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Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing

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Thursday
Jan262017

Aren't you curious to see the published version of "Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing"?!

Here it is-- & it's free for all 14 billion subscribers to this blog!

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Reader Comments (14)

I believe that the above is important background information for the battle ahead. Somehow civilizations at times manage to fan even the weak flames of scientific curiosity and evidence based information processing in less scientifically oriented members of the public, and burst ahead in a period of enlightenment. But at others, societies regress horribly into destructive partisanship and ethnocentrism. (Witness Germany's swings from science leader to Nazism and back again).

I think that it is time to turn the cultural cognitator onto high and figure out how we use the science of science communication to understand the underpinings of enlightenment andnavigate our way out of our current mess.

I'm pretty sure that you don't support dead cats: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2017/01/25/e59a8ab6-e34a-11e6-ba11-63c4b4fb5a63_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.8a48961a0780

Don’t get distracted by Trump’s ‘dead cats’

Referring back to a previous quote in my comment on a previous post; regarding China's 50 Cent Party, as given in a talk by Gary King, [comment found here:http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2017/1/23/presentation-jeopardy-heres-the-answer-whats-the-question.html#comments,];a quote below from the WaPo link above ought to be very concerning:

"Just after noon on Tuesday, alarming news began to spread that the Trump administration was imposing a gag order on the agencies of the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Agriculture Department, the Interior Department and the Department of Health and Human Services all reported various new edicts restricting federal agencies’ use of social media, appearances in public events or contacts with the press or lawmakers. It was an authoritarian gesture that, in an ordinary time, would dominate the news."

"But this is no ordinary time. As word of the gag orders spread, White House press secretary Sean Spicer came before the cameras and said publicly what Trump had already said privately the day before: that Trump believes millions of people voted illegally in the election."

..."Ka-boom."...

...... "— and the social-media and cable news chatter quickly shifted."

The question is, what are science communicators to do in this environment???

January 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

As always, congrats on the publication!

The question is, what are science communicators to do in this environment???

...well, we need our own media, obviously.

The one that's beholden to ratings will eternally chase dead cats because it's easy. Stephen Colbert said it best in his end of year interview: the only ball I won't play is the one that isn't pitched my way. An Adminstration determined to distract will succeed at distracting any media outlet that doesn't stick closely to a consumer-defined mission.

January 26, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

"(Witness Germany's swings from science leader to Nazism and back again)."

The Nazis were very much in favour of science, considered themselves scientific, and were tireless in promoting it. The point about them is not that they were culturally unscientific, but they followed that authoritarian species of politically-biased science that considered themselves to be scientifically right and their opponents to be scientifically wrong, and therefore to be suppressed and silenced.

"I think that it is time to turn the cultural cognitator onto high and figure out how we use the science of science communication to understand the underpinings of enlightenment andnavigate our way out of our current mess."

The basis of the original Enlightenment was of course to recognise the merits of debate and sceptical challenge over the authoritarian imposition of 'scientific' dogma and orthodoxy.

"Don’t get distracted by Trump’s ‘dead cats’"

Yes, it's very clever, isn't it? The media are so hysterically hunting out absolutely anything they can fling at him, and he's cheerfully handing them more ammunition. Why? Because it reinforces his narrative of the MSM as deranged partisans 'in the tank' for the Democrats; the more hysterical and obsessive they act, the more ridiculous and discredited (with Trump's supporters) they look. Because they wind up splitting their attention and diluting their outrage in too many directions, so none of the individual 'scandals' can gain any traction, and because it inoculates the public against scandals. It's such a massive overdose that the public reset the bar high for their continued attention. It's about signal-to-noise ratio. Keep the noise low, and any signal stands out clearly. Raise lots of noise, and you need a much stronger signal to cut through.

Every scandal and error he survives and shrugs off makes it harder for future scandals and mistakes to hurt him. Every time someone cries "Wolf!" over some controversial policy decision he makes, the harder it becomes to attract attention to his future policies. Every time he gets away with simply ignoring the hysterical screeching about what he's just done, and people shouting "You just can't do that!" the more the screechers are discredited and it becomes apparent that, yes, he can.

It's been a tactical revolution! Up to now, the political wisdom was that you had to step carefully, be serious, and present a facade of infallibility, or the press would destroy you. Politician after politician has shied back from doing what they were elected to do for fear of what the press would say. And because they acted as if it was true, the people believed it was, and it became true. Trump has just Destroyed that illusion. He can do what he wants, and the press can say what they like, and it has no effect. His own supporters just roll their eyes at yet another example of press hysteria and partisan anti-Trump bias. It's brilliant! And I reckon after 4 (8?) more years of it the lesson will be thoroughly rammed home, and future politicians will be a lot less constrained by the need to maintain a flawless media image.

"Just after noon on Tuesday, alarming news began to spread that the Trump administration was imposing a gag order on the agencies of the federal government."

Because it's not their proper role to act as sources of semi-'official' propaganda on subjects not directly related to doing their job. When acting as officials of the US government, they represent the views of the US government, not their own personal opinions, and currently the elected government of the US is Republican - with Trump at the top. You can either keep out of politics entirely (the British civil service, for example, have strict rules on not taking political sides) or you can loyally serve the political interests of whoever the current administration happens to be. For years they served as willing mouthpieces for Obama's political agenda. Now they're going to have to serve Trump's. They made this bed, now they will have to lie in it.

There has, for years, been an unofficial gag on officials expressing climate scepticism, for example. Had some Republican working for the EPA tweeted out a bunch of Climategate links on an 'official' social media channel, they'd have got into some pretty hot water! For many years anyone expressing any hint of scepticism about the climate orthodoxy has been hounded and attacked, their careers sabotaged, their papers rejected out of hand, their government funding withdrawn. These are the tools you created and put into the hands of the establishment. It seemed like a good idea, I'm sure, when your side was in charge. Now the boot is on the other foot, and climate scientists are suddenly scared that what they were able to do to climate sceptics, with the connivance of the government and media, will now be done to them.

"The question is, what are science communicators to do in this environment???"

Recognise and learn from your mistakes.

January 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Have been away from the CCP blog for a few months but was pulled back today when I saw this new paper about Science Curiosity and Political Info Processing covered in Vox (http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/2/1/14392290/partisan-bias-dan-kahan-curiosity), which has always been good about keeping up with Dan's work and other developments on the motivated reasoning front.

This IS surprising and I must score high on the SCS because I rushed to download the paper and catch up on the news.

I find the follow-up question most interesting: how do we increase science curiosity to perhaps cool down some of the political/science issue polarization that seems to be be reaching a boiling point under our new, decidedly uncurious POTUS?

I've been thinking lately about how the media can counter Trump and his campaign of constant lying and misinformation, and have been reading a lot about different ways the press might deal with this new phenomenon of a perpetually prevaricating Presidency. I think there are some similarities here to the problem of science communication. In a sense we are talking about "reality communication" -- how to present a factual, reality based picture of what's happening in the world based on evidence, observation, triangulation, etc. -- as opposed to whatever you want to call what comes out of Trump, Mike Flynn, Betsy DeVos, Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and the rest of the gang.

The far out idea I had was that the great newspapers and media outlets should devote some quality time and news space to EDUCATE the public on what our Constitutional form of government actually is. Like a primer on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, etc. I find the Constitution absolutely fascinating, just like I find the Theory of Natural Selection absolutely fascinating. So maybe curiosity crosses topic boundaries. After reading Dan's new paper I realized that what I was suggesting was trying to grow a kind of "civics curiosity" that might, like science curiosity, help dampen down polarization on highly contentious political issues.

So ... is it possible to develop a "science of civics education" that can leverage what we've learned about the science of science education? Maybe we should get Ken Burns to do a documentary on the Constitution?

February 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Genco

"I've been thinking lately about how the media can counter Trump and his campaign of constant lying and misinformation, and have been reading a lot about different ways the press might deal with this new phenomenon of a perpetually prevaricating Presidency."

If you like your truth, you can keep your truth.

The most important lesson from the Science of Science Communication is that the effects are symmetric. It affects all humans - but like most cognitive blindspots, we are always blind to our own biases, and only clearly see the motes in our neighbours' eyes.

One of the most entertaining aspects of watching the collective freakout of the American Left over President Trump has been seeing the level of blank incomprehension on the part of so many, discovering that there are a huge number of people don't see the world they do, and who moreover, have long regarded the left-wing world view to be as full of bias, distortion, and outright lying as the left now see in Trump's world view. Everyone can see that Trump and his supporters see the world differently - but nobody yet has recognised that everybody has a world view in the same way, and everybody believes their own world view is true, and therefore nobody can be sure in themselves that they're not just as deluded.

It was this same realisation that gave rise to use of sceptical challenge in the scientific method. Any scientist who comes p with a theory, especially when their livelihood and reputation depends on it being true, is naturally biased to try to defend it. So to deal with this, they publish their theory, and all the evidence on which it's based, and how they got it, and everything they did to check it and avoid fooling themselves. And then other scientists, who have different biases and are motivated to find flaws in it, try to poke holes in it. If they fail, the theory gains scientific credibility. If they succeed, the theory is binned.

True scientists understand the value of opposition. Science works the same way evolution by natural selection does. Scientific progress isn't achieved by an expert simply designing the new theory - the 'intelligent design' theory - it's achieved by lots of variations on theories being put forward, and all the weak theories being killed off when they contradict the empirical evidence. Science works by natural selection. Only the fittest theories survive.

The same lesson needs to be learned in the political sphere. Trump is busily challenging all the old assumptions. Sometimes he'll get it wrong. Sometimes he'll get it right. He was certainly right about what's needed to get elected, though the Left was utterly convinced that nobody could possibly be less plausible to win. What else is he right about?

February 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV, thanks for the primer on the scientific method. I am quite aware of the symmetry hypothesis with regard to cognitive biases. I made an assumption that the readers of this blog would be able to discuss these biases and the problems they generate for our society/polity without having to indulge in them. But you raise some important points, inadvertently.

You recognize I am making some claims about "truth" that you want to dismiss at the epistemological level. You misread @Dan and science in general if you believe everything human beings think or say has no connection to an objective reality, indeed that there is no objective reality against which we can test our claims and make meaningful statements about likelihoods, odds, causality, etc. Down that path lies relativistic nihilism, certainly not scientific thinking, and I don't think you really want to go there. I suspect you are engaging in your own form of identity-protective thinking when you ascribe my statements to some mental construct called the "collective freakout of the American Left". That may be comforting for you, but hardly advances the conversation.

This is not the place for a fruitless discussion of "false equivalence" although that is the frame you want to use to dismiss my claims about Trump's constant and pathological lying. I simply submit that this is something new on the national political scene and has nothing to do with the usual ways in which politicians lie and bend the truth to their own ends. If you believe this is a fantasy of the Left, I suggest you take it up with David Frum, Evan McMullin, George Will, Charles Sykes, and a host of other conservatives who find Trump's behavior to be far outside the boundaries of normal partisan public discourse.If you want to prove me (and them) wrong, feel free, but do it with evidence please, not content-free ad hominem accusations.

Moving on, @NiV is right to observe that I take it as a given that Trump is lying in a new and unprecedented way when he says things like "thousands of Muslims danced in the streets of New Jersey when the Twin Towers came down" or "Barack Obama is the founder of ISIS" or "climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese." These are all factual statements that can be confirmed or denied by observation and evidence. And they all have been compared to objective evidence and have been found to be false. Yet, as a political tactic, he continues to repeat them, as well as add other demonstrably false factual statements every day.

I also take it as a given that this is BAD behavior for a political actor, especially a POTUS, and it's not good for our democracy, because it devalues the very concept of truth. I am observing that this situation feels a lot like the problem of science denial, which @Dan has been addressing in his work on science communication. Climate change denial, for example, also depends on the belief that we cannot know the truth, and therefore that we can safely ignore what 99.9% of climate scientists are telling us. Now @Dan and his colleagues have come across this notion of "science curiosity" that seems to diminish the kind of self-protective partisan polarization @NiV has so kindly demonstrated for us. My question is: might there be an analogous "civics curiosity" that could have the same effect? And if we were able to define it, measure it, and test it, and found that it had a similar effect to that of "science curiosity", how could we go about bolstering "civics curiosity" in the American public?

February 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Genco

"I suspect you are engaging in your own form of identity-protective thinking when you ascribe my statements to some mental construct called the "collective freakout of the American Left"."

I attributed it to your mention of "Trump and his campaign of constant lying and misinformation". So far as I'm aware, the only people who think there is such a campaign are the American left, and those who listen to them. If you're not of the American left, and haven't got your belief from there, I apologise for making the assumption.

"You misread @Dan and science in general if you believe everything human beings think or say has no connection to an objective reality, indeed that there is no objective reality against which we can test our claims and make meaningful statements about likelihoods, odds, causality, etc."

Absolutely not. There is an objective reality, and we can test our claims against it. The problem is that we are all doing those tests using a fallible reasoning engine. (That's an objectively verifiable fact.) If your calculator is broken and you know it, how can you perform reliable calculations using it? One way is to do the calculation using several different calculators with independent failure modes, and if they all give the same answer, you can have more confidence.

The problem arises with people who think other people's calculators are broken, but their own is perfect. That's a theory that universally fails when tested against objective reality. Doesn't stop people holding it, though.

"I simply submit that this is something new on the national political scene and has nothing to do with the usual ways in which politicians lie and bend the truth to their own ends."

It is indeed something new. However, you're misunderstanding Trump if you think he's simply lying. He's often recklessly careless with checking that it's the truth, but he's not deliberately lying. He's expressing the truth as he understands it, according to a worldview shared by a large slice of the electorate. It's sometimes (perhaps often) mistaken, but part of the reason it's so startling to conventional expectations is that most politicians hide opinions that don't fit convention as part of that typical "bending the truth" - but Trump doesn't. He says what he thinks. And like most people, a lot of what he thinks turns out to be wrong, but unlike most politicians he's willing to be wrong. And by doing so, he lowers the bar or required perfection that stops most politicians from saying or doing what they really want to. He's that rarest of creatures: an honest politician. Seeing him, you come to understand why most other politicians lie.

"I suggest you take it up with David Frum, Evan McMullin, George Will, Charles Sykes, and a host of other conservatives who find Trump's behavior to be far outside the boundaries of normal partisan public discourse."

They're conventional politicians, constrained by conventional expectations too. They're upset by Trump's strategic revolution as well, albeit not nearly as much as the Democrats. (after all, they can take advantage politically while they're sniping about his methods.) Establishment Republicans are equally out of touch with their base. They got voted in because they were perceived to be better than the alternative, but a lot of the Republican voters (the sort who were fans of Trump) are not happy with them, either. They think they compromise with Democrat policy too much. If Trump upsets the conventional wisdom sufficiently that unconventional politicians have a better chance in future, conventional politicians in both camps are at risk. Of course they're opposed to Trump.

"I take it as a given that Trump is lying in a new and unprecedented way when he says things like "thousands of Muslims danced in the streets of New Jersey when the Twin Towers came down" or "Barack Obama is the founder of ISIS" or "climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese." "

I saw video footage of them dancing in the streets in the Middle East. I don't know about New Jersey, but I suspect there were at least some quiet celebrations there. (Jihad is a communal obligation on all Muslims in Islam - see for example Umdat as Salik wa Uddat an Nasik for details.) The rise of ISIS was the direct result of the decision by Western rulers not to intervene on behalf of the Syrian people rebelling against their tyrant government (run by a guy who once gassed 40,000 civilians to death in a town that rebelled against him), forcing them to turn to the Islamists instead. It's a rather colourful way of putting it, but easily understandable. And catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is a hypothesis of grossly exaggerated certainty that is being pushed politically to justify redistributing wealth and technology from the industrial West to the developing world - China being the biggest and most relevant part of that. That's why the climate negotiations insist on only applying emission limits to Western nations, as was recognised back in 1997 in the Byrd-Hagel resolution, voted for by both sides of the house. Byrd-Hagel has been the American policy on climate change under both Bush and Obama, and rejects economically damaging American action on climate change until China is included.

Soundbites are always over-simplified. And when filtered through the wilful misinterpretation of a hostile media, easily misunderstood. These are technically inaccurate summaries calling out to more complex positions and arguments that Trump's base are already familiar with. You might disagree with those positions, but don't fool yourself into thinking they're not what the speeches are actually about. The other side just see that as dishonest wilful misrepresentation.

"I also take it as a given that this is BAD behavior for a political actor, especially a POTUS, and it's not good for our democracy, because it devalues the very concept of truth."

It devalues the requirement for politicians to be perfect. Fear of being seen to be imperfect stops a lot of politicians doing what they were elected to do. Politicians doing what they promised to do is arguably good for democracy...

It's like what I said about science being based on challenge. Scientists publish papers in peer-reviewed journals knowing that about half of them will quickly be proven to be wrong (http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124). But you can rely on the opposition to do the research to prove them so far more effectively than you could do yourself. So put out a load of opinions and proposals, and the ones that the opposition can't find anything about them to tear down, go with those. Trump's simply using the scientific method - natural selection - to let you find the holes in his policy proposals for him to fix.

"Climate change denial, for example, also depends on the belief that we cannot know the truth, and therefore that we can safely ignore what 99.9% of climate scientists are telling us."

A classic example. The number was actually 88%, (or less depending on what question you asked). But the 97% meme has had such wide and authoritative circulation that a lot of people think it's actually supported by science, without having ever bothered to check it for themselves. That's not very scientific.

We *can* know the truth. We can download Doran and Zimmerman's paper off the internet, and read it for ourselves (see the third column in figure 1). Very few people do, though.

The idea that we can't ignore what "99.9% of climate scientists are telling us" is a form of argument ad populam combined with argumentum ad verecundiam. It is a use of the Appeal to Authority fallacy. When you ask people what climate scientists claim the empirical evidence actually *is*, they don't know (or get it wrong). In fact, there isn't any. Methods attempting to ascribe anthropogenic causes to observed changes cannot fully account for all uncertainties, so there is no quantified scientific 'proof' of the hypothesis. It's therefore ultimately based on "expert judgement"; which is to say, their opinion.

Most people don't check. They simply take the expert's word for it, and indeed, take their word for it that they are, actually, experts. Most believers in catastrophic anthropogenic climate change don't know any climate science, don't know how the greenhouse effect works, don't know what those rising 'Hockeystick' temperature graphs actually mean (what is meant by a "temperature anomaly', for example?), or how they are measured/constructed, don't understand any of the complexities, or the arguments for or against. Most don't even know much physics. It's an article of faith. "Scientists say so", and it's a high crime against reason to doubt them.

Richard Feynman said "science is the belief in the ignorance of experts," and Feynman was an expert on science.

February 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Steve -

Don't forget... 3-5 million illegal immigrants voted in the election (delivering to Clinton the popular vote... He got not one illegal vote... Not one)

He won the electoral College vote in a historic landslide.

It stopped raining and the sun came out when he started speaking at the inauguration (God did that, Donna know) .

The Mexican government sends criminals to the U. S.

Mexico will pay for the wall.

The ACA will be immediately revealed and replaced (day one?)

There are at least 30 million illegal immigrants in the U. S.

Murder rate us highest in 45 years.

Ted Cruz's father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

He had investigators who had proof that Obama's birth certificate was fake.

We have no paperwork on Syrian refugees.

Clinton's plan was to bring in over 600, 000 Syrian refugees.

Syrian refugees were caught trying to sneak over the southern border.

Trump can't provide tax returns because he's being audited.

Clinton wanted to bring in Syrian refugees pretty much unvetted.

Clinton wanted to abolish the 2nd amendment.

He didn't create a fake personality to promote himself

The real unemployment rate could be over 40%

Clinton gave Russia 20% of our uranium.

February 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

Would there be any point in me going through all those individually? I've heard every one of them from other people, in every case the person was genuinely convinced it was true. Being wrong is not the same thing as "lying". Most of them are garbled, exaggerated, or biased versions of claims that have some truth to them, but reality is always complicated, and politicians on all sides know they succeed best with simple soundbites.

It's the same sort of thing as one in four Americans thinking the sun goes round the Earth. Most people hold an incredible array of wrong beliefs, but only a very small and select group of these become political shibboleths where people are judged on the basis of whether they believe or disbelieve them. Trump supporters are no different from anyone else in this regard - but they have such a radically different set of beliefs from the conventional liberal dogma, that the culture contrast is jarring. People don't notice incorrect beliefs when everyone around them holds the same wrong beliefs, and when they come across somebody from a different tribe they're naturally astonished at how ignorant and gullible they seem. However, the feeling is entirely mutual. That's how a large cultural slice of America sees the 'liberal cultural hegemony' that has been presented as 'truth' by the media and political elites for decades. It's only now that they have a champion willing to express their views boldly and in public that any of you have realised they're there.

To take your examples in turn briefly:
1. Nobody knows how many illegal immigrants vote because the political party they usually vote for has opposed measures to verify voter ID. Without evidence, how can you know that there aren't? Whatever the number, voters are not happy about it.
2. He won the electoral college, and it certainly appears to be historic. 'Landslide' is obvious rhetorical fluff for the fans.
3. I remember how the weather always used to be nicer when I was a kid. Funnily enough, the weather records show no change. People generally remember the weather as nicer when they're happy - in a speech it's just mood music. And so what?
4. The ones most desperate to cross the border are unlikely to be the most prosperous and upstanding citizens in Mexico, and I doubt the Mexican government is sad to see them go. They're not doing a lot to stop it happening, anyway.
5. This is a prediction about the future. We'll have to wait and see.
6. And Obama was going to shut Guantanamo down? I think every president finds there are campaign promises that turn out to be impossible or difficult for reasons they didn't know at the time. On the 'keeping promises' front, he's not doing bad so far.
7. There are a lot, which is the point. It's something voters are concerned about.
8. Law and order is again something voters are currently concerned about. They're not interested in precise statistical statements, they're interested in a politician who expresses concern too and promises to do something about it. The perception is that the murder rate has gone up - voters will say: 'never mind the statistical nitpicking, what are you going to do about it?'
9. That was about a National Enquirer story based on an unknown man being filmed handing out Castro-supporting flyers some months before, that the Enquirer thought looked like Cruz (who had been a Castro supporter at some point previously). The story was evidently being passed around and got garbled.
10. Again, that's a story that has wide currency in a large part of the population. I've heard several people saying that while they didn't believe for a moment that Obama was foreign, that there was something "odd" about the certificate that was eventually issued. I have no idea, and have no way to judge whether there's anything to it. It's outside my area of expertise.
11. I would expect that there are a lot of refugees without adequate paperwork.It would be a surprise if there weren't.
12. No, he said her plan was to increase *Syrian* refugees by 500% (her proposal was to increase from 10,000 to 65,000), and to bring in 600,000 refugees (of all nationalities), total. That number was obtained by adding the 100,000 refugees Obama was bringing in, add 55,000 new Syrian refugees to get 155,000 per year, and then multiply by a 4-year presidential term.
13. Dunno. I've read a newspaper article saying "Five Syrians using stolen Greek passports and headed for the U.S. were arrested in Honduras earlier this week, and eight other Syrians were detained after trying to cross from Mexico into Texas." Is that not true?
14. Trump has no intention of handing his opponents free ammunition they're only going to use to attack him (no matter what's in them). He probably thought mentioning the audit was more polite than saying "No chance, you partisan weasels!" (Or how about "Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?" :-) )
15. How much vetting is sufficient? Opinions differ.
16. In the leaked text of a private fundraiser speech, Clinton said she thought the Supreme Court had got it wrong on Heller - the basis of which was that the 2nd amendment didn't restrict the right to members of well-regulated militias. If that decision was wrong, then it has the effect of gutting the material content of the amendment as it has traditionally been applied without technically having to repeal it. Hillary certainly hasn't spoken against it any public forum, but then, she wouldn't, would she? This is one of those political beartrap questions - whichever way you answer it you'll lose with some group or other. What her private views are can only be speculated about. However, by raising the issue, Trump forces Clinton to re-affirm her support for the 2nd amendment, losing her support with her base, while he gains support with his. It's a very basic tactical move in the political contest.
17. That's just insulting.
18. I've seen some statistics making that claim - it depends on how you go about counting people who would want/need a job, but who have given up looking, and how you distinguish them from people who are voluntarily unemployed. The government statistics do the best they can by sticking to information they have access to. I'm personally dubious about this guy's 40% estimates because he doesn't publish details, but I'd tend to agree the official figures necessarily underestimate the number. Again, it's about showing support for a strong voter concern.
20. That's about the sale of Toronto One to the Russians, which constitutes about 20% of the Uranium mining industry in the US. Shortly after that, nine investors in that deal funneled $145m to the Clinton Foundation. Total coincidence, of course. Officially, it wasn't Clinton's decision. But given the politics of the famous "reset" in US-Russian relations, it's to be expected that her views would have considerable political weight in the decision to approve it. Maybe, maybe not.
I'm sure those Russian investors were just feeling especially charitable, that week...

The point of course is that whether or not they're strictly true in every particular, they're beliefs held by lots of voters, and those voters see nobody else in the political establishment representing them - indeed, they see them expressing nothing but contempt and hatred for it. Do you think that's going to work in regaining their support, or persuading them that they'd have been better off voting for someone other than Trump? Or that they were wrong about the contempt the political establishment holds for them and their views?

The tribes are polarised, and the establishment's response has been to double down on the position that lost them Congress, the Senate, and now the Presidency, and try to raise their own base in violent revolution against the Trump administration and his supporters. That's hardly likely to reduce the toxic degree of polarisation, now is it? Trump certainly wouldn't want to either - it's exactly what got him to where he is, and is only likely to further cement his support.

Anyway, for your viewing enjoyment:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW5XuVbSc40

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Joshua,

The same points I made above apply to everything in your list. These are often technically inaccurate summaries calling out to more complex positions and arguments that Trump's base are already familiar with. The liberal talking points on the same sort of subjects are just as inaccurate.

One in four Americans believe the sun goes around the Earth - everybody holds a huge array of false beliefs. Mostly people don't notice, or don't care. Only a very small and select subset get entangled in political divides and result in people being morally judged for getting the answer "wrong".

Trump is honestly expressing the beliefs of a large subset of the American population (large enough to get him elected!) that differs wildly from the set of beliefs of the liberal media and conventional political establishment. They're not unusually ignorant compared to other groups, they're just different. People can always see other people's flaws more clearly than their own.

Up until now, the political establishment has dismissed those people and their beliefs with contempt and in some cases hatred. They perceive themselves to have been suppressed and silenced. But now they have a champion who is willing to represent them, who has the power to ignore the establishment's disapproval, and has even found a way to feed on it. He deliberately provokes controversy because the response supports his narrative of the liberal elites being out to attack him, of being biased against him.

It's like the fable of 'the boy who cried wolf'. The idea is to get liberals to cry wolf so often, in such an over-the-top hysterical way, and with so little actual cause (so far), that he becomes immunised against their disapproval, and the liberal opposition to his administration becomes discredited. Even those who pretended to be impartial are being exposed as bitter partisans for the Democrats, and will henceforth be dismissed accordingly. It's a brilliantly original strategy (at least in recent times) and so far is working very well.

February 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Steve (if you're still reading this thread) -

In case it wasn't obvious already...this is what you're dealing with here... just to pick two from my list:


My example: [Trump]didn't create a fake personality to promote himself

Niv's explanation:

Trump is honestly expressing the beliefs of a large subset of the American population...

In other words, the "logic" is that Trump is "honestly" lying about something he did in the past..

As another example: Trump can't provide tax returns because he's being audited.

In other words, Trump is "honestly" lying to provide a reason why he can't provide his tax returns.

The logic is that because Trump is lying about something that a large subset of Americans believe, therefore it is "honest."

This is the kind of logic that NiV (someone quite capable of sophisticated reasoning) offers in order to advance his ideological agenda (i.e., conservative-splaining about why Trump lies).

As Trump would say...Sad.

February 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/politics/donald-trump-alter-ego-barron/2016/05/12/02ac99ec-16fe-11e6-aa55-670cabef46e0_story.html?

Just "Honestly" expressing the beliefs of a large subset of the American population. He wasnt lying. When he made those calls he was just giving voice to the beliefs of the poor, victimized large subset of the American population who believed that John Barron was Trump's publicist. And when he lied about whether he made those calls, he was just giving voice to the beliefs of a large subset of the American population who believed that Trump never created an alte-ego to publicize himself.

And we wouldn't understand that if NiV weren't around to apply the principles of skepticism and conservasplsin what is really going on.

Sad.

February 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

[rolls eyes]

"In case it wasn't obvious already...this is what you're dealing with here... just to pick two from my list:"

I actually wrote a long post addressing each of your points in turn. But it was so long the spam filter binned it, and I decided I really couldn't be bothered to go through all that again. It wasn't the point, anyway. Not all your examples have the same answer, and some are more excusable than others. For example, on your final case - the sale of Uranium One to the Russians, followed by nine of the investors in that deal funneling $145m to the Clinton Foundation. Perhaps they were just feeling unusually charitable that week? You believe that?!

"As another example: Trump can't provide tax returns because he's being audited. In other words, Trump is "honestly" lying to provide a reason why he can't provide his tax returns."

Any Trump supporter would simply say that the media were lying when they claimed to want to see his tax returns to confirm his honesty, when in fact they wanted them so they could trawl through them for something to attack him with. Under those circumstances, they would consider his refusal fully justified. And while using the 'audit' line is obviously a weak excuse, perhaps Trump thought it was more polite than calling the press 'partisan weasels' and inviting them to go away? They did, after all, put their request more politely than "Give us your tax records so we can crucify you, you Republican crook!"

Trump supporters will support his refusal to publish his tax returns. They'd probably be prepared to criticise him for not having done so in more challenging terms. But I'm pretty sure they'd forgive him for that - just like the Democrats forgave Hillary for not publishing those emails about yoga and stuff...

"In other words, the "logic" is that Trump is "honestly" lying about something he did in the past."

And when Obama said "If you like your policy you can keep your policy" he wasn't deliberately lying?! And when Hillary claimed to have dodged sniper fire in Bosnia she wasn't deliberately lying?! And when President Slick Willy said "I did not have sex with that woman" he wasn't deliberately lying?! Sheesh!

Yes, using sock puppets is lying, which as Steve already agreed above is something all politicians do. But I think that if claiming to be his own publicist is the worst you've got on him, he'll just shrug that off easily. It's not quite in the same league as setting up your own private email system to evade federal record keeping laws that might result in your pay-for-play fundraiser campaigning getting subpoena'd, using it to pass classified data around illegally, when caught out trying to wipe half the records, and then deliberately lying about what was in those emails, is it? If Hills can get away with all that, I don't Donald's got anything to worry about.

Seriously, nobody cares. Trump supporters would just think it was funny - a somewhat cheeky game to play with the media. Nobody - least of all Donald Trump - would claim that Trump is a flawless angel. Nobody gets to the top in either business or politics by being so. It's one of his virtues that he doesn't pretend to be one too hard. But on the policy front his approach has been to express his supporters worldview as he and they believe it. I don't agree with a lot of it personally - especially on his protectionist economics - but he's a hell of a lot more honest about his opinions than most politicians are, because he preferred to woo the voters rather than the liberal media and entrenched political elites, and that's what got him to the Whitehouse.

It's not that he's especially untruthful or inaccurate compared to anyone else's, it's that his views are so different to what you're used to that you notice it. He says the stuff that people are not allowed to say any more, and that's shocking.

And attacking him in these terms only makes him stronger, because it reinforces the toxic polarisation and tribalism that won him power in the first place. For Trump's supporters, compiling long lists of his supposed "lies", having spent the last 8 years studiously ignoring the long list of Obama's lies, just confirms their narrative of the media being biased against him.

The tactic doesn't work any more. The liberal media has "cried wolf" too many times, and the rules have changed.

But as Napoleon would have said, please don't let me interrupt. I'm enjoying the spectacle too much. :-)

February 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

This debate I seem to have spawned between @NiV and @Joshua was not my intent but has been interesting to read. However, what stands out is the obvious futility of it all. Even for an extreme case like Trump — indeed, THE reference case against which all past and future Presidential pathologies will be measured — there are still those among us who will devote every IQ point they can muster to making an intellectual case that everything we observe is a function of our innate biases or our flawed mental models.

(Please, please, do not squander those IQ points by continuing that debate here!)

What I was interesting in exploring was a different question. Let’s try to recall that many, many weeks ago this post was about Dan’s finding that “science curiosity” tended to ameliorate partisan polarization on various policy issues, including climate change.

These findings caused me to ask if perhaps there might be an analogous kind of “civics curiosity” that could have a similar effect. Let’s take the debate in the previous comments as an example.

Some of the examples @NiV and @Joshua batted back and forth were, I thought, of a different order than others. Some, for example, were about whether a past Trump behavior was a forgivable tactical action or a sign of pathology, like the John Barron fake publicist case in which Trump got caught pretending to be his own publicist so he could brag to the press about a fake affair with a fashion model. I don’t think “civics curiosity” could help diminish the polarization on a question like that, because it is not really a case with any political ramifications. … unlike, say, Trump’s more recent declaration that the media is “the enemy of the American people,” a claim that unapologetically ignores the First Amendment of the Constitution and 240 years of American history.

The analogy I’m looking for is this. If we sent out a survey to a representative sample of Americans in which we included a “civics curiosity” scale that captured the extent to which people were “curious” about American government, history, and Constitutional principles, might we find that people who scored “high” on this scale would be less polarized on the question of whether or not the media was “the enemy of the people” than would people who scored at the “low” end of the scale?

And if this did turn out to be the case, could we then ask the next analogous question: Are there ways to enhance “civics curiosity” in the public to act as a kind of bulwark against rising polarization?

Of particular interest would be the discovery (as with science curiosity) of a differentiation between civics knowledge and civics curiosity. We already know that greater political knowledge does not ameliorate polarization, on the contrary it increases it. Can we find a construct that taps into civics curiosity, one that affects political discourse and beliefs differently than civics knowledge?

There is an echo here of the political science literature on the “attentive public for foreign policy,” initiated by Gabriel Almond’s classic The American People and Foreign Policy in 1950. Like the idea of an “audience for science,” Almond’s work and studies that followed it over several decades tried to understand the “audience for foreign policy,” and the idea of “attentiveness” was meant to go beyond knowledge to include other elements like media consumption and political participation. Perhaps these ideas could be morphed into a new concept of “civics curiosity.”

I don’t know if anyone other than @NiV and @Joshua are following this thread any more, but I would happy to connect with anyone who would like to dig deeper into this question.

February 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Genco

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