at the Disinfo Defense League, a non-profit that works to fight racist misinformation. (AP News)

Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, some people's anger covers up the real source of the problem.

You can't handle the truth! -A Few Good Men

Now, I know some people like to stir up sh*t just for the sake of stirring up sh*t. Post something outrageous, and then stand back and watch the fireworks. It can be hilarious how incensed people get over sh*t when you know those people don't know sh*t but are just ready, willing, and able to go ballistic over the slightest perceived slight to their way of life.

But is there even something more nefarious going on? Is this part of a deliberate plot by foreign powers to divide the population and weaken the country?

However, whether it's an individual stirring the pot or a foreign power, the real problem is that people listen to this. They seem to eat up conspiracies, dismissing anything mainstream. The problem isn't that somebody says B.S., it's that people listen.

3. People are stupid
Full disclosure: I think people like Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are stupid. I don't mean I don't like them; I mean they're actually stupid. Over and over again, these people and many in the Republican Party and the Right have displayed a lack of facts. They are ignorant of science, politics, economics, and common knowledge. They seem to be totally prejudiced against anything which is part of the so-called mainstream, including education and any resulting expertise, favoring conspiracy theories which are unproveable and illegitimate. If I ever think of them as crazy, I have to remember that they're elected. Yes, people actually voted them into office. If I ever thought t**** was a problem, I remember that 73 million American voted for him, and I realize the problem in the United States is far greater than I imagined.

Think about this. People believe an anonymous source with no credentials whatsoever over, for example, the respected, Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times. During the pandemic, conspiracy theorists were spouting all sorts of nonsense about Covid. Now, let me get this straight. You want me to believe unsubstantiated claims from anonymous sources as opposed to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a career epidemiologist of forty years who's advised seven presidents. When I want medical advice, I go to my family doctor. I assume you get your medical advice from the wall of a toilet stall in a public washroom. Or social media.

The Right loves to call the Left sheeple, a derogatory term meaning people compared to sheep in being docile, foolish, or easily led. But look at the above. The Right jumped on a tidbit of information which came from an anonymous source. No fact-checking, no on-the-ground interviewing of participants, no legitimate investigation of the story, just the blind forwarding of confirmation bias. The Right blindly follow anonymous sources as opposed to legitimate sources, and I'm the sheeple?

In psychology, the term projection describes the phenomenon where a person denies negative things in themselves and projects or accuses others of such things. The Right keeps warning of election fraud and yet, they are guilty of such a thing through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and restrictive I.D. laws which disenfranchise minorities, never mind a number of conservatives having been caught double voting in the election of November 2020.

Critical Thinking
I looked at the above meme and immediately doubted its accuracy. Why?

Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments to form a judgement. The subject is complex; several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, and unbiased analysis or evaluation of factual evidence. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities as well as a commitment to overcome native egocentrism and sociocentrism. -Wikipedia

I make no claims to being a genius or something. However, I look at stuff and question it while I see others, family, friends, acquaintances on social media, blindly accepting sh*t with no questions whatsoever. Isn't it obvious that sh*t is bullsh*t? Isn't it, at least, worth questioning?

Final Word
Full disclosure: I'm a libtard, and I wear that like a badge of honor. Old saying: Liberals like education because it makes you better. Conservatives hate education because it make you liberal.

I want to be perfectly clear: Being a libtard does not mean I give Democrats or anything liberal a free pass. Any politician, any business, any individual must be held accountable. Nobody should be freely allowed to do whatever they want without being responsible to the greater good, responsible to others, and to the country and to the world. For some completely stupid reason, when a conservative hears that somebody is liberal, they think that person immediately votes Democrat without reservations, without a critical eye. I'm liberal but I'm not stupid! Or crazy!

I look at the above, and I can't do it. I can't blindly forward sh*t without finding out if what I'm forwarding is true or not. I don't want to contribute to disinformation. The world is confusing enough already, and it doesn't need me contributing to the bullsh*t being passed around as the so-called "truth".


my blog: The problem isn’t so much what people say, it’s that we listen. - Feb 14/2022
I don’t listen to Joe Rogan. I never have listened to him, and I have no intention of doing so. Problem solved. In fact, I don’t listen and never have listened to t****, Fox News, whether it be Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jeannine Piro, Jesse Waters, et al., or any other source on the Right such as Alex Jones, Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, formerly Rush Limbaugh, etc. Of course, clips crop up in newscasts, but I never tune into any of these people. Problem solved. It occurs to me that the problem isn’t so much that any of these people are talking, it’s that we’re, I mean, you’re listening. Why are you listening?

Wikipedia: 4chan
4chan is an anonymous English-language imageboard website. Launched by Christopher "moot" Poole in October 2003, the site hosts boards dedicated to a wide variety of topics, from anime and manga to video games, cooking, weapons, television, music, literature, history, fitness, politics, and sports, among others. Registration is not available and users typically post anonymously. As of 2022, 4chan receives more than 22 million unique monthly visitors, of which approximately half are from the United States.

Would somebody explain to me how Paul Gosar and Majorie Greene hold public office? Has the Republican Party sunk this low?

Wikipedia: Paul Gosar
Paul Anthony Gosar (b 1958) is an American far-right politician and former dentist who has served as the U.S. representative for Arizona's 4th congressional district since 2013. A Republican, he was elected in 2010 to represent the neighboring 1st congressional district until redistricting. Gosar's support of conspiracy theories, as well as alleged ties to the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Holocaust deniers have sparked controversy.

Gosar opposes the Affordable Care Act, abortion, gun control, and immigration. He has been a strong ally of former president Donald Trump, and voted to overturn the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

On November 17, 2021, Gosar was censured by the House of Representatives and stripped of committee assignments for posting an edited video clip to social media depicting violence against Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Joe Biden. It was the first House censure since 2010 and the 24th in American history.

Personal life
In 2018, six (David, Gaston, Grace, Jennifer, Joan, and Tim) of Gosar's nine siblings participated in ads supporting their brother's political adversary, David Brill, MD. In the ads, they all state their desire to defend their family's name lest the world think the entire Gosar family shares Paul's ideology. David Gosar said, "He's absolutely not working for his district." Tim said, "He's not listening to you and he doesn't have your best interests at heart." Grace said, "Paul Gosar, the congressman, isn't doing anything to help rural America." Jennifer said, "If he actually cared about people in rural Arizona, I bet he'd be fighting for Social Security, for better access to healthcare; I bet he'd be researching what is the most insightful water policy to help the environment of Arizona to sustain itself and be successful."

Wikipedia: Marjorie Taylor Greene
Marjorie Taylor Greene (b 1974), also known by her initials MTG, is an American politician, businesswoman, and far-right conspiracy theorist who has served as the U.S. representative for Georgia's 14th congressional district since 2021. A member of the Republican Party and a strong supporter of former president Donald Trump, she was elected to Congress in 2020 following the retirement of Republican incumbent Tom Graves.

Greene has promoted far-right, white supremacist, and antisemitic conspiracy theories including the white genocide conspiracy theory, QAnon, and Pizzagate, as well as other disproven conspiracy theories such as false flag mass shootings, the Clinton body count, and multiple relating to 9/11. Before running for Congress, she advocated for executing prominent Democratic politicians. As a congresswoman, she equated the Democratic Party with Nazis and compared COVID-19 safety measures to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. She apologized for the latter comparison. In January 2022, Greene's personal Twitter account was permanently suspended for posting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. During the Russo-Ukrainian War, Greene has promoted Russian propaganda and praised Vladimir Putin.

A supporter of Trump's efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Greene has repeatedly and falsely claimed that Trump won the election in a landslide victory that was stolen from him. She called for Georgia's election results to be decertified and was among a group of Republican legislators who unsuccessfully challenged votes for Biden during the Electoral College vote count, even though federal agencies and courts overseeing the election found no evidence of electoral fraud. Greene filed articles of impeachment against Biden the day after his inauguration, alleging abuse of power.

The House of Representatives voted to remove Greene from all committee roles on February 4, 2021, in response to her incendiary statements and endorsements of political violence. Eleven Republicans joined the unanimous Democrats in the vote. Greene is running for reelection in 2022.

This is insane. Gosar and Greene are representative of a large segement of the electorate and how out of touch they are with reality.


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