Tag Archive | facts

Timing is Everything — Media Manipulation Part 2

And the media clearly knows that.

Much of what I hear on Facebook these days–aside from North Korea bullshit–is stuff about families being broken up by Trump’s immigration policy, and his harsh deportations. Yet, in reality, Trump has deported fewer people than President Obama did. In both absolute numbers and averages, Obama deported more people than Trump. But because the media chose not to report on any of that, people now being exposed to it are under the impression that it’s a new thing, and that Trump/Republicans are to blame for this “uniquely” awful problem.

I just watched a popular libertarian page say that they wonder if Trump will claim responsibility for the famine that is going to be caused by the “entire fields being left to rot” because so many people have been deported that there’s no one to pick the crops. I’m not even kidding. Those are the headlines right now: “Entire Fields Left to Rot Because of Deportation of Illegal Immigrants.”

But that’s been the case for years. The corn field right across from me is going to rot again–an “entire field left to rot.” This happens all over the United States, because the government just pays people to plant the crop, and doesn’t really care if the crop is harvested or not. The media didn’t report on it, though. Now they have. The result? Predictably, everyone thinks this is a new thing, brought about by Trump “deporting so many people.”

Two absolute falsehoods. Old news, really. But because it’s only now being delivered, people are manipulated en masse into believing that Trump is responsible, and that his “singularly harsh deportation policy” is responsible.

It’s scary, really, that people are so easy to manipulate. Because, two years ago, fields not being picked wouldn’t have been newsworthy. It still isn’t, really, except that it can be used to promote an agenda.

I would have hoped, and expected, if I had the interest, knowledge, and awareness then, in the mid 90s that the upcoming age of social media would have prevented this sort of thing from happening. It doesn’t seem to have abated, though, because not many people are sharing these experiences, but I know from firsthand experiences, having friends all over the United States and having been across most of the United States, that “rotting fields” are not new, and neither are they caused by a lack of illegal immigrants to be paid under the table for picking the crops. It’s actually quite standard. In the eons of human history, it has never been especially common that an entire society’s fields would be successfully picked–anything from weather to war to earthquakes to wild animals could destroy a crop. Yet now it is Trump’s fault.

I talked yesterday about how the media and the state are able to determine what you and I discuss, and I want to point out that I’m not asserting the state and the media are colluding together to control the conversation. They don’t have to, because the media wants your attention. It doesn’t really matter why they want your attention. They do. To get your attention, they’re going to talk about things most likely to interest you, and those will be the sensationalized things. That lunatic who we have as Secretary of Defense saying that he’s willing to annihilate the North Korean people would qualify, of course.

Another way of manipulating people, though, is to just withhold information. It’s inevitable that information will be withheld, and this is just part of human nature. Right now, your senses are taking in far more information than your brain can process, so most of it gets discarded. This has, on many occasions, resulted in strange things happening. Perhaps the most common is “hitting one’s funny bone,” which occurs when one collides with something and has no expectation of it at all. Psychologists enjoy playing with these quirks of the human brain and nervous system, and there are even a few television shows that exploit it. In one, viewers are asked to count how many times a person wearing blue jumps rope. Viewers, focused on counting, didn’t notice the man walk by wearing a giant chicken costume, because their brain discarded that information.

The media functions the same way, especially in today’s hyper-connected society. I could, if I cared to, find out exactly what conditions are like on the ground in Portland, Oregon, right now. I could find out the weather, the local issues, and could probably peer inside of a local restaurant as though I was there. How many people each day post something on Twitter and hope that it goes viral? How many people have family members killed by cops and attempt to spread it on Facebook and Twitter each day (note: at least three, just in the United States)? Yet these stories rarely gain traction. Just this month, an estimated 30 people have been killed by police officers. How many of them have you heard about? Probably “none.”

This is because there’s just so much stuff happening that it can’t all be talked about. The bulk of it is discarded as uninteresting and not newsworthy. Three years ago, a few rotting fields of crops across the United States was discarded as uninteresting and not newsworthy. But now! Now that the media has spent months telling us the previously-neglected horror stories of families being broken up by deportation, there is yet another angle that can be worked to push that agenda: finally mention the fields that have been rotting for years, if not decades, and people will come to the conclusion that it’s a new phenomenon, simply because they hadn’t heard about it before.

It’s clever, on their part, because they can’t be criticized for choosing not to report on something before. Something has to be discarded, after all, just like police officers can’t chase after everyone speeding on the highway. They can only go after some of the people they see speeding, just like we can only process some of the information our brains receive. The problem with police officers it that they appear to have racist motivations when determining who to pursue and who to ignore, given that a disproportionate number of black Americans are harassed by police each day. The problem with the media is similar: they often choose what to report on and what to discard based on their own agenda.

That agenda is clearly to manipulate Americans into disliking Trump and, in particular, his immigration policy, despite the fact that the numbers don’t bear this out, which even left-wing news sources admit. They’re perfectly free to admit this without hurting their narrative, though, because these are cold, emotionless, facts-based stories of numbers. It’s the personal stories that matter. It’s their focus on Juan Hernandez being deported from his wife and kids after 19 years in the United States that grabs people’s attention and is embedded in their minds. Similarly, news stories that properly cite that more than half of people killed by police are white, and the other half are divided among black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, middle Eastern Americans, and other Americans, have no impact, because the focus on the personal stories of black Americans who are killed by police do far more to construct the narrative than any raw numbers will.

Throw them a personal story that tugs at their heart strings, and it really doesn’t matter how many facts you throw out afterward that refute that personal story as an anomaly, or the agenda behind that personal story as flawed and biased. Once set, the narrative is set, and facts don’t change our minds.

Do I like Trump? No. I can’t stand Trump. Don’t take any of this as a defense of that buffoon.

Take it instead as a warning about manipulation. We must always be on guard against manipulation, because they are always trying to manipulate us.

From Johnson To John

One of the core tenets of everything that I am is that there is a fundamental difference between a belief and a conclusion. I’m not going to dedicate 3000 words to attacking beliefs right now (I’ll do that some other time), but one of the things that irks me most about religious people is that they act as though their beliefs are on equal footing to my conclusions. Meanwhile, they would assert that my conclusions are merely beliefs.

There is that fundamental difference, though, and that distinction is that conclusions are logical extrapolations of real phenomena and observable facts. This isn’t to say that a conclusion is 100% unquestionable truth–clearly, that is not the case. However, it does mean that, based on the available evidence, there is no reason to doubt the validity of the conclusion. If there is substantial evidence in support of the claim, then it is a conclusion; if there is insufficient evidence, then it is a belief.

This should be obvious, because religious people, of course, admit that faith is a critical part of their beliefs. This goes without saying. Faith can rightly be defined as “belief in a claim without evidence.” Why can we define it that way? Simply put: Because if there is evidence to support the claim, then faith isn’t necessary and beliefs aren’t necessary.

I don’t believe that the Earth orbits the sun. I have concluded that the Earth orbits the sun, through rational examination of the evidence and with information that was provided to me by the scientific community. Meanwhile, the scientific community has earned my trust by repeatedly providing rational explanations to phenomena that can be observed, demonstrated, and verified–jets stay in the air, after all, which is certainly something that lends credibility to the claims of science. The jet stays in the air; the priest does not.

But I don’t mean to get off onto religion again.

What I mean to discuss is that, not even two weeks ago, I was a supporter of Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson. My Twitter feed had a pinned tweet saying, in essence, “Gary Johnson 2016,” and my site here had a note pinned to the right that said the same. Then something changed, though. What “something” changed?

The facts.

Actually, the facts themselves did not change; it’s not like Johnson really changed his position or anything like that. My awareness of the facts changed. It could certainly be said that I supported Gary Johnson out of ignorance, and that I simply was not aware how far from the principles of Liberty that Johnson was willing to stray. Once I became newly aware of these facts, I could not hold to the same conclusion.

Trump asked in a debate a few months ago, “If you’re driving and find out you’re going the wrong direction, what are you going to do? Just keep going the wrong way your whole life?”

Ed Wuncler of the animated series The Boondocks once said, “This is America! If we’re doing something wrong, we don’t just stop doing it! No! We keep doing it wrong until it turns out right!”

While I abhor Trump as a presidential candidate, he’s absolutely right about that. If you find out you’re wrong, stop being wrong. Change your position. Don’t just continue being wrong. There is nothing wrong with that, and these three words need to be said far more often in the United States than they currently are:

I was wrong.

I was wrong to support Gary Johnson, because he is vocally anti-religious liberty, going as far as saying that a Jewish bakery under the boots of Nazi Germany should be forced to bake a cake for Nazis. The slippery slope, invalid though it is, should have informed Johnson that there was something off about his position. The idea he holds also means that a Jewish person should have to bake a cake for Nazis. How can a Libertarian candidate cling to this idea in the face of such an immoral prospect? Surely, one would think it’s time to re-evaluate the position that could, in the worst of circumstances, lead to such a travesty?

Instead, Johnson doubled down on his position and asserted that: Yes, the Jewish bakery should be forced to bake a cake for Nazis. This is a bit of a critical issue for me, because I’m a resident of the state of Mississippi, which just passed a religious freedom law that allows business owners to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds, and I, as a Libertarian, am 100% in support of the legislation, as I’ve stated here:

Warning! Turn your volume down!

http://ariadimezzo.podbean.com/e/rr-ep-03-you-intolerant-bastards

Johnson should have changed his position, now that the abominable acts that could result from such a disastrous policy had been brought to his attention, but he did not. Instead, it was:

“I cling to my beliefs.”

He threw back his own slippery slope of how religious discrimination opens a blackhole, where Jews and Muslims will be discriminated against, forgetting, evidently, that Christians make up only 74% of the population. A majority, sure, but not enough to make up for the 26% of non-Christians who would obviously boycott the discrimination. But on what grounds would he ban Christians from discriminating against all non-Christians? Why can’t they do that?

The Christians in question would not be using force, violence, or coercion. They would simply be isolating themselves from all non-Christians, which would cause the on-the-fence Christians to stop identifying as Christians. Although the numbers say that 74% of Americans identify as Christians, that is before a huge mass of Christians mark themselves as allies of the Westboro Baptist Church. If Christian businesses all over the country were discriminating against non-Christians, you would very quickly learn that the number “74%” means more “we believe in a deity and were raised as Christians, but we don’t really do the church thing” for more than half of those people. The number of people who would identify as Christians in the face of such wretched behavior would be substantially lower–in the order of 15% of Americans, and those 15% are nowhere near enough to stay in business against a boycott that consists of 85% of the population.

It’s true in Mississippi that Christianity is more dominant, and that the majority of people who identify as Christians here would continue to do so in the face of Christian discrimination against non-Christians. While throughout the nation, the people identifying as Christians would drop substantially, in the south it would lower to only about 50%, which is more than enough to continue thriving.

C’est la vie.

C’est la liberté.

When I learned that Johnson would violate the religious liberty of a huge portion of the American population, and would do so knowingly and in the name of the same ol’ conceit we’ve been seeing for centuries (“We have to violate the rights of some people for the greater good!“), I simply could not continue to support him.

Austin Petersen had already lost my support by identifying as Pro-Life. There’s not much to say about that. How he reconciles calling himself a Libertarian while believing that more than 50% of the population shouldn’t be in control of their own bodies and what happens to them is anyone’s guess, but the Libertarian position is obvious, and McAfee said it best: “We are in control of our minds and our bodies.” Not according to Petersen! According to Petersen, it’s totally okay for a group that is predominantly men to legislate what women can and can’t do to their bodies, even though, ipso facto, the legislation could not possibly affect the men themselves.

Austin Petersen, people are saying, is the future of the Libertarian Party. Fucking Christ, I hope not. He’s not a Libertarian. He’s a Classical Liberal, like Ron Paul. Ron Paul, of course, I supported loudly and vocally, because he was part of the Republican Party yet clearly on the Libertarian side. He wasn’t like Rand Paul, who is just kinda a little bit Libertarian-ish. Ron Paul spent three decades walking the walk, and I was willing to look past his Pro-Life ideas in order to put such a strong Classical Liberal into the White House*.

Petersen wants to be the next Ron Paul, and he is also a Classical Liberal, but not a true Libertarian. Gary Johnson is also a Classical Liberal. The difference is subtle but important: Classical Liberals are no better than Republicans. They are against the state unless they can use the state to promote their own agenda. Petersen even looks like a Republican, and mark my words: in a decade or two, Petersen will be a member of the Republican Party. That’s the future of the Libertarian Party according to Petersen: republicanism.

John McAfee, on the other hand, goes to the three principles of Liberty and simply applies them.

  1. Don’t hurt one another.
  2. Don’t steal from one another.
  3. Keep your word.

Those are, really, the three principles of Liberty. Regarding any possible action, just ask those three questions: Does it harm someone? Does it violate someone’s right to private property? Does it involve deceit? If the answer is “no,” then it’s fine, it’s totally fine. And we can immediately see that religious discrimination, then, is fine. It doesn’t harm anyone, it doesn’t steal, and it doesn’t violate any promises.

There is some ground for Petersen to say that abortion is hurting someone because the fetus is a someone, but that is Petersen’s personal belief, and many, many people disagree (myself among them). Even if Petersen does believe that the fetus is a “someone,” he must see that this is his belief, and that the majority of Americans clearly disagree? By what anti-liberty facetious reasoning does he attempt to legislate his belief onto the majority of the American population?

Again, he is no Libertarian.

This is not a No True Scotsman fallacy, because one cannot be a Libertarian while violating the fundamental pillars of liberty; that’s simply what Libertarianism is: the reverence and application of these principles. By not adhering to and applying these principles, he is not a Libertarian, because a Libertarian is someone who adheres to and applies these principles. I’m saying “No color that is blue is truly red,” which is not a No True Scotsman fallacy, because “blue” and “red” aren’t the same thing. There is a clear, demonstrable way wherein Petersen violates Libertarian principles, and therefore is not a true Libertarian.

So who is? Among the people in the debates recently, there was John McAfee. A remarkable guy with a truly remarkable story (though, I must confess, I’m not a fan of the antivirus). What can I say? McAfee is clearly bad ass. He’s clearly real. And I can’t explain to you what I mean when I say he is clearly real, but he is. He’s real. He’s authentic.

And he does the same thing that I do: he simply applies those three principles to come to a sound, non-contradictory policy. That’s what’s so beautiful about libertarianism (actually, it’s what’s beautiful about anarchism, but Libertarianism is the first step onto that path): it’s not inherently contradictory. The Conservative platform is, and so is the Liberal platform. The Classical Liberal platform is, as I demonstrated with Austin Petersen and Gary Johnson. No one should hold an idea that contradicts another idea, and that’s a high goal to which to aspire. It’s necessary, though, because it’s the only pathway to truth and sound policy.

John McAfee is like Ron Paul, but better. Much better. He’s a true Libertarian, and this is without getting into his personal life that makes him an obvious choice for someone like me, with my own tattoos and love of rock music. Hell, I have a snubnose 38 Special too, and have spent my fair share of time with that barrel against my temple. I recognize a real person who wouldn’t tolerate any bullshit immediately, and that real person is John McAfee.

* I wasn’t very clear here. Ron Paul had a serious chance of winning the Republican nomination (and would have if there hadn’t been so many shenanigans by the GOP establishment to prevent it–from the media ignoring his victories to the Republican National Committee actually changing the rules specifically to prevent Ron Paul from getting the nomination, an act which caused Paul’s supporters to walk out, to holding a retirement ceremony in Paul’s honor without actually inviting Ron Paul…), and could certainly have secured the oval office easily. Ron Paul would have been a Classical Liberal running as a Republican, and thus would have had the support of the Republican Party, which, let’s face it, has put presidents in the oval office before. Petersen does not have that; he’s a Classical Liberal running as a Libertarian.