Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Laws of the Internet: Sowell's Rule

One of the recurrent themes found on the internet within movement conservatism is a comparison of the issue of the moment to the events of 1938 - that one moment when perhaps Hitler's plans could have been stopped and world war two prevented. 

The same is also true with regard to 1914. What if, somehow, the leaders of the democracies of the North Atlantic possessed perfect knowledge about the consequences of am apparently isolated event in the Baltics.  Perhaps in that event, these nations could have collaborated in a dramatic way to prevent the first world war. 

If only something could have been done at the time of peril, these calamities needn't have happened. This type of comparison to modern events happens all the time of the wingnet.

The Fallacy goes like this: things don't seem too far out of control now, but things also seemed to be under control in 1914 and 1938 and then all hell broke loose.  Consequently we better take some dramatic action now or hell could break loose just as it did in 1914 and. or 1938. Life as we know it could suddenly come collapsing down just like it did back then. That's why we must create and lead a coalition of the willing to defeat Saddam Hussein immediately or to bomb this county or that country. The list is inexhaustible. 

For one rigid right wing ideologue, Hoover Institute's Thomas Sowell, every year since there has been an internet has seemed pretty much to be like 1938 or 1914.  Maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by much.

So why to these right wingers do it so often? One reason could be fear, as the conservatives base has been shown to react more strongly to rhetoric based on appeals to fear.  However, Daniel Larison (probably) has a better answer:
What tells us even more about a person’s foreign policy assumptions is how often he falls back on historical analogies and how varied those analogies are. For instance, when a neoconservative or hawk invokes 1938 in response to every single crisis or major event overseas, that mostly tells us that he probably has a very superficial grasp on the particulars of current events. If everything can be reduced to a comparison to the Munich conference and its aftermath, there is no need to make the effort to understand the present-day crisis on its own terms. It also suggests that the person making this comparison is more concerned to score ideological points rather than he is interested in offering relevant analysis. By the same token, citing 1914 as a cautionary tale is potentially just as misleading. While there are tensions between major powers, there is much less danger of a a war between them today than there was a hundred years ago. Invoking the start of WWI can be just as lazy and reflexive as shouting, “Munich!” We should always want our government to be careful “about extending treaty commitments to client states,” and we should always want it to exercise caution and not overreact to foreign crises, but most of the “lessons” they draw from 1914 don’t need the example of 1914 to make sense to us.
Basically, the 1938 /1914 fallacy is crutch to lean on when one is not interesting in thinking about the complexities that exist today.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Understanding the Wingnet: The Benghazi Conspiracy Explained

Phrase of the Day: The Benghazi Conspiracy Theory

During an attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, died in the hours that followed. At the height of 2012 presidential campaign, GOP insiders decided to use the attack as a political tactic against the incumbent president during the campaign by insinuating lack of competence, dishonesty and malfeasance on the part of the Obama Administration.

Though there was not evidence supporting these allegations, rank and file republicans gave party insiders the benefit of the doubt and took the allegations to be true. Thereafter fueled by Conservative Media, conspiracy theories took hold of the party as party members attempted to piece together facts into a narrative that would besmirch the Obama Administration.

Initially, the GOP charged the Obama Administration of whitewashing a terrorist attack, these allegations morphed into even more outlandish claims of a stand-down of military aid to the besieged facility, claims that the CIA was using Benghazi for running guns to Syrian Rebels and even that the attack was allowed to happen in order to murder the US Ambassador.

As the 2012 election ended in defeat for the GOP, Party Insiders kept the allegations alive as a ploy to be used against a potential 2016 presidential campaign by Hillary Clinton who was the Secretary of State during the attack. As a result, disinformation about the Benghazi consulate attack has been routinely disseminated through conservative media such as Fox News with such disinformation expected to continue on in effect for the duration of the 2016 presidential campaign  - if Hillary Clinton runs as a candidate for the democratic party.

Despite having been dispelled by 7 different investigations, the Benghazi Conspiracy continues to hold the attention of the hard right in America due to three basic components. First. There was an actual attack on a consulate and due to the "Fog of War" the sequence of events was not immediately apparent.

Next insiders within the GOP decided to use the attack on the consulate as tool to reinforce previously held views within the GOP base about the Obama Administration's approach to Islamic Terrorism.

And finally, understanding what caused the consulate attack and the events surrounding the attack required reliance upon "Elites" as the ordinary person lacks the capability and knowledge to make a determination on his/her own.  This reliance on Elites and in particular reliance upon partisan or dishonest Elites makes the ordinary individual particularly susceptible to disinformation and manipulation.  In the parlance of the right wing media, rank and file republicans were "Gruberized" or deliberately manipulated by GOP Elites in order to achieve a larger objective - defeating the incumbent party and returning to power.

Link to House Intelligence Committee Benghazi Investigation Report.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

University of Alabama Professors Explain "Advanced Stage Climate Denial" and other Adventures in Wingnutology

According to these (right wing) Professors, Climate Change is real but the ALL the real scientists operate in bad faith [wsj-paywall maybe]:
The two fundamental facts are that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat before it can escape into space.
What is not a known fact is by how much the Earth's atmosphere will warm in response to this added carbon dioxide. The warming numbers most commonly advanced are created by climate computer models built almost entirely by scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming. The rate of warming forecast by these models depends on many assumptions and engineering to replicate a complex world in tractable terms, such as how water vapor and clouds will react to the direct heat added by carbon dioxide or the rate of heat uptake, or absorption, by the oceans.
We might forgive these modelers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the beginning of climate modeling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate....
- Messrs. McNider and Christy are professors of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and fellows of the American Meteorological Society.
So that's it. It is not that increases in man-made greenhouse Gases  fuel the greenhouse effect and trap more heat in the  atmosphere, Oceans and into ice sheets. This is real - the theory is valid. More heat is being trapped.

The complaint of these right wing professors seems to be that people are mean (See Kerry, John), computers are imperfect - especially the commodore 64s that were once used (never mind that computing power has increased by a factor of a bazillion) and that the scientists cannot be trusted to produce good science.

This is feature of Advanced Stage Denial. It allows the speaker to pull a bait and switch from Global Warming to "catastrophic global warming."  This is clever.

In doing so, the trickiest of speakers is able to conflate the theory behind Anthropogenic Global Warming with the computer models that demonstrate worst case scenario for warming. If the worst case scenario seems "ridiculous," all computer models are inherently suspect along with the theory itself.

This method allows the speaker to state in good faith his belief that "Catastrophic" Global Warming is false - leaving unsaid that "Really Bad and Dangerous" Global Warming is likely true, however. This second part always-always goes unsaid.

Its how the game is played.

The thing about right wing science professors, or skeptics of the settled consensus, is that they are by training, education and expertise, science professionals who (probably  at least in part have been trained and educated at Government expense), have the ability to clearly and cogently present their counter - theories to the world and add to the public discourse. They should have, by experience, the ability to take complicated subjects and present them in the way that an average teenager should be able to understand.

Accordingly these types of professionals should be ideally placed and having been educated at (least partially) government expense have a DUTY to educate and engage the public in a positive manner on why their views are more persuasive.  But none of these "Skeptics" ever steps up to the challenge.  It is not like such a person wouldn't have a built in audience - an overwhelming majority of Reality Based Folks would be happy to learn that the Scientists made a big mistake about global warming. It won't cause large scale extinction, rising seas, food shortages in some parts of the world, increased international armed conflicts, acidification of the ocean - it was all just a big mistake.  But that is not how they play the game.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Word of the Day - Santorumnesia

This is an important one because it appears that Santorumnesia is highly contagious among the Party Elite

Santorumnesia is the inability to remember the 2012 candidacy of Rick Santorum. It affects various GOP insiders disproportionately to the general population.

Lamestream Media Figure: Who do you think will be on stage at the first GOP 2016 primary debate now that Christie has melted down.
GOP Insider: Well there's Rand Paul and Joe Scarborough and Rubio, Walker, Jeb Bush, Cruz and maybe some New Reagan type candidate that nobody's head of yet but will be pretty cool for about 2-3 weeks and then crash spectacularly. Hell, maybe even Huckabee will run but that's about that's it.
Lamestream Media Figure: What about Santorum? He came in second last time and is running again.
GOP Insider: Who??? Never heard of him.
This is a classic example of Santorumnesia. Poor Santo.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lessons in Wingnutlology - Words of the Day

Words found on the Wingnet today and translated into English.


Context: Using the word "Obama" in context of immigration reform may cause some Republicans to disassociate themselves from supporting comprehensive immigration reform. This is because the word "Obama" scares good conservatives  as in Obamacare or Obamaphones.

Used in a sentence: If you want to be a good conservative you cannot oppose scary Obamacare while supporting Obamigration Reform....because both are scary and are basically the same.


Context:  Same as above. The word "Obama" is scary.

Used in a sentence: Like Chris Christie, the President also causes traffic jams when he travels to distant places because of his secret security detail. He does this to be mean. These traffic jams, which hurt some peoples feelings, are called "Obamajams."

This has been a public service.