Posts Tagged ‘skepticism’

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FAIR:

Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited ‘Fake News’ Blacklist?

USA Today (11/25/16), Gizmodo (11/25/16), PBS (11/25/16), The Daily Beast (11/25/16), Slate (11/25/16), AP (11/25/16) The Verge (11/25/16) and NPR (11/25/16) all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback. Gizmodo was so giddy its original headline had to be changed from “Research Confirms That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News” to “Research Suggests That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News,” presumably after some polite commenters pointed out that the research “confirmed” nothing of the sort.

 

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Pseudoscience & the “study” of “conspiracy beliefs” from message board postings
An open letter to Michael J. Wood et al.

mw337@kent.ac.uk

Regarding: “What about building 7?” A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories

I read with some interest your “study” of some message board postings concerning the September 11th attacks. I found your efforts less than compelling. Random samplings of arguments on message boards are a legitimate way to understand the September 11th 2001 attacks? No. But it is a convenient way of lumping large disparate groups of people into simplistic categories in order to smear them.

As someone who has intensely studied the issue for some 13 years and counting, I would have to say that your approach is hamfisted, ignorant, and even juvenile. You and your partners have relied upon your own concepts of “belief” and “theory” and the utterances of message board posters, but lack a firm foundation to compare or contrast any of the information that was analyzed.

In other words, you don’t have an expert knowledge of the US government cover-up of the September 11th event (or even acknowledge it), nor of the many high-level government whistleblowers surrounding this issue. You lack an even rudimentary understanding of the event, and therefore have no basis to judge the competing arguments, at all. Nor do you concede the obvious fact of conspiracies throughout history, actual state crimes, of which there are numerous examples. This would lead to an examination of motive, and that the state gains an incredible amount of power after failing to stop an attack, including the power to wage foreign wars of aggression with impunity.

You know: 1 + 1=2 type stuff.

It is not difficult to engage in a conspiracy. Any two individuals on planet earth can commit a crime together, and voila: there’s a conspiracy. The idea that conspiracy is rare or even non-existent(!), as some mainstream media pundits have argued, is absurd on its face and should discredit the author entirely. As an obvious example, you–as someone purportedly studying government conspiracy–should be well versed in the Iran-Contra fiasco of the 1980s. Colonel Oliver North was convicted, with ten others, to refresh your memory. So, is someone who “believes” in the Iran-Contra conspiracy more or less prone to “belief” in conspiracy, as per your definitions and comprehension?

Clearly we have a problem when you divide the public based upon generalizations that cannot possibly hold true when tested against real historical facts. The knowledge, or ignorance, of these facts is paramount.

So, Mr. Wood, did the Iran-Contra conspiracy happen? Are you a “conspiracist?” Do you engage in “belief” about it?

Next, your “psychological study” has not even a mention of the concept of disinformation. This omission discredits your work. Disinformation is the deliberate seeding of the public debate with false data in order to muddy the waters and make discovery of the true facts of the conspiracy more difficult. It throws off the dogs. Disinformation is rampant and easily achieved as soon as any individual concocts a false narrative and presses “send” or “post.” Apparently this has never occurred to your team, as it received zero scrutiny.

Some number of message board trolls will turn out to be posting disinformation, in my decade-plus experience with them, a situation your study failed to even conceptualize, nevermind correct for. Others post misinformation. This is the problem with relying upon message board flame wars for your data.

Therefore your study is tangential and irrelevant to learning what actually happened. Its approach reinforces the idea that psychological pseudoscience has relevance to the facts of real world crimes and terrorist events. It champions a specious view, one founded upon ignorance and random arguments over misinformation and disinformation, rather than seeking to understand what is actually known and what is unknown, to date, about the criminal attacks you purport to study.

Similarly your “study” commented on other controversial topics without any accompanying examination of something the rest of the world likes to call “evidence.” You and your cohorts feel supremely confident in pronouncing sweeping generalizations about “belief” without providing context as to why someone would hold such a belief (factual evidence). It is for this exact reason that I have labeled your efforts “pseudoscience.” You have divorced some abstract concept called “belief” from the hard evidence that causes such “belief.” Cause and effect are alien to your own theories, at least as presented in your “psychological study.” Your article ends up lightweight pondering and lacks the gravity of facts, or the due diligence required to examine and test those facts.

You have come to this party from ignorance, and you remain there, blissfully unaware of the veracity of any of the data, whatsoever. That’s a pretty harsh criticism, but is warranted.

PS.

Mr. Wood, was the September 11th attack not a “conspiracy?”

Joe Giambrone

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FREE: Debunking Handbook
How to debunk false beliefs without having it backfire

Some of the misinformation that’s out there is not accidental. I think there’s quite a bit that’s put into the public discourse in order to have a political effect. It’s supposed to be wrong, but effective.

This reminds me of all the disinformation concerning 9/11, and how a very small minority are concerned with the ongoing cover-up. The media gatekeepers have been the most malignant force around, utterly unskeptical of government lies and collusion with the perps: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Even alternative media has been irrational and deluded on the topic.

Not sure how much the handbook will help on that front.

Disinformation Killed 9/11 “Truth”

4921470721_20e35ff6c7_zAlyson_H Flickr Stream by (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

 

Published at OpEdNews
by Joe Giambrone

Ideology is the modern plague, because ideologues have all the answers already.  Every event, every situation fits the mold of their beliefs, and contrary evidence is discarded in the service of bolstering said ideology.  This is easily seen in the people one disagrees with on a regular basis, but nearly never acknowledged in one’s own determinations.

I have been wrong (as has the NY Times), and have occasionally written based on assumptions rather than on cold hard analysis.  That is the obvious danger of having partial information.  I’ve also corrected these assertions and moved on.  I have no problem being mistaken if I am proved wrong – the key word being proved.

Many people simply do not understand the concept of unproved or unknown issues.  This occurs when several competing explanations can hold true, but the actual truth is unknown, as in the case of classified state secrets, or hidden criminal conspiracies (often the same thing).  The public simply cannot know based on available information.  In that case multiple explanations may exist, but it is impossible to determine which – if any – is the correct one.  What we have are ever growing bodies of evidence to analyze.

These are Donald Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns.”  It is a perfectly valid analysis and probably more fitting much of the time than many of the snap rushed judgments of ideologues on the left, right and particularly the centrists, who are a breed unto themselves.  Unknowns are unthinkable to the ideologue, quite literally; these cannot be thought of in that manner.  Ideologues know, just like Tom Cruise “knows.”  They know.  Their leaders know, and usually the factions fall in line without a second thought.  A different reality would crush them, or would force them to think, rather than to place events into easily managed ideological boxes.

“Everybody’s talkin’ about Bagism, Shagism, dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism, This-ism, That-ism, ism, ism, ism.” – John Lennon , Give Peace a Chance

This psychological reality motivates those with the power to classify events as secret.  Withholding information from citizens is a very useful strategy indeed.  If the truth cannot be determined, then the people will continue to scramble to make sense of the events, usually by contorting the few known facts into an acceptable ideological narrative.  Secrecy prompts the common people to stay busy.  By following false leads and misinformation people waste valuable time and resources attempting to comprehend the secret event and resolve the conflicting evidence.  Even insider whistleblowers with partial knowledge of the actual event are sidelined, as they usually cannot explain the full extent of the hidden state secret, nor name the names, dates, contacts and all the related evidence required to fully expose the wrongdoing.  This is the “compartmentalization” organizational model, which is the gold standard in covert operations, and is well known and employed by intelligence services.  Whistleblowers are also routinely censored by the mainstream news, and most citizens simply never hear what they have to say.

The next option, if one’s strategy is to distract the population, is disinformation.  Deliberately false information, those “conspiracy theories” we hear so much about in the corporate media, are valuable to those seeking to keep secrets hidden.  As more false leads are provided for people to pursue, less time and effort is spent pursuing the true leads.  The more outlandish the disinformation, the better it can discredit those who choose to investigate it.  By simply discrediting people and discouraging them from investigating secret events, those who create the secrets are empowered and shielded from public accounting.  That is the game.  How have you been playing it?

Needless to say, this has not been an academic discussion.  These observations are the result of firsthand observations over many years.  The events in question are easily named, but this paper concerns the strategies behind the flows of information.  A strategy can apply to many events.  A strategy is employed because it works.  This strategy is proven, and it has a long track record.

Media censorship is a critical factor in keeping the population misinformed and distracted.  This may sound counterintuitive to some, as the media, your TV news, newspapers and magazines, present themselves as the informers of public awareness, the leaders of investigation.  But what aren’t they telling you?  What is not permitted to appear in these sources?

It’s not hard to find that out, actually.  Media censorship is a well-studied phenomenon in the United States.  The Project Censored group is perhaps the best known clearinghouse of censored critical information here.  Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) is also a notable media watchdog, as is PR Watch, Medialens and others.  To understand what is not permissible on public airwaves is to understand the reality of our governing system.  Washington, with its financiers from Wall Street, its Military-Industrial-Complex and its multinational corporate sector, rule through deception and not through honesty and full disclosure.  Deception is the default position, not an anomaly.

Case in point, when the United States military drops bombs in one of its many war theaters, the initial story told by the military is almost always that the enemy was killed; those killed are described as “militants” or “terrorists” or “high value targets” or some other euphemism for bad guys.  When independent sources investigate these incidents later the truth tends to come out.  Children, innocent families, weddings, funerals, first responders, these are the actual victims of many US bombings.  But the US public has already been told that they were “enemy combatants.”  The likelihood that the domestic public will ever hear about the correction from the US wall of media noise is very slim indeed.  Thus a false overall impression of US military operations is maintained and believed by a large percentage of the population.  This is a mechanism for promoting a global empire to the common people.

Occam, The Misunderstood

When someone mentions “Occam’s Razor,” it is usually a telltale sign that they wish to avoid actual investigation and settle for the obvious or simple explanation.  Thus all complicated crimes are rejected outright as many cling to this false faith-based argument instead of investigating the facts fully.  Highly complicated crimes are therefore abandoned to “the experts” perhaps rightly so considering the labor commitment required to understand them.  But one cannot simply trust the experts, particularly when these experts are challenged by factual, evidence-based refutation.

The scientific method relies upon disproving the impossible: if x, then y cannot be true.  As new evidence emerges, old assumptions are tossed out.  Occam’s full meaning aligns with this search for evidence and with the elimination of assumptions.

Whenever anyone makes a claim, be they the President of the United States, the Deputy Director of the CIA, or your mother, but they are unable or unwilling to prove the truth of their claim with evidence, then the choice to believe what they say is clearly an assumption.  Governments rely upon this tendency of the majority to assume that leaders are telling the truth.

Ronald Reagan went on television to tell glaring falsehoods to the nation during the Iran Contra Scandal revelations in the press, but he was soon forced to return to the airwaves and to apologize for it.

“A few months ago I told the American people ‘I did not trade arms for hostages.’  My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”
–President Ronald Reagan, March 4, 1987

So what is an investigator to do?

Personally, I follow leads and weigh their veracity against known patterns.  It’s a natural process.  Most people lack the time and knowledge to investigate more fully.  Professionals dig far more deeply than I could, leaving me somewhere in the middle.  It’s telling to note which incontrovertible facts are censored by the self-aggrandizing “free press.”  Censorship is like a bright flashing beacon that lures us to pick up the slack.  While it takes no coordination or collusion to investigate an obvious lead, the practice of censoring the truth across a wide swath of the media, numerous entities, numerous newsrooms, numerous channels, must be more deliberate and intentional.  Pay attention to the verboten.  Pay close scrutiny to what those who are handsomely paid to inform the public will never admit to “on the record.”  To manipulate a society as large and as varied as ours is a feat indeed.  But it’s happening, every single day 24/7.  The publicly accepted term for this is “spin.”  Spinning the news works because only 5 or 6 media oligarchies control what the overwhelming majority of the public exposes themselves to daily.  Be aware.

A Central Intelligence Agency honcho named Frank Wisner once bragged that he could play the American media like a “Mighty Wurlitzer,” one of those ghastly carnival organs.  The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird had already infiltrated “friendly” US media sources, the owners and the talking heads entrusted to inform the nation.  An historical track record of what the CIA did exists and reveals what they wanted to accomplish.  Within 6 years of the CIA’s founding, already President Eisenhower was setting up a “Special Group” (5412) to keep the rogue CIA covert operations in check.  How can anyone assume that things have somehow changed in the bowels of secret state power?  If anything it has gotten more sophisticated with the advent of computers and globalization, not less.  The advantage is clearly with those who understand these matters, and not with the primarily ignorant worker class.

Crucial information about the state of the world today flows from top to bottom, and that is by design.  An air of distrust surrounds all grassroots journalism, those “bloggers” and worse whom the public is fearmongered into rejecting.  Without official blessing, be it governmental or corporate, the public mind is by and large not free to think for itself.  As unreliable as both government and corporate media have proven to be, countless times in the past, it is these sources that maintain a strict hold on the public information channels.  If it didn’t happen on shiny corporate TV News then it didn’t happen.

“Information is Power”

So what is the rational response to selective censorship?  Clearly what we have is not total censorship, as some facts slip through from time to time.  Not all newsrooms are so easily intimidated, particularly at the local level.  Foreign desks often report what the entire United States media self-censors across the nation.  Some alternative websites collate these news stories, but their reliability and thoroughness are spotty.  A variety of sources is recommended, a hedging of bets, a diversification of the information portfolio.

Paul Thompson noted this treasure trove of foreign reporting and uncensored local reports, and so he founded the History Commons website to keep track of the many thousands of reports streaming in concerning this alleged “War on Terrorism.”  His approach was to use only actual newspaper reports, dated, verified and summarized for ease of research.  Slogging through the History Commons site is like diving down Alice’s rabbit hole, and can consume a reader for hours.  Topics are searchable by names as well as by specific dates.

And so we research, we learn and we use what we have learned to try and understand the things that the current military empire does not want us to know.  This can be an ideological affair, or it can be evidence-based, but it can’t be both.  The ideologue tosses out all contrary facts, no matter how true they may be, as they are inconvenient to maintaining the integrity of his ideology.  Thus, ideology is the enemy of truth, the enemy of understanding, and the enemy of reality.  That is why I call it a modern plague, for fundamentalist ideology lies at the root of most world problems.  The other major underlying root problem is apathy, mass apathy and ignorance.

Beside the smug ideologist and the somnambulant apathetic couch potato is the realist, the evidence-based thinker.  In my view that is the only tenable position.

Joe Giambrone edits Politcal Film Blog (@polfilmblog), and here’s a Hell of a Deal.