Tag Archives: Rhetoric

Reading: Why are people who cite videos always wrong? From Techcrunch

From Why are people who cite videos always wrong? From Techcrunch


It’s not an inherent law of the universe that if you have to cite a 30-minute video, it means you don’t actually have any cogent arguments. But it does seem to be a law of the Internet. Perhaps that’s for the best, though; it means when the deepfakes arrive en masse, we — or, at least, the critical thinkers among us — will be suspicious already. Let’s hope automatic skepticism of videos spreads before then.

My guess is that the citer is passing on the video because they found it persuasive (it’s usually accompanied with, “You have to watch the whole thing!”), not because it would persuade anyone else or because it illustrates some significant point to consider. It’s a litmus test for community: “I was persuaded by this! You should be too.” I would also suggest that the citer would not claim the video was “persuasive” (they wouldn’t use that term) but “the truth.” At that point, bring in McLuhan. There’s a dissertation lurking here.

Reading: Nobody Is Protected From President Trump

From Nobody Is Protected From President Trump

Mask in the culture wars. Wearing a mask protects others, no oneself. We know that. And from there, it’s a small step to being taken as a threat.

On Monday the White House belatedly introduced a policy of mask-wearing in the West Wing — but it exempted President Trump. See what I mean about mask as metaphor? Trump demands protection from everybody around him, but nobody is protected from Trump. Story of America.

Reading: The COVID-19 misinformation crisis is just beginning, but there is hope

From The COVID-19 misinformation crisis is just beginning, but there is hope

Ars Technica reports on a paper on complex networks and resilience – in this case, the resilience of hate speech.

But there may be hope: researchers have developed a “map” of how distrust in health expertise spreads through social networks, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. Such a map could help public health advocates better target their messaging efforts.

Neil Johnson is a physicist at George Washington University, where he heads the Complexity and Data Science initiative, specializing in combining “cross-disciplinary fundamental research with data science to attack complex real-world problems.” For instance, last year, the initiative published a study in Nature mapping how clusters of hate groups interconnect to spread narratives and attract new recruits. They found that the key to the resilience of online hate is that the networks spread across multiple social media platforms, countries, and languages.

We need resilience to keep our comm networks and supply networks up and running, so the tendencies the researchers spot are significant. But just as immediately, those trends of how hate speech and mis-information circulate is valuable to getting things under control on social networks.

“The analogy is no matter how much weed killer you place in a yard, the problem will come back, potentially more aggressively,” Johnson said at the time. “In the online world, all yards in the neighborhood are interconnected in a highly complex way—almost like wormholes. This is why individual social media platforms like Facebook need new analysis such as ours to figure out new approaches to push them ahead of the curve.”

Read the article in Nature

Reading: Trump Speech to Bring 1,000 West Point Cadets Back to Campus

From Trump Speech to Bring 1,000 West Point Cadets Back to Campus

Oh yippee. This article is interesting because it counterposes military rationale with Trump’s lack of rationale.

And so last Friday, the day before Mr. Pence was to speak at the Air Force ceremony in Colorado, Mr. Trump, never one to be upstaged, abruptly announced that he would, in fact, be speaking at West Point.

That was news to everyone, including officials at West Point, according to three people involved with or briefed on the event. The academy had been looking at the option of a delayed presidential commencement in June, but had yet to complete any plans. With Mr. Trump’s pre-emptive statement, they are now summoning 1,000 cadets scattered across the country to return to campus in New York, the state that is the center of the outbreak.

Reading: Hydroxychloroquine: how an unproven drug became Trump’s coronavirus ‘miracle cure’

From Hydroxychloroquine: how an unproven drug became Trump’s coronavirus ‘miracle cure’

Julia Carrie Wong in The Guardian traces the movement of the promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a cure/treatment covid-19, and by whom, and for what: to attempt to hold on to legitimacy.

Aaron Shakow, a research associate at Harvard Medical School and historian of medicine, the chief physician of the emperor Nero circulated a recipe for an old miracle cure.

“It was an attempt by Nero to sustain his legitimacy in the midst of this catastrophic event,” Shakow said. “Epidemics are dangerous to rulers.”

Trump’s admin – along with Fox – is setting guesses against expertise; they want a miracle cure that will demonstrate that their power is legitimate. Trump: “But we don’t have time to go and say, ‘Gee, let’s take a couple of years and test it out, and let’s go and test with the test tubes and the laboratories.’” More to the measure: the admin doesn’t have the knowledge or skill to manage a cure.

Instead, Trump helps create a meme to fight a pandemic virus. Fox helps, anti-vaxxers and the right jumps in, and

An 85-year-old medication was well on its way to becoming a Covid-19 meme.

A meme is not a cure.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease doctor, has repeatedly warned that there is no conclusive evidence to support using the drug. Asked whether it should be considered a treatment for Covid-19, he said on 24 March: “The answer is no.”

Reading: Oi, Cummings! Leave those lefty kids alone

From Oi, Cummings! Leave those lefty kids alone

From Stuart Lee at The Guardian. “Necessary phantoms” is not just a great name for a band. It’s what Cummings and Trump need to survive in a political world.

Last week Policy Exchange tried to make liberal higher educational institutions the next bogeypersons in the Rightwing Coup’s culture war, another target in an ongoing parade of necessary phantoms.

They have run out of nasties like the EU are turning on their own tail:

Turning Point UK, the British incarnation of a wealthy American rightwing youth organisation, endorsed by the child-friendly Conservative luminaries Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg, is aiming to compile a student snitches’ website listing the dangerous leftwing academics exposing our kids to their anti-racist mathematics and frayed corduroy jackets.

We’re in university to get Educated: live on mac and cheese, listen to punk with buddies and prog rock secretly, read tediously long and complex novels, and party. So why turn on the students? Instead, start your own.

Why don’t Policy Exchange, Turning Point UK, Toby Young’s X-Men of Shits, and the Freedom Association just set up their own universities, teaching climate-emergency denial, anti-trade union theory, progressive eugenics and political correctness gone mad? Universities are supposed to be leftwing, daddio! And so are students.

Ok, Boomer?

Reading: Peter Wehner: The Trump Presidency Is Over – The Atlantic

From Peter Wehner: The Trump Presidency Is Over – The Atlantic

Yes, Wehner makes an ad hominem argument, but he supports it by actions that demonstrate a problem with character. He couldn’t make the argument if Trump had acted otherwise. And Wehner places the argument in a larger social context in which character matters. This is not vituperation. It’s epideictic for a time of reflection.

Taken together, this is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president’s disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious.

The nation is recognizing this, treating him as a bystander “as school superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors and business owners across the country take it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from the president,” in the words of Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.

Reading: Donald Trump’s scapegoating coronavirus speech shows he just doesn’t get it – CNNPolitics

From Donald Trump’s scapegoating coronavirus speech shows he just doesn’t get it – CNNPolitics

Er … how is blame helping? Just a blip in time?

The truth is that Trump’s attempt to act as though everything is totally normal and there is no need to alter our routines has failed. The only way the virus has been slowed in other countries is through real changes in daily lives — up to and including bans on any large gatherings.

Like it or not, that is how we will get through the coronavirus epidemic. Not by scapegoating other countries and patting ourselves on the back. The time for those political machinations has passed. The problem is that the President of the United States doesn’t seem to realize that.

Staying home means more time to consider what happens next.

Reading: PsyArXiv Preprints | Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder

From PsyArXiv Preprints | Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder


Across four studies participants (N = 818) rated the profoundness of abstract art images accompanied with varying categories of titles, including: pseudo-profound bullshit titles (e.g., The Deaf Echo), mundane titles (e.g., Canvas 8), and no titles. Randomly generated pseudo-profound bullshit titles increased the perceived profoundness of computer generated abstract art, compared to when no titles were present (Study 1). Mundane titles did not enhance the perception of profoundness, indicating that pseudo-profound bullshit titles specifically (as opposed to titles in general) enhance the perceived profoundness of abstract art (Study 2). Furthermore, we find that these effects generalize to artist-created abstract art (Study 3). Finally, we report a large correlation between profoundness ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and “International Art English” statements (Study 4), a mode and style of communication commonly employed by artists to discuss their work. This correlation suggests that these two independently developed communicative modes share underlying cognitive mechanisms in their interpretations. We discuss the potential for these results to be integrated into a larger, new theoretical framework of bullshit as a low-cost strategy for gaining advantages in prestige awarding domains.

Reading: Trump is compared to Nero in a meme of him fiddling, while using QAnon slogan – The Washington Post

From Trump is compared to Nero in a meme of him fiddling, while using QAnon slogan – The Washington Post

You think it’s a slip of Trump’s ignorance-

The image reminiscent of Nero trended on Twitter into early Monday, and only intensified when people learned that the president played golf at his club in West Palm Beach, Fla., with members of the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

“It means Rome is burning and you’re fiddling around a golf course, Nero,” replied Walter Shaub, a Trump critic and former director of the Office of Government Ethics.

Until you realize it’s much darker than that. He’s retweeting QAnon.

The Sunday night tweet is the latest example of the president sharing content linked to the sprawling conspiracy theory. In March 2019, Trump retweeted a QAnon conspiracy theorist, via comedian Larry the Cable Guy, to slam the Transportation Security Administration. Last July, he promoted two Twitter accounts linked to the conspiracy theory while talking about election security and accusing the Democrats of voter fraud.