Monthly Archives: July 2019

Alarm fatigue vs systematic critique

We suffer from alarm fatigue. Targeted alarm of the kind, "Hey! This person is blatantly lying!" is for finding the occasional, rare bad actor. The kind of alarm that needs raising for self-propagating patterns of motivated reasoning is procedural or conceptual. People are mistakenly behaving (in some contexts) as though certain information sources were reliable. This is often part of a compartmentalized pattern; in other contexts, the same people act as though, not only do they personally know, but everybody knows, that those sources are not trustworthy.

To take a simple example, I grew up in a household with a television. That means that, at various times in the day, I was exposed to messages from highly paid expert manipulators trying to persuade me to consume expensive, poor-quality, addictive foods that were likely to damage my mind and body by spiking my blood sugar and lowering my discernment. I watched these messages because they were embedded in other messages exposing me to a sort of story superstimulus with elevated levels of violence and excitement, but mostly devoid of messages from my elders about what sorts of time-tested behaviors are adaptive for the community or individual.

If you try to tell people that TV is bad for kids, they'll maybe feel vaguely guilty, but not really process this as news, because "everybody knows," and go on behaving as though this was fine. If you manage to get through to them that TV ads are Out to Get You,  this might get their attention, but only by transmitting an inappropriately concentrated sense of threat - or an unproductive general paranoia. Continue reading

On street violence

A lot of people, including me, are worried about the punching of Fascists, real or imagined, because it sets a bad precedent. But I'm also worried about the arguments being offered for this point of view.

Here's how it goes. They say that "we" have a fragile norm against punching people for political reasons, that engaging in street violence threatens to shatter this norm, and that this could get very bad.

Here's what they (and I used to) leave out:  Continue reading

Blatant lies are the best kind!

Mala: But then why do people get so indignant about blatant lies?

Noa: You mean, indignant when others call out blatant lies? I see more of that, though they often accuse the person calling out the lie of being unduly harsh.

Mala: Sure, but you can't deny - you've seen yourself - that people actually do get more indignant when they say that, than when they're pointing out a subtle pattern of motivated reasoning. How do you explain that, if "blatant lie" isn't a stronger accusation?  Continue reading