Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Most Ironic Thing You Will Ever Read

The New York Times produced a real gem today, titled Why People Continue to Believe Objectively False Things. I'll include some snippets, but you should read it for yourself. On the face of it I should enjoy such an article. Finding truth, railing against those who promote falsehoods, and venting complete exasperation with all the people falling prey to the falsehoods are the premiere themes of this blog. Nothing would please me more than a change of direction of massive news organizations like the New York Times towards honest truth seeking. Let's dig into it a bit.
Today, President Trump is sticking with his own facts — his claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him during the election — in the face of testimony to the contrary by the F.B.I. director, James Comey.

When asked about the accusations Mr. Trump had made on Twitter, Mr. Comey told a Senate committee on Monday, “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the F.B.I.”

Mr. Trump’s claims may appear to his opponents to have been embarrassingly debunked. But social science research suggests that Mr. Trump’s alternative version of reality may appeal to his supporters.
The issue at hand is politics, which is a fair one for this kind of subject, but at first blush this does read like a cheap political hack job wrapped in the guise of honest analysis. Note the key words here: facts, objective truth, version of reality. The assertion is that because of Mr. Comey's statements, the fictitiousness of Trump's tweets is cold, objective, reality-based fact. That's not the conclusion most people would come up with. Comey's testimony is certainly evidence to support the case against Trump, but it's not conclusive. What if Trump was wiretapped by another organization of which the FBI has no oversight? What if Comey was doing what so many politicians do and using weasel words to convey a message without technically saying it. He specifically makes reference to Trump's tweets, rather than general surveillance. Perhaps he's found a way to justify his statements by making an unusual interpretation of the tweets, such as an overly literal take on the word "wiretapped." That's not a wild theory: Bill Clinton quibbled over the definition of the word "is" while under oath before a grand jury, and famously narrowed the meaning of the phrase "sexual relations" to one that fit his immediate needs (lol, immediate needs). And, just maybe, Comey is outright lying. In any case his testimony still leaves the probability that Trump was creating his own facts at significantly less than 100%. That is to say, the author's example of Trump not using real facts is itself not a real fact. Let's continue.
Partisan polarization is now so extreme in the United States that it affects the way that people consume and understand information — the facts they believe, and what events they think are important. The wiretapping allegations could well become part of a partisan narrative that is too powerful to be dispelled.

Mr. Trump, perhaps unconsciously, has grasped a core truth of modern politics: that voters tend to seek out information that fits the story they want to believe, usually one in which members of the other party are the bad guys.
We've now transitioned from a cheap political hack piece to the most ironic thing you'll ever read in your entire life. Truly an achievement in itself. The article is written by two columnists, one calling himself a political scientist, the other a lawyer (who should theoretically have learned a thing or two about objective truth and how to filter it out of bias). This power-packed intellectual duo have just expertly described themselves in the most stunning display of psychological projection I have ever encountered. They assert that political partisanship is driving people to create a powerful political narrative driving them to create facts where the other party are the bad guys, immediately after taking the first testimony they could find to support their preferred conclusion, dismissing any of the numerous reasons to hedge against that information, and anointing the evidence as cold, hard, objective, irrefutable fact. Yes that summary is a mouth full. I had trouble summarizing without just rewriting their own paragraphs.
Prediction: there will never again in the course of human history be a more profound example of psychological projection than this one produced by the New York Times.
I challenge you to find a more pure example. I'd sincerely love to see it. The closing paragraph:
The question of whether Mr. Obama wiretapped Mr. Trump has now been answered clearly and strongly in the negative. But the myth, and its effects, seem likely to continue unless Republicans denounce it more forcefully.
The article, which the title would indicate is a general critique on public perception versus objective truth (a topic I love), ends with the specific conclusion that the falsehood of Trump's claims are themselves a matter of factual, objective truth, and all that remains is for the bad guys Republicans to take responsibility and subdue the propagation of a dangerous & false political narrative. A fair request, if the assessment was reasonable. There is just one other thing though.

On the same day this was published, the very same day, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the same committee to which Comey gave his testimony, announced the existence of conclusive proof of surveillance of Trump and his transition team.* On the very same day that these arbiters of objective truth informed us the matter was beyond settled. Can you imagine yourself taking such a lofty and public position of superiority and having it almost immediately shoved in your face as 100% backwards? Do these people have no shame? If I was ever that swiftly and directly contradicted on just this measly blog I would immediately shut down the site and commit seppuku. But these "journalists" will not face repercussions for being not just as wrong as possible, but as wrong as possible in the most ironic way possible and with the worst timing possible. The New York Times could not be any worse at journalism if it tried.

*I can see the counter argument already from the kinds of people who believe what they read in the New York Times. They'll say, "we'll you're just believing the testimony of one guy over another, and picking the one you prefer." The difference is that Comey has no way to prove his claims. He can't prove he doesn't have evidence. To prove a negative like this he'd had to turn over the entirety of FBI documents to the public. Of course that will never happen. It may be possible to prove he was wrong, such as if an insider supplies evidence to contradict him, but we can't verify his statements as truthful. Nunes, on the other hand, merely has to supply the evidence he claims to possess. That is very easy to prove, and it is highly unlikely that he would have blasted this to the media and took it directly to Trump (perhaps unprecedented in itself) and risked completely torpedoing his career, Trump's presidency, and the recently empowered Republican party without conclusive, provable, and damning evidence.

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