Sunday, September 17, 2023

Today's News: Brandolini's Law and the Gish Gallop and existential stupidity

As Samwise says, Well, I'm back! 
Lately I have been trying to figure out why everything in American politics has become such a shit-show -- the Trump disaster, abortion rights, LBGTQ rights, Jan 6 prosecutions, watching Republicans try to destroy Hunter Biden for the crime of his dad being president, the list goes on and on. 
I have been reading some stuff about what the media is doing wrong in adopting its usual "rowboat journalism" model - you know, when a journalist writes "on the one hand, this; on the other hand, that; journalists aren't supposed to pick sides, ya know!" 
The most recent example is Trump's abysmal NBC Meet The Press interview on Sunday. There may be several concepts that explain what happened. For example, this:
Brandolini's law, also known as the bullshit asymmetry principle (2013): The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it. 
Or this:
Gish Gallop: a rhetorical technique in which a person in a debate attempts to overwhelm their opponent by providing an excessive number of arguments with no regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments. ...a debater confronts an opponent with a rapid series of many specious arguments, half-truths, misrepresentations, and outright lies in a short space of time, which makes it impossible for the opponent to refute all of them within the format of a formal debate. 
Interesting concepts, yes - but neither seemed to completely explain the media and their problem getting a grip on Trump. 
I even found a Raw Story article that I thought might offer some explanation - A neuroscientist explains why stupidity is an existential threat to America. It starts with a bang: 
It may sound like an insensitive statement, but the cold hard truth is that there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and their stupidity presents a constant danger to others. Some of these people are in positions of power, and some of them have been elected to run our country. A far greater number of them do not have positions of power, but they still have the power to vote, and the power to spread their ideas. We may have heard of “collective intelligence,” but there is also “collective stupidity,” and it is a force with equal influence on the world. It would not be a stretch to say that at this point in time, stupidity presents an existential threat to America because, in some circles, it is being celebrated. 
 But in the end, it trails off into another "both sides" solution: 
An inability to accurately assess our own competency and wisdom is something we see in both liberals and conservatives. While being more educated typically decreases our Dunning-Kruger tendencies, it does not eliminate them entirely. That takes constant cognitive effort in the form of self-awareness, continual curiosity, and a healthy amount of skepticism. By cultivating this type of awareness in ourselves, and making an effort to spread it to others, we can fight back against the stupidity crisis that threatens our nation. 
Yeah, of course. I'd like teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.
Georgetown historian Thomas Zimmer is writing a major piece about the problem with blaming 'both sides' for society's woes: Part One is titled The Treacherous Allure of the "Polarization" Dogma - I can't summarize it all, but here are some points:
...presenting these developments within a narrative that suggests America today is defined by both sides embracing ever more radical positions completely obscures the fact that on the central issue that is at the core of the political conflict, the two parties, Left and Right more generally, are very much not the same: That issue is democracy itself. When one side is moving left on immigration and the other is rejecting majoritarian rule, they are not actually engaged in equivalent behavior. Democracy is not just one issue among many – it is THE issue. It defines the political conflict, it’s an overarching concern that permeates nearly all areas of public policy, setting the conditions for how the polity decides. The social, political, and cultural divides are inextricably linked to the struggle over democracy – the central conflict is the one between a vision of traditional white Christian patriarchal authority and one of egalitarian, multiracial, pluralism. That is the fundamental reality of American politics right now: The conflict over whether or not the country should actually be an egalitarian pluralistic democracy maps onto the conflict between the two parties –democracy itself has become a partisan issue. 
 Let’s not to miss the forest for the trees: If we assess them mainly by how they relate to the idea of democracy, then by international comparison, the Democrats are pretty much a standard center-left, big-tent party – while the GOP is much closer to far-right parties in countries like Poland or Hungary. Those who are increasingly in charge of the Republican Party are willing to abandon and overthrow democracy because they consider it a threat to traditional hierarchies and their vision of what “real” (meaning: white Christian patriarchal) America should be. Many of them are embracing authoritarianism. Democrats… are not. One party is dominated by a shrinking white reactionary minority that is rapidly radicalizing against democracy and will no longer accept the principle of majoritarian rule; the other thinks democracy and constitutional government should be upheld. That’s not “polarization.”...
More to come, and I'll be following his substack to read it. 
Because in the end, we have to make sure we keep this:


The Celebration Saga said...

The article delves into the concept of Brandolini's Law, which relates to the challenge of debunking falsehoods. It explores the Gish Gallop tactic and discusses the phenomenon of existential stupidity. It's a thought-provoking piece, shedding light on the complexities of misinformation and the need for critical thinking in today's news landscape.

Script Writer

travelling to world said...
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