At the end of each month I share some links to pieces I found thought-provoking in some way. Continuing the trend of less noise, more noticing, I offer four pieces for February.
“I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.
He looked at me and said nothing.
It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.” ”
An example of a lie becoming someone’s truth: “The story then spread through the international conservative media like a global warming-intensified wildfire – to Breitbart, Fox News, Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, The Washington Times, and more. Scott Johnson summed up the fake news story perfectly in an article at Ars Technica:
At its core, though, it’s not much more substantial than claiming the Apollo 11 astronauts failed to file some paperwork and pretending this casts doubt on the veracity of the Moon landing.
At the same time, real science journalists who investigated the story quickly determined that it was fake news and published stories reflecting that reality. Readers of legitimate news outlets like The Guardian, The Washington Post, Carbon Brief, E&E News, Ars Technica, Science Insider, RealClimate, and numerous other science blogs were accurately informed.”
“Humans like to know things. We like it when other people think we know things too. We enjoy the respect knowledge commands, and we feel useful when our knowledge is relied upon. So, we go about pretending we know everything. We form opinions and tell ourselves they are the same as facts. Our perspective, our mindset, our upbringing, and our way of life are real and right, and all the rest is wrong. Case closed, discussion over.
The reality is scary. The reality is we don’t know much of anything. We are floating on an open sea with no land and no sign telling us how to survive or which way to swim. We cling to anything that feels solid, anything that feels like a fact because it is better to float on a lie than to risk drowning in the search for truth.”
“Facts are not the opposite of lies. Indeed, to defeat lies, we may have to—temporarily, in a targeted way—give up on facts.
The thing is that trying to counter a lie with a fact is like trying to get a catchy tune out of your head by reading out loud from the dictionary. It doesn’t matter which edition you use, or how many definitions you read, or how loudly you say them; when you stop, you’ll still be thinking about Rick Astley. In fact, it’s entirely possible you’ll find yourself singing “now I’m gonna LOOK it UP, ‘infrastructure’ IS a NOUN, this is what it means: a ba-a-asic framework.” The fact does not unseat the lie, and the lie often just ends up deforming the facts.
You have that song stuck in your head now, and I’m sorry. But we can fix it. There are two surefire ways to get a tune out of your head, besides death: Replace it with a stickier tune, or replace it with a tune that is just catchy enough to knock it out but not catchy enough to stay with you for all time. (The song that works best for the latter is “Everybody to the Limit” by Strong Bad, just so you know.) By the same token, even though you can’t dislodge a lie with a correction, might it be possible to dislodge a lie by replacing it with another lie (not ideal) or something similar enough to a lie that it occupies the same brain space (perhaps better)?”
Image Credit: Mine