• By Julia Belluz and Brian Resnick
    Donald Trump made an “unusual degree” of blatantly false and misleading statements for a presidential candidate. And he won. Since then, we’ve seen the continuation of the patte […]

    • @OP But Trump was actually just trading on something psychologists and political scientists have known for years: that people don’t necessarily make decisions based on facts. Instead, we are often guided by our emotions and deeply held biases.

      Furthermore, so called “democracy” can easily be misused to swamp informed opinion, with asserted ignorance from manipulated wish-thinking crowds!

      Humans are also very adept at ignoring facts so that we can continue to see the world in a way that conforms to our preconceived notions.

      The advertising industry has made a very good living for years establishing erroneous preconceived notions – derived from assertion, association with emotive images of excellence (such as athletes smoking), and repetition!

    • I think fully agreed on many aspects, Stephen.

      Second a reminder of this excellent piece from JO on the need for print journalism.

      Like Oliver, Stephen doesn’t appear to have a solution to the essential initial problem, even before persuading people how to consume it, how will it get paid for?

      I think examples like Ben Goldacre are excellent. Lengthy investigations by people fully qualified in the field, funded by books sales and made possible by publishers taking a punt with advances.

      Nowadays indie music and films with the tumbling costs of distribution make the lone artist commercially viable.

      I wonder if these journalistic ventures can be increasingly crowd-funded?

      I wonder if e-magazines can collect and link to such self publishing activities from funding opportunities to results and further take up?

      I have complained that some non-fiction books outstay their welcome. They are padded to fit a standard book format. Needless writing and reading work goes into them. E-book/reports could be just the juice and no pad, charged accordingly.

      Use of this material by third parties (e.g. by news outlets and commentators e.g. John Oliver) needs easy charging and crediting to support the self publishing venture.

      Lots more thoughts on this, but is there not a new model to be forged and a sufficient appetite for properly informed investigation as a stand alone activity? (So maybe this is exactly Stephen’s point.)

      News compromised by media mogul monopolies and the driving force of selling advertising are a turn off to the thinking classes and an opportunity for cheap pap and propaganda for the unthinking.

      Unlike, Stephen, I think the thinkers have to man up and cough up. I’ve just decided to support the Guardian for a while. But I want cleverer (sic) solutions.

    • In other words “newspeak” of Orwells 1984 is here . Will Trump be “big brother” ?

    • Hi Phil [#3],

      I’ve seen the John Oliver piece and, yes, we’re alike in that we offer a similar view of the problem without a solution. I don’t know about Mr. Oliver but my response is: How often do journalists offer solutions?

      It seems to me that this is part of the problem. Journalists are just not used to working through the problems – they’re more used to demonstrating the weaknesses and strengths in arguments, policies and dogmas.

      John Oliver is correct, good journalism costs money, and requires people with investigative skills who can be personally persuasive to take the time to get the truth out. This is a problem that I myself rarely explore – so let’s go at it.

      I was once in a room with Alan Rusbridger (then Editor of the Guardian) , and Nick Davies (of Flat Earth News and Levison fame) along with another top journalist whose name escapes me. To be clear: Many other people were present – it was part of the Don’t Spy on Us campaign – a campaign that has just spectacularly failed with the passage of the Snoopers’ Charter (a.k.a. Investigatory Powers Bill) turning Britain into a de facto Fascist State and dictatorship-in-waiting. And after Brexit people were telling me to cheer up – “it could be a lot worse”. Prophetic. But I digress.

      One of the main topics these journalists presented was that good journalism costs money. Their only ’solution’ was: How do we get people to pay on-line? Rusbridger even went so far as to disown citizen journalism. He finished a short presentation with an appeal to support professional journalism. This earned him the reward of a stony silence from the assembled company – his elitist view of what constitutes good journalism was so palpably unsavoury.

      Given that Rusbridger and his colleagues are representative of the thinking end of the profession of journalism I submit this as Exhibit A: Journalists are incapable of finding a solution on their own. They’re not stupid, and Davies is unequalled in his understanding of the evolution of the 20C newsroom, so what’s going on? The short answer is that although the Vox piece (main story above) gets it wrong – the Net is the agent of change doing what it always promised to do: It’s re-inventing how we communicate, and that includes politically.

      Revitalising journalism has become a political debate. I won’t link to it – because it was a pretty vacuous conversation – but President Obama and Bill Maher also touched on this problem, and they had literally no ideas.

      If journalism costs (not to be confused with news, a lot of which is pretty cheap) and the Net makes distribution costs and archive costs tend towards zero (as it does for all information) then the commercial pressures on journalism are our first port of call. In order to increase the quality of news our attention falls on the sources of modern news – specifically P.R.. Don’t regulate journalism, do regulate P.R..

      Unlike Rusbridger I believe citizen journalism has a place. But existing journalists need to sign up to make this into a reality. What we need, to engender trust, is the kind of moderation epitomized by this very site – loose enough to attract people, like you Phil, to engage in intelligent debate and also tight enough to eliminate the wilfully ignorant, the loudmouth braggart and the fool (for their own sake). We also need to recognize that the lower-end of journalism is essentially, in today’s World, no different to the average high school educated scribbler. But with professional support we can bring up that standard and make citizen journalists into occasional, piece-work, low-cost, staff additions. We have first aiders and we have doctors. We have contract-checker paralegals, and we have lawyers. We have the self-employed 1-person band, and we have multinational company directors. We have delivery drivers and we have supermarket managers.

      Cut the crap, cut the Op-Ed, cut the costs. Good journalism will stand on its own.

      The aim here is to cut the costs of production to meet the advertising revenue stream. I support my local paper (I hate their politics, but hold my nose), the Wimbledon Guardian, by subscribing to their e-mail newsletter (one of only three) which is 90% advertising. If I can be persuaded, so can most people.

      This is my starting line. I don’t pretend, even for one minute, that this is the solution or even a significant part. But we have to engage more people in the news process to kick off the political debate: What is news? How does news support democracy? How does how we consume news affect us? Why do we need news? How can we ensure that our news is of the highest quality (and what do we mean by ’high quality’ news)? Note that this last question can only be asked after we have answered the rest. The vast majority of the World has never had this debate.

      I have always resisted government payment of politicians, and political parties in particular. I have, perhaps unfairly (and perhaps this is a reflection of the times in which we live), lumped government money to media into that thought process. But I have reached the point where I can see that some debate on this issue would be appropriate. We are in a period of transition and perhaps, just perhaps, some transition funding might be needed.

      Thinking of how the costs of journalism are met (or more accurately: subsidized) brings me to another hard thing to do. We need to talk about commercial ownership of media. It is the Elephant in the room. It’s clear, the Levison Inquiry spelled this out, that the profit motive is antithetical to good journalism, but is easily employed to support ’newstainment’ – the gateway drug to Blight-Bart, Info. Warts, and Dredge-Up Report – a slippery slope now greased by Net2 bubble factories. In addition, it’s clear that conglomeration creates anti-democratic incentives for commercial owners. But this is a political conversation that will never take off until we have kicked off the above debate on what we need and want from journalism and news.

      Finally, and this is another drum beaten half to death by me and many others on this site: Education. We desperately, and I do not use that word lightly, need civics classes on media consumption and critical thinking. Yes, I do mean all media. In my lifetime the overt politicization of entertainment media has become so obvious that it frankly beggars belief.

      Finally, and most definitely bottom of the pile, we can ask people to pay for it. Yes, journalists joke among themselves that theirs is the second oldest profession.

      Nowadays indie music and films with the tumbling costs of distribution make the lone artist commercially viable

      The traditionalists are fighting back. Before the Snoopers’ Charter there was the Digital Economy Bill – as one politician put it during the Snoopers ’debate’: “If we can do it for copyright material why can’t we do it for porn?” I would like to think that the reason this politician didn’t get an answer (at least, on the video I saw) was that this position is so obviously contemptable, unreasonable and lacking in political righteousness. Sadly the Bill has passed, which strongly suggests she received no opposition. Good night, free speech.

      I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating yet again because so many people don’t get it. Modern digital copyright has nothing to do with protecting artists and producers and everything to do with commercial media – largely through the perverse incentives of conglomeration – and their desire to own and control the culture. Yes, really. It sounds like an impossibly large ambition when you first hear it, but think it over.

      I wonder if these journalistic ventures can be increasingly crowd-funded?

      Good idea. I think that fits in nicely under my heading: Ask people to pay for it.

      I wonder if e-magazines can collect and link to such self-publishing activities from funding opportunities to results and further take up?

      This is how some early start-up media began on the Net. Patheos is a stand-out example: Invite people who are already blogging to join an inter-faith site in order to pool resources and cut costs – and to help attract cross-subject clicks for ad. revenues. Note that the full range of citizen journalism is on show here – bloggers range from full-time with aides to occasional amateurs.

      Another example is the Huffington Post. An example of how it’s possible to create a new medium out of the Net. My understanding is that the Huff was started on loans from friends and family – followed by venture capital. But to put it that way denies Arianna Huffington her laurels: She launched, effectively, an on-line newspaper into a market where the traditional titles were already on-line and everyone was saying the market was, and is, way too crowded.

      I often think of the Huffington Post when I hear journalists complain about the difficulties of funding journalism.

      News compromised by media mogul monopolies and the driving force of selling advertising are a turn off to the thinking classes and an opportunity for cheap pap and propaganda for the unthinking

      Succinctly put – a bit of yellow journalism Phil?

      I think the thinkers have to man up and cough up

      I think you may be right but, as above, I remain to be convinced that there are not better solutions.


    • For some years now I’ve been posting in here that one of the most significant changes in American politics over the last couple of decades is there seems to be absolutely no penalty for mendacity anymore. I think the tipping point in this was after 9/11 when the Bush administration set out to make the case for non existent WMDs and persuade the American people that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. They couldn’t say it directly so they implied it by starting every answer to a question on the Middle East with the stock phrase “well when you’re talking about things like 9/11, Al Qaeda and Iraq…” to imply a linkage between these three. Suddenly Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice et al were using the exact same words in every interview and by 2003 they’d convinced a staggering 70% of the American people that Iraq was tied in with 9/11.

      At this point I realised that if the American people were that gullible, stupid and poorly informed that they were unable to refute something as easily checked as the nationality of Bin Laden and the men who piloted the four planes that day then there was little hope for them.

      Politicians started to lie more and apologise less. In fact apologising died altogether. Firstly it turned into “I misspoke” then that too began to feel too much like an apology and so that also disappeared in favour of either no reply to any more questions or just a denial that they’d even said the thing in the first place. Trump has elevated this to levels that have staggered most of us onlookers and still been rewarded with the presidency.

      If there is no penalty for lying then you have to conclude that the morals of the electorate themselves are at fault. By rights they should be outraged when a politician representing them tells a blatant lie and he should thenceforth no longer be trusted. If the people don’t even care though then the country itself is sick.

      I have a hunch that somewhere tied into all this is rampant consumerism where people live their entire lives fed by a steady stream of hyperbole about how perfect and brilliant every product is supposed to be. A one hour tv show is actually 45 minutes with 15 minutes of adverts. People are inundated with adverts, every product claims to be the best, it all washes over you until I feel that the truth just gets lost in the end.

      I think the politicians just realised that when people exist in a morass of hyperbolic bullshit anyway then adding a bit more to that won’t hurt them. Like the boy who cried wolf, when most of what you hear every day is bollocks you stop paying attention to it.

      I’ve said it before but people get the politicians they deserve. I’ve actually got to the stage where after going through so much anguish about Trump and an election that isn’t even in my own country, if the people can vote for someone that disgusting then fuck them. Sorry Americans but if so many of you are so fucking stupid, so gullible, so badly informed, so uncaring about truth and honesty then just fuck the lot of you. We’ll get on with normal life in the rest of the world and you lot can join in again if you ever get a clue how to behave. Honest to god I’ve about had it. I give up. You’re broken and I need to admit to myself I have no idea how to fix it and I’ll just drive myself nuts if I keep wasting mental energy on it.

    • Arkrid Sandwich

      I hope this comment is not entirely incoherent; I am not feeling too well at the moment.

      No need to apologize to this American, Arkrid; on the contrary, you deserve to be praised for telling it like it is and for your passion and justified disgust. You are, to my mind, one of the great voices on this site. Bravo!

      I wouldn’t put all politicians in one group, however; Trump and Pence lied, according to studies, more than any other politicians ever. So much so, that one analyst concluded that Trump lies about 50 percent of the time. Hillary has apologized.

      The indifference to facts and truth on the part of the electorate is inexcusable. I don’t give a good goddamn how disenfranchised or “angry” they all are. I’m tired of hearing that. But let’s not forget: the situation is complex and insidious; the Republicans are absolutely determined to make sure that more than fifty percent of the electorate remain stupid. Mailer called this the “stupid majority”. (HC did win the popular vote, but you know what I mean.) That is why they oppose federal spending for public education and why Fox News is available for free in many impoverished areas of the country. I could go on and on… Bottom line, however; a lot of pathetic people out there who vote against their own interests and hurt everyone else in the process. One thing I do agree with the Republicans about: personal responsibility.— The people who voted for Trump are largely responsible for this situation, and must be held accountable. (But as I said, it’s not their fault entirely; demagoguery and lies and scapegoating are a most effective form of manipulation. Mussolini and Hitler understood this too.)

      You mentioned anguish. I woke up in a cold sweat, and almost threw up.

      One journalist made these remarks:

      . . . Trump is emblematic of what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” A society in terminal decline often retreats into magical thinking. Reality is too much to bear. It places its faith in the fantastic and impossible promises of a demagogue or charlatan who promises the return of a lost golden age. The good jobs will come back. The nation will again be prosperous. The decrepit cities will be rebuilt. America will be great again. These promises, impossible to achieve, are no different from those peddled to Native Americans in the 1880s by the self-styled religious prophet Wovoka. He called on followers to carry out five-day dance ceremonies called the Ghost Dance. Native Americans donned shirts they were told protected them from bullets. They were assured that the buffalo herds would return, the dead warriors and chiefs would rise from the earth and the white men would disappear. None of his promises was realized. Many of his followers were gunned down like sheep by the U.S. army.

      . . . We face the most profound crisis in human history. Our response is to elect a man to the presidency who does not believe in climate change. Once societies unplug themselves from reality, those who speak truth become pariahs and enemies of the state. They are subject to severe state repression. Those lost in the reverie of the crisis cult applaud the elimination of these Cassandras. The appealing myths of magical thinking are pleasant opiates. But this narcotic, like all narcotics, leads to squalor and death.

    • Much appreciated comments, SoW. #5

      Sadly, I’m too knackered, getting home late and up again v. early to give this sufficient thinking time for a full response, but as a stop gap…

      Snooper’s Charter? Tell it, brother!

      Citizen journalists sure, but… I want more Ben Goldacres. I want more New Scientist type writers, actual trained scientists covering Tech properly! I want to see far more journalists trained to degree levels and more writing about policy that affects them/us. I want more in depth from them. An “executive summary” then meat with sources. (Douglas Adams was pioneering this once ensuring all sources in a piece of journalism were immediately clickable). I want more citizen writers with specific training and insight writing about their particular expertise in social care, town planning, race relations etc.

      I want, I want facebook to set aside 1% of its income to inject this material, quality controlled by a third party, into their own mix.

      The following looks like an aside, but isn’t.

      I have a lot to say about the failures of science publishers, who must in my mind be swept away replaced with something both more open as far as free access is concerned but also cultivating more critical assessments of papers, which assessments are the real value of their (science journal’s) function and therefore becomes the chargeable content. Not any may criticise and so earn but only those in academe, heads of departments first…..Also I note quite a number of BBC programs of topical analysis are produced in association with the Open University. These seem particularly hedged around with reason and evidence. I propose that the third party badge of goodness rating for particular journalistic pieces that facebook (for example) promotes as a public service should be badges awarded to those pieces and their authors by university academics, this becoming a new expected task for academics, rewarding them and their university, keeping them up to date on the public perception and views of their discipline and creating the highest critical overview of free-lance journalists. The journalism and the reviews are paid for by facebook etc.

      Much more but brain gone a

    • P.S. “Trump and Pence lied, according to studies, more than any other politicians ever.”

      I don’t think the study said “ever”; no way to know that. But there was a study, and T’s amount of lies are staggering and unprecedented in recent American history, at the very least.

      Phil, got this email from PEN America. (Mailer was once president of PEN.) They too are up in arms about T, and rightly so. They want donations, but the message is still true.

      Dear Daniel,

      The plain meaning of words is denied. [?] The truth is malleable. Constitutional principles are denigrated. Journalists are impugned, smeared, and assaulted. Societal groups are vilified and threatened. Hate speech is emboldened. The disavowal of “political correctness” becomes a cover for unmasked bigotry. Swastikas appear in schools and on the sides of churches. For many at home and around the world, the United States is becoming a locus of fear rather than hope.

      Every issue on our national agenda—environmental protection, women’s rights, LGBT rights, healthcare, immigrant protections, averting wars—will be thwarted if the media is impeded from covering it and if supporters cannot exercise their free speech rights to demand it. PEN America’s core mission—the freedom to write—now undergirds the preservation and promotion of every social good that has made our country great.[…]

    • Trump cheats. His basic strategy is to repeat lies, usually amplifying them each time, no matter how often they are debunked. He counts on his audience hearing his lie more than the rebuttal. He has no decency.

    • Thank you for your kind words Dan. I’m sorry, I lost it a bit there. I think I’m deep in the anger stage of grief. I’m an engineer. Retired now, but I designed and built race engines. My life had to be based entirely on the rational and empirical. Test something, put the new stuff on an engine dyno, see if it worked, if it didn’t then no matter how much you were invested in that theory you move on. All that matters is facts, evidence, proof, testing. I’m compelled to fix things. I think most men are to some extent compared to women. I know there’s a big difference in how the sexes approach someone who is in pain or grief. Women say “there, there” and try to provide comfort but men have to try and fix whatever it is that’s wrong. It’s in our genes. As an engineer and scientist it’s multiply in mine. I see that America is broken and I want to fix it but I can’t. That gives me intense feelings of impotence and helplessness. I simply don’t comprehend irrationality, religiosity, superstition, woo. I can’t abide anything that is untrue, or unproven but believed in. I abhor lying. Trump pushes every button in the fabric of my being. I hate everything he is and stands for.

      What I’m trying to cope with is that so many people thought he was presidential material. Or even that anyone thought he was. I can’t get my head round it so it angers and frustrates me. To be honest at the moment I’m just lost.

    • Good! I hope he enrages the mob that voted for him, all of his angry and capricious supporters, and they turn on him. Then we’ll have a lame duck administration.

      But I don’t want that guy to be president! He’s so unfit it isn’t even funny! He wants Carson and that horrible SC Governor (a liar!) in top positions. And Giuliani! Horrible!

      I guess we have to grin and bare it.

      Maybe something will come out about his taxes or something…

    • Dan

      Look on the bright side. Young Kushner will promptly solve the Israel-Palestine problem. This will be completely amazing. o_O

    • Laurie

      How are you?

      Pro-Israel (of course) Kushner is a complete dunce and fraud.

      According to a Boston Globe columnist, Kushner’s father, billionaire real estate developer Charles, paid $2.5 million to get his son into Harvard and $3 million to get him into New York University, where Jared earned his MBA and law degrees.” His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought, for sure, there was no way this was going to happen,” someone from his high school told The Boston Globe in 2006. And so, a man who had no business being in Ivy League, was put on the fast track to getting his bogus meritocracy trophy.

    • Dan

      Oh ya, I read that too. We’re all going to hell in a hand basket.

    • Note: I forgot to put that paragraph from article in quotes or italics. Not like me not to do that.

      Guess what, Laurie! Trump just resigned! Turn on the news! Kidding. Hee-hee. (I need to keep myself amused somehow.)

    • Arkrid Sandwich #15,

      Very interesting comment, and impressive. It also has pathos; and the impulse you described warrants nothing less than the following description: noble.

      You have my empathy.

      If it’s any consolation to you, I’d like to say that while you may not be able to fix this dreadful situation, your words have given me and presumably others some modicum of solace. Perhaps you can use your talent for literary expression to reach more people. (Maybe I’ll do the same.)

      I am terribly frightened. This insecure, unstable, ignoramus is going to be Commander in Chief! He can organize the military and start a war with no approval from Congress. So many unforseeables.

      What worries me the most is his autocratic and secretive aspect, that is, fascism! Our democracy is fragile, as the American novelist Norman Mailer once said. Our institutions are fragile.

      Professor Roger Griffin describes fascism as

      a revolutionary form of nationalism, one that sets out to be a political, social and ethical revolution, welding the “people” into a dynamic national community under new elites infused with heroic values. The core myth that inspires this project is that only a populist, trans-class movement of purifying, cathartic national rebirth (palingenesis) can stem the tide of decadence.

    • Trump understands what many miss: people don’t make decisions based on facts

      I believe this article is a modified re-run…. Ostensibly an edifying piece about human psychology, Belluz and Resnick lose credibility by injecting themselves into partisan politics near the time of a major election. They expose their implicit bias for the Democrat candidate with compelling red flags signaling they are implicitly campaigning for Hillary Clinton and recommend that you vote for Hillary too. (“Stronger Together”). Predictably, the comment thread provokes everyone to tell the world about his or her political views, opinions about the candidates, condemnation of the ever-so-evil media, grief and outrage over the Trump victory, and opposition to a new tax on goats milk in Lower Slobovia. Julia and Brian channel an article presumably about scientific findings in human psychology into a free-for-all bitching contest. Julia and Brian, you’re bringing up politics during a controversial election campaign, a topic that ignites incendiary emotions at the core of people’s identity. And you intend to edify us? I don’t think so.

    • What’s been extraordinary about this election to me at least is how much it’s affecting people all round the world. I’ve got friends dotted about in a few places like France, Spain, Bali that I stay in touch with on Facebook and everyone has been obsessed with it. My French friends are sharing Trump cartoons and caricatures lambasting him. I think the whole planet has just done an enormous collective WTF?

      I know for a fact there’s a ship of the Vogon constructor fleet about 225 billion miles out from here in the direction of Sirius B doing a bit of maintenence work on one of the hyperspace bypasses. Now that’s almost exactly 14 light days away so they’ll be getting our tv broadcasts of election night about now and you just know that when the first officer takes the news to the captain he’s going to say “No fucking way? You mean they actually elected the pussy grabber?”

      What we’ve all been learning is that no matter how much we might have studied America and taken an interest in its people we still didn’t really understand them. Now most of us knew the basics, or at least thought we did. Obviously America splits pretty much 50/50 into two entirely different species – the humans and the Republicans. But we thought that even the Republicans had limits below which they wouldn’t sink, that there had to be a candidate so awful that even they wouldn’t vote for him. Seems we were wrong. In fact we still don’t therefore know where the limit lies without trying to find someone even more awful than Trump next time and seeing if they’ll vote for him too. The pussy grabbing wasn’t a problem apparently, nor was his first wife saying she’d been raped, barely a raised eyebrow about all the people he’s cheated and swindled or just decided not to pay over the years. The more he lied the more they said “he really tells it like it is”. He’s like fucking teflon. Twitter storms, foot stamping, taking the piss out of the disabled and vets with PTSD and none of it stuck to him. Now maybe if he’d admitted that the comb over was done with hair from baby orang utans he’d personally ripped from their mother’s arms, slaughtered and eaten and then sent the corpses to his stylist for shaving and processing there might have been just a light ripple of disapproval but you really do wonder.

      So here’s the really scary bit to me. We’re all familiar with the red and blue election maps by state. The west coast is always all blue, as is the top right corner, Florida can’t always make its mind up and then you’ve got the “Great Swathe of Stupid” running down the middle of the country. BUT! Try having a look at that map county by county. Like here.

      Click on “show counties”. Be warned, unless you have an extraordinarily strong constitution then poo will come out! I was sat at my desktop pc when I first saw that and I pooed myself so hard I lifted off the chair. I pooed hard enough to generate thrust! So if you have a laptop or tablet then take that into the toilet first, sit yourself down comfortably and only then click on the link. If you thought America was just red down the middle you were wrong. It’s red everywhere! Even in “blue” states. In fact it’s really just cities that are blue. I always thought California was about the epitome of blueness but there’s huge chunks of even that which voted for Trump over 70%. The only things that prevent Oregon and Washington being Republican overall are Portland and Seattle.

      New York freaked me right out. I’ve got a friend who lives near Ithaca and neither of have ever thought of NY state as being anything but blue but it’s actually nearly all red apart from NY city itself.

      So this is not just an issue of humans on the coasts and nutters in the middle. It’s wall to wall nutters. It seems the very act of driving more than 5 miles outside the city limits turns someone into a potential Trump voter.

      Now I can postulate a theory. Cities are melting pots. They are where people get exposed to different cultures, cuisines, religions, skin colours. Exposure brings familiarity and that brings acceptance and tolerance. Out in the boonies in “you ain’t from round here is ya boy?” country they don’t get that. They’ve probably never seen an honest to goodness furriner like myself from an actual ‘nother country with our weirding ways. “Scotland you say eh boy? That’s in England somewhere ain’t it?”

      Bill Maher was right all along and we didn’t listen. It’s not just low information voters in Oklahoma and Kansas a thousand miles away from where anything interesting happens, it’s low information voters anywhere that doesn’t have traffic jams.

    • @ Arkrid Sandwich 25

      I wouldn’t say humans and Republicans; but I have often wondered where the Republican leaders would take this country if left completely to their own devices. What is it that they want? Not sure they would agree entirely among themselves; but I know it isn’t good and it is not inclusive. The true conservatives like to talk about values, conservative values. Then there are the plutocrats. That’s just greed. Many of the Republican voters have been voting Republican for decades. They are loyal, to the point of insanity. But they’ve been brainwashed too. —Lower-income people who are susceptible to slogans and promises. They like to wave flags and many of them like guns.

      The question: what is the conservative movement in America? is a complex one. Unpleasant too. Who wants to diagnose the illness of a nation – especially when one we will be infected – if not killed by it – one way or another?

      F_ing nightmare. Who are these people about to enter the white house? Steve Bannon? Who is that? An economic nationalist? What’s that? He’s chief of staff? Some guy who writes online right wing articles? Trump is a cipher, knows nothing! And he’s picking the most arch reactionaries to fill his cabinet.

      Right wing populism. That’s what just happened. But where will it end?

      NYS: Many places, like Rochester, have truly deteriorated. I know someone who is a professional fisherman (and comic) and he said that everyone up there is Republican and they blame the democrats for the perennial terrible conditions that they face. While he was playing a devil’s advocate I asked him why they don’t blame the Republicans. He had no answer and just said: “yeah, they’re not much better.”

      Everyone blames everyone else . . . Bias, by the way, is different than having a decided preference and opinion. I blame the loathsome Right and the Republicans for the mess we’re in and I charge them (as Lincoln would say) with, yes, moral turpitude – and condemn them for blaming everything on Obama and Hillary. They’re worse. Much, much worse.

    • Arkrid Sandwich #25: Obviously America splits pretty much 50/50 into two entirely different species – the humans and the Republicans.

      You’re starting to sound like the little Austrian corporal who fought for the fatherland in World War I.

      Trump understands what many miss: people don’t make decisions based on facts

      I’m sure Belluz and Resnick never thought it would come to this. It came to this, when they tried to filter scientific findings on human psychology through the prism of white-hot partisan politics never imagining that their target exemplar could possibly win the election and derange the minds of those who voted for the “right”
      candidate whose victory was certain.

    • Hi Phil [#11],

      Much appreciated comments, SoW.

      You’re welcome – though not much good will come of our merely venting in our own ’media bubble’.

      Citizen journalists sure, but … I want more Ben Goldacres

      Stop. Rewind.

      The original story that kicked-off this thread was Trump & Pence setting new records for political lies and that:

      [OP]: … people don’t necessarily make decisions based on facts … we are often guided by our emotions and deeply held biases [and] adept at ignoring facts … we can continue to see the world in a way that conforms to our preconceived notions …

      It is through that device that Trump & Pence won, despite a level of lying that must – simply must – be obvious to more than 90% of US voters, and they continue to lie at these cowardly, fact-avoiding, levels as they prepare to become the World’s most powerful public servants (yeah, right, servants … ) – setting the stage for who knows what kind of administration. Tony Schwartz, author of ‘Trump’s’ book The Art of the Deal thinks he knows – check out his Oxford Union gig on video.

      Wait, it gets worse. I agree that the World would be a better place if we could only get more factual journalism. But the result will be a marginal change on the polity until we can also educate the other side of the equation: The people who read, listen and watch – the voters.

      Wait, it gets worse. Rusbridger and many others (poke around on the Net, it’s all there) are making desperate pleas because real journalism is in terminal (note: no hyperbole required) decline. The costs of Goldacre and his ilk are not being met by advertising revenues. Every newspaper has been cutting costs for decades now. Davies was mentioned because he sounded the alarm bell years ago. This is not news, yet the news media have not found an answer to protecting good journalism – journalism that checks its sources, fact-checks its own stories, investigates and has the editorial freedom to pursue the honest and uplifting profession of promoting real democracy.

      Wait, it gets worse. What has happened is that old news media have fallen on bad times. The big titles are slowly gravitating towards conglomerates who, once they’ve swallowed those titles, cut costs even more and rely on P.R. – uncut, unchecked – for news [government spin – more ’free’ news. Wait … Trump/Pence, free news, gotta love it!], inflammatory-for-the-sake-of-attention opinion padding, firewalls and charging (the most undemocratic move of all), ’integration’ which means cross-media promotion as news [and people wonder where celebrity culture comes from, puh-lease], corporate-kissing because advertising revenues is a limited pool, and news-tainment because facts are BORING!

      Wait, it gets worse. The Net has lowered distribution costs so much that anyone with money can publish anything and the result is that conspiracy is becoming a new news norm … do I have to spell it out?

      Wait, it gets worse. Commercial, and particularly conglomerate, media ownership without safeguards means that a few rich white men are bullying (although, after decades of re-shaping staff and management how hard do they have to push, really?) their outlets to drip-feed, day after day, a specific series of messages:

      … guided by … emotions and deeply held biases …

      If the Democratic Party is stupid enough to announce that anyone is favorite to stand in 2020, before 2020, by the time that election rolls around that candidate will be as compromised as Hillary Clinton – and, yes, Hillary was not charged with any misdeeds. Lesson learned? We’ll see.

      I want more New Scientist type writers [etc.]

      Want away. Who will pay?

      I want more citizen writers with specific training and insight writing about their particular expertise in social care, town planning, race relations etc.

      Aha! now you’re talking good sense. This is the thing that Rusbridger failed to see (He may have had an awakening since, but I doubt it). But it still leaves the voters reading, listening and watching from a place of ignorance, with a distinct lack of ability to separate fact from fiction and a pronounced inclination to decide right from wrong on specious and highly subjective emotional grounds – emotions so strong that repeated fact-checking only made them double-down. I can’t imagine how that might have happened – it sure wasn’t the media … was it?

      I want Facebook to set aside 1% of its income to inject this material, quality controlled by a third party, into their own mix [etc.]

      Won’t change a thing – and the hoo-ha it will create will be a great smokescreen for the media.

      What’s needed is an innovative way to pop Net 2 (old catch-all name for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google etc.) bubbles. Old media can do this, they’ve always done it. But moving on-line is killing the old model of page layouts – now you get news that’s edited the same way as your search results. People like rbutr are trying, and their source-code is about to open source. We’ll see. I think it’s not nearly the whole solution, but it’s a part of it.

      I have a lot to say about the failures of science publishers, who must … be swept away [and] replaced with … free access [and] also cultivating more critical assessments of papers … assessments are the real value of their (science journal’s) function and therefore becomes the chargeable content

      I agree. I’ve said this a couple of times on this Site before, but it bears repeating: Science Publishing is all of publishing in microcosm.

      The Elephant in the room is still education.

      Until we fix the inability of people to pop the info. bubbles in their own heads – to park their bias and partisanship – we can fiddle with the Net as much as we like, we can fix the costs of journalism, we can engage citizens in the news process, we can regulate P.R., we can create Chinese walls in publishers, we can provide transition funding – we can do all that and … it ain’t gonna change nothin’.

      I’ve said this over and over and over again – and I’m not too tired to do it again. The result of the US 2016 election proves what I’ve been saying for years: Teaching critical thinking is just as important for adults as it is for children. We’ve achieved nothing in the adult sphere in the last few years.

      Now, how do we start that ball rolling?


    • My dear Stephen,

      The Elephant in the room is still education.

      Trump just hired a charter school advocate. Public education will lose funding.

      The elephant in the room is education; but the Right has a vested interest in keeping people uneducated. Two elephants.

      Kind Regards,


      Red State Stupidity Confirmed: 9 Of The 10 Least Educated States Voted Republican

    • This surprised me. I expected better from the species, Homo Sapiens.

      A study from Standford University of their students (Presumably a higher intellect than societal norm) where they tested the students ability to identify real news and facts in social media. Like it or not, social media is where most of the world now get their “Facts” that then form or stroke their opinion. This from the Executive Summary.

      When thousands of students respond to dozens of tasks there are endless variations. That was certainly the case in our experience. However, at each level—middle school, high school, and college—these variations paled in comparison to a stunning and dismaying consistency. Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.


      Our “digital natives” may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped. We did not design our exercises to shake out a grade or make hairsplitting distinctions between a “good” and a “better” answer.
      Rather, we sought to establish a reasonable bar, a level of performance we hoped was within reach of most middle school, high school, and college students.

      I suspect this applies to the whole population of the planet. The opinions we take into the ballot box are not reliable. The government we thus get, is not reliable. I’ve oft pondered this, but I think that our species from an evolutionary stand point, is still a stone age hunter gatherer. The world we see around us is only 100 years old. Evolution takes thousands of years unless you are a fruit fly. We are infected with drives and motivations that while supremely successful 30,000 years ago, are now dangerous. Loyalty to Tribe. Tribalism. Now nationalism, when the problems of today’s world requires us to be citizens of planet earth. But we can’t and won’t think globally, because I belong to my country.. Make America (Insert Your Country) Great Again. It strokes our primitive stone age brain.

      The Article talks about facts don’t matter and that our opinion is probably emotional in origin and we have a stone age desire to only consume “Facts” that support our bias… All true. The consequences of this primitive brain are manifest in our inability to see global problems and act collectively, while enduring some person “Pain’. Our primitive altruism only extends to near genetic relatives…. or to a tiny group who wield power, like chiefs and shaman. (Today, its called sucking up to the boss) We’re a selfish species… which was a great survival strategy, but today, it may just lead to a mass extinction event.

      Google’s prime function is to support your cognitive bias. To present to you, based on their collected data about you, things that you will like (And thus reinforce your confirmation bias) so they can sell advertising and make money and to hell with the world.

      I’d like Monsanto to change the formula in the ChemTrails so that they up the rational quotient of humanity, and leave our stone age brain behind. I like.

      Decisions should be made on a rational assessment of the prevailing evidence, viewed through the prism of morality and ethics.

      This link is to the Wall Street Journal which then has a link to a PDF of the study I cite.

    • Trump hired LBGT hater and education extremist DeVos (voucher system=religious, private, charter schools) to be in charge of education reform. She will defund public education, with crazy Ben Carson’s help (chosen to lead HUDD).

      Trump will invest millions to promote charter schools.

      Hillary 2.5 million votes ahead in popular vote

    • I like “post-truth” as Oxford’s word of the year. Geese, politicians lie and fabricate! I always sarcastically liked it when politicians ran on trust; ‘cause as a voter, you’ve gotta be sceptical, that’s your job, don’t trust any of these guys. The thing is, the US gov with Trump as pres and your congress and senate, ain’t going to intentionally damage the US or indeed global affairs if such would damage the US. That would be shooting oneself in the foot. So the US democracy elects a sort of king every 4 years. And this time, a “post-truth” proponent has been elected to the throne. But actually, from an outsider’s perspective, things seem to be forecasted pretty much as usual: more military and ergo US economic hardware/software GDP (as well as the masters of war manufacturers in all “developed countries”), further delays in addressing global population and climate issues, and further flaming the blind “American” religious faith in all things and stories and productions USA. My bet is that “post-truth” is a vogue phenomenon, which will do damage, but the pressures are such, globally and locally, that there’s a let’s get real coming soon. Syria’s is all about arm manufacturing, it’s about who benefits from the carnage. Climate change is all about human effluence in the atmosphere. Economic equality is all about one’s experience on the planet. If we take away religion, the last mentioned is the most that needs addressing, which won’t happen yet ‘cause we’ll focus on the economic benefits from the first mentioned, and so never get around to the second mentioned. But soon, be it the will of Allah, the order will rapidly change.

    • Hi Dan [#29],

      Trump just hired a charter school advocate

      I didn’t mean to say that efforts to educate adults should replace efforts to educate children, or the fight to protect equal opportunities for children through public education.

      [Patricians have] a vested interest in keeping people uneducated

      Ironic, in a country founded on the idea that it should be a Republic with no birthright – the devaluation of education is a constant reminder that America, since the 1960s, has failed to resist the rise of its own aristocracy.

      The voters who voted Republican in 2016 – mostly unknowingly – voted for the further enhancement of the new aristocracy, and the new establishment.

      One of the drivers for Trump’s victory was a former middle class that was working in relatively lowly forms of employment but which benefitted from progressive policies that spread wealth and made them comfortable. Lulled into a false sense of security they were the first to feel the white-hot heat of global competition for jobs – and they had the most to lose. In fact, in a country that lacks almost any safety net [indeed, the New Establishment demonizes those who use any form of helping hand – and especially a government helping hand], they lost everything.

      Setting aside the so-called alt-right, which is a parallel and ’enhancing’ political effort, news media have been just as guilty as the politicians in lower levels of lying with increasing political spin. Trump merely took this media trend to its logical extreme by just crudely grabbing the knob and turning it to 11.

      Those former members of the middle class, even assuming they could set aside their anger – an anger created and stoked by the media right, were not skilled in critical thinking and:

      Didn’t (and don’t) understand their own manipulation
      Support policies that, even at face value, are diametrically opposed to their own needs

      Charter schools are a symptom of these weaknesses in adult critical thinking. If you believe that charter schools are a symptom of the New Establishment and aristocracy working hand-in-hand you would be right – but you’re missing the reason they are getting away with it. You’re putting the cart before the horse.

      The media and their politicians are pulling all the emotion strings – and Trump is their perfect channel for emotional involvement – and Trump voters are too focussed on throwing a hand-grenade into the Washington Pool to realize that their own interests, and those of their children and grandchildren, are at stake.

      In short: You will not fix the Charter School problem (or the Obama-Care repeal, or the NASA defunding, etc. etc.) until you fix the real problem: Adult Ignorance.

      As I said to you on another thread: Being ignorant doesn’t make these people deplorable – it makes them challenged. They need your help – and they don’t even know it. Take a look at Glenn Beck.

      If you want to create real resistance to Trump (with a Republican House, Republican Senate, mostly Republican Governors and mostly Republican State legislatures … ) then the only thing left is the people.

      Adult education in critical thinking should be your number one priority and so far ahead of every other political concern that, frankly, everything else should be out of site.


    • Hi David [#30],

      I’ve oft pondered this, but I think that our species from an evolutionary stand point, is still a stone age hunter gatherer

      I have also thought about this, frequently. Is 2016 the year we prove the hypothesis of the Great Filter answer to Fermi’s Paradox? Will our ignorance finally overcome our advances? Is the Earth Experiment about to be snuffed out?

      Defunding NASA climate research is suggestive.

      Think happy thoughts.


    • Hi Phil [#11],

      A quick addendum.

      I want Facebook to set aside 1% of its income to inject this material, quality controlled by a third party, into their own mix [etc.]

      I was too quick to dismiss this idea. As stated it smacks too much of state interference in Edmund Burke’s 4th Estate. However, there is a case to be made for popping Net 2 bubbles by employing non-partisan technology.

      What can I say, I was on a role.


    • SoW #35

      Thanks for revisiting

      I want Facebook to set aside 1% of its income to inject this material, quality controlled by a third party, into their own mix

      I didn’t intend they should be driven to it in Reithian fashion by the state but rather that they should do it to improve their image which is getting a little tarnished on this matter.

      It could even be rather more a Gatesian billionaire’s gesture to the planet from Zuckerberg’s own swollen wallet ($51bn).

    • Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts Attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan

      I applaud the cleverness of the quote and its pertinence to ordinary empirical verification of propositions involving numbers weights and measures; specific descriptions or narratives of actions and events open to further qualifying evidence.

      Conflicts intrude when people reasonably disagree about what the facts really are from the viewpoint of different interest groups competing in a political process for power over the allocation of scarce resources.

      Trump is certainly the biggest liar in recent times by a wide margin. Still we should not confuse “truth” with partisan political policies alone or with political ideologies. Many Trump supporters voted for him because they justifiably recognized that government was ignoring their needs. Black voters overwhelmingly supported Obama based on racial identity and expectations he would vigorously address the needs of the black community, lifting many out of poverty and unemployment with well funded, constituency-focused programs. Feeling neglected as ever, blacks showed up in fewer numbers to vote for his self-proclaimed successor, the leader of the white meritocracy – Hillary Clinton.

    • Melvin, a “partisan” is just a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person.

      Why was government ignoring their needs? Ever heard of obstructionism? They “justifiably recognize” that government was ignoring their needs; that is why Trump spoke to them; but they were lied to, as you say. They were lied to about what they can hope to receive from a Trump administration, and about Obama’s presidency, about the democrats, and about Hillary. Trump the outsider. Ha-ha. And they were blinded by their own stupid partisan loyalty. Recognition is not enough. Understanding is required. They voted – again – against their own interests . Greater inequality, and worse conditions, await them, await all of us. Hillary – any democrat – would have been better. History supports this. And yet they will probably still vote Republican in two years and beyond that. You are defending something that does not warrant defense. Government ignored their needs. But government is not one thing. There are two parties and they have their own very distinct and separate history, which need to be looked at. (And this will provide empirical evidence – and your an evidence guy, right? – that there is in fact a difference between the two parties, and that the Democrats, while far from perfect, are the ones who are more likely to promote greater wealth and income equality, and jobs, and help the middle class.) “Government is bad, period!” That was part of the right-wing populist lie!

      The Affordable Care Act. Dead. Health insurance ! What will Trump replace it with? And public education will be defunded. Dodd-Frank. Dead…… Who are the plutocrats and who is ignoring the needs of lower-income people?

      Your own bias against Hillary is radiant, clear to everyone. And your own opinions are not facts.

      President Obama’s Positive Track Record For Helping African Americans

    • Around the turn of the century, an American friend told me: “The American people expect to be lied to, they’re used to it.”

      The new president-elect is therefore living up to expectations.

    • Hi, OHooligan!

      As I’ve said before, Lincoln – great as he was – should have added this to his famous statement: Unfortunately, you can fool too many of the people too much of the time.

      (I am certain that what I just said would have made Abe smile.)

    • Dan #39: Hillary – any democrat – would have been better.

      I agree. I voted for Hillary for this reason. I’ve been a lifelong Democrat – never voted nor ever will vote Republican. In my view (opinion) the Republican party once had some responsible conservative leadership that practiced policies that were arguably beneficial to the country. Adopting Social-Religious conservatism around 1970, the party sank into extremism and bigotry with its successful “southern strategy” and deeper into right-wing meanness with the “tea party” movement. Like you and about everyone else, I expected Hillary to win in a landslide and very likely win a Democratic majority in the senate races down ballot (the House alone was reliably predicted to keep a Republican majority). Perhaps the structural and electoral dysfunction of the U.S. political system lies in our two-party system. The presidential election, where I and many other constituencies found both candidates unacceptable, posed the need for a third party to offer fresh effective ideas to bring the country together. The hell with making America great again. Let’s make America work again and stop wallowing in gridlock status quo like two TV wrestlers.

    • This disgusting piece of shit thinks he can wage a campaign of complete divisiveness for a year and then call for unity at Thanksgiving?? Fuck off you horrible slug.

    • Arkrid Sandwich #43
      Nov 25, 2016 at 5:04 am

      This disgusting piece of shit thinks he can wage a campaign of complete divisiveness for a year and then call for unity at Thanksgiving?

      B b b b but you are not wearing the proper ideology interpretation blinkers!
      Like Corbyn’s “call for unity” and the brexiteers’ “call for unity”, he means solidarity behind HIS destructive policies, arbitrary decisions, and luney appointments, to the exclusion of dissenting critical voices!

    • This disgusting piece of shit thinks he can wage a campaign of complete divisiveness for a year and then call for unity at Thanksgiving?

      Arkrid Sandwich nails it yet again. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      Laurie (and all who are concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and everyone should be), look at this:

    • Dan

      Depressing article but full of truths that are known on the ground. Does anyone really believe that there is a will on either side for a two state solution? That hope is long gone. Stupid Trump sees the whole catastrophe as just another business deal.

      –Duhhh, lets pencil them in for a couple hours on Tuesday morning, duhhh, lets get this deal hammered out. Order lunch, duhhh, how bout some ham sandwiches, and those little weiners with bacon around them. We need to get these freakin semites together and solve this thing. It’s annoying….

      Arkrids comment 43 is EXACTLY how I feel about this intolerable situation. I should have said that on the discussion about protest. That’s what the protests are about. When someone disagrees so strongly, how the hell would they just turn passive and accepting overnight? Not gonna happen.

    • Maajid Nawaz on LBC radio is discussing the ‘fact’ (?) that a recent study shows non-violent protests are more successful than violent ones but surely you react to whatever you are dealing with.

      Hundreds Of Veterans “Self-Deploy” To Standing Rock To Defend Protesters

    • Alan4 #44: Like Corbyn’s “call for unity” and the brexiteers’ “call for unity”, he means solidarity behind HIS destructive policies, arbitrary decisions, and luney appointments, to the exclusion of dissenting critical voices!

      But, but, but…That’s the way the Tea Party Republicans who captured Congress felt when the whole gang led by Mitch McConnell had but one agenda: to limit Obama to a single term trying to block every policy, program and piece of legislation the administration proposed. Dissent by way of gridlock kills progress on all fronts. There’s initial promise that Republicans and Democratics can reach bi-partisan agreement at least on a robustly funded infrastructure bill. Our immigration law, tax law, and entitlement (Social Security and Medicare) programs, and, yes, the Affordable Care Act are in a state of dysfunction or face dysfunction. Perhaps it’s time to start discussions and compromise across the aisle before Trump is voted out or otherwise leaves office.

    • Speaking of facts and distortions, here is an article from Al Jazeera which is a hell of a lot more fair than the coverage of the now deceased Fidel Castro on CNN.

    • Hi, Melvin,

      My two cents:

      Social Security and Medicare are not in a state of dysfunction. And the failing public schools can be strengthened by massive spending and higher taxes for those at the top. (Not clear what role the federal government could play in this effort.) We can afford this, and these institutions and programs must remain public. Yes, there is waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare – but privatization, if that is what you’re suggesting, would be disastrous.

      The ACA. That needs to be improved, not repealed. I think a single payer system is what we need, but everyone has been indoctrinated. The phrase slaves (Jack London) don’t want….. S s s s socialism.

      Infrastructure spending (trillions) is not likely to get Republican approval. It never has. Plus, T plans to increase funding for the military.

      Obstructionism is good when you are obstructing something bad and bad when you are obstructing something good. What is good or bad is a matter of opinion. The Democrats are not likely to obstruct that which would be beneficial to the people, like infrastructure spending. The Republicans have a long history of obstructing everything. That’s the difference. I hope the Democrats obstruct their asses off – but not indiscriminately, or at all costs.

    • P.S. A single payer system is not even socialized medicine, but many people – and I do not mean you, Melvin – just aren’t interested in facts.

      “Universal healthcare in most countries is a combination of private and public coverage.”

      Universal healthcare and socialized medicine are not the same thing either.

      Use of the term ‘socialized’ is simply a scare tactic.”

    • Dan #52: “Obstructionism is good when you are obstructing something bad and bad when you are obstructing something good… I hope the Democrats obstruct their asses off – but not indiscriminately, or at all costs.”

      That’s what I said. Democrats should obstruct but not indiscriminately. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, Democrats and Republicans will have to start talking to each other or Democracy is done for. Personally, I could foresee a third party arise from the polarized stagnation plaguing both major parties and serve as a catalyst for coalition action on a wide range of important issues. Most American readers translate third party into meaning niche constituencies like the Greens or the Libertarians rather than a vigorous entity that fires public imagination to move in progressive, productive directions. At the core of proactive government, there will always be compromises and consensus, swings and counter swings in the pendulum, that don’t sit well with everyone. Wise partisans, leaders and the rank and file, will work with their opposition on a continuum not defined by pure good or pure bad but by the moving target of better or worse.

    • Melvin # 53: “At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, Democrats and Republicans will have to start talking to each other or Democracy is done for.”

      Yes. That is absolutely right. Well said.

    • Two weeks ago I said let’s not panic too much just yet because everything Drumpf said during his campaign either was, or could have been, a lie. None the less, it’s conventional to have to wait until the end of a president’s term to see how many of his campaign promises he keeps. Just two weeks into Drumpf’s victory and two months before he’s even sworn in we already have a very good idea.

      1 He’s not going to appoint a special prosecutor to jail Hillary. Not that anyone sane thought he ever would as she hasn’t done anything illegal.

      2 Within a day he’s “not giving much thought to getting Mexico to pay for The Wall”. No shit Sherlock?

      3 Not that it looks like Mexico is likely to ever have anything to pay for. Talk of the wall has already all but vanished. Some of it “may” have to be a fence. No doubt soon much more of it will have to be a fence. Finally Drumpf will announce that although he promised to build a wall he never specified what it was to be built out of, concrete, steel etc. In the end he has decided to build it out of “pure imagination” like Willy Wonka. That way it can the tallest, most shiny, glittering wall anyone wants it to be and all at zero cost so in a way the Mexicans really did pay for it.

      4 Talk of rounding up and deporting 11 million immigrants has also apparently disappeared. Quelle surprise.

      5 Oh gosh. Global warming is not a Chinese conspiracy after all. Now he’s “open” to it being A) real and B) caused by man.

      6 He was going to repeal all of Obamacare on day one and replace it with something “so much better, bigly better”. Now he’s discovered it’s not easy to think of anything better short of a proper single payer system like civilised countries have so he’s going to keep it.

      7 He was going to bring back waterboarding and much much more. Now he’s discovered it really is illegal and always has been and also not as effective as just having a couple of beers, some smokes and a chat with someone.

      So the house of cards built on sand collapses long before he’s even in office as anyone objective knew it must. I wonder how all of his rabid supporters who chanted “lock her up” like hounds baying for the fox are feeling now? A little bit stupid perhaps, somewhat gullible?

      The question that needs to be answered is why do Americans keep doing this to themselves election after election? Voting against their own interests, believing lies instead of easily available truths, falling for rhetoric rather than substance.

      The Republicans know what the religious have long known – if you want people to keep believing nonsense then keep them poorly educated and stupid. Sheep are easier to herd than cats.

      If the Democrats want this to be a one term presidency then the work must start now. Educating the electorate that you can’t just promise to make everything perfect instantaneously with no actual plan on how to do this and that when a person lies so much that he can change his mind between the start and end of a single sentence then STOP FUCKING LISTENING TO HIM!

      Drumpf has cheated and conned everyone he’s ever done business with so why on earth did the voters think they’d be any different? How many warning signs did they need? Trump University, over 3000 lawsuits, a string of failed businesses, no tax returns released because of all the inconvenient truths they no doubt hide.

      I find it hard to understand how a nation of pioneers, who crossed the Atlantic to find the New World, crossed the great plains and the rockies to build the west, endured long term hardship and suffering to build a country have turned into a bunch of whining malcontents who expect instant gratification, it’s always some other bum’s fault and no matter how well a president or a party actually do, in Obama’s case against an unprecedented level of obstruction, they always chuck them out to put the idiots back in.

      Making things better is both slow and hard work. It always has been but if tell that simple truth they don’t vote for you. A carney barker said it could be done by waving a magic wand and 62 million people actually believed him. America voted for Harry Potter. They’re now about to find out that Harry Potter isn’t actually a real person.

      Why is all this important on a site like this? Becaused this is a site for Reason and Rationality. Those two guiding principles tell you what is real and not real whether that’s religion or a charlatan like Drumpf. It is likely that those who continue to believe in the former were the majority of those who were taken in by the latter. The cure is the same for both. Reason, Information, Logic, Education, Science – RILES.

      We have to Rile people up to see the world for what it really is.

    • On a lighter note.

      Well this is what passes for entertainment up here in Scotland in the winter. Maybe the worst joke ever heard courtesy of Northsound radio on the way to the shops.
      Patient: “Hello doctor, I think my hearing is starting to go.”
      Doctor: “Can you describe the symptoms?”
      Patient: “Aye, Homer says Doh a lot and Marge has blue hair.”

    • Anyone—

      How likely is it that Trump could declare martial law? Obama signed a bill called NDAA. I believe it is quite possible. If people protest, and they will, he will use that, along with the threat of terrorism, as an excuse to declare martial law.

      “I am the law and order candidate.” I called that the absolute mark of incipient fascism, some months ago.

    • On a lighter note.

      “I just bought this new hearing aid. It’s great. The newest technology. State of the art, as they say. It was expensive as hell, but you get what you pay for.”

      “What kind is it?”

      “Quarter to four.”

    • Arkrid #55: “The question that needs to be answered is why do Americans keep doing this to themselves election after election? Voting against their own interests, believing lies instead of easily available truths, falling for rhetoric rather than substance.”

      “The Republicans know what the religious have long known – if you want people to keep believing nonsense then keep them poorly educated and stupid.”

      You answered your own question. What I don’t get is why it is so hard to get people in rust belt, red states, bible belt, etc. to think critically and get them more educated. What is preventing that?

    • Dan #59
      Nov 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      You answered your own question. What I don’t get is why it is so hard to get people in rust belt, red states, bible belt, etc. to think critically and get them more educated. What is preventing that?

      I don’t know enough about the American education system to answer any of this but I suspect that like healthcare it’s a good enough system if you’re rich and a very bad one if you’re poor. On average the USA is always right at the bottom of comparitive scores with school students from other developed countries. It also seems to be a very expensive system. The USA spends about 10 times as much as the UK for only 5 times the population although the current dollar/sterling exchange rate is probably distorting that somewhat.

      As more detailed results from this election come in, the statisticians have been busy correlating voting patterns with incomes, racial mix etc. I browsed through an article yesterday but didn’t bookmark it. It seems by far the strongest correlation is with education level. Districts with high percentages of college degrees voted Dem and vice versa. The same story as every survey finds with religion. High IQ, high information, high education = non belief in religion and non belief in Trump.

    • Though healthcare is sub OECD standard for its general performances, the US excels at advanced (expensive) procedures, when it is the leader.

      That article would be useful to link to, Arkrid.

    • It’s becoming increasingly hard for me to follow and comment on this election. LaurieB (I think it was her) alluded to this some time ago when she said she could hardly bear to see Drumpf’s face anymore. I have the same problem. When someone disgusts me beyond a certain degree it nauseates me to even look at them or hear them speak. This happened when Bush invaded Iraq after a year of lying to the world and on the list of people I abhor to the point of discomfort when I see them are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Rove and Tony Blair who dragged our own country into that abomination.

      Drumpf disgusts me in similar degree. After the most vicious, evil campaign in history where he demeaned everyone who opposed him he has the temerity to call for unity at Thanksgiving. After months of saying the election was rigged against him and he wouldn’t accept the results if he lost he has the temerity to say no one else should contest the results when there is a clear indication that districts with voting machines have a 7% disparity to poll results for Hillary. Now he’s said he would have won the popular vote if it wasn’t for illegal voters albeit with zero evidence and the utter impossibility that over 2 million people could have done this.

      I look back at the maturity and restraint that Obama showed after inheriting the utter chaos that Bush left behind him but he still showed the restraint and dignity that presidents are expected to show and refused to excoriate a previous incumbent. Drumpf has no restraint, no dignity, no sense of the honour of the position, no normal human emotions limiting his behaviour. I’m trying to imagine what this petulant, narcissistic man child will be like on the international stage when he has to deal with adult leaders of other countries. He’s a five year old who’s managed to grab the sweet that someone else dropped and he’s going to crow and boast about it and taunt people that he possesses it now.

      I can’t even imagine what it must be like for my American friends to be going through this because it’s hard enough for me here in Scotland where by rights it should barely affect me. But affect me it does. It horrifies and disgusts me. I fear for your country, its education system, its standing in the world, for climate change protocols. His modus operandi is to demean anyone he opposes because his raging insecurity complex gets some brief respite from belittling and humiliating others. His twitter comments are always the lowest, cheapest most childish insults. “Dopey, stupid, ugly, crooked” whoever it is he is raging about.

      He’s clearly not going to set up a blind trust or give any consideration to abusing his position as President for gain. He’s already had meetings with Indian business partners, tried to get people to use the Trump hotel in Washington DC more and asked the Argentinian president to green light his project there. This is heading to be a presidency of total abuse of the position of the office.

      I hope the checks and balances in your political system restrict the damage he can do but as far as your standing and status in the world go I fear that’s already lost. He is an abomination beyond anything I could conceive when I thought that Bush was bad enough.

      The Founding Fathers set up a system they hoped would ensure the cream rose to the top. They didn’t forsee that other things float to the surface but as anyone who pumps out septic tanks for a living knows it’s not just the cream that rises. Trump is the worst of what floats on the surface of septic effluent but still 62 million people voted for him. I cannot understand why and it’s becoming harder and harder for me to keep giving it consideration. I want to close my eyes and wish this to all go away.

    • phil rimmer #61
      Nov 28, 2016 at 3:18 am

      That article would be useful to link to, Arkrid.

      I’ve found it in my browser history.

    • Dan

      [w]hat needs to be answered is why do Americans keep doing this to themselves election after election? Voting against their own interests,

      Its not just education, Dan, though that is important. It is the narratives that Americans live by, that led you to be perfectly happy that you could be anything you set your heart on so long as you wanted it enough and that your children should be told this when very young. These kinds of just deserts narratives turn success into some kind of badge of personal moral goodness, the suffering along the way as the moral price and hand outs as a moral cheat. The poor repeatedly fail when they set themselves immodest goals and think themselves bad in some way. Trump explains someone stole it from you (Mexico, China) so lets build a wall, a tarrif to fix that. Trump was the actual thief of course. Taxes are for wimps, failures.

    • Thanks, Arkrid!

    • A must read piece from Alan, folks.

    • Arkrid

      LaurieB (I think it was her) alluded to this some time ago when she said she could hardly bear to see Drumpf’s face anymore.

      Yes, that was me who said it. I still feel the same way. Felt that way about Bush and co. also.

      I’m very worried about what will happen here after inauguration day. Yesterday on CNN we got to see Trump’s campaign manager absolutely shred Romney. I wonder if she might be setting the stage for an announcement of Guiliani for Sec. of State. So depressing. I hope I’m wrong.

    • Can’t stand the sight, sound, smell of Trump – or anyone that supports him. Conway! I have to keep looking at her now. Ugh. I was hoping Hillary would win and I could see that smug smile wiped off her face. Snakes coming out of her mouth. Vile woman. Giuliani! Haley! Sessions! Romney, that education lady who doesn’t believe in evolution! (Forgot her name.) No! Please, someone wake me from this nightmare.

      I worry about a military take-over of civilian populations, a kind of occupation. Too much opposition and what is there to stop them? Obama signed something that gives a president that option, I think.

      (I can hardly bare to listen to what the right-wing says anymore. I feel like I am heading towards a nervous breakdown.)

      Education. They want the poor to stay poor and the uneducated to stay uneducated. That’s why this is happening, Phil – in addition to the other things you mentioned. They must maintain the “stupid majority”, as Mailer said. He nailed it. That is what they literally pray for: “let enough of the electorate stay dumb, God!”

      I have now concluded that racism was a huge element. I didn’t want to admit it, but now I do. I heard Kingley Amis’s son Martin Amis describe this horrifying, ugly situation very well. It’s post-Obama racism. It had been sitting there all along like a sleeping tiger. Atavistic. Not pretty.

      What will happen to us?

      Here’s absolute proof (as if we needed more) that Trump is not rational, and is unfit to govern. He is a disgusting and unstable human being.

      Look what he’s doing (tweeting) now. Totally nuts.

    • Hi Arkrid [#55],

      I don’t have much time so this will be a bit rushed, sorry.

      The question that needs to be answered is why do Americans keep … voting against their own interests, believing lies instead of easily available truths, falling for rhetoric rather than substance

      Money in politics – running media, buying politicians, backroom deals
      High-emotion-driven feelings created by media and political rhetoric (faves: disgust, anger, fear)
      Pretending satire, promoting extreme views or conspiracies (complainers don’t get the ‘joke’)
      Prioritizing opinion over fact (e.g. Op-Ed gets right page big headline, facts get left page small print)
      Repeated messages (biggest volume, in time spent terms), few subliminal, mostly very simple
      Opposition media that don’t get it and fail to address different audiences and memes
      Us versus them – identity politics, group dynamics (excite latent, unspoken, ’isms’)
      Demonize the opposition, up to and incl. (in H.C.’s case) false prosecution
      Media/info. bubbles, and not wanting to leave their comfort zone (sadly: incls. Media!)
      Misinformation, misdirection, obfuscation, lies (Spin) (my favorite: Have 22 candidates to squeeze the Democrats out of the media at a critical phase in the cycle)
      False equivalence. In particular: Telling people what you’re doing by pretending the other side is doing it first (then their action becomes a reaction, and devalued. No, the fact that second side has facts doesn’t make any difference, but thanks for asking). This tactic used at least a 20 times by Trump (my favorite: claiming that voting will be rigged. Notice that the House was never in play – due to gerrymandering! Plus: pump up the fear and loathing and misdirect opposition energy and attention! Genius!) , close second: Foundation versus Foundation Slush Fund. “Crooked Hillary” doesn’t rate with me – way too obvious, and yet the Democrats failed to counter this because they played nice and didn’t start hunting until the season was open, big mistake – BIG mistake
      Omission and meme promotion (not reporting – much-much bigger than it seems because you never see it). This is where the money tells the most after undermining education and getting candidates to sign – owning the agenda. Note that money in politics is not restricted to Koch-style funding, ownership of democratic institutions, i.e. media outlets, counts for far more
      Conspiracies (elevate fiction to obscure fact; reassure non-critical thinkers that they really are good at thinking)
      Pseudo-history, pseudo-science, pseudo-politics – pseudo-intellectual (soak up time for logic, critical dialog and fact checking)
      Playing to the crowd: No bigotry is out-of-bounds (loops back to emotion)
      Big rallies: When you see like-minded others you’re emboldened and empowered, get the vote out and counter the negative poll numbers
      Leveraging authority opinion / pronouncements, banging drums for authorities
      Believing early, and doubling-down when facts or new facts are presented
      Believing in belief thru’ faith (rational and empirical be damned!)
      Most important: No civics education and no critical thinking skills (very poor education)

      On this last point: See the link you posted at #63.

      The Republicans know what the religious have long known – if you want people to keep believing nonsense then keep them poorly educated and stupid


      If the Democrats want this to be a one term presidency then the work must start now


      Educating the electorate that you can’t just promise to make everything perfect instantaneously with no actual plan on how to do this and that when a person lies so much that he can change his mind between the start and end of a single sentence …

      Hold the ’phone: This is exactly what the independent media did during the election, and they failed to make an impact, except with women accusing Trump of being a sex offender. The audience you’re talking about doesn’t have the skills to make the judgement calls you’re asking them to make – to the extent that they’re not even inclined to consider revising their opinion.

      Drumpf has cheated and conned everyone he’s ever done business with so why on earth did the voters think they’d be any different?

      This is another version of Richard’s comment after he met a Brexit voter and asked her why she voted exit – and got the reply: “I thought a change would be nice”. Indeed, I heard a woman on US TV or radio (I forget where, sorry) give an almost identical reply to the question ’Why vote Trump?’. She ended with [para.]: “Well, he [Trump] says he’ll cancel Obama Care, I hope not because we rely on that”. Wish-thinking and magic thinking are related (see below).

      Magic thinking is very common, particularly among people who believe thru’ faith – but the true key is poor education. If they’ve been told enough times that ’Politician T is on your side, T feels your pain’, or some-such, then cause and effect don’t enter into it and previous performance is no indicator of possible futures. The Dark Side is strong in them.

      How many warning signs did they need?

      Facts are boring and, as anyone who visits this site regularly will tell you: Facts are resisted by any true believer; it’s like a knee-jerk reaction. They simply resist changing their minds and either excuse their own behaviour, simply deny the fact, accuse the truth-giver(s) of prejudice, accuse the truth giver(s) [note: the more people saying it the more the conspiracy and/or propaganda is confirmed] of outright lies – or all four.

      Ask any propagandist: You don’t win elections between the announcement of the candidates and Election Day. You make people’s minds up way before then. This helps them resist the facts during the actual election debates with decided, emotions and belief. The propagandist’s election run-up is mostly taken up with telling ’their people’ how smart they were because they were right all along and that the emerging facts are actually clues to the how the opposition is realizing too late that they’re in trouble or that they’ve been found out, so they’re making up new stories / spin / lies.

      [#69]: The sooner this delusional idiot is declared psychologically unfit for office , and incarcerated the better!

      You think a Pence presidency would be an improvement? I’ll bet my shirt that Pence gets down on his knees with that thought in his head on a daily basis. Given that a significant minority of Republicans put some distance between them and Trump, who knows?

      Be very careful what you wish for …


    • @Stephen #71 (and others),

      Nice list of pernicious elements and factors; I suspect that a decent education, starting from childhood and ending with college or beyond, is the umbrella, and it would provide a defense, would be the antidote; there’d be less susceptibility to all of those influences that you mentioned.

      I wasn’t misled. I saw through all of the bullshit. None of my progressive and educated friends were duped either. Why? I was born and raised in Manhattan, had a protracted adolescence and had (have) great parents. One was a professor and academician. The other is a highly gifted poet, writer, intellectual, analyst, activist. My parents are and were – (One is gone.) – sophisticated and enlightened people. And their children are liberal democrats. Education and culture (and critical thinking) is passed on from one generation to the next.

      We can’t all be affluent; but fundamental changes need to be made, in terms of wealth and income inequality, health care, and education.

      Now a state like South Carolina has a huge African-American population, and they are not well-to-do; many are in fact quite poor. In my opinion, they have nothing to gain by voting for Trump. The fact of the matter is that they don’t vote. I have a friend who lives there and he told me that voter turnout amongst blacks in that state is very low. This applies to other states where people vote Republican or don’t vote – because they are not educated, and are therefore more susceptible to the forms of coercion and manipulation that you highlighted. Plus, they are probably just too busy trying to survive and don’t even pay attention to things like national elections.

      I don’t suppose you have any thoughts about how we can improve the education system in these backwards states. I am starting to research the subject and hardly know where to begin. I suspect that the Republican politicians in these states are actively preventing any efforts to improve the education system. As I said above, the right wing (generally speaking) has one great, all-consuming fear: education.

      That is why they love school choice. It will make public education worse and religious and private schools will replace them: the poor will not be able to go to the good schools on the paltry vouchers, and the ones that go to parochial/religious schools will be indoctrinated. Critical thinking will suffer….

      ….And on and on it goes.

      My late father once said that the solution is “massive government spending” to improve public schools. Sanders and Clinton had the right idea too: free college. The Sanders/Clinton plan would have made public colleges and universities throughout the country tuition free (if you make under a certain amount). No wonder the Republicans were so aggressive this time around; they pulled out all the stops.

      You said that adults must be taught critical thinking. Chomsky said the same thing in a recent interview. But isn’t it rather difficult to teach an adult to think critically when he never has before? Wouldn’t it be better if more people had good parents, good upbringing, and good education – starting with nursery school? Isn’t that the best way? Then they can pass on that meme.

      Try teaching a stubborn right wing (adult) zealot to be reasonable and to care about facts that you know are facts (like the reality of climate change and the failure of trickle-down economics). You see what I mean?

      Any thoughts? I am just starting to think about all this (education); sorry if I am a bit all over the place.

      Pence….er, Peace.

    • Theater of the absurd. Petraeus may be our next Secretary of State, and Hillary (who isn’t crooked) is “crooked Hillary”!

      Associated Press in Charlotte, North Carolina
      Thursday 23 April 2015 09.21 EDT

      The former CIA director David Petraeus, whose career was destroyed by an extramarital affair with his biographer, was expected to be sentenced on Thursday in federal court in North Carolina, for giving her classified material while she was working on the book.

    • Hi Dan [#72],

      V. late, knackered, have to rush.

      Nice list of pernicious elements …

      Thanks, I missed a few. The main problem is that the DNC missed nearly all of them, major shake-out required.

      a decent education, starting from childhood … would be the antidote

      Yes, see Arkrid’s link at #63.

      Education and culture (and critical thinking) is passed on from one generation to the next

      My Grandfather was a miner who left school at 14. My other Grandfather left school at 16 and worked his way up to Co. Sec. for a major insurance company. Benefit of hindsight: Neither of them was particularly good at critical thinking. On my Mother’s side it gets worse: She started out wanting to be a nun. Forgive me Dan: Family histories don’t seem to me to be a good way to explore this issue.

      The thing that sticks out for me is that education has to be valued by the vast majority. Note that word vast. A bare majority just will not do. It’s also important that education resources, from a democratic standpoint, are concentrated in the early years. For any society to offer its citizens hope and freedom the ability to read, write and basically calculate – and the ability, up to the level that it requires minimal effort, to think logically, to gather and weigh evidence and to know how to apply judgement – are nothing less than every citizen’s natural right.

      [The] … quite poor … have nothing to gain by voting for Trump

      We’re jumping the gun – but that’s probably true.

      … states where people vote Republican or don’t vote – because they are not educated, and are therefore more susceptible to the forms of coercion and manipulation that you highlighted


      Plus, they are probably just too busy trying to survive and don’t even pay attention to things like national elections

      They may even actively avoid elections due to fears (unfounded fears are still fears) that stem from possible misuse of government data. My Mother has observed this in her home city Birmingham, Britain. Fear is especially strong among immigrants and regarding the census which, it is feared, may be so badly supported it’s not representative.

      … how can we improve the education system in these backwards states. I am starting to research the subject and hardly know where to begin. I suspect that the Republican politicians in these states are actively preventing any efforts to improve the education system

      Vouchers is one way that public school systems are undermined. Simply slashing funding is another. Removing the rule that teachers must be trained and experts in their field (typically only applies at secondary level – Senior High) also greatly reduces the effectiveness of education. School Boards are a complete waste of time and resources, and constantly interfere.

      Teaching is a profession – as much of a calling as being a doctor. It should be treated as such, and school boards replaced by research to get the best possible results. Curricula need to be set, monitored and adjusted by study, data and expertise.

      … school choice … will make public education worse and … [for the children] that go to parochial/religious schools … Critical thinking will suffer …

      Two things:

      Parents will only put up with this for as long as they don’t understand it. Take a leaf out of the pro-choice playbook – invent some slogans to replace school choice and supporting successful schools
      If you can teach adults critical thinking, might it trickle down the their kids?

      ‘Free college’

      Agreed, good plan. Political resistance will come from increased taxes and he messages will be elitism and free riding. The better than average earnings of most graduates is a double-edged sword. The downsides are never discussed: e.g. poor education leads directly to greater immigration to make up the shortfall – particularly in science and engineering.

      No wonder the Republicans were so aggressive this time around; they pulled out all the stops

      The Reps did indeed pull out all the stops. The reason is not education exactly, the reason is demographics. The vast majority of data on Americans shows a big, slow, shift towards more liberal thinking. The younger you are, the more likely it is that you don’t think dogmatically.

      Education may be in the Republican cross-hairs, but they will have to work very hard to make any Fed policy work to their advantage.

      You said that adults must be taught critical thinking. Chomsky said the same thing in a recent interview

      I’ve been saying it for years, Chomsky is a bit slow is all.

      … isn’t it rather difficult to teach an adult to think critically when he never has before?

      Yes. To paraphrase someone-or-other:

      We meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. We choose to teach critical thinking not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

      Sometimes Dan, you just have to work at it.

      Wouldn’t it be better if more people had good parents, good upbringing, and good education – starting with nursery school? Isn’t that the best way? Then they can pass on that meme.

      Thanks to H.C.’s ambition, we no longer have the luxury of time. That is my main message, and I imagine Chomsky’s too.

      A sense of urgency is vital. An intelligent approach irreplaceable. We cannot follow your prescription of directly attending to the misconceptions of those individuals who are educationally deficient. We do need to think up, to invent, subtle ways to undermine dogmatic thinking.

      The solution starts with language, as Chomsky would probably agree.


    • @#74

      Stephen of Wimbledon (others),

      Late here in New York. This will have to be brief.

      Thank you for your thoughtful remarks, Stephen. Much to take in.

      One point for now: you mentioned family history. I wouldn’t dream of laying down a law without any variation; but I think it is safe to say that if one’s parents are sensitive and thoughtful and are good parents, encourage one’s creativity and inventiveness, rather than suppressing it (R.D. Laing), and offer their children a stimulating and nurturing environment, the children will benefit and be less likely to become pawns of the right-wing propagandists. These parents don’t have to be well educated. And there have been, I am sure, those who had parents who were very simple, “stupid” even, who grew up to be great (critical) thinkers. And genetics plays a role too, and is a tricky thing. One might appear stupid or limited, but still have the ability to hand down intelligence to the offspring. In other words, a person may be a simpleton and at the same time be a sort of guardian of the intellect, as it were; he (and/or she) doesn’t have it himself, but he passes this trait on to the next generation. I imagine that critical thinking is like Parkinson’s or other diseases; it may skip a generation – or even two.

      By in large, upbringing, family history, from an environmental and biological perspective, is not insignificant, in my opinion. But you are right in so far as the genetic aspect is nothing we have any control over.—Nor can we choose our parents. (“Not much to explore.”) But if we start to educate our children better, they will probably end up being better parents, and so on and so forth. As for the here and now: I don’t see how we can get adults in the short term to think more critically. But they can be made aware by the great educators, the great public intellectuals like Chomsky, of what is going on (the elements you mentioned); and if they already have the ability to think critically, they can be influenced. (This applies to Dawkins too. My assumption is that the many people that he has reached were already able to think critically, but they just weren’t doing it.) (I always thought that novelists, artists, could promote enlightenment. Maybe they can; but many great novelists, sci-fi writers, dramatists for television, playwrights, film-makers, have been warning Americans for years about the rise of an authoritarian and repressive regime. It’s been a somewhat common theme. Few listened. I did.) I think we have to assume that the ability is already there. How do you teach a grown-up to think critically if he hasn’t learned that by the age of, say, thirty-five? A tall order. One of the goals of this site is to promote critical thinking. I interpret that, as far as reaching adults is concerned, as promoting something, a faculty, that is already there – but is not being used. (Did that make sense? Tired. Worn out.)

      You mentioned urgency. Well Trump just appointed a monster, someone named Price, as secretary of Health and Human Services. He has been a long time opponent of Medicare. He’s a medical doctor. (Doctor Evil.) What in God’s name is going on?

    • It’s taken me a couple of weeks but I’ve finally found my analogy. People had a choice between voting for ebola or penicillin. 62 million chose ebola. That’s what I suspect I’ll never understand.

    • Hi Dan,

      I may cut some of my response short due to busy schedule today.

      Regarding family and bringing up the children: The human endocrine and nervous systems are responsible for human behaviour, leavened by their environment. As I understand it; the environment we each experience (i.e. that affects our development from conception and, later, our direct experience) is what shapes us. Clearly, our parents (and the environment that they experienced and which affected their parents prior to conception) are a factor. These influences are of widely varying degrees, when considering education outcomes.

      To the extent that there is variation in human bodies, brains and environments there is variation in learning. But I think we’re in danger of making a mountain out of a molehill. My family experience shows how, in two generations, compulsory education from 5 to 14 (later 15, then 16) can replace dogma with critical thinking. It was done despite religious education, church attendance and other confounding factors.

      The evidence of billions of people around the World who have been lifted – in terms of their thinking skills – above the baseline of 1900 suggests to me that the breadth of the Scale of Influence on Thinking has school at one far end – the effective end. Forget the rest Dan, education is worth defending as the greatest achievement, so far, of the human race. It is the environmental factor that has the potential to eclipse all others – if properly funded and socially and politically supported.

      One has to wonder at the mindless hooligans (if news reports are to be believed: such as the Koch brothers) who want to live in a World where millions of people are deliberately made dumber by undermining education. Their ideas are really so pathetic that the only way they can win the argument is to dumb it down? They really want to live in a World where they lord it over others by denying them basic human rights such as the ability to think clearly? Seriously: Having that thought made me physically gag.

      Adults are less capable of learning (if I understood the literature) – but it’s not impossible. Take heart though Dan: Looking at the demographics and polling figures you only need to succeed with about 8%.

      I don’t see how we can get adults in the short term to think more critically

      Your personal incredulity means that there is no way? Where have we heard that before? Sometimes we need to try any stupid idea and learn. From one autodidact to another: Learning on the job is possible. Methods may be found in madness. It would be good to get the independent media involved – indeed, it seems to me that they have both a duty and an imperative to help. If people lack thinking skills then faux news sites are direct competition to real news outlets. Try contacting some journalists (probably best not to push the duty angle). It’s tough to put yourself out there – but they’re just people, and that means they’ll welcome an unexpected approach from another person who recognises their personal worth. Just go for it, and don’t be put off by a few negatives – New York is a big town and that means people are busy-busy-busy. Also: mention your liking for Chomsky, it will probably be a good filter.

      [People] can be made aware by the great educators, the great public intellectuals like Chomsky …

      Meh … intellectuals, in general, are an acquired taste – like bitter beer (once you get it though you get thirsty more often, but that’s another story). Also, for all their knowledge and expertise, they tend to fly too high. Chomsky is an intellectual giant – no argument – but a public intellectual? How many citizens (members of the US public) even know who Chomsky is? Yes you’ve just come up with a high number – BUT – now adjust that for people whose lack of thinking skills means they shun ’those damnable experts’ in general – your target pupils – not such a big percentage now I’ll bet. It’s a horse-water thing.

      Also, you chose the worst possible example: Chomsky has a habit of pronouncing in the most opaque way possible. He’s old, and he can’t be bothered to spend time on people who can’t keep up. Some call this arrogance, I dare to call it belligerence – and good on him, we kow-tow to the lowest common denominator far too much. Chomsky is not your man for teaching the hoi-polloi how to think.

      My best guess, and I’m only starting out on this journey myself, is that the best way is for media to spell out – from time to time – how they come to the truth of what they’re reporting. In my imagination this would be (taking a daily newspaper as an example) a column that breaks down one of the day’s leading articles by explaining how the paper’s reporting worked:

      Gathering evidence

      Fact checking

      How it comes to trust sources

      Fact confirmation (contacting sources)

      Possible scenarios

      Inescapable conclusions versus probable conclusions

      How and why the story was biased

      Presentation and editing

      It wouldn’t have to cover every aspect every time – and it would have to try and entertain the reader at the same time. Satirical magazines educate while having fun, I don’t see why mainstream outlets can’t do something similar.

      For radio the BBC already does a thing called From Our Own Correspondent – in which the Beeb’s foreign correspondents are given more time to dig into the cultures that they report on – but not enough examples of critical thinking are explained for it to be a great example. On the other hand, could it be a useful vehicle?

      My assumption is that the many people that [Richard] reached were already able to think critically, but they just weren’t doing it

      I agree.

      I always thought that novelists, artists, could promote enlightenment

      They do, by helping us to exercise our empathy. But teaching critical thinking is whole other ball of wax.

      One of the goals of this site is to promote critical thinking. I interpret that, as far as reaching adults … as promoting something, a faculty, that is already there – but is not being used

      I’m not sure what the situation is regarding an innate faculty to critical thinking – but, yes, that describes what this site is about.

      Well Trump just appointed a monster [etc.] …

      Progress is made by those who see the mountain clearly and accept the challenge with energy, enthusiasm and commitment.

      Try taking a holiday from the e-media – log out of Facebook and Twitter, limit your e-mail and cell phone use to two 30 minutes slots per day. Play mp3s or vinyl. Read a book. Go to the pub with friends, or have them round for a quiet chat about sport, relationships, family, the neighbours, pension plans – anything but politics – or over coffee and home-made cup-cakes. Play Monopoly or Risk or computer games (my Daughter relaxes with those games where you’re on-line talking and playing with other people). Get out for a walk in the fresh air (in New York?) every day. It works for me.

      Oh yes, and make The New Yorker your newspaper.


    • Stephen of W

      Good advice. Thanks.

      About getting people to learn: maybe things have to get worse first; then the most stubborn amongst will be forced to realize that they were wrong. Let them lose Medicare or SocialSecurity. Then they can reconsider their loyalty to one party or another. It’s learning the hard way.

      Unfortunately, in life, there is no guarantee that “hitting bottom” (if I may use an analogy) will be transformative or instructive. Sometimes you just stay down there – and that is the end.

      How do we change society? I offered some quick thoughts. Still as confused as ever. I feel myself wanting to Believe that change will happen; but my intellectual conscience is not comfortable with that.

      “…the best way is for media to spell out – from time to time – how they come to the truth of what they’re reporting…”

      Easier said than done; the media is often corporate-run and are under no obligation to be decent. One has to hope they will be; but can we expect this of them? No.—We have to get people to question more. That takes work. So I am still at a loss. How do we motivate people to exercise their critical minds and to respect, to prefer, to demand, the truth and to hate lies and to develop that all-important capacity for questioning?

      I asked similar questions when I first joined this site, a year or two ago.

      I still say it starts with the family in so far as our personalities are formed (to a significant degree, I think) at an early age; but I could be wrong.

    • P.S.
      Education or parenting?
      (The chicken or the egg?)
      Both, I think. Many things. Complex.

    • Dan,

      Early parenting has a huge impact as you will read elsewhere here abouts on another thread. If lousy it can make the job of education that much more difficult for ever afterwards. Education does an increasingly good job mitigating the ongoing damage of lousy parenting after this age. After puberty parents become increasingly ineffectual and education offered, rather than didactic dogma thwacked home, will be more likely gratefully absorbed.

      SoW, good stuff.

    • Phil—

      Have you read this entire (and scintillating) exchange?

      SoW, who makes many good points, doesn’t think “family history” is all that important. (74) I was arguing that it is (75).

      Good parenting is dependent upon parents. Parents who are not well-educated are not as likely to be good parents. (But there are many exceptions.) The education-level of parents is dependent upon how receptive they were themselves as students and former children – which depends largely on how they were treated by their parents. Circular. That was the (perhaps somewhat superfluous) point I made directly above (80). Nothing else. Perhaps good parenting and good education can mutually mitigate the damaging influences of each other. But we are also dealing, as I’ve suggested, with a vicious cycle.

      Stephen’s media wish-list is easier written down than done. Those smug reporters on CNN are positively gleeful. They will be gleeful up till the bitter end!! This is not a normal situation. Medicare is in danger. And Trump just tweeted that flag burners should be deprived of citizenship!

      And did you hear? Price, a rabid opponent of Medicare, has been appointed to head the department of Health and Human Services.

    • Dan

      What SoW said is not inconsistent with what I said.

      Even libertarian parents, or fervent Catholics may treat their toddlers in a thoroughly decent way, giving them an oxytocin and not cortisol fuelled experience. There are different stages of development to consider. See

      By Julia Belluz and Brian ResnickDonald Trump made an “unusual degree” of blatantly false and misleading statements for a presidential candidate. And he won. Since then, we’ve seen the continuation of the patte […] [Read more]– Dan Dredger Nov 21, 2016

      Libertarians can start to damage kids really only from puberty onward, when crude ideas of economic theory get laid out, so not very much. Fervent Catholics might do much more damage from say four encouraging nightly prayer for sick Granny, when simply taking that time to think of how miserable she might be and what we can do to cheer her up would create the sweeter person. Toddlers though could still have an ideal experience.

      Atheists could be toxic to toddlers, if they failed to understand the need for simple love and support and boundaries with a sufficiency of provision for their own play-space. Mostly unlikely though. Statistics show atheists grant play-space and personal thinking-space.

    • Phil,

      You are always talking about education. It’s not just about education. We all know how important education is. There are other problems: socio-economic – along with a concerted effort to keep people down. The highs school drop-out rate is very high in many red states. Funding for good public schools has been blocked by the Republicans in these states. Education is not a given. Many obstacles that have to be overcome before we can talk about education as “the answer”. I know you know this – but sometimes I am not sure. Education is under siege and has been for decades. It will get even worse if Trump gets what he wants.

      I don’t know too much abut this issue (education); but I know that just saying that “education is the answer” is fruitless.

    • Phil #83,

      I’m lost. What are we discussing? Remind me.

    • Dan,

      Parenting, education. It is a mix though not so complex. Culture in its all important interpersonal relationships and openness to others is most defined by very early experiences. This implicates parental influence as dominating. (I have said before all early influences on children amount to indoctrination.) This also affects how effective education might be. Later Education can have an increasingly effective course modifying engagement with kids and teens, though its scope for change may be compromised by early upbringing. Upbringings that early on inculcate fear of others, fairy tales of all those unnatural folk, going against God, say, with warnings that others will try to worm-tongue you into forgetting about such evil, may inoculate you against much that education has to offer.

      Thing is education, state quality controlled education is the only political lever available to pull. It is the means for social improvement we can vote for.

      Usefully education can involve education of future parents modifying parenting a little.

      “Hollywood” could contribute to the way parents affect their kids. I give you the movie “Captain Fantastic”.

    • 10 days ago I posted an analysis of how America is now almost entirely all red except for the cities. Post #25 above. There’s an interesting summation of the various reasons the Dems lost this time on today.

      Look at item IV. How the Dems have lost rural America. Bill Clinton won 533 counties in a landslide in 1992 and the Reps won 592. This year the Dems only won 242 counties by 20% or more and the Reps won 2,232.

      If something isn’t done about this in 4 years time the Republicans might continue to win, even with a steadily falling percentage of the popular vote. What we can expect in about 3 years and 6 months time is another flood of voter suppression tactics from them as they try to staunch the wound of the popular vote deserting them.

    • Arkrid Sandwich

      How do we get those rural folks from voting Republican? Good question. Idea: Maybe Trump himself will help us by blowing up the world. Then the Republicans won’t win anymore of those votes! (I should be a campaign strategist!)