The following is false:

‘The only thing we can do is to improve our critical thinking & media literacy, & learn what we must be on guard against … we can learn tools to defend ourselves in this era of rapid falsehood. We need to marshal our ability to think critically‘

Critical thinking, media literacy, etc. are very poor tools for defending against viral falsehoods.

It’s also awful & condescending to believe that viral believers lack critical thinking or are stupid.

I am with 's much less sanguine analysis in

"media literacy and critical thinking will be deployed as an assertion of authority over epistemology."

"I believe in empathy and building resilience… I relish people recognizing unconscious bias and grappling with the limits of their own mind. But I’m not at all convinced that asking people to strengthen their individual cognitive capacities will do a lot to address a complex systemic issue."

Media literacy is *interesting* and *worth teaching* for intellectual reasons, along with abstract algebra and Faulkner. But it's not going to cause people to re-evaluate their sacred cows.

I've been privileged? to see radicalization in three places:
- trump people vs the rest
- ISIS recruiting & innoculation
- Hong Kong, pro- vs anti-police/Beijing

All six of these factions insist they're using critical thinking and meta-analysis, that they're seeing the other side's (invalid) arguments.

I'm a programmer. Most of my waking thinking moments are spent ironing out in excruciating detail how to actually do something that was easy to say in words. I combat "Shit's Easy Syndrome" every day (

None of these factions can construct a real convincing argument against its opponent. Viral beliefs, like real viruses, evolve under intense pressure—their inventors poured all their energy, creativity, and intellect in making these beliefs immune to easy argumentation.


> None of these factions can construct a real convincing argument against its opponent.


@garbados Gosh, what I'd do to introduce you to some people I know who will strenuously argue that their beloved leader, who has all the characteristics of a fascist, absolutely lacks any of the characteristics of a fascist, and follow up with a detailed explanation how persons B, C, and G are actually fascists, completing their argument that you are the fascist-lover (the assumption being that you probably love B, C, et al.).

@22 oh you mean like “no one can create a persuasive argument because people will simply disbelieve you on the basis of fealty” yeah ok


@garbados Fealtyyyy… maybe at the deepest level but on the surface, people's perceptions of their own views as matching those of credentialed scientists. Kahan's abstract in is quite beautiful prose but outlines the structure of these beliefs that make it so hard to unseat them.

People don't believe unscientific things because they hate science or something we can dismiss as dumb brainwashing. They rather are convinced (maybe via fealty) that their views ARE scientific.

@22 this dynamic has been referred to as an "epistemic crisis" as people find their views totally irreconcilable due to distinct underlying premises. all the time i find myself arguing with well-meaning people repeating state propaganda, who will never really change their mind absent disastrous circumstances that make them experience the horror we are trying to end. rhetoric has no purpose in those moments. the underlying reality that shapes our worldviews is so distinct as to be respectively unbelievable. i can't understand why they believe some people should starve. they can't understand why i don't believe in starving people.

see also this sartre quote:

@garbados How extraordinarily awful. The people I lock horns with actually agree with me that, of course it'd be better if we didn't cage black and brown people (USA), that democracy is sacred, and definitely that hungry people deserve our help—no unbridgeable gap there.

But since people of color need to follow the rules too; and we ought to punitively take away others' votes to protect ours; and since some poor people are just lazy, they diverge with me on policy matters.

@garbados In fact… I now see that protecting oneself and one's own is a big big part of their value system, and that drives them to endorse the cruelty and inhumanity of the fascists. "Black people scare me. My vote mustn't be compromised. The government should spend money on me when I'm hungry, not those poor people who live in downtown."

Protecting oneself is by itself admirable… The disconnect happens quite predictably: how dare I suggest people of color are currently awfully oppressed, etc.

@garbados So, thankfully in my case, far from being totally irreconcilable, my racist–fascists and I seem to simply assign different weights to different values, costs, and observations.

I bet even if they agreed with me that a study linking gun ownership to higher child death rates was impeccably executed and thoroughly reproduced, THEIR OWN LIVES were once saved (or more likely, might someday be saved) by owning a gun so that trumps any probabilistic social benefit.

Similarly welfare, etc…

re: ideological divides and rhetoric 

@22 it's hard for me anymore to understand the "different weight" theory of epistemic irreconcilability, because it still normalizes ambient atrocities. for example: prisons are good, one must work to survive, the "lazy" should starve, etc. one imagines that quibbling over the specifics of who lives and who dies amounts to an ideological divide, but both views affirm the reigning system. it is the pax between the fascist and the centrist, the stick and carrot at the heart of the capitalist nation-state.

i tend to attribute this to the just-world fallacy, in that individuals will develop a faith in the systems that bind them in order to feel like they have control -- that because they consented, and they would never consent to something evil, then the way of things must not be evil. yet they find themselves apologizing for starvation and enslavement, rationalizing their consent to the exclusion of any ethical principles.

re: ideological divides and rhetoric 

@22 i mean my father's father was blacklisted by the US state department on suspicion of being a gay communist during the mccarthy era, only for my father to emigrate back to the US and become an unflappable patriot, simultaneously abhorring the red scare that blacklisted his father while allowing its propaganda to cultivate in him an immovable faith in capitalism and the false notion that any alternative is totalitarian. to me, a gay communist, it makes no sense. how could you witness first-hand behind the mask of american propaganda only to allow that propaganda so deep into your mind?

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