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“Baseless Conspiracy Theories” and our Knowledge Crisis.

“Baseless Conspiracy Theories” and our Knowledge Crisis.

Evidence, proof, and the will to deceive.

The news that the FBI is investigating Hunter Biden on suspicion of money laundering and foreign influence peddling should come as no surprise, given that the New York Post broke the story over two months ago. Of course, when that publication released the incriminating evidence that was saved to a laptop owned by Hunter Biden, the story was immediately censored on social media. Of the few major media outlets that were willing to acknowledge the existence of the story, virtually all of them did so only to emphasize that the reporting was “baseless” nonsense.

“The story could not have been more obviously fake if it had been wearing dollar-store spectacles and attached plastic mustache.”

When pressed on the matter by President Trump in a debate, Joe Biden boasted that five former heads of the CIA said that the story was “a bunch of garbage.” A couple of days earlier, dozens of former intelligence officials had signed a statement that asserted the news had all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation: “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement,” the statement read, “just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”

Bush administration speechwriter and Atlantic editor David Frum claimed on Twitter that “The story could not have been more obviously fake if it had been wearing dollar-store spectacles and attached plastic mustache.” Weeks after the FBI investigation of Hunter Biden was confirmed, Wikipedia still labels their entry on the matter as a “conspiracy theory.” Thus, in spite of emails, photographs, and video-recorded evidence to the contrary, any claim that the Bidens did anything improper (let alone “wrong” or “illegal”) was deemed “baseless.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

They Only Serve Themselves


Caspar David Friedrich The Monk by the Sea c1809
“The Kremlin” poisoned their “fierce rival” Navalny with the infamous deadly agent novichok. That is the headline. Only, the German accusation in that direction doesn’t say novichok, its says a “cholinesterase inhibitor”, of which novichok is just one example, was used. The news outlets must be thinking that at least after the Skripal case, enough people will recognize the term, and let’s not confuse them.The Germans claim they have “unequivocal proof” (eindeutiger Beweis) for this. While the Russian doctors who initially treated Navalny after he fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Omsk (or was that the other way around?!) said he showed zero signs of poisoning. But yeah, they’re Russians, so they can’t be trusted, right? They all squander their Hippocratic oaths at the feet of the great malevolent dictator Trump Putin. You’re familiar with the parable about “all Cretans lie”?

“Merkel spokesman Seibert said the German government will inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the test results..” NATO? What do they have to do with anything? How does the alleged poisoning of a two-bit (2% in the polls) Russian “politician” link to NATO? Is Navalny himself linked to NATO? Where does NATO come in to the conversation? How much does the CIA pay Navalny anyway?

The thing, the problem, is that it makes no difference anymore even if this particular instance has a kernel of truth in it. Because there have been so many of them, and they’re all “based” on non-evidence, circumstantial “evidence”, stuff that you wouldn’t get a conviction on in any western court. For good reason.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

They Were All Lying

They Were All Lying

Rembrandt van Rijn  A woman bathing in a stream  1654

A dear friend the other day accused me of defending Trump. I don’t, and never have, but it made me think that if she says it, probably others say and think the same; I’ve written a lot about him. So let me explain once again. Though I think perhaps this has reached a “you’re either with us or against us’ level.

What I noticed, and have written a lot about, during and since the 2016 US presidential campaign, is that the media, both in the US and abroad, started making up accusations against Trump from scratch. This included the collusion with Russia accusation that led to the Mueller probe.

There was never any proof of the accusation, which is why the conclusion of the probe was No Collusion. I started writing this yesterday while awaiting the presentation of the Mueller report, but it wouldn’t have mattered one way or the other: the accusation was clear, and so was the conclusion.

Even if some proof were found though other means going forward, it would still make no difference: US media published over half a million articles on the topic, and not one of them was based on any proof. If that proof had existed, Mueller would have found and used it.

And sure, Trump may not be a straight shooter, there may be all kinds of illegal activity going on in his organization, but that doesn’t justify using the collusion accusation for a 2-year long probe. If Trump is guilty of criminal acts, he should be investigated for that, not for some made-up narrative. It’s dangerous.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

WE Will Free The Press

WE Will Free The Press

William Hogarth Humours of an Election, Plate 2 1754

While we’re republishing articles about the newly arrested Julian Assange, in his honor, here’s one on the role the press has played in his ordeal. And will undoubtedly continue to play. What does it say about a society that you have to hold not only the government, but also the press to account?

We originally published this essay on August 17 2018.

Two thirds of Americans want the Mueller investigation (inquisition, someone called it) over by the midterm elections. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said that if Mueller wants to interview Trump, he’ll have to do so before September 1, because the Trump camp doesn’t want to be the one to unduly influence the elections. Mueller himself appears to lean towards prolonging the case, and that may well be with an eye on doing exactly that.

And there’s something else as well: as soon as the investigation wraps up, Trump will demand a second special counsel, this time to scrutinize the role the ‘other side’ has played in the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath. He’s determined to get it, and he’ll fire both Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein if they try to stand in his way.

There have of course been tons of signs that it’s going to happen, but we got two significant ones just the past few days. The first is the termination of John Brennan’s security clearance. It looks impossible that no additional clearances will be revoked. There are more people who have them but would also be part of a second special counsel’s investigation. That doesn’t rhyme.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Responses To This Tweet Show How People Fixate On Narrative Over Fact

Responses To This Tweet Show How People Fixate On Narrative Over Fact

Last month I published an essay about the importance of understanding the difference between fact and narrative, and I just want to quickly highlight a perfect illustration of this importance in a controversy arising from a recent Tulsi Gabbard tweet. The tweet reads as follows:

“Short-sighted politicians & media pundits who’ve spent last 2 years accusing Trump as a Putin puppet have brought us the expensive new Cold War & arms race. How? Because Trump now does everything he can to prove he’s not Putin’s puppet—even if it brings us closer to nuclear war.”

Now, all the facts say that Gabbard’s claim that Trump has been bringing the world closer to nuclear war with Russia is indisputably true. It is perhaps possible to dispute the notion that Trump has escalated tensions with Russia to try and “prove he’s not Putin’s puppet”; maybe an argument could be made that he’s simply reckless and violent or that he’s particularly beholden to cold war profiteers, or that despite all his rhetoric he just really, really hates Russia for some reason. But it is absolutely not disputable that Trump has greatly escalated tensions with a nuclear superpower by implementing a Nuclear Posture Review with a much more aggressive stance against Russiawithdrawing from the INF treaty, bombing and illegally occupying Syria, arming Ukraine, staging a coup in Venezuela, and many, many other hawkish actions taken against the interests of the Russian Federation which his predecessor Obama never dared to take.

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New on MoA:
Putin Asks And Trump Delivers –
A List Of All The Good Things Trump Did For Russiahttps://www.moonofalabama.org/2019/01/putin-asks-and-trump-delivers-here-is-a-list-of-all-the-good-things-trump-did-for-russia.html …

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

MSM Is Getting Weirder, More Frantic, And More Desperate By The Day

MSM Is Getting Weirder, More Frantic, And More Desperate By The Day

When even the Washington Post is saying your Russiagate article is bad journalism, your Russiagate article is really, really bad journalism.

In an article titled “The Guardian offered a bombshell story about Paul Manafort. It still hasn’t detonated.”, WaPo writer Pul Farhi draws attention to the fact that it has been a week since the Guardian published a claim that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met repeatedly with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, without any evidence backing up the claim, using solely anonymous sources, and despite the claims contradicting known records of Assange’s guests at the Ecuadorian embassy. Criticism and demands for answers have been growing louder and louder from both friends and enemies of WikiLeaks, with new plot holes opening up in the Guardian‘s narrative daily, and the scandal is now moving into mainstream awareness.

And the Guardian remains silent, with its editor-in-chief Katharine Viner refusing to utter so much as a peep of defense this entire time. The only comment the publication has issued has been repeated day after day verbatim to every news outlet which writes about this bizarre occurrence: “This story relied on a number of sources. We put these allegations to both Paul Manafort and Julian Assange’s representatives prior to publication. Neither responded to deny the visits taking place. We have since updated the story to reflect their denials.” Which is basically just implying that they can print any libelous nonsense they want about anyone if their denials aren’t sent to the proper email address on time.

This, clearly, is bananas.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Smear Slander Rinse and Repeat

Frans Masereel Montmartre 1925

The way ‘news’ is reported through known outlets changes so fast hardly a soul notices that news as we once knew it no longer exists. This is due to a large extent to the advent of the internet in general, and social media in particular. On the one hand this has led to an absolute overkill in ‘news’, forcing people to pick between sources once they find they can’t read or view it all, on the other hand it has allowed news outlets to flood the former news waves with so much of the same that nobody can compare one source with the other anymore.

Once you achieve that situation, you’re more or less free to make the news, rather than just report on it. The rise of Donald Trump has made the existing mass media realize that one-sided negative reporting on the man sells better than anything objective can. The MSM have sort of won the battle versus the interwebs, albeit only in that regard, and only for this moment, but that is enough for them for now; just like their readers, they don’t have the scope or the energy to look any further or deeper.

This is in a nutshell, and we really should take a much more profound look but that’s another chapter, what has changed the news, and what will keep on changing it until the truth sets us all free. This is what drives outlets like CNN, the New York Times and the Guardian today, because it provides them with readers and viewers. Which they would not have if they didn’t conduct a 24/7 war on a set list of topics they know their audience can’t get enough of.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Psychology of Systemic Consensus

We are all too familiar with established views rejecting change. It has nothing to do with the facts. Officialdom’s mind is often firmly closed to all reason on the big issues. To appreciate why we must understand the crowd psychology behind the systemic consensus. It is the distant engine that drives the generator that provides the electricity that drives us into repetitive disasters despite prior evidence they are avoidable, and even fuels the madness of political correctness.

Forget the argument, look at the psychology

A human prejudice which is little examined is why establishments frequently stick to conviction while denying reasonable debate. Anyone who addresses the unreason of the establishment risks their motives being personally vilified and attacked. There are many fields of government where this is demonstrably true.

Leadership is too often based on prevailing beliefs, with minds firmly closed to any evidence they might be wrong. Even Galileo was forced by the Inquisition in 1633 to recant his scientific evidence that the earth revolved around the sun – a thoroughly reasonable and logical though novel proposition to the independent mind. But it wasn’t until 1992 that the religious establishment at the Vatican forgave him for being right.

That was 359 years later and long after it mattered to Galileo. Fortunately, when the establishment view departs from the facts it rarely survives as long. Socialism, economics, climate change and Brexit show the same static opinions insulated from inconvenient contradictions. This is not to say the establishment need be judgemental. Democratic government at its best tries to remain neutral and reflect a balance of opinion. But there are times when it loses sight of firm ground and becomes subverted by the psychology of its own established but unfounded beliefs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The News Just Ain’t The News No More

M. C. Escher The Tower of Babel 1928

Two thirds of Americans get at least some of their news on social media. Google and Facebook receive well over 70% of US digital advertising revenues. The average daily time spent on social media is 2 hours. Just a few factoids that have at least one thing in common: nothing like them was around 10 years ago, let alone 20. And they depict a change, or set of changes, in our world that will take a long time yet to understand and absorb. Some things just move too fast for us to keep track of, let alone process.

Those of us who were alive before the meteoric rise of the hardware and software of ‘social’ media may be able to relate a little more and better than those who were not, but even that is not a given. There are plenty people over 20, over 30, that make one think: what did you do before you had that magic machine? When you walk down the street talking to some friend, or looking at what your friends wrote on Facebook, do you ever think about what you did in such situations before the machine came into your life?

We’re not going to know what the hardware and software of ‘social’ media will have done to our lives, individually and socially, for a very long time. But in the meantime, their influence will continue to shape our lives. They change our societies, the way we interact with each other, in very profound ways; we just don’t know how profound, or how, period. There can be little question that they change us as individuals too; they change how we communicate, and in such a way that there is no way they don’t also change our very brain structures in the process.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Free The Press

William Hogarth Humours of an Election, Plate 2 1754

Two thirds of Americans want the Mueller investigation (inquisition, someone called it) over by the midterm elections. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said that if Mueller wants to interview Trump, he’ll have to do so before September 1, because the Trump camp doesn’t want to be the one to unduly influence the elections. Mueller himself appears to lean towards prolonging the case, and that may well be with an eye on doing exactly that.

And there’s something else as well: as soon as the investigation wraps up, Trump will demand a second special counsel, this time to scrutinize the role the ‘other side’ has played in the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath. He’s determined to get it, and he’ll fire both Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein if they try to stand in his way.

There have of course been tons of signs that it’s going to happen, but we got two significant ones just the past few days. The first is the termination of John Brennan’s security clearance. It looks impossible that no additional clearances will be revoked. There are more people who have them but would also be part of a second special counsel’s investigation. That doesn’t rhyme.

The second sign is Senator Rand Paul’s call for immunity for Julian Assange to come talk to the US senate about what he knows about Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Obviously, we know that he denies its very existence, and has offered to provide evidence to that end. But before he could do that, a potential deal with the DOJ to do so was torpedoed by then FBI chief James Comey and Senator Mark Warner.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Assange and Truth: the Deeper (Harder) Issue

Assange and Truth: the Deeper (Harder) Issue

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

When Harold Pinter got the Nobel Prize (2005), he described “a vast tapestry of lies upon which we feed”. He asked why “systematic brutality, widespread atrocities, ruthless suppression of independent thought” were well-known when they occurred in the Soviet Union. But the same events in the US, despite copious evidence, “never happened”.

It shouldn’t be a rhetorical question. The answer to Pinter’s question is known in countless cultures. It is not obscure. But it is not discussed much in the North.

John Pilger notes an “eerie silence” about Julian Assange. More than any investigative journalist of our time, Assange has exposed “the imperialism of liberal democracies: the commitment to endless warfare and the division and degradation of ‘unworthy’ lives: from Grenfell Tower to Gaza.”

And yet he’s been imprisoned for six years with no charges against him. There is no outcry.

The silence is eerie, but not surprising. Assange allows us to see with our own eyes the actions of US military in Iraq. We hear them laugh about the “dead bastards” on the ground, who were carrying cameras, not guns.

There are truths, which Wikileaks reveals, but there is also truth abouttruths. One truth is that empirical evidence, seen and believed, does not shake deep-seated expectations. When beliefs are well-established, presupposed in daily life, indeed, part of identity, evidence is explained away.

It’s how we reason.  If I release an object that doesn’t fall, you don’t give up belief in gravity. If I show you a thousand times, you don’t waiver. You expectgravity. It is a presupposition of life and thought. If you questioned that belief, you’d have to rethink your relationship to the world. It’s a reason not to question it.

You see with your own eyes. You dismiss what you see. Or, you explain it away, rationally.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done

To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done

I met a climate crisis denier today. It came out of nowhere. I was getting my camera repaired, and I was chatting with the repairman afterward.

Just before I left, he dropped into our conversation that he didn’t believe in manmade climate change. After all, the earth managed to produce an Ice Age all by itself. Volcanoes can mess up the climate. Humans can’t.

I can imagine for people like him, people like me are infuriating. We want to make up a bunch of regulations to fix what he believes is an imaginary problem.

For me, by denying a very real problem, people like him are causing suffering — and even death — for millions, if not billions, of people.

One of the reasons I haven’t had kids — and I want kids — is because I’m terrified of what kind of world I would bring them into as the climate gets more extreme and unstable.

In the moment, I simply said I thought that just because the earth’s climate can change on its own, that doesn’t mean that people can’t also harm the planet. We’ve certainly wiped out entire species of animals all by ourselves.

Yes, he conceded. People can do major damage to wildlife. He just didn’t think we were powerful enough to mess up the entire climate.

That’s his hunch. But it’s certainly not what the science says.

One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve become trained in science myself (in sociology, a social science) and gone on to teach it to college students is how little people actually believe in science.

Take Donald Trump and his latest idea to handle the opioid epidemic with the death penalty. My own instinct would be to deal with by providing services to addicts. But which one is more effective?

Until we look at scientific evidence, we don’t know. Each of us has an idea of what feels true, but who knows? That’s what studies are for.

In this case, studies have shown that the link between severe penalties and crime deterrence is quite weak, while evidence-based treatment programs for addiction can be much more effective.

For whatever reason, scientific studies simply aren’t convincing to an awful lot of people. I got into it with a Facebook troll the other day about whether or not racism still exists. (Spoiler alert: It does.)

I cited research and evidence. He dismissed it. He told me to “Look outside.” Obama was president once, he said, so racism is gone.

He was, in essence, telling me that he doesn’t find scientific studies credible. He believes what he sees with his own eyes (in this case, one single black president on TV).

It’s hard to see climate change with your own eyes. I feel a vague sense that our weather has gotten warmer and weirder in recent years, but I cannot say for sure. I mean, I saw Al Gore’s movie, but what do real scientists say?

97 percent of them agree that humans are causing climate change, according to a 2013 survey of over 10,300 of them.

While I haven’t examined their data myself, I understand enough about how science is done that I believe in scientists. If the experts who have devoted their careers to understanding climate science conclude that there is a manmade climate crisis, I believe them.

More Americans need a solid understanding of and belief in science. Otherwise we end up bickering over our gut hunches without any way to be certain who’s right and who’s wrong.

 

The Problem with Conspiracy Theories

The Problem with Conspiracy Theories

 

 

People today spend a lot of time talking about conspiracy theories. These theories often do harm because they divert attention away from the facts and thereby allow real crimes and other harmful effects to continue. Such conspiracy theories can be spotted based on three basic characteristics.

  1. They lack evidence.
  2. They spread widely before the facts are examined.
  3. Much simpler alternatives are not considered.

For example, take the most popular conspiracy theory of recent times—the official account for the crimes of 9/11.

  1. This theory was produced by mythologist Philip Zelikow, who, before the investigation began, created an outline that was kept secret from his own Commission staff. Zelikow’s outline determined the outcome of the investigation before any facts were examined. Moreover, the 9/11 Commission claimed sixty-three times in its report that it could find “no evidence” related to important aspects of the crimes. Evidence that the Commission did rely on, as a basis for its report, was later found to be false. Similarly, the evidence collected and held secret by World Trade Center investigating agency NIST was later found to contradict the agency’s conclusions. Much of that evidence is still being held secret including the computer model data that NIST was forced to substitute for physical testing that contradicted its conclusions.
  2. The conspiracy theory reports provided by the 9/11 Commission and NIST spread quickly before anyone could examine them. Getting government representatives to commit to any explanation for what had happened on 9/11 took years but, once ready, news media sources were prepped in advance to allow rapid parroting of the official line. The timing of NIST’s reports coincided with political events, like each anniversary of the 9/11 crimes, so that media could quickly present the official story while public interest was high but critical review was not possible.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Seeing Red on Climate

Young Republicans, reformed lobbyists, and green Tea Partiers: Meet America’s “eco-right.”

Todd Tanner has a pretty sweet offer for his fellow Montanans: a new shotgun in exchange for science-based evidence that he’s wrong about climate change.

The conservationist uses the challenge in an attempt to raise awareness about our warming planet. A lot of people where Tanner lives in Bigfork, Montana, would probably like to take him up on his offer: The state has one of the highest rates of outdoor recreationists in the country, and Tanner is no exception. He was planning on going hunting after we finished our interview. “You wouldn’t know it,” he said over the phone, “but I’m literally walking around in a pair of wool pants.”

Tanner is sure he’ll never have to hand over that new shotgun, though he says he would love to find out that anthropogenic climate change isn’t real. “If someone shows me the error of my ways they can have their choice,” he said. “They can have any rifle, shotgun, pistol, or rod I own, and I’ll walk away feeling like I got the better end of the bargain.”

Since 2011, Tanner has harnessed his prominent position in Montana’s hunting and fishing communities to get people engaged. After wildfires incinerated forests and droughts desiccated rivers in Big Sky Country this year, agitated sportsmen and women have become easier to find. Tanner’s nonprofit, Conservation Hawks, is part of a coalition of grassroots organizations trying to pull conservatives into the conversation about rising temperatures.

And it’s starting to work. There’s a small but growing alliance of concerned conservatives who want to reclaim climate change as a nonpartisan issue. This motley crew of lobbyists, Evangelical Christians, and far-right radicals call themselves the “eco-right.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Russia Demands Evidence to Support US Attack on Syria

Russia at UN 4-9-2017

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov telephoned Rex Tillerson concerning the attack on Syria. The minister had told Tillerson that allegations that the Syrian military had used chemical weapons in the so-called “poison gas incident” lacked any proof whatsoever. Lavrov and Tillerson had agreed to personally continue the talks on Syria, because it is increasingly looking like the “intelligence” community was deliberately trying to mislead the White House.

Tillerson had to come out on CBS television stating that the priority of the US in Syria is to defeat the jihadist militia Islamic state (IS). Trump looks very stupid for allowing the intelligence community to create false flags. This is far more of a crisis than meets the eye. It is not likely that Syria will escalate from here, but there is a clash going on between the bureaucracy and the Trump White House. Can the intelligence community be trusted any more?

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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