Only Conservatives Fall For Fake News Stories

NYT correctionThere has been much coverage of fake news stories and how they might have affected the election. Interestingly, the news site owners said that the only stories that went viral were pro-conservative ones.

He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it…. “We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.” Source.

He set up a website, posted gushing stories about Hillary Clinton and waited for ad sales to soar. “I don’t know why, but it did not work,” said the student, Beqa Latsabidze, 22, who was savvy enough to change course when he realized what did drive traffic: laudatory stories about Donald J. Trump that mixed real — and completely fake — news in a stew of anti-Clinton fervor. Source.

This agrees with Buzzfeed’s analysis of Facebook stories:

Of the 20 top-performing false election stories identified in the analysis, all but three were overtly pro-Donald Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton. (Source)

Another way to look at this is to say that conservatives are very attached to ideology, and will dismiss facts that don’t fit the theory. For example, I got into a long online discussion about supplying birth control to low-income people. My opponent was outraged at people getting something for nothing, despite the considerable social savings. This ideological bias explains conservatives’ narrower selection of news sources — eliminating information that contradicts their worldview is necessary to maintaining a coherent model.

Ideology is a form of morality, and Glen Greenwald makes the point that pragmatism is not always enough:

If, on a pragmatic level, the consequences of attacking Iraq had been different than what they were — if we had been able to invade and occupy relatively quickly and derive substantial material gain from doing so, including somehow making ourselves marginally “safer” — would that have made the Iraq War a just and desirable action?  Isn’t more than pragmatic calculation necessary to inform foreign policy decisions? (Source)

but ideology should be constructed from observations about how the world works, and when it is elevated to an axiom, it loses its authority.


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What Went Wrong

Here’s what went wrong. There were establishment and populist candidates on both sides. Thirty years of tax cuts, trade agreements and computerization gave all the productivity gains to the top, and the average person suffered. Republicans chose the populist candidate, the DNC chose the establishment candidate, and the populist candidate won.

So I blame the DNC

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The Demise of the GOP

Trumpty dumped the GOP call;
Trumpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the right rednecks and all the right men
Couldn’t stand being together again.

The Republican party sustained its uneasy coalition of social and fiscal(*) conservatives for years, but this latest split, presaged by the Tea Party, is so open and so extreme that I cannot see how a coalition can be assembled. The right-wing tendency to tribalism (see Haidt) will forestall any compromise.

* They never were when you look at the numbers; that was just political marketing.

The Environmental Impact of Food

SheepOne of the reasons I reverted to vegetarianism was the environmental impact of meat, so I was taken aback to read that cheese is the 3rd-highest in terms of CO2 production, ahead of pork, salmon, turkey and chicken. Detailed figures are on p.6 of the full report. I have to think about this for a while.

The closing paragraphs also say that locally-grown and organic foods reduce the impact. That’s interesting, as I have long assumed that environmental impact is roughly proportional to cost. My thinking is that $2 organic broccoli requires more labor than $1 regular broccoli, and the extra workers drive, eat, etc., all of which adds to the final environmental impact. (Yes, there is a trade-off of the benefit of not using pesticides vs. other impacts.)

How to Regard This Week’s Race Conflicts

William Saletan has written a Slate article There Is a War Over Race in America in which he brilliantly redraws the dividing line:

This is the central thing to understand about what happened in Dallas: Black people who target whites are fundamentally allied with white people who target blacks. They’re on the same team: the race war team.

Today’s Op-Eds in the NYT are full of writings about “black” and “white”, but Saletan is saying that the divide is between violent people and peaceful people.

I find this a much more useful viewpoint. An entomologist might classify insects by the number of legs they have, but a much more practical distinction is whether they bite or not.

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You Can’t Fight Words With Swords

NormandyLet’s talk about ISIS. Yes, it’s a military organization, amongst other things, but far more than that, it’s an idea, a radical Islamic idea. It’s a terrible idea, based on medieval attitudes, but it’s still an idea.

Hands up who thinks an idea can be defeated with military force?

So why is military force being used? Because  people — men especially — are easily provoked into violent revenge, and because vast profits are to be made from waging war.

But it’s all pointless, because it’s an idea that we’re fighting. And the weapons we must use are other ideas.

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Continuing NYTimes Bias

I have railed for months about the pro-Clinton bias in the NYTimes. Today’s headline reads Three Crucial States Show Tight Races Between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

PARA 2: “The Quinnipiac University surveys, released on Tuesday, show Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Trump by one percentage point in Pennsylvania and Florida and trailing him by four points in Ohio.”

Buried further down in PARA 5: “The polls do offer some support for Mr. Sanders’s argument to stay in the race, as he outperforms Mrs. Clinton in head-to-head matchups against Mr. Trump in the three states. The senator from Vermont tops Mr. Trump by two points in Florida and Ohio and by six points in Pennsylvania.”

Putting this in tabular form:

State Clinton Sanders Difference
PA +1 +6 +5
FL +1 +2 +1
OH -4 +2 +6

A better headline would be: Sanders Outperforms Clinton in Head-to-Head Matchups Against Trump in Three Crucial States

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Actions Have Consequences

  • Paris/San Bernadino happened because of ISIS.
  • ISIS arose because Iraq was invaded.
  • Iraq was invaded because of 9/11.
  • 9/11 happened because of U.S. missile strikes on Bin Laden’s HQ, see White House daily brief, Wikipedia.
  • The missile strikes happened because two embassies in Africa were bombed.
  • See the above link for why the embassies were bombed.
  • etc.

You may quibble about this causality and ascribe extra causes; nevertheless, the point is that each reaction continues the chain. To break the chain, stop the reactions.

If you are Christian, consider these precepts:

  • Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. (Romans 12:19)
  • But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:39)
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Handling Voiceover Mistakes


When I make a narration mistake, I make a double-click with my mouth and repeat the phrase. This shows as a distinctive pair of spikes in the audio, and it is easy to cut out the erroneous take.

What Religion Would Countenance a Confidential Handbook?

cathedralFrom a NYT article about a new anti-gay policy of the Mormon Church:

It appears that the new rules were not supposed to be made public. They were issued as changes to a confidential handbook, and sent out by email a week ago to leaders of the church’s 30,000 congregations around the world.

What kind of church has a confidential handbook?

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