Article 43


Monday, August 16, 2021

NWO - Covid Denialism and Political Radicalization

image: deceived

Proponents of the vaccine are unwilling or unable to understand the thinking of vaccine skeptics or even admit that skeptics may be thinking at all. Their attempts to answer skepticism or understand it end up poisoned by condescension, and end up reinforcing it.
- Convincing The Skeptics


The Authoritarian Radicalization of Trumpist America
Trumpists Made Red States Failing States. Now They Want to Do the Same to The Rest of America

By Umair Haque
August 12, 2021

If you havent seen THIS BIZZARE, NIGHMARISH VIDEO by now, you should. At a local school board meeting in Tennessee, parents who wanted masks worn in schools - what few there were - were violently shouted down by parents who were opposed to kids wearing masks. The anti-maskers - Red State Trumpists - were literally apoplectic with rage, screaming at the top of their lungs, so much their voices had gone hoarse, shaking fists, punching the air, needing to be restrained. “We know who you are!!” they shouted.

Imagine facing a mob like that - literally baying for your blood. Fellow parents at your kids school. All because you wanted the kids to be safe. That’s America in 2021.

All that raises a number of question in the minds of sane, thoughtful people. What kinds of parents dont want their kids to wear masks? And why does the issue of mask-wearing trigger such disproportionate, violent rage in Trumpists? It seems baffling, bewildering. What happened to these people?

Whats happening is that Trumpist America’s getting radicalized. This might not be news to you - still, I wonder if the average sane American really knows what it means. Its a word thrown around all too casually - “radicalization.” Americans take it for granted now that their neighbours and colleagues - right down to fellow parents at the neighbourhood school - might indeed have been radicalized. It doesn’t have the sinister air of extreme danger it should. So let me try and shed a little light on the issue of radicalization.

Let me continue my example. Why does the issue of kids wearing masks in school trigger a kind of insane, manic rage in Trumpists? The first thing you might note is that the rage is completely disproportionate. Masks dont hurt kids - they protect them. Wearing a mask isnҒt a big deal - if it was, Asia wouldnt be doing it long before Covid. So what exactly is going on here?

What’s happening is the confluence of several things. Trumpist Americans have been radicalised into a certain set of beliefs. The strong should prevail over the weak, and the weak deserve to perish. The strong prove their strength by dominating and subjugating the weak. Any concession to human vulnerability is weakness, and weakness rightly equals death. In Trumpist language, this is being a “loser” or a “sissy” or what have you.

This is an essentially fascist belief system. Its Nietzsche for dummies. Nietzsche, proclaiming God dead, went on to argue that the only point of life was exerting one’s “will to power,” gaining power, of a certain kind - a “master morality,” which was opposed to a “slave morality.” The “master,” the ubermensch, was the one who could dominate anyone else, and therefore, he was the moral one, the one under whom everything - and everyone else - was inferior. Power was the purpose life, and using it to abuse others was the expression of oneגs purity and faith and goodness, in a bizarrely perverse twist of thinking.

Naturally, the Nazis picked up on this wonderfully foolish set of ideas. They declared themselves the ubermensch, the chosen ones, and set about dominating, abusing, and subjugating the weak, which meant anyone different in society. Tied into this set of ideas about purity was a related set of ideas about genetic superiority. You couldnt really get ill if you were one of the chosen ones, after all - you were supposed to “uber,” above, beyond mundane human concerns. You were strong to the point of being superhuman. Illness was a sign of bad blood, bad hygeine, a lack of virtue, which was in the genes.

Not in a virus.

That precisely where Trumpist America is today. It’s subscribed to more or less exactly the same ideology as the Nazis of the 1930s. Think about the central idea: Im one of the chosen ones, therefore I’m strong to the point of being superhuman. Illness is a personal defect, a product of defective blood. Its something that happens to the weak, who deserve it.

Therefore, youd better not make my kid wear a mask. It goes against literally everything I believe in. My kid isnҒt one of the dirty, filthy, vulnerable subhumans. And even if he gets sick - its a righteous test of his or her faith and strength. Mask-wearing is for “sissies,” “wimps,” “losers” - subhumans, not people of pure blood and absolute faith, like me and my kids. And if you make them wear masks, then you might make them turn into those kinds of people. You might sap their strength. They might not be superhuman chosen people anymore.

Or they might not begin to think they are.

It’s fascism 101. You can see the elements of racism and bigotry in it, too, and you don’t have to look very hard. Covid’s a disease for those dirty, filthy others - in poor countries, and minorities in America, whove been especially badly hit. Us? If a few of our kids die, well, so be it. More of theirs will.

Like I said - fascism 101. All that should begin to answer the question - why are these Trumpist Red State idiots so weirdly violently opposed to kids wearing masks in schools? It’s a question with a surprisingly deep and nuanced answer, albeit one which can be summed up in one sentence. They’re being radicalised into fascism.

I’ve chosen that example because its such a psychologically disturbing one - who thinks wearing masks during a pandemic is a bad thing, a burden, a big deal? You’ve got to be wrong in the head in some profound way. But there are plenty more.

If you need them restated, here are a few. The average Trumpist believes the election was stolen. They believe that Jan 6th was some kind of tourist jaunt - and if it was indeed a coup, it was justified. They believe in further violence, if democracy doesn’t consent to their demands for a fascist society, which is authoritarianism, by the way. They believe that society should only be ordered one way, and every form of thought and action and even blood and faith should be controlled, monitored and purified- that’s totalitarianism.

What’s the common thread in that last paragraph? It’s not just that these things are regressive, anti-modern, dangerous, or backwards though they are. It’s the word “belief.” That is what radicalisation is really about.

The modern person, at least, doesn’t really live that much of their life according to beliefs. The modern person lives according to facts. That’s because beliefs are very dangerous things.

Let me give you a few examples. We don’t educate our kids because we “believe” it’s the right thing to do - we know it’s the smart, just and fair thing to do. Every educated kid is a boon to themselves and the world around them. We invest in public goods, healthcare, education, transport, media, retirement - at least in wise societies like Canada and Europe - not because we “believe” it’s right. But because we know its fair, intelligent, and beneficial to all - we know that it vastly improves the quality of life for all of us.

In other words, modern life hinges on a little thing called knowledge. Now, sometimes, that knowledge arrives late - like in the case of climate change, where, unsettlingly, the planet is heating much, much faster than even the worst case predictions. But even predictions are a form of knowledge - they-re not just beliefs, but grounded in reason, logic, data, evidence.

Beliefs are fundamentally different. One of the great problems in American life is that beliefs and facts are placed on pedestals of equivalent height. If someone wants to live their life according to their “beliefs,” we’re told, that’s fine.

And it is - but only to an extent. Because no man or woman is an island. Your beliefs are inevitably going to affect me in some way. If you don’t “believe” in educating your kid properly, well, enough kids like that are going to end up ruining my society, too. Worse, if you “believe” that education consists of teaching your kid things you also “believe” like minorities and gays are going to hell, women are things to be subjugated, animals don’t have souls, abuse is justified, and so on then how are we going to live together in a modern society at all?

I’ve raised that dynamic because it’s exactly how societies die.

Where else in the world do you see this process of radicalisation happening? Afghanistan. There, too, people “believe” that women should wear veils and not be educated and never be seen in public and art is bad and you shouldnt take vaccines and masks are signs of weakness. They teach their kids all that. Their kids become the Taliban, and the idea of living in modern society goes out the window. The violent men with guns who believe their way is the best way, the only righteous and pious and true way, arrive, and violently subjugate and abuse the rest.

Remember Nietzsche, purity, will, “masters,” and “slaves?” Now do you see what radicalisation really is a little bit better? Let me connect all those dots, then.

Radicalization is best thought of as a regression to pre-modern forms of life. Medieval forms of social and political order, culture, norms, values, relationships, behaviour thinking. It’s the replacement of forms of life based on knowledge, with those based on beliefs. Beliefs are things we hope to be true. Facts, which make up knowledge, are things which we know to be true crucially, even if we donגt want them to be.

So beliefs and knowledge aren’t nearly the same thing. Knowledge might not be purely objective, but it isn’t nearly as subjective as beliefs.

Beliefs are things which can be manipulated by demagogues. Run rampant through societies like viruses of stupidity and folly and hatred. Spread as forms of collective delusion and mania through mobs. Like the one threatening their fellow parents in Kentucky.

Please don’t for a moment imagine that I’m putting “knowledge” on an impregnable pedestal. It too should be questioned and debated and challenged and rethought. Indeed, thats the point of knowledge, at least when the idea of it is well understood. Knowledge is never infallible [ that’s the point of it. Beliefs, though, are made to infallible, which is why they’re such dangerous things.

Let me make one final point.

So who’s radicalising Trumpist America? Well, obviously, Trump is. And obviously, too, the hateful beliefs which still gird the rage of Red States are leftovers of a racism and bigotry, a backwards way of life, which never really went much of anywhere. But there’s a third party, probably, too.

Who put Trump in the White House to literally fulfill a mission of “social turmoil” through radicalization? Who designed “mind viruses” to infect America and radicalise it, elevating Trump to power, disinformation and misinfo campaigns on Facebook and so forth? RUSSIA DID. That much we know. Do you think Russia just… stopped? Probably not. The likelihood is there are still plenty of psy-ops at work radicalising Trumpist America - Facebook campaigns, microtargeted ads, Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson who now OPENLY PAL AROUND with Putin’s cronies like Orban. You don’t have to look very hard to see Russia’s hand at work in the ongoing radicalisation of Trumpist America. After all - who benefits most?

In a larger sense though, the who doesnt matter. And RussiaҒs just playing its own game, very very smartly. Only the outcome matters. That outcome is this.

Americas closest parallel right now isnҒt other modern societies like Canada and Europe. Those societies do have their radicalised elements. But by and large, theyre at the fringes, well away from majoritarian power. They donҒt have the capability to plunge entire states like Florida and Texas into chaos. Their extremists and fanatics are kept in check by healthy institutions. Americas very, very different. Its closest parallel right now is place like Afghanistan. Places where the fanatical elements of society arenҒt kept in check - but have the ability to push everything and everyone else to breaking point. Through intimidation, harassment, outright violence. Because, well, they believe flatly crazy things.

The radicalization of Trumpist America has made it a failed state. Its a place where Red States are now Plague Belts - full of mobs of parents who violently abuse other parents for wanting kids to wear masks. But that radicalisation isnҒt going anywhere. Its getting worse, not better. And that is an ill augury for the future, my friend.



The Dark Secrets Behind COVID-19

By Gordon Duff
New Eastern Outlook
October 8, 2021

As the summer, Northern Hemisphere, come to a close, the Delta variant of COVID-19, and perhaps others, are sweeping the planet and, in particular, the United States. That nation is particularly vulnerable, not so much because of its inequities in providing healthcare to its poor as to its insane political environment.

But is it simply politics? With children, for the first time, beginning to fill hospitals and a flood of dead, not in their 80s but in their 30s and 40s, actual statistics have now become “classified.”

States like Florida, caught over and over faking statistics to save the political dreams of a corrupt governor, have now simply not just stopped counting but have criminalized investigative reporting as well.

But it doesn’t stop there, the CDC blocks reporting on age and race of the dead. The fact that the Delta variation brings about a more severe COVID and does it in hours, even minutes in some, killing more quickly than before is more than a suspicion but why is reporting this blocked in the United States?

Then, worst of all, is what is now clearly a coordinated effort to join longstanding anti-vaccine communities with anti-government extremists and white supremacists, all anti-science conspiracy addicts with flawed reasoning and emotional impediments.

This has given the US a “rebel army” who are seemingly unaware that their actions may well be engineered by certain forces to create and maintain a human petri dish capable of breeding and disseminating a “next wave” of vaccine resistant COVID that will kill us all.

Does this sound extreme to you? If it does, then it is likely you are not trained in psychological warfare where what we are seeing today, promoted quack treatments, disease denialism, vaccine rumors, all of it falls under “cover and deception” components of a “black op.”

Then, when we look at network TV and its role in spreading rumors, and the ties of media executives to extremist groups, we gain a perspective.

An even broader examination of the sources of the groups behind COVID denialism lead to other parallels, like the White Helmets, Bellingcat, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the corrupt OPCW and a vast network of fake NGO’s that steal oil, move weapons and run the international heroin business.

The layer behind that leads to Washington “think tanks” and right wing political action committees and behind that, financial organizations, big pharma, and the social media giants that have been the allies of the disease from day one.

We thus return to the questions which are asked and yet unasked.Ғ

Is COVID bio war?

If so, who did it?

If so, why did they do it?

Then there is the biggest question of all:

Why is no one asking these questions?

Blaming China is not asking a question. Spreading internet hoaxes is not asking questions, it is simply derailing any real investigation by poisoning the water. This is what intelligence agencies do and what we see being done every day.

Only one nation in the world has stopped COVID and yet is in the middle of a raging epidemic at the same time. An examination of the antivaccine movement, the dark money behind it and those who may well have created COVID-19 raises questions.

There are plenty of reasons to question COVID-19, not whether it exists or even whether it was invented in a lab, there are bigger questions that may well be answered. Key to finding answers is tracing down those who lie, not just the endless flood of denialist news reports or the cabal of grifters and profiteers who make up the heart of the anti-vaccine movement.

Bitcoin has opened doors to dark funding, usually attributed to intelligence agencies with RussiaҒ being the go-to when blame is dished out.

Real counter-intelligence specialists, at one time had to profile traitors and terrorists. Now it is even suspected that much of humanity through exposure to social media and device driven psychosisҒ has lost all capability of reason and discernment.

From Paul Rosenberg for SALON:

Political misinformation whether “fake news,” conspiracy theories or outright lying - has often been attributed to widespread ignorance, even though there are numerous examples of 20th-century propaganda aimed at those most attentive to politics. Books like Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomskys MANUFACTURING CONSENT began to challenge that notion, as did the 1991 study of media coverage of the first Gulf War with the memorable bottom line, THE MORE YOU WATCH, THE LESS YOU KNOW. In the age of social media, scholarly explanations have shifted to discussions of “motivated reasoning,” which could be defined by Paul Simon’s line from The Boxer: “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

But the ignorance perspective has a deep hold on us because it appeals to the Enlightenment notion that we are motivated to pursue truth. We are “the thinking animal,” right? The important part of that expression may be animal.Ғ Human beings have an evolutionary history, and deception is commonplace in the animal world because it confers evolutionary advantage. Theres good reason to believe we’re not so different, other than the fact that humans are ultra-social creatures. In ancestral and evolutionary terms, being part of a successful social group was every bit as essential as food and water. So deception among humans evolved from group conflicts. Thats the thesis of a recent paper called ӔThe Evolutionary Psychology of Conflict and the Functions of Falsehood by the Danish political scientists Michael Bang Petersen and Mathias Osmundsen and American anthropologist John Tooby.

While the paper aligns with the “motivated reasoning” perspective, its focus goes deeper than the psychological mechanisms that produce and reproduce false information.

There are also those who see the root of this descent of mankind “back into the trees” as having an earlier source as part of a multi-generational effort, citing funding from both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, to being about what eugenicists back during the latter 19th and earliest parts of the 20th century failed at. We might also note that this effort we make reference to was why so many powerful Americans, names like Bush, Harriman, Ford, Rockefeller and Dupont threw their weight behind Adolf Hitler.

The eugenicists wanted America, and Europe as well, to be ruled by an oligarchy of self-appointed elites, really “robber barons,” and to be populated with mildly ProtestantӔ white people of sufficient intelligence and education to maintain a profitable industrialized society but to stay free of trade unions, socialist politics and, most of all science.Ӕ

The political expression of the eugenicists dream is called populism.Ӕ The embodiment of this effort would be Donald Trump.

Let me remind you that these are just theories, based on political research and, we hope, reasoned speculation.

Investigation provides answers but investigation is always blocked or controlled.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the same people who caused so much death in the 20th century are doing it today as well as no one stopped them then and no one can stop them now.

As for investigation, let’s set down a few points early on, things that simply dont fit in a rational world:

The scientific community has been predicting a bat-borne severe upper respiratory virus (SARS) for over a decade

Massive funding has gone into programs to develop new SARS viruses, money from public heath funds but also defense and even covert cash, mostly American, for “testing purposes”

These programs all published, all had components exploring vaccine strategies and all had classified components where publishing was withheld and data went directly to military and intelligence organizations

Lets now go a step further.

The US government under Donald Trump, as early as 2017, began disassembling the protocols, mechanisms and organizations put in place to protect from pandemics and no reason whatsoever was given for this effort

Similarly the mechanisms to study pandemic spread were defunded as well or put under control of anti-science political hacks or “lobbyists” with connections to highly suspect organizations

The Republican Party, also known as the GOP (Grand Old Party) backed these measures despite protests from the defense community they normally blindly support

Early failures, borders kept open, pandemic responses blocked, lies and denial on a daily basis enabled COVID to take a foothold and then decimate the United States, all done by Trump and his political backers

All the while, while less and less was done to stop COVID, the “engine of lies” in Washington played a blame game with China and Russia

Then there are these oddities:

False reports of death rates, some low as .00001 percent of infect with the truth was so much higher, initially 60% of infected and down, today, to 2.08 percent with advanced treatments and, also withheld, the most vulnerable having died off already (Source: Worldmeters)

Something inexplicable is happening in America. A pandemic is raging, but not across the nation. No, the pandemic, ostensibly SARS COV 2 or COVID-19ғ is filling hospitals and killing again but is also doing so in a very odd way.

That “odd way” is not inexplicable. COVID is now a “disease of choice,” far more insidious than cigarettes, or the addictions, alcohol, and drugs. There is no “high” from not being vaccinated.

As we enter mid-August 2021, that civil war warned about under Trump has hit, a “soft” version. Talk about losing state borders, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, the heartland of “Dixie” is becoming a near reality.

In analysis, one has to discern whether these are simply “events spinning out of control” or the orchestrations of an agenda driven organization, perhaps the inheritors of the mantle of the eugenics movement that put so much money into Hitlers rise to power or something else?

The rules are simple:

Who benefits?

Follow the money

Yet those rules are never followed and those who ask relevant questions find themselves suffering the scrutiny and we might add retaliation of powerful US agencies.

Yet, we still ask: “Do we have proof of a conspiracy?”

About the author:

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of VETERANS TODAY, especially for the online magazine NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK.



A terrifying new theory: Fake news and conspiracy theories as an evolutionary strategy
Social scientist Michael Bang Petersen on why people believe outrageous lies as a tool in violent group conflict

By Paul Rosenberg
August 8, 2021

Political misinformation - whether “fake news,” conspiracy theories or outright lying - has often been attributed to widespread ignorance, even though there are numerous examples of 20th-century propaganda aimed at those most attentive to politics. Books like Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s MANUFACTURING CONSENT began to challenge that notion, as did the 1991 study of media coverage of the first Gulf War with the memorable bottom line, “the more you watch, the less you know.” In the age of social media, scholarly explanations have shifted to discussions of “motivated reasoning,” which could be defined by Paul Simon’s line from “The Boxer”: “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

But the ignorance perspective has a deep hold on us because it appeals to the Enlightenment notion that we are motivated to pursue truth. We are “the thinking animal,” right? The important part of that expression may be “animal.” Human beings have an evolutionary history, and deception is commonplace in the animal world because it confers evolutionary advantage. There’s good reason to believe we’re not so different, other than the fact that humans are ultra-social creatures. In ancestral and evolutionary terms, being part of a successful social group was every bit as essential as food and water. So deception among humans evolved from group conflicts. That’s the thesis of a recent paper called “The Evolutionary Psychology of Conflict and the Functions of Falsehood” by the Danish political scientists Michael Bang Petersen and Mathias Osmundsen and American anthropologist John Tooby.

While the paper aligns with the “motivated reasoning” perspective, its focus goes deeper than the psychological mechanisms that produce and reproduce false information. These researchers are trying to elucidate the functions of those mechanisms, that is, to answer the question of why they evolved in the first place. I interviewed Petersen three years ago, about a previous paper, “A ‘Need for Chaos’ and the Sharing of Hostile Political Rumors in Advanced Democracies,” which was summarized on Twitter thusly: “Many status-obsessed, yet marginalized individuals experience a ‘Need for Chaos’ and want to ‘watch the world burn.’” That paper provided crucial insight into prolific spreaders of misinformation and why they do what they do. But that individualist account was only part of the story. This new paper seeks to illuminates the evolutionary foundations and social processes involved in the spread of outright falsehoods. So I had another long conversation with Petersen, edited as usual for clarity and length.

Over the past decade or so, it’s become more common to regard the spread of political misinformation, or “political rumors,” as they’re sometimes called, as the result of “motivated reasoning” rather than ignorance. But your new paper proposes a broad evolutionary account of the social functions behind that motivated reasoning. Tell me about what led you to writing it, and what you set out to do?

One of our major goals with this research is to try to understand why it is that people believe things that other people believe are completely bizarre. I think it’s clear for everyone that that problem has gained more prominence within the last few decades, especially with the advent of social media. It seems that those kind of belief systems - belief in information and content that other people would say is blatantly false - is becoming more widespread. It can have some pretty dire consequences, as we could see for example with the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

So what we’re trying to understand is, why people believe things that must be false. The traditional narrative is, “Well if you believe false things, then you must be stupid. It must be because you haven’t really made an effort to actually figure out what is going on.” But over the last few decades, more and more research has accumulated that suggests that’s not the case. In fact the people who are responsible for spreading misinformation are not those who know the least about politics. They actually know quite a lot about politics. In that sense, knowledge doesn’t guard against believing things that are false.

What we’re trying to do is to say, “Well, if it’s not because people are ignorant, then what is it?” In order to understand that, we utilize the framework of evolutionary psychology, basically trying to understand: Could there be anything adaptive about believing false information? Could this in some way be functional? Is it actually sort of on purpose that false information is believed and spread, rather than being an accident?

Before you discuss human evolution, you have a section of nonhuman animals.  What can we learn from deception and conflict in the animal world?

I think that’s an important stepping stone, to look at the animal world, because most people would say that what animals do is the products of biological evolution, and has some sort of evolutionary advantage. And what we can see in animals is that they spread false information all the time when they are engaged in conflict

One sort of obvious example is that animals try to appear larger than they are when they are engaged in conflict with other animals. That’s, of course, to send a signal to the other animals that you shouldn’t mess with me and if we actually get into a real fight I will win. So animals are trying to get an upper hand in conflict situations by making false signals.

So how does that change, or not change, when we look at humans?

First, that is also what we should expect that humans do, that if they can send false signals that are advantageous to them, then they should do it. What we then discuss is that there are certain constraints on the degree of falsehood in animal communication. That constraint is that communication systems evolved in the first place because they are a helpful for both individuals or both organisms involved in the exchange. So before a communication system can evolve it should be adaptive for the sender and for the receiver. That means that even in conflict situations you cannot set up blatant falsehoods. There are some kinds of reality constraints.

We are then saying that actually, in some situations, with regards to humans and human evolution, these constraints doesn’t operate. That’s because if we look at nonhuman animals, then the conflict is often between two individuals, but in human conflict it’s often between two groups, and the members of one group, are cooperating with each other against the other group. That means there might be certain advantages, within one group, to spread misinformation and spread falsehoods, if that can give them an upper hand in the conflict with the other group. Then we go on to discuss a number of ways in which that might be true.

You identify three functions of information sharing: group mobilization for conflict, coordination of attention, and signaling commitment. You argue that accomplishing these goals efficiently is what gets selected, in evolutionary terms, not truth or veracity. Can you give an example of each, starting with mobilization?

When you want to mobilize your group, what you need to do is find out that we are facing a problem, and your way of describing that problem needs to be as attention-grabbing as possible before you can get the group to focus on the same thing. In that context, reality is seldom as juicy as fiction. By enhancing the threat for example, by saying things that are not necessarily true Ӕ then you are in a better situation to mobilize and coordinate the attention of your own group.  The key thing is that it may actually be to your group’s advantage that if everyone is in agreement that we don’t like these other guys, then we make sure that everyone is paying attention to this other group. So by exaggerating the actual threat posed by the other group, you can gain more effective mobilization.

The key to understand why this makes sense, why this is functional, is that one needs to distinguish between interests and attention. A group can have a joint set of interests, such as, “Well, we don’t like this other group, we think we should deal with this other group in in some way.” But on top of that interest or set of interests, there is the whole coordination problem. You need to get everyone to agree that this is the time to deal with that problem. It’s now, and we need to deal with it in this way. It’s in that sort of negotiation process where it can be in everyone’s interest to exaggerate the threat beyond reality, to make sure that everyone gets the message.

You’ve more or less answered my next question about coordination. So what about signaling commitment? How does falsehood play a role there?

I think these are the two major problems, the mobilization on the one part and then the signaling on the other part. When you’re a member of the group, then you need other group members to help you. In order for that to take place, you need to signal that, “Well, I’m a loyal member of this group. I would help you guys if you were in trouble, so now you need to help me.”

Humans are constantly focused on signals of loyalty: “Are they loyal members of the group?” and “How can I signal that I’m a loyal member?” There are al sorts of ways in which we do that. We take on particular clothes, we have gang tattoos and all sorts of physical ways of expressing loyalty with the group.

But because we humans are exceptionally complex, another way to signal our loyalty is through the beliefs that we hold. We can signal loyalty to a group by having a certain set of beliefs, and then the question is, “Well, what is the type of belief through which we can signal that we belong?” First of all, it should be a belief that other people are not likely to have, because if everyone has this belief, then it’s not a very good signal of group loyalty. It needs to be something that other people in other groups do not have. The basic logic at work here is that anyone can believe the truth, but only loyal members of the group can believe something that is blatantly false.

There is a selection pressure to develop beliefs or develop a psychology that scans for beliefs that are so bizarre and extraordinary that no one would come up with them by themselves. This would signal, “Well, I belong to this group. I know what this group is about. I have been with this group for a long time,” because you would not be able to hold this belief without that prehistory.

I believe we can see this in a lot of the conspiracy theories that are going around, like the QAnon conspiracy theory. I think we can see it in religious beliefs too, because a lot of religious beliefs are really bizarre when you look at them. One example that we give in the text is the notion of the divine Trinity in Christianity, which has this notion that God is both one and three at the same time. You would never come up with this notion on your own. You would only come up with that if you were actually socialized into a Christian religious group. So that’s a very good signal: “Well, that’s a proper Christian.”

Right. I was raised Unitarian. As a secular Jew in Northern California at that time, the only place we could have a home was a Unitarian fellowship. It was filled with secular Jews, definitely not “proper Christians.”

Yes, I went to a private Catholic school myself, so I’ve been exposed to my portion of religious beliefs as well. But there’s another aspect that’s very important when it comes to group conflict, because another very good signal that you are a loyal member is beliefs that the other group would find offensive. A good way to signal that I’m loyal to this group and not that group is to take on a belief that is the exact opposite of what the other group believes. So that creates pressure not only to develop bizarre beliefs, but also bizarre beliefs that this other group is bad, is evil, or something really opposed to the particular values that they have.

This suggests that there are functional reasons for both spreading falsehoods, and also signaling these falsehoods. I think one of the key insights is that we need to think about beliefs in another way than we often do. Quite often we think about the beliefs that we have as representations of reality, so the reason why we have the belief is to navigate the world. Because of that, there needs to be a pretty good fit or match between the content of our beliefs and the features of reality.

But what we are arguing is that a lot of beliefs don’t really exist for navigating the world. They exist for social reasons, because they allow us to accomplish certain socially important phenomena, such as mobilizing our group or signaling that we’re loyal members of the group. This means that because the function of the beliefs is not to represent reality, their veracity or truth value is not really an important feature.

In the section “Falsehoods as Tools for Coordination” you discuss Donald Horowitz’s book, THE DEADLY ETHNIC RIOT. What does that tell us about the role of falsehood in setting up the preconditions for ethnic violence?

THE DEADLY ETHNIC RIOT is an extremely disturbing book. It’s this systematic review of what we know about what happens before, during and after ethnic massacres. I read this book when I became interested in fake news and misinformation circulating on social media, and this was recommended to me by my friend and collaborator Pascal Boyer, who is also an evolutionary psychologist. Horowitz argues that you cannot and do not have an ethnic massacre without a preceding period of rumor-sharing. His argument is exactly what I was trying to argue before, that the function of such rumors is actually not to represent reality. The total function of the rumors is to organize your group and get it ready for attack. You do so by pointing out that the enemy is powerful, that it’s evil and that it’s ready to attack, so you need to do something now.

One of the really interesting things about the analysis of rumors in this book is that, if you look at the content of the rumors, that’s not so much predicted by what the other group has done to you or to your group. It’s really predicted by what you are planning to do to the other group. So the brutality of the content of these rumors is, in a sense, part of the coordination about what we’re going to do to them when we get the action going which also suggests that the function of these rumors is not to represent reality, but to serve social functions.

What I was struck by when I read Horowitz’s book was how similar the content of the rumors that he’s describing in these ethnic massacres all over the world, how similar that is to the kind of misinformation that is being circulated on social media. This suggests that a lot of what is going on in social media is also not driven by ignorance, but by these social functions.

One point you make is that to avoid being easily contradicted or discredited, these kinds of “mobilization motivations should gravitate towards unverifiable information: Events occurring in secret, far away in time or space, behind closed doors, etc.” This helps explain the appeal of conspiracy theories. How do they fit into this picture?

When we look at falsehoods there is a tension. On one level, there is a motivation to make it as bizarre as possible, for all the reasons we have been talking about. On the other hand, if you are trying to create this situation of mobilization, you want the information to flow as unhindered as possible through the network. You want it to spread as far as possible. If you’re in a situation where everyone is looking at a chair and you say, “Well, that chair is a rock,” that’s something that will hinder the flow of information, because people will say, “Well, we know that’s really a chair.”

So while there is this motivation or incentive to create content as bizarre as possible, there is also another pressure or another incentive to avoid the situation where you’re being called out by people who are not motivated to engage in the collective action. That suggests it’s better to develop content about situations where other people have a difficult time saying, “That’s blatantly false.” So that’s why unverifiable information is the optimal kind of information, because there you can really create as bizarre content as you want, and you don’t have the risk of being called out.

We see a similar kind of tactic when conspiracy theorists argue, “Well, we are only raising questions,” where you are writing or spreading the information but you have this plausible deniability, which is also a way to avoid being called out. Conspiracy theories are notorious exactly for looking for situations that are unverifiable and where it’s very difficult to verify what’s up and what’s down. They create these narratives that we also see in ethnic massacres, where we have an enemy who is powerful, who is evil and who is ready to do something that’s very bad. Again, that completely fits the structure of mobilizing rumors that Horowitz is focusing on. So what we’ve been arguing, here and elsewhere, is that a lot of conspiracy theories are really attempts to mobilize against the political order.

In the section “Falsehoods as Signals of Dominance” you writethat “dominance can essentially be asserted by challenging others,” and argue that when a given statement “contradicts a larger number of people’s beliefs, it serves as a better dominance signal.” I immediately thought of Donald Trump in those terms. For example, he didn’t invent birtherism, and when he latched onto it he didn’t even go into the details there were all these different versions of birther conspiracy theories, and he didn’t know jack-shit about any of them. He just made these broad claims, drawing on his reputation and his visibility, and established himself as a national political figure. I wonder if you can talk about that - not just about Trump, but about how that works more generally.


Posted by Elvis on 08/16/21 •
Section Revelations • Section NWO • Section Dying America
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