scharrison's blog

Over 1/3 of Americans are prone to conspiracy theories

This research is long overdue:

In the most comprehensive analysis to date of people who are prone to conspiracy beliefs, a research team in Atlanta sketched out several personality profiles that appear to be distinct. One is familiar: the injustice collector, impulsive and overconfident, who is eager to expose naïveté in everyone but him- or herself. Another is less so: a more solitary, anxious figure, moody and detached, perhaps including many who are older and living alone. The analysis also found, at the extremes, an element of real pathology — of a “personality disorder,” in the jargon of psychiatry.

First let's look at my introductory sentence above. It is based on a (maybe) subconscious belief that conspiracy theories have not been taken seriously by the mental health community, when in fact delusions have been studied intensely for at least the last half-century. It's easy to be reductive; to discount the efforts of professionals on a wide range of subjects, while having no direct knowledge of those efforts. That is not analysis, it's throwing poop from one's cage. Let's talk about that first group of people, the injustice collectors:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Trump's EPA is literally trying to kill us

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Andrew Wheeler just made millions for his coal industry pals:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule that revises regulations for coal-fired power plants, a move that will limit the number of generation facilities that could incur costs for failing to comply with pollution limits. The action on Aug. 31 revises a rule established in 2015, when the EPA issued an order that for the first time set federal limits on the levels of toxic metals in wastewater that could be discharged from power plants.

Coal industry executives, critical of the original restrictions which they characterized as costly and burdensome, praised Monday’s changes. Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator who is a former coal industry lobbyist, described the revisions as “more affordable pollution control technologies” that would “reduce pollution and save jobs at the same time.”

Bolding mine, because we see this nonsense all the time from Republicans. They are actually increasing pollution, not reducing it, but in this truth-challenged Trump era, casual lies like this are a daily staple. Thankfully, this rule change is on SELC's radar:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

As long as the NC GOP retains even the barest of majorities, they will abuse that advantage as much as possible. The only way to get them to act in a bipartisan fashion is to take that power away.

Say it so the folks in back can hear: One-Term Tillis

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You wanted us to divide and conquer? Asked and answered:

In North Carolina, Senator Thom Tillis saw another devastating poll from a high-quality pollster. CBS News finds him trailing Cal Cunningham by ten points. At this point in the race, most voters know a lot about both candidates and closing a gap that wide in five weeks will be difficult. He will need Cunningham to stumble to make up the difference and Cunningham has not made many mistakes after a year of campaigning.

But what may be the worst news for Tillis is what is happening in other states. Outside money bolstering Tillis will soon be diverted to those states if his numbers don’t improve and races in those other states stay competitive. Expect the GOP to pull the plug on Tillis if the national environment or his numbers don’t improve in the next week or two.

Keep in mind, the Trump campaign is apparently down to eating its seed corn, and you know that bastard will scoop up as many dollars as he can, with zero concern for downballot races. And before you scold me for leaning on polls (which would be valid), we desperately need some good news in this current hellscape.

Social media battleground: Disinformation is the game, chaos is the goal

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And the upcoming election is the perfect medium for it:

Intelligence officials have expressed concerns that Russian and other actors will have a major opening if mail-in ballots are slow to be counted, or there are charges and countercharges about the handling of mail-in ballots, which President Trump has already said are being used to “rig” the outcome.

During that time after the election, the two agencies said, hackers could amplify “disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”

Bolding mine, because these are issues that are already of major concern to many on the left. They know we're worried about it, thus we have been preconditioned to help in the dissemination of that disinformation. But here's where it gets really complicated: Some of these stories might be true. Black voters may get harassed in Missouri, an election system may get hacked in Arizona. But sharing the hell out of that story on Facebook or Twitter may also discourage people from voting. And that would make said disinformation a success. Facebook is going after some low-hanging fruit right now:

The erosion and mischaracterization of the term "Antifa"

The truth of the term has been lost in ad hominem hysteria:

Lindsay Ayling, a 32-year-old doctoral student at the University of North Carolina's flagship Chapel Hill campus, is a fixture at counterprotests against neo-Confederates and other far-right group members. They often call her "antifa," a label she accepts "in the sense that I oppose fascism and I am willing to go and confront fascists on the streets."

"The thing that's so dangerous about labeling anyone who is antifascist as a terrorist is that it's criminalizing thought," she said. "Not just thought, but it's criminalizing active resistance to fascism."

Before we get into the details of this transformation, let's talk about "branding." About fashioning catchy terms that roll off the tongue nicely, are easy to remember, short enough they can be written in bold letters on a protest sign, etc. Works good in advertising products, but not always so good in social messaging. In this case, we left the negative (anti) completely intact, but shortened the villain (fascist) to only the first two letters. Derrida would not be impressed, nor would he be surprised the term is so misunderstood by many. And by chopping the word "fascist" into a nice little two-letter bite, we've also lost an opportunity to educate those who don't understand what fascism means, those who would be forced to Google the term:

The real Deep State: NIH employee was anti-mask author

Now we know what websites Dandy has been reading:

It would have been a dangerous assertion in the middle of a deadly pandemic no matter where it came from: that wearing masks has “little to no medical value” and could do more “harm” than wearing no mask at all.

But it was especially remarkable given the source. Published on the right-wing website RedState, it turned out to have been written under a pseudonym by William B. Crews, a public affairs officer at the National Institutes of Health, promoting the same type of discredited information about dealing with the virus that his employer was working aggressively to beat back.

I no longer find it ironic these guys do exactly the opposite of what we pay them to do. After 3 1/2 years of Kakistocracy, that's what you get. I do find it hard to believe his coworkers and supervisors did not realize what an idiot he actually was. Here are some examples:

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