The Swamp

I decided to put all of my “controversial” writings (ie. politics) on this blog from now on. I’ve been fairly idle with political commentary for years but I was inspired to start up again, as you might guess, by the election of Donald Trump. There was such an incredible explosion of fear, outrage, and yes, gloating, that I just had to start writing again. My feelings about politics in a nutshell is that everyone is wrong about everything.

Straw Man Tweets

It occurred to me while browsing through my Twitter timelines that there are a lot of tweets that have built-in straw man logical fallacies. They usually follow one of these forms, which I’ve made up:

Them: Some ridiculous claim that doesn’t make sense.
Us: That’s a ridiculous claim that doesn’t make sense!

“The moon is made of green cheese.” That’s dumb! Everybody knows the
moon is made of blue cheese!

Dear people who say silly things: You look foolish when you say silly things.

Basically it’s where a claim is made and attributed to some mysterious, unnamed opposition (a “straw man”), and then a rebuttal is made to the claim. The person writing or sharing the tweet comes off sounding like a hero for “eviscerating” the claims of their adversaries. The only problem is, naturally, there is no evidence given that anyone ever made the adversarial claim in the first place. It sounds vaguely like something you might have heard before, or like something that your ideal adversary might say, but that’s about it.

Many of these kinds of tweets get retweeted into my timeline. Some activist or another somewhere makes up something in the hope that they will be spread far and wide and influence public opinion. It’s the Twitter equivalent of fake ads on Facebook.

I mention this not to shame anyone, but because I feel like we as a country and a species don’t teach people how to think critically anymore. One of the ways to be educate yourself is to recognize the patterns used by propagandists and con-artists (and advertisers!). One of those patterns is the straw man logical fallacy.

The point is not to *discount* straw man arguments out of hand. (The “dear people who say silly things” example above is 100% true.) Instead, be extra cautious and skeptical of them, especially when they come from a stranger or from someone who has a vested interest in influencing people a certain way. (For example, RUSSIANS.)

Here are some real-life examples that were retweeted into my timeline today.

 

Behind The Tweets: Sean Spicer at The Emmys

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins’s tweet is representative of the Twitter backlash against former White House press secretary Sean Spicer appearing at the Emmys last night:

No, but it’s comical that the American people–and journalists, of all people–don’t understand that the literal job of the White House spokesman is to lie for the president.

I think this is indicative of a split between liberals who are starting to recognize reality and liberals doubling down on conspiracies. The fact that Sean Spicer could even make it through the door at the Emmys without getting beaten up means *somebody* there must understand the real world.

Other reactions:

David Perry is a journalist, according to his bio, and that thread goes on in a similar vein for some time. I assume he is also referring to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski being named a visiting fellow at Harvard.

Reminder: I don’t follow any of those people. They are retweeted into my timelines.

UPDATE: Here’s the controversial appearance, all 30 seconds of it.

Behind The Tweet: Outrage

Saw this tweet come through Tweetdeck:

UPDATE: To be clear, I don’t follow that account. It was retweeted.

“Everyone should be outraged,” it said. About what? I hovered over the link and found the title of the story:

“New Hampshire police refuse to discuss apparent lynching of biracial boy.”

That is the correct way you should respond to questionable tweets in your feed. Note that at no time did I click any part of the tweet. I did not retweet it, I did not click the link.

I considered quote-tweeting it with a sarcastic comment: “About misleading headlines?”

Then I thought it would make a good blog post, so I copied a link to the tweet so I could screen grab it, and got this lovely photo right in my face:

Of course I had read about this story already from other sources. It’s terrible. But I don’t know if it’s true or not. I have no idea if that photo is real or not. My instinct these days, if you can’t tell, is to assume everything on the Internet is fake until proven otherwise. In any case I’m certainly not going to go a place called “Raw Story” to investigate it, because I’m a reasonably savvy news consumer.

I’m dubious about that photo. Where did it come from? It’s obviously not a police photo following the proper chain of evidence that would stand up in a court of law. That leaves only one thing: It came from a parent posting a picture on Facebook. Will that stand up in a court of law? Is it real? Maybe. Could it be fake? Certainly. How will we know for sure? By waiting and watching real journalists do real reporting.

Assuming it’s all true, the police, obviously–so, so obviously–are conducting an investigation. The boy is obviously–so, so obviously–underage (as are the attackers) and should not be talked about by the police in public.

I don’t know this for sure, but I would imagine the police are refusing to discuss what happened because they are professionals at their job who respect the privacy of the people involved and the integrity of their investigation. So, so obviously.

So yes, everyone *should* be outraged…

…about people spreading tweets like this around the Internet without using their brains for two seconds.

…about people spreading links to rawstory.com as if it’s a legitimate source of news.

…about people writing headlines which twist the facts to manipulate readers’ emotions.

…about people attaching horrific images to their tweets to make people react instinctively with emotion even though we have no idea if it’s real or not.

…about the huge swaths of world citizenry who do not yet understand the above simple facts of modern life, which might someday lead to the downfall of civilization.

Incidentally, Raw Story, according to Wikipedia, is “an American progressive online news organization founded in 2004.” I shouldn’t have to say this, but never get news from sites that boldly declare their partisanship.

Behind The Tweet: Letter of Intent

Yet another example of why you should never trust a tweet. Saw this on Twitter:

Seth Abramson, a lawyer according to his bio (but mainly a pundit) said, and I quote, “here’s a Letter of Intent Trump signed with some Russians while running.”

Obviously we know not to trust a tweet from some random dude on the Internet. So I found an article from a legit source, Business Insider: ‘Help world peace and make a lot of money’: Here’s the letter of intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow.

Scroll down to the bottom of the letter of intent.

There’s no signature from Trump or any Trump representative.

Even if it *was* signed, it doesn’t show collusion to win an election. It shows an agreement to build a tower. Related? Sure. But strictly illegal? I doubt it. It falls in a deep, smoky gray area. Which is also known as “the real estate business.” *rimshot*

The left shoots themselves in the foot every time they claim to have a smoking gun that obviously *isn’t* a smoking gun.

P. S. This is why Twitter should never allow editing tweets. So activists can be held accountable for spreading lies and misinformation.

Rush Limbaugh Versus The Hurricane

You know the liberal bubble is 100% airtight when people actually believe Rush Limbaugh said that a hurricane is a liberal hoax.

UPDATE here’s more. Some of these people are journalists.

CNN at least had a factually correct headline, though incredibly bitchy and defensive:

What do I think? Well, let’s just say this Daily Show segment from 2005 still applies:

 

UPDATE 2: I wondered if Snopes would tackle this issue, and they finally did, although they buried it near the end of a general post about the hurricane instead of giving it its own story like they should have. It unfortunately supports my general thesis of the last year that Snopes tends to work harder on debunking conservative fake news than liberal fake news.

A New Word Is Needed

This has been driving me crazy.

May I just say that “Nazi” is not a particularly strong pejorative word? It has roughly the same epithetic power as the word “Nerd.” Whenever I see someone talk about Nazis, I always think of Indiana Jones and Call of Duty. Fun movies and fun games. And now, I think of Funny Twitter Memes made by Millennials. So … not very scary.

One needs to be about seventy or older to really feel the cultural significance of the word “Nazi.”

Please think of a term that actually invokes an appropriate level of fear in the modern world, okay? Thanks.

Virginia Primaries

Time for an incredibly late recap of the Virginia primaries! This didn’t get nearly as much national attention as the Georgia 6th District Special Election, but Virginia held their primaries for governor and lieutenant governor on Tuesday, June 13th.

The winners were:

Governor:<br/>Ed Gillespie (R)<br/>Ralph Northram (D)

Lt. Governor:<br/>Jill Vogel (R)<br/>Justin Fairfax (D)

At this moment I don’t know if there are any third party candidates and I don’t know who is running for Attorney General.

The "story" of the primary is that Gillespie only beat Corey Stewart–the unabashedly Trumpist, Confederate statue-loving Republican candidate–by less than 5,000 votes or just over 1%, despite raising 1/5th of the amount of money and trailing significantly in the polls.

Stewart took his loss gracefully, vowing to support Gilespie for governor and bring unity to Virginia Republicans. Just kidding! Of *course* Stewart whined like a little school boy about his loss and threw "Establishment Ed" under the bus as much as he could legally get away with.

Stewart was such an offensive brat of a candidate that I went out of my way to vote for Gillespie, even though I don’t particularly care for him either. So yes, you have people like me to thank for Stewart being out of the race. You’re welcome.

Then I heard Stewart was considering running against Tim Kaine for Senate in 2018. \*headdesk\* https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/republican-corey-stewart-is-eyeing-senate-run-against-tim-kaine-in-2018/2017/06/14/dc361992-5143-11e7-91eb-9611861a988f_story.html

I didn’t follow the Democratic side of the primary very closely, between Northram and Periello, so I don’t have anything to say about that. I have heard it said that Northram was the more Clinton-like candidate and Periello was the more Sanders-like candidate, which, if true, would make me happy to see that the more centrist candidate won. But I’m sure it’s not as simple as that.

It’s interesting (and a little scary) that *both* parties are split right down the middle these days. Democrats and Republicans both have an establishment (moderate) wing and a more radical, "insurgent" wing fighting each other for control of their respective party. If only we lived in a country where two new major parties could form.

At this moment I don’t know who I might vote for. With Stewart out, it doesn’t matter that much to me.

Defining Single-Payer

I finally looked up what "single-payer healthcare" means. I’ve seen this term "single-payer" bandied around in the healthcare debate for years but I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around what it meant in the context of these debates.

I’ve always assumed that it was a debate over how to implement health insurance. Thus I’ve never really cared that much about it, because it felt like an "inside baseball" topic.

But in fact "single-payer healthcare" is a system that *doesn’t use insurance at all.* According to Wikipedia, it’s a system where someone else (ie. the government) pays for all of your healthcare costs.

This is in contrast with a "multi-payer" system, where you buy healthcare insurance and the insurance companies pay for your healthcare costs.

Lightbulb!

Finally this explains to me why it has been such a bitter partisan issue whenever this "single-payer" term comes up.

Obviously, Republicans are going to oppose a single-payer system, because it sounds suspiciously like the dreaded -isms of socialism and communism.

Now that I have a new understanding of this concept, what do I think? I’m fairly ambivalent about it. It boils down to what I want my tax dollars to buy, and I rarely even think about my tax dollars. My tax dollars aren’t in my bank account so they are dead to me.

I guess it would be nice if the government would cover basic healthcare costs, but I’d also like to have the option to pay more for better service, because you *know* government services will be terrible.

Behind The Tweet: Twitter Suspends RC Cola

I saw a retweet complaining: “Twitter suspended the RC Cola twitter account over this tweet yet racists and other Rubes can post anything!” It got my attention because, like the retweeter, I too thought that sounded awfully hypocritical.

But *unlike* the retweeter, I decided to dig a little deeper to find out more, because it didn’t quite sound right. It didn’t pass the “smell test” so to speak. It doesn’t make sense that Twitter would shut down the account of a major brand just for mentioning covfefe.

It turns out that the RC Cola account in question was in fact a fake “parody” account and not in any way affiliated with the real RC Cola, which is owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple.

The account was only suspended because (presumably) the covfefe tweet happened to be the one that got enough publicity to bring the account to the attention of the Dr. Pepper Snapple corporate overlords, which stepped in to put a halt to the rather obvious trademark infringement.

The reason that Twitter doesn’t deactivate racists, etc. has nothing to do with ethics or politics, it’s simply that the racists don’t violate trademarks.

Also, incidentally, Twitter has no obligation to stop racist tweets, and their rules specifically “ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs.” We might not like it, but racism falls under “diverse opinions and beliefs.” Only “violent threats” would prompt Twitter to take action. (So for example Bender could tweet “Humans are dumb meatbags” all day long, but he might get in trouble for saying, “Kill all humans.”)

Behind The Tweet: Constant Diet

Here’s a sequence of tweets that caused me to snort with laughter:

This, of course, is related to the news of Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte “allegedly” assaulting a reporter.

@Stonekettle’s tweet is not wrong, but I’m sure you can guess what made me laugh: Liberals have been glutting themselves on “a constant diet of propaganda and conspiracy theories” for months now!

And before I get stoned to death because the Internet hates people who aren’t 100% on board the anti-Trump train, I need to reiterate that sure, there are things to be concerned about with the Trump administration, as there are with all presidential administrations, but I still don’t see any indication that American democracy is in any danger. There is still going to be an election in 2020. Frankly, in concrete, practical terms, I haven’t seen where Trump has *done* much of anything except stumble from one awkward media circus to another. (With the lone exception of Justice Gorsuch.)

For example, I have yet to see any internment camps. Remember after the election when liberals were afraid of internment camps? Actual, literal internment camps. They weren’t exaggerating about that. They really were afraid of internment camps. Either that, or they were intentionally spreading fear and propaganda. It can only be one or the other.

That’s what really irritates me about having to watch politics today. The sheer number of people who will exploit and prey on those who are genuinely afraid about current events (on either side). And there are so many more of them than folks like me who just want to poke some holes in everyone’s bubbles.