Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Tastiest Facts You Need To Survive

We all want to consume the tastiest facts because we need them to live. How do you find the facts needed to survive and stay away from the poison that will kill you for sure? A recent NY Times article dug out some recent headlines from around the internet to highlight what is bombarding us.

“Obama to Declare MARTIAL LAW If Trump Wins Election.” That was the teaser text that recently popped up on my Facebook news feed. It directed me to a post from a page called Nation in Distress, one of the many hyperpartisan Facebook pages that have gained in popularity this year. The post linked to a website called americasfreedomfighters.com, which linked to a video blog called The Daily Sheeple, which cited a National Enquirer story claiming that Hillary Clinton had a lesbian tryst in a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel in the 1990s. I wasn’t able to find the evidence that President Obama would declare martial law if Donald J. Trump won the presidential election.

Then an email from an investment newsletter had a link to this article on how the FBI probe of Hillary was tainted by huge campaign donations. There is no one we can trust, is there? Here is another highlight from the Emma Roller op-ed piece. She shows an example of the complete ridiculousness of headlines meant to get us to click on the link.

The next time I opened Facebook, another Nation in Distress post showed up at the top of my news feed — this time with a story about how the size of Mr. Trump’s campaign plane HUMILIATED the Clinton plane. (Dr. Freud was unavailable for comment.)

A recent BuzzFeed analysis found that roughly 38 percent of posts from three “hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages” contained false information, compared with 19 percent of hyperpartisan left-wing pages. BuzzFeed’s conclusion: “The best way to attract and grow an audience for political content on the world’s biggest social network is to eschew factual reporting and instead play to partisan biases using false or misleading information that simply tells people what they want to hear.”

But, is it really what we want to hear? Or, is what we must hear? Our confirmation bias may be so deep that to go against it will at the least cause us severe mental pain. At worst, for those already a bit unstable, the pain of seeing ourselves as previously fooled and hoodwinked could put us over the edge.

So, we must believe we are swallowing bits of truth. It cannot be lies since it has been fact-checked! More from Emma.

If share-baiting Facebook posts are the junk food of the political internet, then fact-check journalism is steamed spinach. As a journalistic tool, fact-checking has been on the rise for years. A study conducted by the American Press Institute found that the number of fact-checking stories tripled between 2008 and 2012. This election has given us a barrage of dubious claims that need to be verified or debunked.

The study also found broad support for political fact-checking — or at least the concept of it. Eight in 10 Americans view political fact-checking favorably. But reconcile that statistic with the fact that, according to a CNN poll from 2015, 29 percent of Americans, and 43 percent of Republicans,think President Obama is Muslim. The implication seems to be that Americans like the concept of fact-checking, as long as those facts confirm their point of view.

Before this inflamed political rhetoric was on Facebook, it was broadcast to millions of listeners on talk radio. On a recent episode of Mr. Limbaugh’s radio show, which draws roughly 13 million weekly listeners, he argued that there was no such thing as “fact checking,” since the news outlets that did the checking were irredeemably partisan.

“The idea that it is a fact-checked story is designed to say to you that it is objective and analytically fair, and all it is a vehicle for them to do opinion journalism under the guise of fairness, which if you fall for it, gives it even more power,” Mr. Limbaugh told his listeners.

This automatic distrust of the press, long a bastion of conservative thought, took on a darker tone this year. At a rally in Cleveland on Saturday, a pair of Trump supporters called the press “lügenpresse,” or “lying press” — a term used in Nazi Germany that has recently been resurrected by the German anti-immigrant party known as Pegida.

Daniel Dale is the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent, and since last September, he has fact-checked as many of Mr. Trump’s statements as he can. It’s a daunting task, what he calls “an unprecedented daily avalanche of falseness.”

“Shoehorning him into a normal coverage pattern conveys the impression that he is a normal political liar,” he said. “He requires something different.”

During the debates, Mr. Dale fact-checked both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and found that, over the course of the debates, Mr. Trump made 104 false claims, while Mrs. Clinton made 13 false claims. He has seen a lot of interest — his list of fact-checks, which he tweets out daily, regularly get more than 1,000 retweets — but also a lot of animosity.“On the positive side: Nothing I’ve ever done has been this popular online,” he said. “On the negative side: Nothing I’ve ever done has so infuriated people.”

Are you one of the people who think Obama is Muslim? Does the work Daniel Dale did infuriate you with a stat that says Trump is 9x the liar Ms Clinton is? Have you decided that fact-checking is bogus? Do you believe in chemtrails and the Ilumanati? It is your brain protecting you, so don't get down on yourself. Otherwise, you might end up much worse off like a complete melt down. Ms Roller continued........

Many people will be doing some soul-searching after this election, but perhaps no one more than conflicted conservative talk radio hosts. Charlie Sykes, a popular radio host in Milwaukee, has been candid about conservative media’s complicity in the rise of Trump.“We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers. There’s nobody,” he told Business Insider in August.

He added at the time: “We have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media. And by the way, a lot of it has been justifiable. There is real bias. But at a certain point you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there,” he said “And I have to look in the mirror and ask myself, ‘To what extent did I contribute?’ ” (Mr. Sykes announced this month that he will be leaving his radio show at the end of the year.)

A big part of the problem is not just Republicans’ willingness to say untrue things, but more of a willingness to let other people in their party say crazy and untrue things without pushing back. After Mr. Trump spread a racist lie about the first African-American president, that did not stop Mitt Romney from accepting his endorsement in his 2012 race. Conservative politicians and media personalities are stuck in a double bind now, where they are too afraid of comeuppance to tell their audience the truth.

Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, said Republican elites trapped themselves by telling their supporters not to believe mainstream outlets, even though they still relied on those outlets. “When they preached, ‘Don’t believe the mainstream media,’ they were still reading The New York Times and The Washington Post every morning and using it to set their baseline for their political reality,” he said. “They didn’t take the advice they gave to base voters.”

Fact-free thinking isn’t just for the right. The anti-vaccine movement is a perfect example of far-right paranoia wrapping around to the far-left fringe. At a rally last month in upstate New York with Senator Bernie Sanders and Zephyr Teachout, I talked to a woman who calmly segued from talking about climate change (real) to chemtrails and the Illuminati (not real). But while the Republican nominee is dabbling in conspiracy theories, no Democratic officeholder is holding hearings about chemtrails.

The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm what you already believe to be true. Not only do we tend to seek out and remember information that reaffirms what we already believe, but there is also a “backfire effect,” which sees people doubling down on their beliefs after being presented with evidence that contradicts them.

There might be hope for those that are ready to move past confirmation bias. If you are one of those who cannot move past that it is OK. If you are then get ready for some tough sledding because it will not be easy. You are going to eat a big slice of humble pie! Ms Roller continues with a possible path through the mess.

So, where do we go from here? There’s no simple answer, but the only way people will start rejecting falsehoods being fed to them is by confronting uncomfortable truths. Fact-checking is like exposure therapy for partisans, and there is some reason to believe in what researchers call an “affective tipping point,” where “motivated reasoners” start to accept hard truths after seeing enough claims debunked over and over.

Some facts are equally inconvenient for both sides. President Obama has deported more people than any president before him. That fact doesn’t sit well with the president’s supporters, who think of Democrats as the party of kindness toward immigrants, and it doesn’t sit well with Mr. Trump’s supporters, who think the president is a weak and feckless leader.

“President Obama has moved millions of people out. Nobody knows about it. Nobody talks about it. But under Obama, millions of people have been moved out of this country. They’ve been deported,” Mr. Trump said at the third and final debate.

This criticism was bizarre — after building his campaign on a southern border wall and a “deportation force” that would round up undocumented immigrants by the millions — but it was true all the same.

Do you feel completely upside down now? If so, that means you are considering moving on from cherished beliefs. Maybe your emotional filter is ready for some maintenance. Humans have to process so much information we must use an emotional filter or we would end up overwhelmed and become a weeping confused blob. So, lighten up on yourself and your fellow humans who seem so stupid to you. Chris Field talks about the basics of our emotional filter in this blog. Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink covers how we make instantaneous decisions. Both these give some insight into how the brain works. We are only scratching the surface of how cognition works. So, give yourself and your fellows a little room to move forward.

Emma Roller (@EmmaRoller), a former reporter for National Journal.

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