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Archive for December 2021

Hate and free speech in the U.K. / Follow-up The power of a false consensus

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I just encountered a few pages that provide a good illustration of both the problem of The power of a false consensus ([1]) and of Tolkningsföreträde.

The Daily Sceptic, extensively quoting The Free Speech Union, writes that

Harry Miller, the ex-copper who refused to take it lying down when he was told by Humberside Police that retweeting a comic verse about transgendered people would be recorded against his name on the police database as a ‘non-crime hate incident’, has won a tremendous victory today in the Court of Appeal today.

As its noted on the page, the approach behind this database is chilling free speech and it is borderline absurd to have an official* registry of non-crime incidents of any kind that still is intended** to serve as a mark against someone.

*As opposed to a private one that e.g. tracks statement and behavior of sufficiently public persons, where those statements and behaviors are of relevance. Consider e.g. the value neutral tracking of the opinions of politicians on various issues for easy access by potential voters.

**The intent and the associated skew is of importance. Consider, contrasting with the previous footnote, a registry of just any allegedly xenophobic statements made by politicians, so that “the voters can avoid xenophobic politicians”. Also note that the intent behind the “non-crime hate incident” registry almost certainly includes turning a de jure non-crime into a de facto crime.

There might be a deeper problem, however: With what right was the original incident (and any other registered incident) deemed as hate? In all likelihood tolkningsföreträde. We on the noble Left decide what you mean when you say X. We on the noble Left decide what your ideology is. We on the noble Left decide what motivates your actions. We on the noble Left decide what is or is not offensive/hateful/racist/whatnot. Etc.

The application of “hate” to a registry like this is inexcusable.

(Similarly, but with a slightly lesser lack of justification,* the use of “hate” in phrases like “hate crime” is highly dubious, as it makes assumptions about intent that will very often be incorrect.)

*No, I will not speak of “more justification”.

I will not discuss the many other potential explanations in detail, nor (as my familiarity is too superficial) speak of this specific case in detail. However, I do note that the Left very, very often acts in bad faith when it comes to alleged hate, racism, sexism, …; and that this is very likely to relate to attempts to stamp out any dissent as discussed in [1]. Further, that there is a very wide range of statements and opinions that are negatively loaded without being hate (and are very often justified, at that).

As an example of the latter, consider many of my own writings and statements about the Left, e.g. concerning use of methods, disregard for the rights of the individual, censorship, whatnot. None of these statements are hate or motivated by hate—they are motivated by the enormous problems that the Left, and those who use similar methods, cause in the world. Yes, I am often filled with loathing and disgust when I encounter such problems, but these are not hate—and even had I reached the state of hate, it would just be a very natural and highly defensible result of the Left’s own behavior.* Nevertheless, someone on the Left could just throw out some nonsense about “anti-Left hate speech” and, sadly, convince many of those who (a) take such claims at face value and without any own investigation or critical thinking, and (b) assume that anything related to hate is automatically evil/invalid/whatnot.

*Interestingly, in areas like this, there never seems to be any reflection over whether the hate might be justified or justifiable. Considering e.g. the proportion of Leftist who profess to hate racists, Fascists, whatnot, even the Left should have an awareness for the possibility. I have noted the common hypocrisy on hate, especially on the Left, in the past, e.g. in [2]. (Note: I do not claim that justified hate would be a good idea—just that it would be justified.)

Similarly, note how often attempts by various serious debaters and persons with genuine concerns to discuss matters like immigration and crime or U.S. Blacks and crime have been silenced with blanket claims of “xenophobia” and “racism”, without any discussion of the actual merits of the case.

The Free Speech Union was not familiar to me, and I moved on to its Wikipedia page.

Here I find claims like “The organisation views itself as countering cancel culture […]”, which puts the own opinion of the organisation in doubt; and like “The group has been criticised by journalists and former student members who believe it has a right-wing agenda and that its stated aims are misleading.”, which prominently pushes a likely* Leftist and certainly partisan view of it.

*There is too little information for a certain claim, but the mixture of the sentiment, the use of the word “right-wing” as were it something automatically bad, and a source of “journalists” point very strongly in this direction. Also note that the lacking quantification is highly problematic—chances are that we can find two or three journalists who are critical of almost anything. (And more are not needed to speak of “journalists”.) Besides, do the opinions of modern day journalists, with their typical anti-journalistic approach, actually matter?

Or consider, to expand on the “student members”:

In January 2021, student members of the Free Speech Youth Advisory Board resigned after they discovered the board had close links to the Free Speech Union rather than being an independent grassroots movement that they had been led to believe. The students had hoped for a group addressing free speech issues around the world but found one dominated by Young’s right-wing perspective.

Here an account of some unspecified “student members” is stated as true, with no acknowledgment of potential differences in opinion and with no counter-statement by The Free Speech Union or any “student members” who did not resign. I note that a “right-wing perspective”, which the article does not explain, on free speech is typically nothing more than “free speech applies to everyone—not just the Left”. (To be contrasted with the typical Leftist view “Free speech is only intended for those with the correct opinions—and we, having tolkningsföreträde, decide what those are.”)

The entire article reads as one big attempt to discredit The Free Speech Union—not to give it a fair and unbiased encyclopedic treatment. This matches typical tactics well: Paint an image of any opposing organization as, e.g., a far-right hate movement. Discredit anything the opponent says, even e.g. in defense of free speech. Condemn anyone defended or supported by this opponent, because no-one not also a far-right hater would be supported by a far-right hate movement.

Note on language:
In some cases, I have adapted my own writing to match that of the quoted texts, e.g. by use of “right-wing” instead of “Rightwing” or “Right-wing”.

Note on quotes:
Some formatting might have been lost or altered in copying. References have been deliberately removed from Wikipedia quotes. See the original text for these.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 21, 2021 at 8:43 am

The power of a false consensus / Follow-up: Various

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Pondering a few recent texts (most notably: [1], [2]), I recalled something long forgotten:

The Asch conformity experiments.

The general idea: Many bow to a near-consensus opinion that they do not actually share—or, worse, actually change their opinions to conform with the near-consensus, for no better reason than the status as near-consensus. This even when we look at a situation where it is fairly obvious that the majority has it wrong.

What, then, might happen, when we look at an issue with no obvious answer? One where the answer might be clear to those who have put in the research, but where most individuals will not have done so?* Consider the many issues around COVID that have been fraught with uncertainty or where the science has changed over time. Consider various Leftist claims about women’s earnings, systemic racism, and similar, which seem convincing on a casual glance but collapse when someone actually looks at the facts at hand—which far too few have actually done.

*Which might sometimes be a failing; sometimes, merely a result of how little time there is for so many topics.

In light of this, various acts of censorship, straw-manning, defamation, etc. suddenly make more sense. Ditto the constant cries of “Fake news! Fake news!”.

What if the reason is not what I have always assumed, namely to prevent debate and to prevent others from being exposed to arguments, facts, and statistics—but to create a false* feeling of a consensus, with the object that the skeptics be “Aschered” towards the preferred opinion? (Be it by actually changing their minds or by making them conform in their claimed opinions.) For this to work, the perceived consensus must be near unanimous—or the existing dissenters must be so thoroughly discredited that they do not give the skeptics reason to continue their skepticism or, worse, turn into new dissenters.

*Note that this, in a worst case, could take place even in face of a true near consensus in the opposite direction, provided that the power of misrepresentation is sufficiently large. A potential example is that, as I have mentioned on a great number of occasions, journalists, politicians, and social scientists very stubbornly ignore inconvenient biological results, even to the point of claiming the exact opposite. (Including a great many claims relating to I.Q.) What proportion of the population reads the papers and what proportion actually has an exposure to biological scientific results?

The problem for the censors and whatnots: One individual standing up against a near consensus might find himself alone, without support, doubting himself (“Am I right—and all the others wrong?!?”), or otherwise have a weak position. Switch just one other to his side, let alone two or three, and the situation is very different, and the chances that he will stick to his guns are that much greater. Next, what if these few turn into even just a noticeable minority in society, making every potential dissenter or skeptic know that he is not alone?

Apart from the general observation with regard to e.g. Leftist propaganda and COVID-scaremongering, there is the important lesson to never change one’s mind for reasons like being in a minority. Being in a majority or a minority is only very rarely a useful argument—and a mind should be changed only if sufficiently strong and convincing real and relevant arguments are presented.

Excursion on the reporting of Asch’s results:
I was slightly disappointed by the discussion of results on the linked-to Wikipedia page, where the tendency to switch opinion was nowhere near as large as I wished to remember. This is explained by claims like “However, a 1990 survey of US social psychology textbooks found that most ignored independence, instead reported a misleading summary of the results as reflecting complete power of the situation to produce conformity of behavior and belief.”, i.e. a considerable distortion of the findings with a potential false consensus … (I do not see a conspiracy here, but it is an interesting coincidence, and an example of how science can be falsified when reported by middlemen, be it deliberately or accidentally.)

I would, however, not truly see this as weakening my above speculation. In part, the belief of the perpetrators that they would be successful is more important than their actual chances at success; in part, as stated above, the greater uncertainties around e.g. COVID (relative the clear decisions in the experiments) are likely to make the victims considerably more compliant than in the experiments.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 18, 2021 at 3:45 pm

Heuristics to understand Leftist claims / Follow-up: Various

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More than eleven years ago, I wrote about the common tactic of some groups, notably Feminists, of reversing the accusation—to accuse their opponents of exactly the errors and scumbaggery that they are themselves committing and of which the opponents are usually (!) innocent. (With observations in the same extended family made on many other occasions, e.g. in [1] and [2]).

Right now, we have the U.S. situation that:

On the one hand, Biden was elected under extremely dubious circumstances, the Democrats are pushing anti-democratic* election reforms,** the Democrats are trying to circumvent the democratic processes by e.g. executive orders beyond Biden’s legal authority and judicial activism***, etc. Indeed, a year ago tomorrow, I wrote of the end of the world as we know it with regard to Biden’s election and the overall situation.

*I.e. opposed to democracy. Generally, at least in this text, I will use “D” for the party, “d” for the general political term.

**And are absurdly describing the pro-democratic, election-integrity reforms attempted by the Republicans as anti-democratic, in another excellent example of “reversing the accusation”.

***Although, they are currently failing in the SCOTUS, which is exactly why anti-democratic “court packing” is on the table. I note that there are established guidelines for how to amend the constitution. If you want to change it, suggest a bloody amendment. Ditto laws: if you do not like the laws, suggest a change of the law. Do not abuse the courts to push your own will through in violation of democratic processes and the division of power.

On the one other, Hillary is making loud claims about how a Trump (!!!) re-election in 2024 would somehow be the end of democracy …

For FUCK’s sake!

Or consider the stubborn claims that the Democrat party would be the “party of science”, while it ignores any science that is inconvenient (notably, biology and IQ) and distorts or misrepresents what science it uses (e.g. concerning COVID and, likely, the environment). This alleged “party of science” has an approach to science similar to that of Nazi-Germany (e.g. Welteislehre) and the Soviet Union (e.g. Lysenkoism).

Constant situations like these over more than three decades and in several countries have led me to some informal heuristics:

  1. If the Left (a Leftist party, someone on the Left, whatnot) raises an accusation against someone else, he is considerably more likely to be innocent than guilty. Consider e.g. the wild accusations of racism (or, more currently, “White Supremacy”) thrown around by various Leftist groups, usually without the slightest shred of proof—and usually based on the skin color of the persons involved.
  2. Leftist characterizations of their opponents and their opinions can and should be ignored, as they are almost invariably grossly incorrect, including e.g. factual misrepresentations and unfounded attribution of hidden agendas and motivations. (And characterizations by others, in general and not restricted to the Left, should be taken with a grain of salt.)

    For instance, it is not uncommon that the Left ascribes an intent of “keeping Blacks down” or “keeping women down” for suggestions that have a very different motivation and might (or might not!) have side-effects on various groups. Consider e.g. the U.S. abortion debate (currently flaring up again), where a Republican wish to protect unborn lives* is painted as a vicious attack on women’s rights …

    *I stress that I do not, myself, have a strong opinion on abortion. However, the issue must be approached with an eye on the body of the fetus—not the woman. When is this fetus a human being with human rights? Barring rape, which is behind only a small fraction of unwanted pregnancies, the woman had the opportunity both to not have sex and to have sex with sufficient safety measures. The fetus had no say in the matter.

    Wild and baseless escalations are a particular problem, e.g. in that someone who is anti-Islamism is painted as anti-Islam* or, more likely, anti-Muslim.

    *Which for some reason is considered far worse than being anti-Christianity or, if by someone on the Left, anti-Judaism. (While anyone on the “Right” would immediately be condemned as a Nazi in the latter case.) The odder, as the objective anti-Islam case is stronger in today’s world than either of the other. (Note that “stronger” does not imply “strong”.)

  3. The accusations made by the Left are far more likely to apply to the Left, and the more so for the specific person or organization that raises the accusations. For instance, those who make noise about racism are themselves often blatantly racist and almost always worse than those accused.

    In particular, to find out what the Left is currently doing, or is about to do, it might pay to study their current accusations. (Which makes Hillary’s claims all the more chilling.)

  4. If the Left makes any claim that is not supported by their opponents and/or strong independent sources, the claim is more likely to be false than true.* Even when a claim does happen to be based in truth, it is extremely likely to have been phrased in a misleading manner or to be missing critical information that would shed a different light on the issue at hand.

    *Which is not to say that claims so supported are necessarily and automatically true.

    It is only slight hyperbole to say that I would not trust the time of day given by a Leftist politician/debater/activist.

  5. Claims by the Left about e.g. “for your own good”, “for the good of the people”, “for the greater good” either should be understood as “for the good of the Left” or as referring to some idea of “good” that many or most others will not share. (And I, personally, almost never share.)
  6. That the Left makes more noise on a topic often implies that there is less to be concerned about, because the noise serves to overcome voter resistance based on the facts of the matter, which, usually, are that the problem or “problem” either never was a big deal or has ceased to be a big deal.

    A particular problem is issues that have a long history of giving the Left votes, e.g. women’s rights, but where next to nothing is left to do or where the allegedly favored (privileged, whatnot) are now disfavored, and vice versa. Consider (definitely) women and men in Sweden and Germany, and (likely) women and men in the U.S.

  7. More noise from the Left often implies merely that the Left is in a stronger position to make noise, often even that few dare protest/voice an alternate opinion or that those opinions are suppressed before they reach the broad masses (note e.g. the current situations with both mainstream media and services like Twitter and Facebook).

    A particular telling example is the current Germany, which has slipped further and further Leftwards during my years here—and where the panic-mongering about Right(!)wing extremism has increased in lockstep. Note e.g. an earlier discussion on far Left gains in the state of Thüringen, where the old-but-rebranded DDR communist party is the main and ruling party. The result was a political panic about … gains by a “far Right” party. With the latest elections and the fall of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, they have a share of the power in no less than four (4!) of the sixteen German states. This is a party that built the Berlin wall to prevent the people from leaving, had no qualms about killing its own citizens, spent enormous resource to spy on the citizens, wrecked the economy, etc.*

    *Does this sound disturbingly like the allegedly free and democratic West in 2021? It does indeed. Let us hope that the emergency breaks are pulled before it is too late.

  8. More noise from the Left usually points to an unusually weak set of arguments (even by Leftist standards), for which the loudness of the claims, or the many repetitions of the claims, compensates. Repeat a lie often enough …
  9. If the Left suppresses someone’s right to speech, he is almost always correct and the Left simply lacks the arguments to beat him in a fair debate.

    This ranges from global politics to e.g. individual Feminists blogs. (The latter, and the enormous censorship of reasoned arguments and links to statistics, formed a very large portion of my early experiences in the Blogosphere.)

(With reservations for completeness, as I have never put them down in writing before. Note that some items are overlapping.)

Exercise for the reader: Follow closely the political debate in your local country for just one week, while applying these heuristics. Chances are that you will have a far more accurate image of who is or does what afterwards than you did before.

More generally, the Left, even by the already low standards of politics, appears to follow a principle of “it does not matter if we lie to the voters/the public, as long as we get what we want” (as a special case of their strong belief in “the end justifies the means”). I also suspect that there are quite a few on the Left who are so driven by hate (racism, whatnot) that they cannot comprehend that their opponents are less hateful (racist, whatnot) and/or that they project their own attitudes onto others. (In some cases, notably Hillary, Pelosi, and a few “squad” members, I cannot shake the suspicion of genuine mental-health issues—but “not a psychiatrist” applies.)

I repeat my observation in [2] that:

[…] there has been common trends virtually everywhere and “everywhen”, that an the-end-justifies-the-means mentality tends be a Leftist issue more often than “Rightist” issue, that political violence tends to come from the Left, that propaganda lies, defamation, personal attacks, etc., tends to come from the Left, disregard for democratic processes tends to come from the Left, and so on.

Excursion on last year’s end of the world:
The current U.S. situation under Biden is an absolute disaster (and it is not good in the rest of the world either), but still not quite as bad as I had anticipated. The reason is that (a) I had not predicted that some Democrat senators would fall out of line (most notably Manchin) and block or delay various disastrous measures, and (b) I had underestimated the remaining powers of the individual states (de Santis!).

For the long term, there are positive signs reflected in opinion polls and intra-Leftist behavior, indicating that my hopes might be coming true that more and more, even among traditionally solidly Democrat groups (notably, the Hispanics), realize the insanity of the current Left, and that the Leftist factions increasingly turn against each other, as their interests are more and more in conflict and as their time as fellow travelers is coming to an end.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 13, 2021 at 7:46 am

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German news and dubious COVID reporting

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A particular annoying type of misreporting, whether it be through incompetence or in a deliberate attempt to mislead (both are highly possible):

Day after day after day, the video-text of ARD claims

Damit erhöht sich die Zahl der gemeldeten Todesfälle binnen eines Tages auf x*.

Translation:

Thus, the number of reported deaths increases to x* within one day.

*Where x is the accumulated number through the entire pandemic (in Germany). Today, x was 105.506.

The intended statement is that, factoring in the reported deaths since yesterday*, we now have an accumulated total for the pandemic (in Germany) of x—counting since early 2020.

*Exactly what values are compared is, more understandably than below, unclear, as there is both an issue with delays in reporting of deaths and a delay between the establishment of these numbers and the publication in video-text—and a further delay before they reach the reader.

Then, why “within one day”?!?!?

At best, it is redundant; at worst, it can lead weak readers* and thinkers and/or those who have an insufficient knowledge of the actual death rate to believe that we had 105.506 deaths (or death reports) within that one day. To this I note (a) that there is an enormous amount of panic making; (b) that I have seen at least one study, in which many overestimate the deaths from COVID enormously;** (c) that the great intellectual limits on the average citizens is a recurring topic in my writings.

*In fact, the formulation is so idiotic that I would consider the reader justified in his interpretation, were that sentence the sum of the reporting. (Which, fortunately, it is not.)

**Maybe by a factor ten or hundred—I am vague on the details. However, with such misestimates, is there any wonder that many are in a state of panic and/or accept the gravest civic-rights violations and a destroyed economy to fight COVID? Indeed, if such numbers were true, my own writings on the topic would be very different, and I might well have been the first in line for a vaccine shot.

There might even be a risk that those who do know better are susceptible to a subconscious distortion, becoming used to associate the overall number with a single day.

Note that any of this would be damaging even if only a small minority is mislead.

If we assume that the formulation is a deliberate attempt to mislead, it is a particularly perfidious one, as there is perfect deniability. Accuse ARD of an ethics violation? Pointless, as it can always hide behind a claim of ambiguity, the overall text, and a (naive or dishonest) claim that “we think more highly than that of our readers”.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 11, 2021 at 9:37 am

The odd claim about the intelligent Leftist / Follow-up: Vaccines, myself, and defamatory politicians

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Last week, I wrote (concerning e.g. COVID-vaccine skeptics):

Politicians seem to have an image of mouth-breathers who have never made it further than the cartoons or the sports section in the news-paper, […]

This naturally leads me to one of my main suspicions about the paradox of allegedly educated and intelligent people voting Left—that (too) many believe that you are sufficiently politically educated and aware when you read the daily paper.

This, however, is unlikely to have been the case even in the days before journalism collapsed and even in those days when papers were the main or only source of information available on “current events”. Today? When journalists tend to be uninformed, unintelligent, and more driven by ideology than an investigative spirit? To be frank, chances are that those who bet on the papers are worse off than even those who do not pay attention at all. Compared to those who actually dig down in various matters, consult* non-MSM viewpoints, etc., they will trail horribly. BILD: Dir deine Meinung.**

*An interesting issue is that many on the Left seem to assume that anyone who reads source X also agrees with source X, whether it be because only someone who agrees would read it or because anyone who reads it would be bound to be uncritically adopt the same opinions. The latter could be a telling sign of weak critical thinking among the Leftists and forms an interesting parallel to the naive reader above.

**One of the two possible readings of the slogan of the German Bild-Zeitung: BILD: Gives you your opinion.

Certainly, looking at COVID, the original context of the quote, I have a very strong impression that the better informed someone is, the more likely he is to be skeptical of this-and-that “official truth” on COVID. These are the people who read up and think critically—not the “I have a bachelor in gender studies and read the paper!” crowd.

More generally, I find the whole “Left = intelligent and educated, Right = dumb and uneducated” narrative puzzling, as it does not at all match what I have seen in real life—and was indisputably incorrect in Sweden during the early days of my political awareness. The Leftist parties were for those easily manipulated or driven mostly by their own special interests,* while the intelligent and educated went for non-Left parties.

*Indeed, the Left pushed a very strong Marxist “us vs. them” angle and had an attitude that “if you are a worker, you have to vote for us, because only we look out for you” (or even “[…] the other parties just want to exploit us workers”). Interestingly, the current U.S. Democrats do the same, except that they replace “worker” with e.g. “Black”, “woman”, “homosexual”, …

Some speculation on the why follows below, but let it firstly be said that someone who votes Left today will, in almost all cases, show a horrifying lack of judgment. Indeed, as noted, I have much greater sympathies for the Left of, say, 1921 than of 2021. A Leftist today basically has to be ignorant of:

  1. History, especially 20th-century history and economic history. (No wonder that the Left tries to destroy history education.)
  2. Economics. (A near-absent topic in high school; even the 101-level is not attempted by most college students.)
  3. Human nature, including psychology, biology, evolutionary influences. Indeed, a belief in a strict “nurture only” view of humans, which was outdated even in the 1970s, still seems to be very common. (And large swaths of the social sciences teach the opposite of what the harder sciences say on the topic.)
  4. At least in the case of the U.S.,* the background of and ideas behind the U.S. constitution, checks and balances, division of power, etc. (And fields like civics are also often attacked by the Left.)

    *This ignorance is naturally even greater in most other countries, but is less damaging there, because corresponding whatnots tend to be far less developed to begin with. For instance, if there is less constitutional protection of the citizens, the damage that can be done by judicial-activist judges to such protections is smaller, and the understanding that such judicial activists are almost always a bad thing is of less practical relevance.

To this can be added a weak ability to see through Leftist rhetoric and pseudo-argumentation, which often has very little to do with reality, even by the standards of politicians, and very often fall into categories like “lies” and “defamation”. (Cf. e.g. any number of earlier posts on Feminism.)

As to potential reasons:*

*Note that some of these point to an incorrect perception, i.e. that “Left = intelligent [etc.]” is faulty, while others could be a partial explanation if and when the perception is correct. The discussion is partially U.S. centric. The list is likely incomplete.

  1. Being above average in intelligence does not make someone intelligent in absolute terms. The vast majority of all humans are too stupid to vote, and a majority support from e.g. those with an I.Q. of 110 resp. 90 tells us very little.
  2. There might be a critical span of intelligence, where someone is, e.g., intelligent and interested enough to read the papers, but not sufficiently so to move beyond the papers or to properly apply critical thinking to claims made in the papers. (To continue the earlier theme. The same idea can apply elsewhere, e.g. when it comes to going to college below.) The effect, then, is that someone with an I.Q. of a 110 is more likely to be exposed to a certain type of deliberate propaganda and/or set of unconscious biases and prejudices than someone with an I.Q. of 90—and, unlike someone with an I.Q. of a 130, will lack the intelligence to see through the propaganda.
  3. Having a college education, be it as a measure per se or as a proxy for intelligence, tells us comparatively little today, with the great intake of students who are not true college material and the corresponding drop in academic standards. The non-STEM fields are extremely weak filters for intelligence, and fields like “gender studies” might actually be negative filters. Moreover, many intelligent men, who could have earned a college degree, chose another road to a career, in light of the extreme costs (in the U.S.) and the great prevalence of anti-scientific Leftist ideologies in the college environment—often including anti-man and anti-White propaganda.
  4. A divide can in part be caused by women, who, at any range of intelligence and education, on average, appear to be weaker critical thinkers and more guided by emotions than men in the same range, but who currently tend to seek a college education at higher rates than men.
  5. Women are also, I suspect, more likely to fall into the brav sein trap, e.g. through having (or merely professing to have) the opinions that they are “supposed” to have in order to be enlightened (intelligent, upstanding citizens, whatnot). Of course, here we can have a vicious circle of the type “intelligent people belong to the Left; I wish to be brav; ergo, I must belong to the Left”. Similarly, the common use of “Liberal” to describe Democrats might play in: “Liberal” once held a justifiable position as a term of enlightenment, but the U.S. Liberals have very little to do with the word’s original intent—in fact, they are often outright anti-Liberal, while “true” Liberals go by terms like “Libertarian” in the U.S.

    In current colleges, and some other settings, not conforming to the right set of opinions might result in visible disapproval or, even, harassment and violence, giving additional incentives to be brav.

  6. What is considered the political Left/Center/Right varies from country to country and from time to time. If we look e.g. at Sweden and the U.S. in the 1980s,* the U.S. Democrats might have had more in common with the Swedish Right than with the Left; and certainly more with the Center than the Left. Correspondingly, a comparison (of e.g. intelligence) that might have held in the 1980s might not hold today or might have had very different implications. (To this, note e.g. factors like the previous item combined with a possible stereotype of the Democrats as the “smart party”; and note that there might be many who still consider themselves Democrats out of habit or who are unable to realize that the Democrat party has left them and fail to draw the conclusion that it is time for them to return the favor.**)

    *The U.S. Democrats have shifted in a truly extreme manner since then.

    **Note Reagan’s claim “I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me.”. (Also an indication that a tendency to change is very old and/or unusually strong with said party.)

  7. The use of a two-party system might make one or both parties the home of groups that are not necessarily that close to each other, are only temporary fellow travelers, or see each other as a lesser evil compared to what is found in the other party. For instance, Libertarians and Conservatives are not truly natural bed-mates, but they are better off with each other than with the pseudo-Liberals of the Democrat party, let alone the increasingly more extremist Leftist factions that have lately grown strong. I have not kept book, but I have the subjective impression that the truly intelligent are Libertarians disproportionately often and that Libertarians tend to be intelligent disproportionately often. If so, this fact could be hidden by e.g. a survey of X among those who vote for party A and party B, without a more fine-grained grouping.
  8. The U.S. is far more religious than e.g. Sweden. We might then have a situation where weak critical thinkers tend to go Left in Sweden, but tend to be split between the Left and various religious groups in the U.S. In a second step, if the strongly Christian tend to vote Republican, this could distort the “natural” distribution of weak critical thinkers.

    (Of course, Leftist parties have long been keen on exterminating religion—likely, because they know that they compete for similar groups.)

  9. In at least the U.S., issues like LGBT-rights can distort impressions. (Also note the previous item and the often Bible-rooted resistance.) For instance, maybe it is more enlightened, and a position more likely to be held by the intelligent and educated, that a gay couple should be allowed to marry.* However, if we look at the big picture, how important an issue is that? It affects comparatively few people and to a comparatively small degree, while, in contrast and for example, an overlarge government, too high taxes, large scale illegal immigration, and similar affect virtually everyone and to a very high degree. It is easy to make a noble cause out of a small issue with a sob angle, especially when it can be narrated (whether fairly or not) as an unfairness or as unequal treatment, but that does not make it the most important issue of the day, nor even a top-10 issue.

    *See an earlier text for a different take, with the implicit conclusion that the question is largely misposed.

    (Somewhat similarly, “civic rights” issues that are more important, e.g. the preservation of free speech, often carry very little weight on the Left. Indeed, the Left is often the reason that there is a problem, e.g. through an attitude that free speech only applies to those who say the right (i.e. Left) thing, which is fundamentally contradictory to the point of free speech.)

In the overlap between the last few items, note that the overall party politics in a two-party system might contain items that do not reflect the majority (let alone consensus) opinion, but which have been added to keep this-or-that sub-group happy. Vice versa, some items might be absent to prevent a sub-group from being upset. Judging the individual or the overall group based on such items is dangerous.

As an aside, some of the mentioned issues might be affected by Leftist distortions and propaganda. Consider e.g. someone who opposes “gay marriage” based on the opinion that the point of marriage is procreation. Will his opinion be respected and discussed on its merits—or will he be condemned for “hating gays”, “wanting to oppress gays”, or similar? (And how will those who only encounter the Leftist distortion think of this someone? As someone with a valid perspective or as a hateful, prejudiced, and ignorant redneck?)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 10, 2021 at 12:04 am

Terminology and active vs. passive use / Follow-up: Various

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As I have written on a few earlier occasions, I sometimes have trouble with terminology, e.g. in [1], where I note “a weaker knowledge of words for everyday items (or, more generally, a knowledge that varies with the domain)”.

Recently, I have seen two examples (“virulent”, “takeoff”) that appear to be less an issue of domain knowledge and more an issue of active use (writing/speaking; as opposed to a passive understanding). This possibly with three sub-issues, namely (a) that the brain might process input and output differently, (b) that the inexperienced active user might grab the wrong word without realizing it,* and (c) that the passive input might be perceived to be understood correctly (but is not) and/or that the passive input is only understood correctly due to surrounding context**. I also suspect that true awareness of a particular word often only arises with the active use, somewhat similarly to the nectarine phenomenon.

*This is what I believe happened with “takeoff”, and it might well have played in with “cartoon” in [1].

**Consider claims like “the assassin stabbed the king with an asdferrf” vs. “this is an asdferrf”. In the first case, sufficient context might be present for the reader to understand all that he needs to understand. (With a less silly word, he might not even reflect on his lack of deeper understanding.) In the second, his ignorance might well be a critical obstacle.

More in detail:

In a recent text on Vaccines, myself, and defamatory politicians ([2]), I claimed e.g. “For instance, the new omicron variant seems to be more virulent than the prior variants—but also less dangerous.”, which seems paradoxical if we apply the standard meaning of “virulent” (harmful*). The paradox is easily resolved, if we go by my actual intent, namely “likely to spread”. which might have been better stated with “infectious” or “contagious”. But how is the reader to know my actual intent, when the words do not match that intent?

*To give a one-word oversimplification of what Wiktionary says. In fact, “very harmful” might match Wiktionary even better, which would make my original formulation extremely far off its intended meaning.

Re-reading an older text about a Finnair flight, I spotted some very incorrect uses of “takeoff”.* I try to give more sensible-than-current limits for when a passenger should do this-or-that at the latest, and write e.g. “be at the gate no later than fifteen minutes before takeoff”. This would be optimistic indeed, but replace takeoff with my actual intent (“departure”) and I stand by the claim.**

*I also use both “takeoff” and “take-off” to discuss my adventures. I have not tried to verify which of these references are correct. An inconsistent spelling, however, is also something more likely to occur when active use of a word is new.

**At least, to some approximation. If e.g. some sub-group of passengers, say those in wheelchairs, must allow a larger margin for a legitimate reason, not just the convenience of airline or airport, I have no objections. It might also be that larger airplanes (than I am used to) might require different rules.

Excursion on other errors/my age:
To avoid errors, it also helps to have slept well. That this was not the case when I wrote [2] is clear from the claim that I am 47. Right now, I am actually 46. (I suspect that this was influenced by some earlier, private, contemplations about my own current age vs. those of my parents and grand-parents at various events, where I rounded my own age to 47 for a fairer comparison, rather than using 46 and swallowing almost 11 months.)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 8, 2021 at 10:44 am

The never ending story of construction noise

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A month ago, to the day, I naively wrote that the construction works appeared to be over.

This has turned out to be very incorrect. The number of days per week affected, as well as the average disturbance per day, has dropped, but they are still ongoing.

Fridays and Saturdays have been particularly likely—and right now (Saturday, December 4th) even the drilling has returned full force.

This for construction work that began September (!) 20th. All-in-all, I would estimate that roughly a third of the time since I began work on my books in 2019 have been plagued by construction noise—with horrifying consequences for my writing, my quality of life, and, often, health.

Yet, this type of unconscionable situation appears to be entirely legal and there is nothing that can be done.

More generally, Germany claims to be a Rechtsstaat—to the point that there was an advertising campaign with this claim a while back. (Confirming my hypothesis that advertising campaigns are often directed at convincing fools of the opposite of the truth, e.g. that a business with outrageously poor customer service would excel in customer service. Find the statement of a campaign, assume the opposite to be true, and you will do reasonably well.)

The two core pillars in a Rechtsstaat are (a) that the individual citizen is protected from mistreatment by other citizens, (b) that he is protected from overreach, incompetence, arbitrariness, etc. from the government, civil servants, and similar.

The current situation is but one of very many where Germany fails completely regarding (a). (Other issues have been discussed in the past.)

As to (b), the citizen has little or no recourse against the government and the extreme amount of incompetence and other problems. Even the lowest civil servants, moving on the intellectual level of receptionists, appear to be considered of more worth than a citizen—including by themselves. The COVID overreaches, lockdowns, and whatnots form a horrifying (if, sadly, not unique) example. (Cf. a great number of earlier texts on both COVID and the German government, etc.)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 4, 2021 at 1:22 pm

Vaccines, myself, and defamatory politicians

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The COVID situation in Germany, as in much of the world, is deteriorating disastrously. I am, of course, speaking of the countermeasures—not the disease.

Consider:

  1. The unvaccinated are slandered and libeled in a horrifying manner, including claims that they would ignore science, be a danger to themselves and others, and prevent the defeat of COVID. Then there is that “pandemic of the unvaccinated” … Most recently, decisions have been made to bar the unvaccinated from almost everywhere. Grocery stores are still allowed, but that too might change over time.

    Indeed, looking at recent claims and the sheer strength of rhetoric, a good case for e.g. Volksverhetzung could be made, except that the corresponding German law is one of the many that should have been written to be generically applicable, but, in fact, are limited to a fix enumeration (in this case, of groups or types of groups). Corresponding claims about e.g. Jews would have been extremely problematic. (“You only have to wear masks because the Jews could infect you!”, “We have a pandemic of Jews!”, etc. Goebbels would be right at home.)

    Speaking for myself, I am unvaccinated, largely and originally, because I have never, ever received any type of information or notification on how to proceed or even when it would be appropriate to do so. On the contrary, early (sensible) claims were that those not in a risk group should be responsible and remain unvaccinated, to allow the vaccine doses to go to risk groups first. With no clear delineation or clear statement from the government, the governmental and press attitudes have gradually, over the space of roughly one year, changed to “the unvaccinated are evil”. (Remember that boiling frog?)

    And, no, being called evil, stupid, uninformed, whatnot, is not something that will increase my likelihood of taking a vaccine. A clear “we now recommend that persons 45–50 contact a physician to be vaccinated”, on the other hand, might have. For the record, I am extremely intelligent and educated, far above the typical German MP or journalist, and I am considerably above average in the extent of my readings on specifically COVID. Politicians seem to have an image of mouth-breathers who have never made it further than the cartoons or the sports section in the news-paper, but this image does not in the least match what I have seen on the Internet—and it is as far from me that one can get.

    The claims about science and being a danger to others, etc., are simply incorrect. (Cf. below.)

  2. There is considerable uncertainty about the both the effectiveness and the safety of the current vaccines, and there is a very strong possibility that those not in a risk group would (statistically and on average) worsen their health outcomes by taking the vaccine.

    Unfortunately, making an objective judgment on this point is near impossible, because the “official line” is supported more with rhetoric than with facts and reasoning—including the constant “Fake news! Fakes news!” to quash any actual debate. Well, decades of experience has taught me to trust the party that tries to bring arguments and debate over the party that quashes debate. (Something which applies to much of the rest of this text.)

  3. Similarly, there are considerable concerns that those who take a vaccine before having had COVID see a long-term reduction in their ability to counter future infections (relative those who have had COVID before, or instead of, the vaccine) through original antigenic sin.

    Of course, the apparent constant need for boosters increase the risk from (and cost of) the vaccines greatly, while pointing to the poor long-term protection.

    For those in a risk group, this is not much of a concern, because COVID now could kill them, and the risk of COVID in twenty or forty years might be academic. For someone like me, this is different: I am very likely better off taking a COVID infection at 47 and having the strong immune system to survive renewed attacks at 67 and 87, than to take the vaccine and possibly die of COVID when I have grown old and am a member of a risk group.

    Again, 47 and no known other risk factors, outside a little too much fat. My risk of death, here and now, is minuscule. In the future? Who knows.

    Then there is the question of future vaccines: So far, vaccines have been poor, but newer and better ones, with more conventional characteristics, unsurprisingly, appear to be in development. What if I e.g. get a shitty vaccine today, or am forced to take one in a few months, when a good one would have been available a little later? (And would the first injection only have been an unnecessary cost and risk, or would the original antigenic sin sabotage the newer and better vaccine?)

  4. But my health is only half the equation. What about my possible effect as an infector of others? A possible source of new mutations? Etc.

    Firstly, I would pose an even smaller risk after COVID than after a vaccine, which points to a natural infection being a solid option, even from the point of view of society.

    Secondly, the point of herd immunity is that not everyone need be vaccinated or otherwise immunized. (And note that the COVID vaccines fall well short of the normal bar for vaccine efficiency.) For instance, Wikipedia on R0 currently gives a herd immunity threshold of 80-88 % for the “Delta variant”. (And, knowing how the misinformation works, I would not be surprised to see the true number being considerably lower. However, even 80–88 is enough to make e.g. a “100 % vaccinated” demand overkill.)

    Here, of course, we have to understand that we are invariably heading for a herd-immunity and/or endemic COVID scenario. Exterminating COVID is a pipe-dream—and will remain so for the foreseeable future. (Have we exterminated the flu? No.) The only alternative, cf. original antigenic sin, is that herd immunity fails through the too weak vaccines …

    Thirdly, there are strong signs that it is actually the vaccinated (alone or in combination with lockdowns and whatnot) who pose the real risk of new and dangerous mutations and/or allow dangerous mutations a chance, through mechanisms like “leaky vaccines”. This maybe to the point that the unvaccinated would have been fine as unvaccinated—had it not been for the vaccinated and their distortion of the natural development of COVID. (This is a point where we might have to wait and see, before we can tell for certain, and where the ability to make good predictions has been particularly hampered by the lack of debate.)

  5. Contrary to claims by e.g. German politicians, we do not have a pandemic of the unvaccinated—unless being unvaccinated, per se, should be seen as a disease. Every time that I have seen statistics, it has amounted to “roughly the same proportions of vaccinated as unvaccinated fall victim”, “more vaccinated than unvaccinated have fallen victim”, or similar.

    True, there might often be circumstances that make a direct comparison misleading, like the vaccinated (still!) belonging to risk groups more often than the unvaccinated, but not to such a degree that a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” can be justified. Moreover, without a scientific debate, we can neither know whether such mitigating circumstances have a truly major or only a marginal effect. In particular, I have yet to see a serious attempt to quantify such effects. (Not that the attempt would necessarily be successful, but the lack of even an attempt is disturbing.) What we have now is comparable to “many athletes have far larger stresses on their knees than non-athletes, and are more susceptible to knee injuries” vs “but their stronger leg muscles help to protect their knees”, which leaves far too much up in the air.

  6. A particular failure of e.g. politicians, often used exactly to push for more vaccinations, is the implicit combination of characteristics from different variants of the virus. For instance, the new omicron variant seems to be more virulent than the prior variants–but also less dangerous. (With reservations for its recency and lack of accumulated knowledge.) The politicians, however, just argue based on the virulence and assume the same amount of problems (deaths, hospitalizations, whatnot) as for other variants. The result is an extremely misleading image of ever more dangerous versions of COVID, while the (entirely expected!) trend has been towards more virulence but less severe problems.

    As I have said before, the “common cold strategy” is very strong; the “Ebola strategy” is very weak. Evolution is expected to make, and so far has made, COVID more virulent but less dangerous—more like a regular flu or, even, common cold. Unless the lockdowns and the vaccinated get in the way of evolution, COVID is expected to resolve it self.

    (As a clarification: My remarks on Ebola refer to its behavior in humans. In other animals, e.g. IIRC dogs, it is less deadly and can have an endemic status.)

Excursion on my having or not having had COVID:
I have not been diagnosed with COVID at any point (and I have written the above under the “not” assumption). However, combining the often weak symptoms and the repeated colds or cold-like diseases that I have had during the COVID era, I strongly suspect that I have already had it.

Excursion on information on policy:
The issue of information on policy has been highly problematic and by no means restricted to “when should I get vaccinated”. Policy decisions have often been made from one day to another; have never been communicated directly to the people, who have to rely on the news to stay informed; the news is often incomplete or contradictory; the (overall) policy has often had multiple actors with different restrictions, e.g. on the federal, state, and municipal level; and the policy has often contained conditions depending on (constantly changing and hard to find) numbers, like the infection rate per 100.000 persons in the local community.

Indeed, I have on repeated occasions received the first warning that something new was happening from an English language source, like The Daily Sceptic, rather than the German sources …

Written by michaeleriksson

December 3, 2021 at 11:12 pm

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