Confirmation Bias

I have certain rules I live by. My first rule I don’t believe anything the government tells me. And I don’t take very seriously the media, or the press, in this country. With the case in the Persian Gulf war they were nothing more than unpaid employees of the Department  of Defense.  Most of the time their function is kind of an unofficial public relations agency for the United States government, so I don’t listen to them. I don’t really believe in my country and I gotta tell you folks, I don’t get all choked up about yellow ribbons and American flags. I consider them to be symbol for the symbol-minded.
~ George Carlin

 

In general, my take is much as Popper stated: “It is easy to obtain confirmations, or verifications, for nearly every theory — if we look for confirmations.”

Hence, we can choose to believe just about anything we want to believe. This untethered reality is rampant in America these days, as we’ve all noticed. It’s magical thinking.

That said, we can demonstrate some “facts” are not really facts at all. Such “facts” are indeed, falsifiable. In other words, what some folks call “alternative facts” these days is bullshit. We can observe the world we live in, compare these observations to the claims made about this alternative universe, and say, “This alternate stuff is the same old bullshit with a “new & improved reality TV package.”

And here – specifically – is why ______ it is bullshit.”

As Popper stated, once we remove the layers of the onion, there is motivated reasoning at the heart of trusting in bullshit. People believe this stuff because they want to believe it.

In America, what happens is people pick a team. If we join the blue team, then we believe the things the blue team says, and assume everything the red team says is bullshit. Conversely, if we join the red team, then we believe the things the red team says, and assume everything the blue team says is bullshit. Americans have forgotten to apply Carlin’s rule: the blue team and red team lie to us.

Dear reader, did you notice the blue team is red and the red team is blue?

It is generally easy to identify which of Trump’s assertions are, in one way or another, unworthy of belief. What is somewhat more difficult to establish is whether his unmistakably dubious statements are deliberate lies or whether they are just bullshit.

The distinction between lying and bullshitting is fairly clear. The liar asserts something which he himself believes to be false. He deliberately misrepresents what he takes to be the truth. The bullshitter, on the other hand, is not constrained by any consideration of what may or may not be true. In making his assertion, he is indifferent to whether what he is says is true or false. His goal is not to report facts. It is, rather, to shape the beliefs and attitudes of his listeners in a certain way.

Harry Frankfurt: On Bullshit

When we apply this understanding to the Insane Clown President’s Big Top Bizarro World we currently find ourselves in, then we can shine some much needed and appreciated clarity and lucidity on the subject. The light bulb switches on. It might be a night light, but at least there’s something to help us find the bathroom.

When we apply this understanding to our current situation, then we get the conclusion we can determine some of the statements we have been sold in this mainstream narrative are false. Popper says these falsifable statements are thus determined to be bullshit and subterfuge.

However, this does not mean that you or I know what happened and who done it. There very well may be multiple moving parts to the story. It does seem clear they didn’t feed us the truth. The government certainly has lied through out much of this narrative. This shouldn’t surprise us. What is much less clear is what did happen.

I don’t know. It is humbling and realistic to remind ourselves, “I don’t know.” and be OK with it.

Take a moment to remind ourselves, one of the main aspects of motivated reasoning as it applies to conspiracy theories is the need to “feel special.” One feels as if I “get it” when other people do not. This makes me feel different in a good way. I am more “plugged in” to reality than other people. Sounds like a trap… because it’s a trap!

What drives people’s belief in these “out there” explanations for significant events? Let’s find out…

We argue that people high in need for uniqueness should be more likely than others to endorse conspiracy beliefs because conspiracy theories represent the possession of unconventional and potentially scarce information. […] Moreover, conspiracy theories rely on narratives that refer to secret knowledge (Mason, 2002) or information, which, by definition, is not accessible to everyone, otherwise it would not be a secret and it would be a well-known fact.

People who believe in conspiracy theories can feel “special,” in a positive sense, because they may feel that they are more informed than others about important social and political events. […]

Our findings can also be connected to recent research demonstrating that individual narcissism, or a grandiose idea of the self, is positively related to belief in conspiracy theories. Interestingly, Cichocka et al. (2016) found that paranoid thought mediates the relationship between individual narcissism and conspiracy beliefs.

The current work suggests, however, that need for uniqueness could be an additional mediator of this relationship. Indeed, previous work has shown that narcissism is positively correlated with need for uniqueness (Emmons, 1984) and here we showed that need for uniqueness is related to conspiracy belief.

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories – Why Do People Believe Them?

“Individual narcissism.” Where have we heard this before? Sounds like Donald Trump. And his cult of Trumpets. “The need for uniqueness.” Where have we heard this before? Sounds like the cult of identity politics. The snowflakes. In other words, Amerca is eat up with this narcissism snowflake shit. Not just the red team. Not just the blue team. America. America in general is eat up with individualism and selfishness. We all know it. We just don’t deal with it. We’re an unhealthy society.

lion-cat

Of course, sometimes what American society in general labels “conspiracy theory” turns out to be the truth. So let’s not throw the chemtrail baby out with the radioactive bathwater.

 

See also Dan Kahan: What is Motivated Reasoning and How Does It Work?

 

 

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