Posts Tagged “backfire effect”

Stop Sign, via FreeFotoPlease pardon this slight departure from the usual topics of this blog.

I’m sure most of my readers know by now about the Groper-in-Chief’s Twitter tantrum, this past Saturday, over his predecessor having supposedly wiretapped his campaign offices in Trump Tower (WebCite cached article). He hasn’t offered the slightest evidence for this accusation — which is quite serious. He’s had a few days to come up with something … anything! … even remotely supporting his claim, but has refused to do so. In fact, the Apricot Wonder has asked Congress to investigate and find the evidence supporting it (cached).

That’s right, folks. Not only does the GiC have no basis for what he spewed, he knows he doesn’t, and now demands other people somehow find that evidence for him.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute offered a breakdown of how the alt right’s Dear Leader came to make this ridiculous accusation (cached). Among the conclusions of his analysis:

It’s worth noting here that, contra Trump’s claim on Twitter, none of the articles in question claim that phones were tapped. Indeed, it’s not even entirely clear that the order the FISC finally issued in October was a full-blown electronic surveillance warrant requiring a probable cause showing. If the FBI was primarily interested in obtaining financial transaction records, corporate documents, and (depending on both the facts and the FISC’s interpretation of the FISA statute) perhaps even some stored e-mail communications, that information might well have been obtainable pursuant to a §215 “business records” order, which imposes only the much weaker requirement that the records sought be “relevant to an authorized investigation.”

In sum, there’s very little there, and what is there, does not, in fact, support the GiC’s contention. He’s lying, plain and simple. And as I said, he has to know he’s lying.

But take note what happened here. The Apricot Wonder used Twitter as the platform for a big fat honking lie … and as a result, we’re now saddled with a Congressional investigation into wrongdoing which — at the moment — we have no reason to believe ever took place. All because of a Twitter fit that the mass media duly reported.

And that brings me to my idea: A mass media moratorium on reporting the Groper-in-Chief’s tweets. That’s right. What we need for the media to stop fucking reporting on every bit of lying drivel that comes out of the Groper’s Android phone. The country would be spared a lot of trouble, if they’d just do that.

But they won’t. “The president’s tweets are news!” reporters and editors will say. But, while that seems true, it’s not. Presidents say and do a lot of things in the course of a day which aren’t actually newsworthy. The Apricot Wonder’s tweets should be treated that way. If his infantile spew weren’t reported on, a lot of this shit wouldn’t happen. And he wouldn’t be able to misdirect us.

One might also say that the media should report on the Groper’s lying tweets, then debunk them. However, that won’t accomplish anything of substance, and it certainly won’t discourage the Apricot Wonder from lying even more. In fact, this approach actually fuels him, and he’s counting on the media to at least try to debunk him. This is because — amazingly enough — he wants the media to debunk his lies! You see, he’s playing up to his fanbois, and in their eyes, being debunked actually reinforces whatever outrageous thing he says. This is because of a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect. Ultimately, the Groper is counting on the media to report his lies, then make clear they’re lies, because this only deepens his relationship with the people he’s speaking to. Reporters who relay his lying tweets then show they’re lies, are just doing the GiC’s work for him. They might as well be on his payroll!

It’d be a good idea if, generally, the media treated the Groper like the infantile, paranoid, thin-skinned, whiny cretin he is. The media are showing him a degree of respect he hasn’t actually earned. If they did that, the attention whore who infests the Oval Office would have no choice but to grow up and begin acting his age. Cutting off his ability to build on his raging, immature “base” would benefit everyone.

Photo credit: FreeFoto.

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Veracicat has checked your facts and is not impressed with your lies. (PsiCop, based on original from I blogged a little while ago, we now live in a post-truth world. Facts no longer matter, and no one gives a flying fuck about veracity. Worse than merely dismissing the need for reliance on fact, many people now openly express contempt for veracity. Wild speculation and antic sanctimony are what rules them, and anything contrary is viewed as an existential threat to their persons.

This view of veracity not being merely unimportant, but antithetical to one’s own existence, can lead to some very real dangers. I have two examples of this extreme for your consideration.

The first is “pizzagate,” the utterly absurd Right-wing political trope that got so far out of control that a man showed up at a Washington pizzeria and fired a gun there, supposedly in an effort to “investigate” the controversy. The Washington Post has a story on how this asinine foolishness started, how it escalated to gunplay, and — worst of all — how it will never go away — in spite of the fact that there’s not one stitch of evidence to support any of its contentions (WebCite cached article).

The whole “pizzagate” ridiculousness is only a month old … but my other example today has been brewing for years, and doesn’t appear to be letting up. That involves the so-called “Sandy Hook hoax.” The “hoax” here, of course, is that the Sandy Hook shootings are — sadly — not a “hoax” at all. The “hoax” comes from those who keep calling it a “hoax.” This is something we’ve dealt with, here in my home state of Connecticut, since those shootings occurred 4 years ago. USA Today reports on just the latest example of the dangers that keep spinning out of the “Sandy Hook truther” movement (cached):

A Florida woman who believes the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting was a hoax was arrested Monday on charges she threatened the parent of a child killed in the 2012 school shooting.

Lucy Richards, 57, of Tampa, Fla., was indicted on four counts of transmitting threats, according to a statement from the United States Attorney Southern District of Florida.…

According to authorities, Richards made a series of death threats against the parent of a child who was killed in the shooting.

Death threats aren’t new to survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting, unfortunately. Truthers have gone after them repeatedly, and no doubt will continue to do so … forever.

Lies such as “pizzagate” and the Sandy hook “truther” movement have power, because those who hold onto them resist correction. No amount of debunking will work. If you ask them, this is because (as they see it) the mass media are debunking it, and the media are not to be trusted. The media lie, you see. All the time. Every time! Without letup. And they can even point to things that — they think — support that view, such as the fact that no chemical weapons were found after the US invaded Iraq on the pretense that chemical weapons were there. (This very example was mentioned in the WaPo article I cited above.)

So in their minds, they’re free to cling desperately, and sanctimoniously, to any laughable, counter-factual trope they want to.

There are many problems with this view. First, just because the media have sometimes been wrong, doesn’t make them “always-wrong.” It just doesn’t work that way. Second, the example of Iraq and chemical weapons is a false one, since it wasn’t the mass media themselves who claimed chemical weapons were there; it was the G.W. Bush administration, and the media simply reported that claim. (And contrary to popular belief, many outlets were skeptical … but without any ability to dig around freely in Iraq themselves, the media’s ability to verify this was limited.) Third, the notion that the mass media are arrayed “against” the folk who cling to their lies is a known psychological phenomenon, the hostile media effect. It is this, coupled with another psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect, which prevents people from giving up the lies they love.

But really, I’m no longer interested in anyone’s excuses for clinging to lies. I really don’t fucking care that distrust of the Clintons and their minions is what ultimately led to “pizzagate.” I mean, I don’t trust them myself … but that doesn’t mean I’m going to buy into that phony trope. I also don’t fucking care that it’s mainly gun fanatics who’re convinced Sandy Hook was a hoax, and they’re concerned someone might take their firearms away. None of that matters to me. All I care about are facts and veracity. I will continue to care about them for as long as I live. If that makes me some kind of hateful, intellectual, elitist ogre, then I guess that’s what I am.

Photo credit: PsiCop, based on original from

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Comments Comments Off on The Enduring, and Frightening, Power of Lies

Raised seal on Barack Obama's birth certificate/FactCheckI’ve blogged before on the phenomenon of demonstrably-erroneous ideas that just will not die out, no matter how often they’re refuted. And I cited the “birther” delusion … i.e. the idea that President Barack Obama is not an American citizen and thus not entitled to hold office … as a prime example of this. His birth certificate from Hawai’i has been checked out and is fully legitimate (see FactCheck and Politfact, cached here and here).

But the Birthers, you see, don’t give a flying fuck about that. They just know, you see, that he’s not really an American. And they intend never to let go of that idea, no matter the facts. (One way they do this is to dismiss all fact-checking Web sites as “biased,” even though neither of the sites I linked to above avoids pointing out Obama’s exaggerations, misstatements, and lies. So they aren’t “biased” in the President’s favor.)

Because of the persistence of the “birther” delusion among their constituents, GOP politicians are constantly dancing around the subject, trying to appeal to “birtherism” without saying something that will make them look like total morons in the eyes of the rest of the country. Unfortunately, despite their wishes, there is no viable way to do that. Any conciliation to “birtherism” is, by definition, moronic.

That said, there are some who simply don’t care that they look like total morons. Among them, as MSNBC’s Maddow blog reports, is Jeff Duncan of the great Biblical state of South Carolina (WebCite cached article):

As my friend Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reported yesterday, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) was a guest on Rick Wiles’ unhinged radio show the other day to discuss some of the major issues of the day, including the host’s fears that immigration reform may lead the government to implant biometric scanners in U.S. citizens. Wiles specifically asked Duncan whether lawmakers might “pursue Barack Obama’s phony identification papers.”

Duncan initially tied to laugh it off, saying that people should have voted against Obama during the last election but Wiles refused to let it go, saying “if we know they are lying about all these other things, why not go back and say ‘well, maybe the first scandal was a lie too?'”

And with that point, Duncan wholeheartedly agreed, saying “there you go; I’m all with you, so let’s go back and revisit some of these things because Americans have questions about not only the IRS scandal but also about the president’s validity.”

A recording of Duncan’s comments is provided by Right Wing Watch via Youtube:

Sadly, this is yet another example of GOP insanity. I wonder how long it will take these guys to get over the fact that Obama was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. My guess is, they won’t. Hundreds of years from now there will still be lunatic Right-wingers screaming to high heaven that the US had an ineligible president in office for 8 years.

The best thing for everyone, of course, is for Republican officials, and the “birtherist” masses to whom they’re appealing, to just fucking grow the hell up and get over the fact that someone they despise was elected president. Maturity is the only solution to this mass delusion. Unfortunately, even grown adults tend to resist maturity. More’s the pity.

P.S. I’m well aware that Rachel Maddow and the Right Wing Watch are both ideologically-driven Web sites, and tend to avoid such sources, however, in this case there’s primary-source evidence to back up the report of what Duncan said. I suppose RWW could have faked this recording … but barring evidence to the contrary, I doubt they did so.

Photo credit: FactCheck.

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New Yorker cartoon cover w/ObamasHere’s yet another news item of the “water is wet” variety. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Republicans in the deep south remain convinced President Barack Obama is a Muslim (WebCite cached article):

After years of battling false claims and viral emails alleging that he is a Muslim, President Obama hasn’t gotten far among Republican voters in Alabama and Mississippi – about half still believe he is Muslim and about 1 in 4 believes his parents’ interracial marriage should have been illegal, a new poll shows. …

The poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 52% said they believed Obama is a Muslim, 36% weren’t sure and only 12% said they believed he is a Christian. He fared slightly better in Alabama, where 45% said he is a Muslim, 41% weren’t sure, and 14% said he is a Christian.

Recalling his childhood, Obama has said his family did not go to church every week, but said his faith grew as he got older and that his Christian beliefs have guided his career in public service.

People retain this irrational belief — in spite of the fact that both Obama himself, and politicians of both parties, have all said that he’s a Christian — because of something known as the “backfire effect.” This is a psychological phenomenon in which people retain untrue notions despite having their falsehood demonstrated, and in fact, they become even more intractably attached to the incorrect belief. I’ve blogged on this effect before. None of the researchers who’ve noted this phenomenon have offered any explanation for how it happens. My guess is, it results from the emotional attachment people have to their irrational beliefs; when faced with compelling evidence they’re false, they simply retrench and continue to tell themselves it’s true, because they can’t handle the emotional pain that would follow from letting go of the (false) belief. They really and truly prefer to lie to themselves, and others, rather than just admit they were wrong.

It’s like when a child plugs his ears, clamps his or her eyes shut, and yammers, so that s/he doesn’t have to hear something s/he’d rather not have to hear. In other words … it’s childish. Yes, folks, this means the Republican party in the deep south is populated mainly by little children who need to fucking grow the hell up for once and get over it already.

As for the legality of interracial marriage, that was established decades ago, by the US Supreme Court, in its decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967). I suppose people can believe anything they want to about it, including that it should be illegal, but it is legal nevertheless and it will remain legal indefinitely, in spite of their belief. Mature adults would just accept that fact and move on with their lives … but the GOP in the deep south is far too juvenile to do that, apparently.

Hat tip: Lordrag at Pulling to the Left on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: New Yorker cover courtesy of scriptingnews, via Flickr.

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ClassroomAt one time I had thought that education — especially pointing out erroneous and fallacious thinking — would help people understand the world better and dispense with ignorance. Over time, though, I haven’t seen that things have improved much. Most people are still as mired in irrationality and fallacy as they ever were, and no amount of fact-teaching seems to make any difference. For instance, the Birther delusion lives on, in spite of it being based on lies and mistaken suppositions. Barack Obama was born in Hawai’i to an American mother, but the Birthers refuse to accept that, even though it’s been factually demonstrated many times over; see this (cached) and this (cached), just for starters. I’d wondered if, perhaps, there are just a lot of mentally-ill people out there, all experiencing the same delusion. But depressingly, the truth about human beings is much worse even than that; it turns out we are hard-wired to reject even irrefutable, demonstrable facts that we find emotionally unsatisfying. The New York Times Idea of the Day blog reports on this sobering revelation (WebCite cached article):

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. But you might want to rethink that axiom, recent University of Michigan research suggests. It “found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds,” writes Joe Keohane in the Boston Globe [cached].

He explains the cognitive studies reviving longstanding concerns about voter ignorance:

In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we choose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.

Humanity, I fear, is lost. Those of us willing to think critically — and to try to encourage others to think critically — are apparently fighting a rearguard action against an enemy (i.e. emotional thinking) which neuroscience suggests we cannot defeat.

No wonder hyperreligiosity rages on, even in this era of science and technology. No wonder people are embracing New Age gibberish and nonsense like never before. No wonder political partisans steadfastly refuse to acknowledge even the slightest flaw in their own ideology or the slightest virtue in their foes’. No wonder critical thinkers are hated, vilified, and viewed as a threat by many folks.

The classroom of humanity is empty, and it will never be filled. No one cares about “truth” or “veracity” any more; they only care about how they “feel.” And that’s just the way they are.

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