Friday 28 August, 2020

Quote of the Day

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

  • Aldous Huxley, 1927.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Haydn – Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major (9’45”)


Stamps to mark 25th anniversary of Father Ted sitcom

I could never understand why so many people — including my kids and their mother and many members of my extended family — loved the Father Ted sitcom. Given that they are all Irish I could hadly acuse them of enjoying racist trash. So I just had to grin and bear it.

And now, look what’s happened!

A quarter of a century after it first aired, Father Ted, one of television’s most loved sitcoms, has officially stamped itself on popular culture.

Ireland’s post service, An Post, issued a set of stamps on Thursday to celebrate its characters and one-liners and to mark the show’s 25th anniversary.

Phrases forever associated with Craggy Island, the fictional home of three wayward priests and their housekeeper, now adorn four stamps.

Guardian story.

People Drawn to Conspiracy Theories Share a Cluster of Psychological Features

Useful Scientific American article on the experience of the cognitive Stephan Lewandowsky when he did research on why people believe conspiracy theories.

About six years ago the cognitive scientist had thrown himself into a study of why some people refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming and humans are responsible. As he delved into this climate change denialism, Lewandowsky, then at the University of Western Australia, discovered that many of the naysayers also believed in outlandish plots, such as the idea that the Apollo moon landing was a hoax created by the American government. “A lot of the discourse these people were engaging in on the Internet was totally conspiratorial,” he recalls.

Lewandowsky’s findings, published in 2013 in Psychological Science, brought these conspiracy theorists out of the woodwork. Offended by his claims, they criticized his integrity online and demanded that he be fired. (He was not, although he has since moved to the University of Bristol in England.) But as Lewandowsky waded through one irate post after another, he discovered that his critics—in response to his assertions about their conspiratorial tendencies—were actually spreading new conspiracy theories about him. These people accused him and his colleagues of faking survey responses and of conducting the research without ethical approval. When his personal Web site crashed, one blogger accused him of intentionally blocking critics from seeing it. None of it was true.

The irony was amusing at first, but the ranting even included a death threat, and calls and e-mails to his university became so vicious that the administrative staff who fielded them asked their managers for help. That was when Lewandowsky changed his assessment. “I quickly realized that there was nothing funny about these guys at all,” he says.

Of course all lives matter, but that’s not the point

Memorable post by Dave Winer:

If when someone says Black Lives Matter you quickly respond with All Lives Matter then I have a few things I want to say to you.

At least pause for a moment before replying and ask yourself why this person is saying Black Lives Matter. Of course they know and agree that all lives matter. But that isn’t what they’re saying. They’re saying that Black Lives Matter not because they’re more important than white lives or cop lives, which seems to be how you’re interpreting it, but because a lot of black people are being killed and the justice system does not seem to care.

I think we all know that if Trayvon Martin, for example, had been a white teen, and George Zimmerman had been a black adult man, the outcome would have been different. But because he was black, and black lives don’t matter, Martin is dead and Zimmerman is free.

There have been a seemingly endless series of graphic stories, many of them on video, of white police killing black people, and getting off. I suspect this has been going on all along, but now with the wide use of smartphones, we’re actually seeing it, visually, as we couldn’t have seen it before. Now it’s not their word against a cop’s. The video provides testimony that is impossible to refute.

If you were black, and you saw this happening, you might be inspired to do more than say something like Black Lives Matter. Your rage and fear might overwhelm you. So the first thing I would say to a black person who said Black Lives Matter is thank you for containing the rage you must feel, that I would feel if I were in your shoes, that I feel in a small way on your behalf, at the cruelty and callousness of our system and culture. Then I’d ask if there was anything I could do to help.

The User Always Loses: How did the Internet get so bad?

Lisa Borst’s perceptive review in The Nation of Joanne McNeil’s new book, Lurking: How a Person Became a User, “a conversational and idiosyncratic account of the past 30 years of online life that reminds us that the Internet didn’t have to become what it is today”.

Long read of the Day.

This blog is also available as a daily email. If you think that might suit you better then why not subscribe? It’s free. One email a day, delivered to your inbox at 7am UK time. And there’s a one-click unsubscribe if you decide that your inbox is already crowded enough!