Tag: Trump

*Yes* obstruction: ‘Active information avoidance’ and the Mueller Report

It is one of the great ironies of modern politics that Donald Trump is associated with popularising the term “fake news” to western audiences. Heck, on a number of occasions he claimed to have coined the phrase himself. (At one point he even claimed to have invented the word “fake.”)

That claim turned out to be, yes, well, you know what it turned out to be.

It’s so obvious, it’s not even funny.

And speaking of obvious, here is the final paragraph — the FINAL CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH COMPRISING THE ‘CONCLUSIONS’ SECTION — of the Mueller Report:

Surely this is the killer bit:

…if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we were unable to reach that judgement.

After 400+ pages, it’s quite an in-your-face ending. All that’s missing is a Mic Drop GIF.

Pic: giphy.com

And yet…

What is it that some people can’t see?

I guess what we have here is a case of “active information avoidance.”

Active information avoidance is the term psychologists use to describe how people knowingly choose to avoid, ignore, or downplay information that they are aware (a) is available and (b) is materially relevant. People engage in active information avoidance when they choose not to look at something that makes them feel bad.

Active information avoidance helps us to understand that the idea that humans are, by default, rational self-interested decision-makers is actually a myth. In reality, most humans default to irrational (but still self-interested) decision-making. It’s the psychology of echo chambers, groupthink, false consensus effects, and confirmation bias. And it’s really hard to get rid of.

One example is the ‘ostrich effect‘, where investors literally avoid logging into their online share data when they know the stock market is ‘down’, but log in more frequently when the stock market is ‘up’.

A second example is more common — when middle-class people avoid eye-contact with poor people they encounter begging on the street. Prosperous people also commonly avoid visiting poor areas of town for similar reasons — to avoid finding out how poor the poor really are.

The reality is that most people are prone to active information avoidance, especially when there is a risk that new information might debunk their worldview or threaten their sense of themselves.

Photo by Rosemary Ketchum on Pexels.com

Active information avoidance helps people to preserve their sense of safety, righteousness, and certainty. We are all prone to it.

So maybe that’s why US Attorney General William Barr chose to selectively quote that last Mueller paragraph in his infamous four-page teaser trailer the other week. You know, the one where he quoted the “does not conclude/does not exonerate” bit and then implied that Mueller was making some kind of philosophical point about underdetermination.

And maybe that’s why Trump himself was so quick to summarise “DOES NOT exonerate” to mean “TOTAL exoneration.” In philosophy-of-science terms, we might consider this “Not-X-is-equal-to-Total-X” stance as consistent with an extreme form of “fallibilism” — the idea that no belief is ever justified; that every claim to truth is liable to be the opposite of true.

Instead of invoking Game of Thrones imagery, he could have just tweeted the Duhem-Quine thesis.

(Or maybe he’s simply just a liar. Who knows?)

Psychologically, the ultimate range of crowdsourceable ideas is wide open. Because of active information avoidance, it can include virtually anything. We shouldn’t be surprised to see black-is-white argumentation in modern politics. In fact, we should probably be surprised if we don’t see it.

But one thing about active information avoidance is that it can’t last forever. In most cases, it is self-defeating. Information, by definition, has utility — the term information is reserved for ‘counsel from fact’ that is useful, that resolves uncertainty, that leads to better decisions. When people avoid information, they avoid something that has utility. In theory, at least, they should ultimately fall behind those who are good at facing up to things — as when the people who have their medical check-ups ultimately fare better than those who avoid them.

You never know. Maybe this is the tipping point. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s an illusion.

Yep, maybe it’s fake (thank you, sir).

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names are the go-to propaganda tool of unreconstructed fascists

So the White House is now directly referring to the underclass as “animals”:

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIOLENT ANIMALS OF MS-13

WHAT: The violent animals of MS-13 have committed heinous, violent attacks in communities across America.

Too many innocent Americans have fallen victim to the unthinkable violence of MS-13’s animals.

At the State of the Union in January 2018, President Trump brought as his guests Elizabeth Alvarado, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez, and Freddy Cuevas, the parents of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas.  Police believe these young girls were chased down and brutally murdered by MS-13 gang members on Long Island, New York, in 2016. Suffolk County Police Commissioner stated that the “murders show a level of brutality that is close to unmatched.”

In Maryland, MS-13’s animals are accused of stabbing a man more than 100 times and then decapitating him, dismembering him, and ripping his heart out of his body. Police believe MS-13 members in Maryland also savagely beat a 15-year-old human trafficking victim. The MS-13 animals used a bat and took turns beating her nearly 30 times in total.

In Houston, Texas, two MS-13 members were charged after kidnapping and sexually assaulting one girl and murdering another. The two MS-13 animals laughed, smiled, and waved for cameras in court as they faced the charges.

New York communities have suffered tremendously from the abhorrent violence of MS-13. Nearly 40 percent of all murders in Suffolk County, New York between January 2016 and June 2017 were tied to MS-13.

In January 2017, MS-13 members were charged with killing and hacking up a teenager in Nassau County. MS-13’s animals reportedly saw the murder as a way to boost their standing in the gang. In April 2017, police believe four young men were brutally murdered by MS-13 animals on Long Island. One victim was a young man in town visiting family during an Easter week vacation. Just last month, in April 2018, MS-13 reportedly called for its members on Long Island to kill a cop for the sake of making a statement.

WHY: MS-13 is a transnational gang which follows the motto of “kill, rape, control” by committing shocking acts of violence in an attempt to instill fear and gain control.

MS-13 is a transnational gang that has brought violence, fear, and suffering to American communities. MS-13, short for Mara Salvatrucha, commits shocking acts of violence to instill fear, including machete attacks, executions, gang rape, human trafficking, and more. In their motto, the animals of MS-13 make clear their goal is to “kill, rape, control.” The gang has more than 10,000 members in the United States spreading violence and suffering.

Recent investigations have revealed MS-13 gang leaders based in El Salvador have been sending representatives into the United States illegally to connect the leaders with local gang members. These foreign-based gang leaders direct local members to become even more violent in an effort to control more territory.

President Trump’s entire Administration is working tirelessly to bring these violent animals to justice.

Just to clarify, this is an official White House statement, published on behalf of the United States President on www.whitehouse.gov.

I have no doubt that MS-13 is a despicable gang. Nonetheless, demonizing adversaries by depicting them as animals is simply unbecoming of a civilized state.

But then this is Trump’s America, a state seemingly ever less civilized by the day.

I guess they got the idea from history:

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And you know what they say about history.

It repeats itself.

 

Donald Trump is a true Belieber

No words needed.

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