Beyond Beyond the Fringe category archive
The Washington Post’s Stephanie McCrummen follows an Alice down the Trumpian rabbit hole.
No excerpt or summary can do this report justice.
Just read it. It is–er–disquieting.
At Above the Law, Jill Switzer rounds up some clients who make lawyers question their career choice.
(Not, mind you, that I think Washington, D. C., is some kind of paragon of purity. What place is?)
At the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Patricia Murphy discusses a number of
absolutely screwy proposals that have lately been introduced in the Georgia legislature. One, for example, would drop the requirement to vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies, a requirement that has been validated by over a century of science and experience.
You can read the full story at the link. Indeed, I urge you do do so–some of these bills are completely unmoored from reality.
I point only to this telling excerpt to illustrate that some in our polity have chosen to live–and vote–in a fantasy world:
At a hearing on a Republican measure to allow Georgians to carry a concealed weapon without a license, state Sen. Jason Antavitarte, R-Dallas, called any assertion that gun crimes are increasing in states with similar laws in place “patently false.”
“Actually it’s well documented,” state Sen. Elena Parent responded.
“Well you have your facts, I have my facts, so that’s fair,” he reasoned.
Taking a beat, Parent responded, “Um, no.”
Psychologist Richard Lettieri explores factors that may predispose persons to
fall for embrace conspiracy theories. He identifies five specific characteristics:
- Strong group identity.
- An authoritarian disposition.
- A narrow definition of masculinity.
- Low level of epistemic rationality.
- Insecure attachment.
Follow the link for a detailed discussion of each one.
At Psychology Today Blogs, Arthur Dobrin points out that conspiracies are, in a legal context, real things; persons can be charged with and convicted of conspiracies in a court of law. He suggests that these real-life conspiracies differ wildly from the many false conspiracy theories that litter our discourse and pollute our polity.
He goes on to offer some pointers for distinguishing between the two. Here’s one; follow the link for the others.
2. Can the claim be disproved? In science, this is called the Falsification Principle. But this approach can also be applied to weighing the validity of conspiracy claims. In a court of law, the government attempts to prove the validity of its charges while the defense tries to dispute the charges. A judge or jury then decides, either by the preponderance of the evidence in a civil case or beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal suit. By contrast, no matter how many facts are presented contrary to a conspiracy theory, for example, the U.S. government complicity in the 9/11 attack, conspiracy theorists remain convinced of their “truth” and will introduce yet more speculation or convoluted explanations to maintain that “truth.”
The small city of Oroville, located in the mountainous area of California about halfway between San Francisco and the Oregon state line, has declared itself independent of its state. In a long and fascinating article at the Sacramento Bee, Josh Gohlke considers the implications. A nugget (emphasis added):
But Oroville’s bananas republic is most intriguing as a hyperlocal expression of national insanity. As one of the resolution’s own champions, Oroville Mayor Chuck Reynolds, acknowledged, it “doesn’t change anything” for practical purposes. It could change plenty, however, that our democratic union has fallen so far in the estimation of so many, including the putative leaders of a whole California town, that they would so casually dismiss any obligation to it beyond their personal and political whims.
While this measure might sound like a stray trickle from the town beneath the nation’s tallest dam, it’s part of a much larger atmospheric river of misinformation. For a variety of supposed reasons and one real one — namely, that majority rule no longer seems likely to put certain politicians in power — it’s become fashionable in certain circles to point out, as if it’s a crucial distinction, that “America is a republic, not a democracy.”
It is another indication that some of our polity have abandoned the concept of the common good (or, if you prefer, Will Bunch’s phrasing, the public good).
At Psychology Today Blogs, Alex Danvers and Peter Leavitt discuss some of the attractions and functions of conspiracy theories in the context of a discussion of Tara Westover’s book, Educated. Here’s a bit of their conversation; follow the link for the rest.
People may not necessarily take action on these extreme received beliefs in everyday life—although they may “go off” later in life, if something deeply out of line with them were to occur (like the election of a Black president). Instead, just having these extreme beliefs serves as a way to separate people. Expressing these beliefs—beliefs offensive to most people—would end up ostracizing people. That would reinforce the idea that they can’t be accepted by and integrated into broader society. In daily life, the harmful beliefs held by Gene are not primarily about harming others, but about marking him and his family as different and apart from others. They are the “real free thinkers” who “did their own research.”