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The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People

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Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, writes in the NY Times:

A few years ago, I made the mistake of having an argument with the most stubborn person I know. R., whose initial I’m using to protect his privacy, is a longtime friend, and when his family came to visit, he mentioned that his children had never been vaccinated — and never would be.

I’m no proponent of blindly giving every vaccination to every newborn, but I was concerned for his children’s safety, so I started debunking some common vaccine myths. After days of debate, I was exhausted and exasperated. Determined to preserve our friendship, I vowed never to talk with him about vaccines again.

Then came 2020. Fear of the vaccine may be the greatest barrier to stopping Covid-19. It stretches far beyond the so-called anti-vaxxer community: About half of Americans harbor questions about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccines; 39 percent say they definitely or probably won’t get one.

I decided to see if I could open R.’s mind to the possibility. What I didn’t realize was that my mind would be opened as well.

As an organizational psychologist, I’ve spent the past few years studying how to motivate people to think again. I’ve run experiments that led proponents of gun rights and gun safety to abandon some of their mutual animosity, and I even got Yankees fans to let go of their grudges against Red Sox supporters. But I don’t always practice what I teach.

When someone seems closed-minded, my instinct is to argue the polar opposite of their position. But when I go on the attack, my opponents either shut down or fight back harder. On more than one occasion, I’ve been called a “logic bully.”

When we try to change a person’s mind, our first impulse is to preach about why we’re right and prosecute them for being wrong. Yet experiments show that preaching and prosecuting typically backfire — and what doesn’t sway people may strengthen their beliefs. Much as a vaccine inoculates the physical immune system against a virus, the act of resistance fortifies the psychological immune system. Refuting a point of view produces antibodies against future attempts at influence, making people more certain of their own opinions and more ready to rebut alternatives.

That’s what happened with my friend. If I wanted him to rethink his blanket resistance to vaccines, I had to rethink my approach.

Several decades ago, when treating substance abuse problems, psychologists developed a technique called motivational interviewing. The central premise: Instead of trying to force other people to change, you’re better off helping them find their own intrinsic motivation to change. You do that by interviewing them — asking open-ended questions and listening carefully — and holding up a mirror so they can see their own thoughts more clearly. If they express a desire to change, you guide them toward a plan.

Say you’re a student at Hogwarts, and you want to help your uncle reject Voldemort. You might start like this:

You: I’d love to better understand your feelings about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Uncle: Well, he’s the most powerful wizard alive. Also, his followers promised me a fancy title.

You: Interesting. Is there anything you dislike about him?

Uncle: Hmm. I’m not crazy about all the murdering.

You: Well, nobody’s perfect. What’s stopped you from abandoning him?

Uncle: I’m afraid he might direct the murdering toward me.

You: That’s a reasonable fear — I’ve felt it too. Are there any principles that matter so deeply to you that you’d be willing to take that risk?

In controlled trials, motivational interviewing has helped people to stop smoking, abusing drugs and alcohol, and gambling; to improve their diets and exercise; to overcome eating disorders; and to lose weight. The approach has also motivated students to get a good night’s sleep; voters to reconsider their prejudices; and divorcing parents to reach settlements.

Recently, thanks to a vaccine whisperer, it has been applied to immunization. Arnaud Gagneur is a pediatrician in Quebec who encourages reluctant parents to immunize their children. In his experiments, a motivational interview in the maternity ward after birth increased the number of mothers willing to vaccinate their children from 72 percent to 87 percent; the number of children who were fully vaccinated two years later rose by 9 percent. A single conversation was enough to change behavior over the next 24 months.

I set up a conversation between Dr. Gagneur and my friend. After 90 minutes, it was clear to me that R.’s vaccination stance had not changed.

“I have tried to apply all the principles of motivational interviewing, but I have had the unpleasant feeling of not doing so well,” Dr. Gagneur wrote to me in email. “R. is very knowledgeable and always ends up finding arguments that support his decision.”

Strangely, I didn’t feel defeated or irritated. I wanted to learn how my friend’s views could evolve.

The pioneers of motivational interviewing, William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, have long warned against using the technique to manipulate people. It requires a genuine desire to understand people’s motivations and help them reach their goals. Although R. and I both want to keep his children healthy, I realized I had never tried to understand his perspective on vaccines before. So the next morning, I called him.

In our past debates, R. had focused only on the potential downsides of vaccinations. With Dr. Gagneur, though, he acknowledged that vaccines could be good for some but not necessarily for others. If he lived in a country experiencing an outbreak of, say, malaria, would he consider immunization? “You weigh the pros and cons,” he said.

Psychologists find that when we listen carefully and call attention to the nuances in people’s own thinking, they become less extreme and more open in their views. I wondered how my friend’s ambivalence applied to Covid, and I knew that the kinds of questions I asked would matter. Social scientists have found that asking people how their preferred political policies might work in practice, rather than asking why they favor those approaches, was more effective in opening their minds. As people struggled to explain their ideal tax legislation or health care plan, they grasped the complexity of the problem and recognized gaps in their knowledge.

So for my second attempt,

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Politics, Science

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Here’s What Happens to a Conspiracy-Driven Party: The Know-Nothings and their political demise

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Zachary Karabell writes in Politico:

The rise of QAnon beliefs in Republican politics has been treated with a degree of shock: How could a fringe Internet conspiracy theory have worked its way into the heart of a major political party? The ideas behind the QAnon movement are lurid, about pedophilia and Satan worship and a coming violent “storm,” but the impact is real: Many of the pro-Trump Capitol insurrectionists were QAnon supporters, as is at least one elected Republican in Congress.

As tempting as it to take the rise of conspiracy theories as a singular mark of a partisan internet-fueled age, however, there’s nothing particularly modern or unique about what is happening now. To the contrary. Conspiracy theories as they say, are as American as apple pie — as are their entanglement with nativist politics.

Those currents have usually flowed beneath the surface, but for a time in the middle of the 19th century, they broke out into the open, powering a major political movement that dominated state governments, ensconced itself in the House of Representatives and became a credible force in presidential elections. The American Party, popularly referred to as the “Know Nothings,” may not have seized the White House, but its story bears an uncanny resemblance to what’s happening within today’s Republican Party.

The sudden implosion of the Know Nothings should also serve as a warning to Republicans that the forces that have propelled them to the apex of American politics, helping Donald Trump win the White House, can also tear them apart, leaving barely a trace. The Know Nothings today are a barely remembered footnote to American history; if it continues on its current path, today’s version could end much the same.

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Much like QAnon, the Know Nothings started life as a secretive cabal convinced that the country was being controlled by an even more secretive cabal — and much like Trump-era Republicans, their anxieties were rooted in a country that seemed to be changing around them.

In the late 1840s, the United States was being flooded with immigrants, in this case from Ireland. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of poor Irish Catholics led to a rise of political groups in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia convinced that these immigrants could form a fifth column taking direction from the Pope. Under orders from Rome, the theory went, these immigrants would undo American democracy and steal jobs from hard-working native citizens whose economic prospects were hardly secure even in the best of times.

Though these groups had actual names, such as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, their membership at first was guarded and secretive. Asked about their views and political plans, members would reply only: “I know nothing.” The nickname was born.

Fringe movements need both oxygen and fuel. The panic over an influx of Irish-Catholics was the oxygen, and the fuel was provided by the break-up of one of the two major American political parties, the Whigs, after 1850. The Whig Party was never a coherent coalition, and when it finally cracked under the weight of North-South division over slavery, the Know Nothings suddenly emerged from the shadows to become a viable political force.

Given that there were both Northern and Southern contingents, the Know Nothing movement avoided the issue of slavery, instead directing the passions of its supporters toward laws against drinking (the Irish were seen as overly fond of drink; they were Catholics; they were in thrall to the Pope; hence alcohol was evil); laws against immigration; laws in cities such as Chicago banning any new immigrants from municipal jobs; laws to prevent immigrants from attaining citizenship.

These were not marginal moves. At their height, the Know Nothings, newly christened the Native American Party (long before that connoted the original inhabitants of North America), controlled the state legislatures and governorships of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine and California. They also held numerous seats in state assemblies throughout the South, and they sent more than 40 representatives to the House and several senators, all adamant. Most of them supported stringent nativist, anti-immigrant legislation; all emerged from conspiratorial clubs that had spread theories about possible Papist aggression and plots against the sovereignty of the United States. (In their grotesque accusations about Catholic priests and nuns strangling babies and holding young women against their will, it’s not hard to see an early version of QAnon’s core obsession with imagined globalist pedophiles.) In 1856, the name was shortened to the American Party and its leaders nominated former president Millard Fillmore as their candidate for president under the slogan “Americans Must Rule America.”

nd then, almost as quickly as the Know Nothings surged, they split apart. Formed from scattered groups sharing a sensibility and an animus into a loose national coalition, the party was never tightly organized, much like the Tea Party in our time. Northern and Southern branches were just as divided over the issue of slavery as was the Democratic Party in the 1850s, which also began to break apart into two distinct camps. The rise of the newly founded Republican Party in the northern states also siphoned off Know Nothing support. Fillmore managed to get 21 percent of the vote in the 1856 presidential election and win Maryland (which was then bitterly divided over slavery, which was then legal in the state). But that was not the start of national party; it was the end of one.

Though the political movement collapsed, the anti-immigrant nativism of the Know Nothings never really went away. Even during the Civil War, when all other issues were subsumed, the passions stirred by the Know Nothings were never far from the surface. The New York Draft Riots of 1863 were in part an uprising of Irish immigrants after years of discrimination, with African-Americans bearing the brunt of their rage. After the Civil War, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned all immigration for 20 years. Those currents also worked their way into the Populist and Progressive movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, which ultimately became a prominent strain of both parties, the Republicans under Teddy Roosevelt and the Democrats during the Woodrow Wilson years.

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There are lessons here for the Republican Party today. History doesn’t repeat itself. It does, as Mark Twain quipped, often rhyme, which means that its echoes resonate over subsequent generations in ways that can offer guidance, though never clear pathways. One lesson for 2021 Republicans is that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and the conclusions and prescriptions are interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2021 at 12:50 pm

Combating Misinformation When A Loved One Is Caught In A Web Of Conspiracies

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Sarah McCammon reports at NPR (and there’s a 5-minute audio of the report at the link):

On Jan. 6, Hilary Izatt was watching TV when she began to worry.

“My husband and I are both political scientists; we’re kind of nerdy; we watch C-SPAN a lot,” Izatt says. “And when we were watching C-SPAN is when the rioters started breaking into the Capitol.”

Izatt, 39, is a doctoral student in political science at the University of Michigan. She says her dad, who lives in Utah, had told her he was traveling to Washington, D.C., to join the massive pro-Trump rally planned for that day.

What she saw unfolding on the screen scared her.

A different — dangerous — reality

“I was mostly worried for his safety and I texted him and he got back to me and he just said, ‘Don’t believe everything you’re watching on TV,’ ” she says. “So I don’t believe like C-SPAN? I’m not sure what he meant by that.”

“But it was this realization that I think we’re coming from two very different realities.”

Izatt’s father declined to comment, but Izatt says she believes he was not among the group that stormed the Capitol. Still, she’s uncomfortable with the idea that he was there that day at all.

Like Izatt, many Americans are feeling like they’ve lost loved ones to a web of conspiracy theories and false information circulating online. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, for example, found that only 1 in 5 Republicans accept Biden’s victory.

Ideas have consequences

“Beliefs are real in their consequences,” says James Hawdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech.

He says the widespread acceptance of disinformation is not only divisive but also dangerous for the country.

“We act on our beliefs. If you truly believe the country is under attack … if this, of course, is not true … obviously it poses a threat,” Hawdon says.

People often latch onto pieces of misinformation that align with their worldview and gradually begin to accept even bigger lies, he says.

“You can get people to step, take small steps off the path of truth or reality or whatever you want to call it, more easily than taking a big leap,” Hawdon says. “But once you’ve gone several yards off that path, then the big leap’s pretty easy to make.”

Those ideas often are appealing because they validate part of a person’s belief system or identity, Hawdon says, and they’re difficult to shake.

Lost in “La-La Land”

Dennis, a retiree from Maryland — who asked that we use only his first name for fear of his safety in the current climate — has grown increasingly worried about his daughter’s embrace of false ideas about the election.

“She’s talked about the election being stolen and I’ve pushed back on that — you know, the standard, ‘Where’s your proof? And how do you suppose this happened?’ ” Dennis says.

His daughter, Paula, lives near Baltimore and works as an office manager. In an interview with NPR, she says her father told her she was “in La-La Land, but I really don’t feel that I am.”

Paula says she has been a conservative all of her life. She says she distrusts elected officials and cannot believe Biden won — despite what many courts and elections have repeatedly confirmed — and regardless of what her dad said about her grasp of reality.

“I was a little bit irritated, but my response is, ‘Well, I’m there with 70 million other people, then,’ ” she says.

Getting to the root cause

Hawdon, the violence prevention researcher at Virginia Tech, says one long-term solution could involve better education in data literacy to help young people learn how to sort through fact and fiction. In the short term, if a loved one is spouting misinformation, he advises pushing back kindly — and trying to understand what led to that belief.

“I don’t really believe people started off believing that there are pedophile rings under a pizza place,” he says. “Something got them down that rabbit hole and you have to understand what that root cause is.”

Just as people often take small steps toward conspiracy theories, Hawdon says, they may need to gradually move away from them, too.

Deen Freelon, an associate journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill specializing in politics and digital media, says a heavier hand is necessary in some situations.

“People don’t understand that they have a problem,” Freelon says. “A light touch is really not going to do it here; we really have to pull out all the stops because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t.”

Freelon says that may mean withholding contact for a while or prohibiting grandparents who are condoning insurrection from spending time with grandchildren.

“People lost their lives,” he says. “So this is really serious.”

“Crazy ideas” with consequences

Hilary Izatt says she’s unsure how to talk to her dad, but she anticipates some tough conversations.

“I think a lot of Americans are. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2021 at 12:42 pm

A Vast Web of Vengeance: Weaponized social media and the harm it does

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Kashmir Hill reports in the NY Times:

Guy Babcock vividly remembers the chilly Saturday evening when he discovered the stain on his family. It was September 2018. He, his wife and their young son had just returned to their home in Beckley, an English village outside of Oxford. Mr. Babcock still had his coat on when he got a frantic call from his father.

“I don’t want to upset you, but there is some bad stuff on the internet,” Mr. Babcock recalled his father saying. Someone, somewhere, had written terrible things online about Guy Babcock and his brother, and members of their 86-year-old father’s social club had alerted him.

Mr. Babcock, a software engineer, got off the phone and Googled himself. The results were full of posts on strange sites accusing him of being a thief, a fraudster and a pedophile. The posts listed Mr. Babcock’s contact details and employer.

The images were the worst: photos taken from his LinkedIn and Facebook pages that had “pedophile” written across them in red type. Someone had posted the doctored images on Pinterest, and Google’s algorithms apparently liked things from Pinterest, and so the pictures were positioned at the very top of the Google results for “Guy Babcock.”

Mr. Babcock, 59, was not a thief, a fraudster or a pedophile. “I remember being in complete shock,” he said. “Why would someone do this? Who could it possibly be? Who would be so angry?”

Then he Googled his brother’s name. The results were just as bad.

He tried his wife.

His sister.

His brother-in-law.

His teenage nephew.

His cousin.

His aunt.

They had all been hit. The men were branded as child molesters and pedophiles, the women as thieves and scammers. Only his 8-year-old son had been spared.

Guy Babcock was about to discover the power of a lone person to destroy countless reputations, aided by platforms like Google that rarely intervene. He was shocked when he discovered the identity of the assailant, the number of other victims and the duration of the digital violence.

Public smears have been around for centuries. But they are far more effective in the internet age, gliding across platforms that are loath to crack down, said Peter W. Singer, co-author of “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media.”

The solution, he said, was to identify “super-spreaders” of slander, the people and the websites that wage the most vicious false attacks.

“The way to make the internet a less toxic place is setting limits on super-spreaders or even knocking them offline,” Mr. Singer said. “Instead of policing everyone, we should police those who affect the most people.”

The Babcock family had been targeted by a super-spreader, dragged into an internet cesspool where people’s reputations are held for ransom.

Mr. Babcock was sure there was a way to have lies about him wiped from the internet. Many of the slanderous posts appeared on a website called Ripoff Report, which describes itself as a forum for exposing “complaints, reviews, scams, lawsuits, frauds.” (Its tagline: “consumers educating consumers.”)

He started clicking around and eventually found a part of the site where Ripoff Report offered “arbitration services,” which cost up to $2,000, to get rid of “substantially false” information. That sounded like extortion; Mr. Babcock wasn’t about to pay to have lies removed.

Ripoff Report is one of hundreds of “complaint sites” — others include She’s a Homewrecker, Cheaterbot and Deadbeats Exposed — that let people anonymously expose an unreliable handyman, a cheating ex, a sexual predator.

But there is no fact-checking. The sites often charge money to take down posts, even defamatory ones. And there is limited accountability. Ripoff Report, like the others, notes on its site that, thanks to Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, it isn’t responsible for what its users post.

If someone posts false information about you on the Ripoff Report, the CDA prohibits you from holding us liable for the statements which others have written. You can always sue the author if you want, but you can’t sue Ripoff Report just because we provide a forum for speech.

With that impunity, Ripoff Report and its ilk are willing to host pure, uncensored vengeance.

Google results are often the first impression a person makes. They help people decide whom to date, to hire, to rent a home to. Mr. Babcock worried that his family’s terrible Google search profiles could have serious repercussions, particularly for his 19-year-old nephew and his 27-year-old cousin, both just starting out in life.

Two weeks after Mr. Babcock discovered the pedophile posts, a friend called: He’d heard about the accusations from another village resident. Someone had spotted them while Googling an ice-cream parlor the Babcock family owned. Mr. Babcock soon installed a home security system; he’d read about vigilantes going after accused child molesters.

He and members of his extended family reported the online harassment to police in England and Canada, where most of them lived. Only the British authorities appeared to take the report seriously; a 1988 law prohibits communications that intentionally cause distress. An officer with the local Thames Valley police told Mr. Babcock to gather the evidence, so he and his brother-in-law, Luc Groleau, who lives outside of Montreal, started cataloging the posts in a Google document. It grew to more than 100 pages.

In October 2018, while scrolling through items deep in his Google results, Mr. Babcock came across a blog where a commenter falsely called him “a former janitor” who was “masquerading as an IT consultant.” It was similar to attacks elsewhere, but this one had an author photo attached: a woman with long, reddish hair, wearing a black blazer and chunky earrings.

Mr. Babcock stared at the photo in shock. He hadn’t seen it in decades, but he recognized it instantly. The woman’s name was Nadire Atas; this was her official work portrait from 1990, when she worked in a Re/Max real estate office the Babcock family owned outside Toronto. She had initially been a star employee, but her performance deteriorated, and in 1993 Mr. Babcock’s father had fired her. Afterward, she had threatened his father, according to an affidavit filed in a Canadian court.

Mr. Babcock felt lightheaded. A memory came back to him: When his mother died in 1999, the family had received vulgar, anonymous letters celebrating her death. A neighbor received a typed letter stating that Mr. Babcock’s father “has been seen roaming the neighbourhood late at night and masturbating behind the bushes.” The Babcocks had suspected Ms. Atas, who was the only person who had ever threatened them. (Ms. Atas denied making threats or writing the letters.)

Decades later, it appeared that she was still harboring her grudge — and had updated her methods for the digital age.

Mr. Babcock searched Ms. Atas’s name online and found a blog written by a Canadian lawyer, Christina Wallis. It was the first in a trail of clues that would eventually reveal the breadth of Ms. Atas’s online campaign.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” wrote Ms. Wallis, borrowing a quote often attributed to Mark Twain. She described how Ms. Atas had waged an online campaign against her, her colleagues and her family, including branding them pedophiles.

Mr. Babcock got goose bumps.

His brother-in-law, Mr. Groleau, contacted Ms. Wallis. She had represented a bank that foreclosed on two properties Ms. Atas owned in the early 2000s. Dozens of people had come under online attack: employees of the bank, lawyers who represented the bank, lawyers who represented those lawyers, relatives of those people and on and on. The attacks seemed engineered to perform well in search engines, and they included the victims’ names, addresses, contact information and employers. (Ms. Atas denies being the author of many of these posts.)

For years, Ms. Wallis and her colleagues had been pursuing lawsuits and contacting the sites and technology platforms that hosted the material. Nothing had worked. The smears remained public, and the consequences became real.

A relative of one lawyer said she spent months applying for jobs in 2019 without getting any offers. The woman, who asked not to be named because she feared Ms. Atas, said her bills piled up. She worried she might lose her home.

Then she decided to apply for jobs using her maiden name, under which she hadn’t been attacked. She quickly lined up three interviews and two offers.

These situations — where one angry person targets a large group of perceived enemies — are not uncommon. Maanit Zemel, a lawyer who specializes in online defamation, represents a group of 53 people who have filed a lawsuit saying they were attacked online by Tanvir Farid after he failed to get jobs at their companies. (Mr. Farid’s lawyer declined to comment.)

For victims, these sorts of attacks “can literally end their life and their career and everything,” Ms. Zemel said.

The victims in the Atas case live in Canada, Britain and the United States. In June 2020, Matthew Hefler, 32, the brother-in-law of a colleague of Ms. Wallis, became one of the latest targets. Mr. Hefler, who lives in Nova Scotia, is a historian who recently completed his Ph.D. in war studies. He is trying to find a teaching job. But anyone who searches for him online will encounter posts and images tarring him as a pedophile and “pervert freak.”

Until recently, Mr. Hefler had never heard of Ms. Atas. He had no clue why she was attacking him. “You discover that someone you’ve never met, across the country, is running a one-man troll farm against you,” Mr. Hefler said. “It’s a nightmare scenario.”

In October 2018, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Something must be done. Section 230 requires substantial revision.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2021 at 10:50 am

US deaths from Covid-19 just passed the total number of US combat deaths in all wars from 1900 to date

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Wikipedia in the article “United States military casualties of war” has a large chart showing the casualties of wars. Looking only at combat deaths, and the total number US troops killed in combat in all US wars since 1900 is 427,215. According to The Hill, the number of Americans who have been killed by Covid-19 as of this morning is 429,159.

More Americans have died to date from Covid-19 — 429,139 — than died in combat in all US wars from 1900 to the present — 427,213.

Here are the number of US combat deaths by war:

War Dates Combat deaths
Boxer Rebellion 1900–1901 68
Santo Domingo Affair 1904 1
United States occupation of Nicaragua 1910, 1912–1925, 1927–1933 90
Mexican Revolution 1914–1919 120
Occupation of Haiti 1915–1934 10
World War I 1914–1918 53,402
North Russia Campaign 1918–1920
American Expeditionary Force Siberia 1918–1920 160
China 1918; 1921; 1926–1927; 1930; 1937 5
World War II 1941–1945 291,557
Greek Civil War 1944–1949 1
Chinese Civil War 1945–1950 14
Berlin Blockade 1948–1949
Korean War 1950–1953 33,686
U.S.S.R. Cold War 1947–1991 32
China Cold War 1950–1972 16
Vietnam War 1955–1975 47,424
1958 Lebanon crisis 1958 1
Bay of Pigs Invasion 1961 4
Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 1
Dominican Republic 1965–1966 27
USS Liberty incident 1967 34
Iran 1980 0
El Salvador Civil War 1980–1992 22
Beirut deployment 1982–1984 256
Persian Gulf escorts 1987–1988 39
Invasion of Grenada 1983 18
1986 Bombing of Libya 1986 2
Invasion of Panama 1989 23
Gulf War 1990–1991 149
Operation Provide Comfort 1991–1996 1
Somalia 1992–1993 29
Haiti 1994–1995 1
Colombia 1994–present 0
Bosnia-Herzegovina 1992–1995 1
Kosovo War 1998–1999 4
War in Afghanistan 2001–present 1,833
Iraq War 2003–2011 3,836
Intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria 2014 16
Raid on Yemen 2017 1
Total 427,214

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2021 at 5:27 am

The Climate Crisis Is Worse Than You Can Imagine. Here’s What Happens If You Try.

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Elizabeth Weil reports in ProPublica:

Peter Kalmus, out of his mind, stumbled back toward the car. It was all happening. All the stuff he’d been trying to get others to see, and failing to get others to see — it was all here. The day before, when his family started their Labor Day backpacking trip along the oak-lined dry creek bed in Romero Canyon, in the mountains east of Santa Barbara, the temperature had been 105 degrees. Now it was 110 degrees, and under his backpack, his “large mammalian self,” as Peter called his body, was more than just overheating. He was melting down. Everything felt wrong. His brain felt wrong and the planet felt wrong, and everything that lived on the planet felt wrong, off-kilter, in the wrong place.

Nearing the trailhead, Peter’s mind death-spiralled: What’s next summer going to bring? How hot will it be in 10 years? Yes, the data showed that the temperature would only rise annually by a few tenths of a degree Celsius. But those tenths would add up and the extreme temperatures would rise even faster, and while Peter’s big mammal body could handle 100 degrees, sort of, 110 drove him crazy. That was just not a friendly climate for a human. 110 degrees was hostile, an alien planet.

Lizards fried, right there on the rocks. Elsewhere, songbirds fell out of the sky. There was more human conflict, just as the researchers promised. Not outright violence, not here, not yet. But Peter’s kids were pissed and his wife was pissed and the salience that he’d so desperately wanted others to feel — “salience” being the term of choice in the climate community for the gut-level understanding that climate change isn’t going to be a problem in the future, it is a crisis now — that salience was here. The full catastrophe was here (both in the planetary and the Zorba the Greek sense: “Wife. Children. House. Everything. The full catastrophe”). To cool down, Peter, a climate scientist who studied coral reefs, had stood in a stream for an hour, like a man might stand at a morgue waiting to identify a loved one’s body, irritated by his powerlessness, massively depressed. He found no thrill in the fact that he’d been right.

Sharon Kunde, Peter’s wife, found no thrill in the situation either, though her body felt fine. It was just hot … OK, very hot. Her husband was decompensating. The trip sucked.

“I was losing it,” Peter later recalled as we sat on their front porch on a far-too-warm November afternoon in Altadena, California, just below the San Gabriel Mountains.

“Yeah,” Sharon said.

“Losing my grip.”

“Yeah.”

“Poor Sharon is the closest person to me, and I share everything with her.”

Sometimes everything is both too much and not enough. George Marshall opened his book, “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change,” with the parable of Jan Karski, a young Polish resistance fighter who, in 1943, met in person with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who was both a Jew and widely regarded as one of the great minds of his generation. Karski briefed the justice on what he’d seen firsthand: the pillage of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Belzec death camp. Afterward, Frankfurter said, “I do not believe you.”

The Polish ambassador, who had arranged the meeting on the recommendation of President Franklin Roosevelt, interrupted to defend Karski’s account.

“I did not say that he is lying,” Frankfurter explained. “I said that I didn’t believe him. It’s a different thing. My mind, my heart — they are made in such a way that I cannot accept. No no no.”

Sharon, too, possessed a self-protective mind and heart. A high school English teacher and practiced stoic from her Midwestern German Lutheran childhood, she didn’t believe in saying things you were not yet prepared to act upon. “We find it difficult to understand each other on this topic,” Sharon, 46, said of her husband’s climate fixation.

Yet while Sharon was preternaturally contained, Peter was a yard sale, whole self out in the open. At 47, he worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, studying which reefs might survive the longest as the oceans warm. He had more twinkle in his eye that one might expect for a man possessed by planetary demise. But he often held his head in his hands like a 50-pound kettlebell. Every time he heard a plane fly overhead, he muttered, “Fossil fuel noise.”

For years, in articles in Yes! magazine, in op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, in his book “Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution,” on social media, Peter had been pleading, begging for people to pay attention to the global emergency. “Is this my personal hell?” he tweeted this past fall. “That I have to spend my entire life desperately trying to convince everyone NOT TO DESTROY THE FUCKING EARTH?”

His pain was transfixing, a case study in  . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

This is  another example of something I mentioned in a post earlier today: how the public simply ignore what knowledgeable experts tell them — about Covid, about vaccines, about the heavy use of antibiotics in animals in farming, ….  It’s a long list. And it will result in the death of many.

For example, the Covid death toll in the US today is over 420,000 — compare that to the number of combat deaths in the worst American wars (American Civil War combat deaths in chart includes both Union and Confederate forces). Just to save you the effort, the total number of combat deaths from WW II, WW I, Vietnam, and Korean war combined is 426,069. US Covid deaths will blow past that by the end of the month.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2021 at 4:54 pm

She Resisted Getting Her Kids The Usual Vaccines. Then The Pandemic Hit

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The Eldest posted the story below on Facebook, and one comment was from a pediatric nurse:

I can tell you from personal experience as a pediatric nurse, that vaccine hesitant parents can be reached, but only with personal engagement. I would tell parents about the pre-vaccine world that I grew up on. My sister had polio, another sister lost hearing in one ear after measles, our next door neighbor caught rubella during the rubella outbreak 1962-63 and her child was born deaf and blind. Please vaccinate your children. Don’t help create a pre-vaccine world and have your children or grandchildren be victims of preventable diseases. This approach was more convincing than telling them to stay off the internet and shaming them as anti-vaxxers. Compassion and personal interaction is the key.

Steve Mullis, Rachel Martin, and Bo Hamby have this report at NPR (and there is audio at the link):

“I just remember being very scared.”

That’s how Lydia, a 39-year-old mother of three in Canada, describes feeling when she was pregnant in 2008 with her daughter and had questions about vaccinating. She worried it might cause more harm than good.

“I remember feeling some trepidation and saying to my husband, ‘We can’t undo this once we do it,’ ” she says. NPR is not using Lydia’s full name because she’s worried about backlash from a community she once believed in — people opposed to vaccines.

The record-speed development of the COVID-19 vaccine has some asking questions about it as well as about the safety of all vaccines. It’s something that’s taken root and grown because there’s a natural incubator inside the broader movement opposed to vaccines.

“We have been seeing an increase in vaccine-hesitant conversations online,” says Kolina Koltai, a misinformation researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public. “Vaccine-opposed communities online saw a growth in membership, and it has become easier to be exposed to vaccine-opposed content.”

One survey finds 71% of people say they’d likely get the COVID-19 vaccine, but still medical experts have been working hard to combat the perception that the rapid creation of the COVID-19 vaccine makes it less safe.

“The speed is really a reflection of the scientific advances that have allowed us to do things in a matter of months that would have formerly taken years,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told NPR in December. “That isn’t reckless speed; that’s sufficient speed based on scientific advances.”

For Lydia, the pandemic is what ended up leading her out of the movement among those opposed to vaccines.

But getting there was a years-long search for answers.

A decision to vaccinate questioned

Lydia didn’t always question vaccines. She’d worked in a pharmaceutical plant as a quality control chemist. She even got vaccinated for the flu while pregnant.

Having a baby in 2008 made the decision more complicated for her. She voiced her concerns to her husband, but in the end they went ahead. She made an appointment, and the pediatrician gave her 8-week-old daughter three vaccinations. A few hours later her daughter was crying a lot, what she describes a high-pitched squeal. It was a type of cry she’d never heard before.

“It was quite traumatic. She screamed and cried,” she says. “I felt horrible.”

That horrible feeling didn’t go away when a public health nurse she called tried to assure her that these reactions were normal. It still didn’t sit right. Lydia says she felt brushed off, her concerns minimized by the nurse.

Her daughter was fine, but at the time, Lydia wasn’t convinced and took her questions to an online forum for new moms. It was there that she read a lot of frightening information about alleged and unfounded harm vaccines can cause. They described terrifying symptoms — such as high-pitched screaming. She began questioning her decision to vaccinate.

“So then you start thinking, did I just hurt my child?” she says. “They give you an answer that the other people couldn’t give you or didn’t give you. And so now you don’t have any trust.”

Lydia began going deeper into these forums where people shared what she thought were convincing studies that made claims about the damage vaccines can cause, studies she now realizes were false. But back then, it was proof enough for her not to finish her daughter’s vaccine cycle.

“I think sometimes doing nothing is easier because you don’t feel as responsible for the outcome,” she says. “If you give your child a vaccine and they suffer a consequence, that’s your fault. A parent would say, ‘I did this to my child.’ So I think that there’s an appeal to inaction that makes it easy for a lot of parents to not vaccinate their child.”

”Out of my echo chamber”

Lydia had a second child eight years later, a third a few years after that. She wasn’t planning on vaccinating them either until the pandemic hit last year. She saw the news of people hoarding toilet paper and other supplies and read apocalyptic speculation about the collapse of health care systems and sanitation. She was worried about diseases coming back that she had not vaccinated her kids against and went looking for answers again on the Internet. But this time it was different.

“I got out of my echo chamber,” she says.

One of the myths Lydia had believed is what many of these groups believe about the blood-brain barrier. In short, their theory is that the membrane protecting the brain is not mature enough at birth, and therefore ingredients in vaccines can leak into the brain and cause harm. Studies have shown this is not true.

Lydia found some of these studies and realized she was wrong. And that moment became a bit of a revelation.

“That really was the catalyst to just keep going with the research and consider for a moment that maybe I’m wrong, even if it is embarrassing, even if it is uncomfortable, that I could be wrong about more things,” she says. “And that was hard. That is hard.”

Finding reassurance

Lydia says it was difficult confronting something that had been a part of her identity and beliefs for more than a decade. It was a reality she had built up for herself and her family, one that she thought was keeping them safe.

“It’s almost like thinking like you have this cheat code to keep your kids healthy from disease and allergies,” she says. “You feel like you’ve got a way to game the system to avoid all that. It does kind of become a large part of who you are.”

Koltai, the misinformation researcher, says this attachment to identity is a consistent throughline she’s seen in her research on misinformation and groups opposed to vaccines.

“If you subscribe to the ideology that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including a link to a useful TikTok video.

This seems consistent with the idea that our identity is constructed from the memes that we adopt, some involuntarily (our native language and most customs) and some voluntarily (deciding to accept some meme).

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2021 at 4:24 pm

The crazy is still intense: QAnon Believes Trump Will Become President Again on March 4

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David Gilbert has a report in Vice that includes two brief videos of astounding (albeit insane) claims calmly made by two women (see earlier post on women’s roles in extremist groups). It’s definitely worth clicking the link and watching the videos just to see how weird and extreme some people have become. (And their ignorance is amazing — in the second video, the woman explains that the Bill of Rights is the first 10 (“or so” — no, it’s exactly 10) “articles of the Constitution” (no, they are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution). But it is evident that they are not only comfortable in their ignorance, they seem almost proud of it.

The report begins:

Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 19th president of the United States on March 4, 2021.

This is the latest conspiracy that QAnon followers have embraced in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inauguration last week, and extremist experts are worried that it highlights the way QAnon adherents are beginning to merge their beliefs — about the world being run by an elite cabal of cannibalistic satanist pedophiles —with even more extreme ideologies.

The latest claims being made by QAnon supporters echo those of the sovereign citizen movement, a group of people who believe they are not governed by the same laws as everyone else. That belief has led to violent confrontations with law enforcement have viewed them among the top domestic extremist threats facing the country.

“There was some crossover between QAnon and the sovereign citizen movement before, but I’ve seen sovereign citizen ideas about the United States being a ‘corporation’ become more popular within QAnon and beyond in January,” Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher, told VICE News.

“It’s concerning because it means QAnon is borrowing ideas from more-established extremism movements.”

Sovereign citizens believe that a law enacted in 1871 secretly turned the U.S. into a corporation and did away with the American government of the founding fathers. The group also believes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt sold U.S. citizens out in 1933 when he ended the gold standard and replaced it by offering citizens as collateral to a group of shadowy foreign investors.

Sovereigns use indecipherable legal filings based on arcane texts to separate themselves from the legal entities the government has supposedly created in their name in order to sell to investors.

When that doesn’t work, followers of the sovereign citizen movement have reacted violently. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through Arkansas.

Now, QAnon followers have latched on to the theory and adapted it to suit their needs. . .

Read the whole thing. And watch those videos. I’ve included one above (it’s at the link in the tweet).

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2021 at 4:11 pm

The other pandemic: Once-treatable diseases are growing resistant to antibiotics

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Those boring scientists keep warning that the use of antibiotics in farming will encourage the evolution of antibiotic-resistant pathogens and diseases, but of course we all know that scientists (and other experts) are to be ignored until the predicted disaster strikes, whereupon they are to be condemned…  That sounds a little bitter, doesn’t it. Possibly it’s due to the large number of fully foreseen disasters that continue to strike us.

(Right now I’m thinking of the DHS report on the dangers presented by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists, a report requested by the George W. Bush administration that, once completed, was released by Janet Napolitano, who headed the DHS under the new Barack Obama administration. There were two reports prepared: dangers from left-wing extremists and dangers from right-wing extremists. Republicans in Congress were outraged by the latter and demanded that it be withdrawn and Napolitano fired. The report was withdrawn, but Napolitano kept her job. And of course we now see that the report was indeed warning of actual dangers. More information here. — Question: Was the captain of the Titanic a Republican?)

Martin Chenal, PhD student in biology (microbiology), National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS), writes in The Conversation:

Ten million deaths per year by 2050 related to antimicrobial resistance — that’s what a large British study, conducted in 2014, predicts if the current trend continues. Despite the strong efforts deployed in recent years, these figures are unfortunately still valid.

In contrast to the new viral pandemics that regularly make headlines, this resistance plague does not concern a single pathogen but rather a multitude of viruses, parasites, fungi and especially bacteria.

Antimicrobials are substances that kill or slow the growth of microorganisms, including viruses (antivirals), parasites (antiparasites), fungi (antifungals) and bacteria (antibiotics). Antibiotics are a class of antimicrobials that are specific against bacteria.

Since the commercialization of penicillin in the 1940s, the development of new antibiotics has been followed closely by the discovery of bacteria resistant to them.

While the development of new molecules has become slower and slower, the development of antibacterial resistance is on the contrary increasingly rapid. It’s a real race against time. Ultimately, this problem could lead us into a post-antibiotic era, where the slightest injury or surgery would constitute a significant risk of dangerous infection.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Canada. (Council of Canadian Academies, 2019)

A global priority

The scientific world has been warning us about the magnitude of the problem of antimicrobial resistance for several decades. As with climate change, it has unfortunately taken a long time to make governments and the general public aware of the seriousness of the situation.

The World Health Organization (WHO), a key player in this field, identified antimicrobial resistance in 2019 as one of the 10 greatest public health threats facing humanity. More recently, the WHO has also published a list of critical health challenges for the next 10 years, including not only the eradication of infectious diseases but also the preservation of antimicrobial drugs.

The fight against antimicrobial resistance concerns all microorganisms. However, a few bacteria alone are responsible for many of the problems caused by this resistance. The WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently identified the most problematic bacteria in order to focus efforts to combat this scourge.

Continue reading. There’s much more, including more charts.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2021 at 12:55 pm

Brexit chickens come home to roost, while the UK encourages emergence of vaccine-resistant strains of Covid

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Umair Haque writes in Medium:

Continue reading for the story of how Britains approach to Covid not has backfired but promises worse to come.

In the Guardian, Andrew Rawnsley’s article “The bill for Boris Johnson’s Brexit is coming in and it’s punishingly steep” is also worth reading, and you can look at their overall Brexit coverage.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2021 at 9:58 am

Detecting a B12 deficiency

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2021 at 6:27 pm

Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack

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Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, and Devlin Barrett report in the Washington Post:

Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

While authorities have charged more than 100 individuals in the riot, details in the new allegations against three U.S. military veterans offer a disturbing look at what they allegedly said to one another before, during and after the attack — statements that indicate a degree of preparation and determination to rush deep into the halls and tunnels of Congress to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials.

U.S. authorities charged an apparent leader of the Oath Keepers extremist group, Thomas Edward Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va., in the attack, alleging that the Navy veteran helped organize a ring of dozens who coordinated their movements as they “stormed the castle” to disrupt the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.

“We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan,” co-defendant Jessica Watkins, 38, an Army veteran, said while the breach was underway, according to court documents.

“You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud,” a man replied, according to audio recordings of communications between Watkins and others during the incursion.

“We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here,” a woman believed to be Watkins said, according to court documents.

[U.S. v Thomas Edward Caldwell, Donovan Ray Crowl and Jessica Marie Watkins]

A man then responds, “Get it, Jess,” adding, “This is . . . everything we f—ing trained for!”

The FBI said it recovered the exchange from Zello, a push-to-talk, two-way radio phone app.

FBI charging papers against Caldwell, Watkins and a third person, former U.S. Marine Donovan Crowl, 50, allege that Caldwell and others coordinated in advance to disrupt Congress, scouted for lodging and recruited Oath Keepers members from North Carolina and like-minded groups from the Shenandoah Valley. The group claims thousands of members who assert the right to defy government orders they deem improper. The plotters both anticipated violence and continued to act in concert after the break-in, investigators alleged in court documents. FBI papers also say that Caldwell suggested a similar event at the local level after the attack, saying in a message: “Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”

The three are charged with five federal counts of conspiracy against the United States; obstructing an official government proceeding; impeding or injuring government officers; and destroying U.S. property, entering restricted grounds and disorderly conduct at the Capitol. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the report:

In charging papers, the FBI said that during the Capitol riot, Caldwell received Facebook messages from unspecified senders updating him of the location of lawmakers. When he posted a one-word message, “Inside,” he received exhortations and directions describing tunnels, doors and hallways, the FBI said.

Some messages, according to the FBI, included, “Tom all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3floors down,” and “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps.” Another message read: “All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas,” the FBI added.

Other arrests Tuesday also underscored law enforcement’s concerns about threats to elected leaders, particularly because so many of the participants in the Jan. 6 chaos are still unidentified.

In New York, a Queens man who worked in the state court system was accused Tuesday of making threats to murder Democratic politicians, including suggesting another attack on the Capitol timed to Biden’s inauguration. The man was not at the riot on Jan. 6 but made threatening remarks about Democratic politicians beforehand that intensified in a video he posted two days later, which was titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS.” In the video, he encourages people to return to the Capitol and take up arms.

“If anybody has a gun, give it to me, I’ll go there myself and shoot them and kill them,” the man said, according to the FBI.

And also this:

The FBI said without elaboration that it also recovered a document titled “Making Plastic Explosives from Bleach,” redacting the instructions in a photo exhibit.

We have to recognize that this was a serious and determined effort at insurrection, and that the punishment should fit the crime.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2021 at 11:51 am

An ethical stance regarding QAnon

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David Troy wrote an excellent thread on how to respond ethically and appropriately to QAnon. He quite correctly (in my view) defines it as a virulent and highly infectious meme entity. His thread begins:

It’s time to clarify an ethical stance regarding QAnon, and those who research and report on it. It is a disease — a mind virus — with real victims, people who have been lied to and alienated from their families and communities.

2/ First, we must help the victims, and focus on helping them restore their bonds to family and community. Second, we must hold the perpetrators accountable. Third, we must shun all those who profit from its continuance.

3/ We need to make fringe ideas fringe again. They will always be with us, but fringe groups should remain small and in dark corners. If we think of QAnon as a virus, we need to shrink the number of infected people.

4/ While QAnon has suffered a major blow with the failure of its prophecies, it is slithering along, trying to find new narratives that stick; and it likely will.

But we must not allow it to grow again. Some suggest that’s impossible. I disagree.

5/ By declining to give . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2021 at 10:07 am

Abortion Helpline: This will hit hard. Watch it.

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2021 at 5:17 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Health, Medical, Politics, Video

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Why Does Forest Bathing Boost Immune System Function?

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2021 at 12:37 pm

Turn Off the Gaslight: Manipulation through mindgames

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Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in California and professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and a visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg and author of numerous books, writes in Aeon:

‘He didn’t mean anything by it, stop making such a big deal out of it.’

‘Here, let me take care of it, you don’t know what you are doing.’

‘You’re too sensitive.’

‘Stop overreacting.’

‘You keep imagining things.’

‘That’s not how it happened.’

‘Your memory seems to be slipping.’

Such comments undermine our trust in ourselves and our belief in what we know. More than that, they trespass on our sense of identity. The more we hear such phrases, the more we stop trusting ourselves. When another person becomes a gatekeeper to our reality, then we’re in a precarious spot – vulnerable to further manipulation and control. This reality-doubting is called ‘gaslighting’.

As a psychologist in practice, I often see my role as the person who turns off the gaslights. I work with survivors of relationships with high-conflict, antagonistic, rigid, entitled, dysregulated people. These might be their partners, parents, adult children, siblings or colleagues. Once we remove the gaslight, and the house lights come on, my clients recognise that this one difficult person in their lives was the tip of a dysfunctional iceberg.

The term gaslighting derives from theatre and film. Patrick Hamilton’s play Gas Light (1938) was adapted as the British film Gaslight in 1940 and the American classic of the same name in 1944. To this day, Gaslight, a reference to the flickering gaslights featured in the drama, remains a masterclass on how one predatory partner captivates and then slowly undermines the other.

The play and films introduced the term ‘gaslighting’ into our vernacular to refer to a specific type of manipulation – one in which a person’s reality itself is hijacked by another. This can also be manifested by minimisation, deflection, denial and coercive control. The term is now ubiquitous, and we apply it not just to close relationships but also to any reality-bending that is generated by institutions, media and leaders. The genius of the films was to remind us that gaslighting is actually a grooming process, not just a singular event. It’s a process of establishing and then exploiting trust and authority to achieve an endgame of control and dominance.

The backstory (spoiler alert) is the murder of a famed London opera singer. The murderer fails to leave with the jewels he’s come for because he’s interrupted by the victim’s niece, Paula (played by Ingrid Bergman). Years pass, and Paula meets Gregory (Charles Boyer), who unbeknown to her is the murderer. They marry after a quick courtship, and he insists on moving back to the house where the murder occurred, slowly manipulating her reality, including the flickering lights, all with the intent of retrieving the jewels, at last.

In Gaslight, we witness the architecture of abusive relationships. These are relationships that proceed too quickly, too intensely – ‘she was swept off her feet’. Paula was primed to miss the red flags because she’d endured the traumatic loss of her beloved aunt and, upon returning to London, was living in a space associated with grief. Gaslight also shows us the danger of romanticising behaviours such as showing up out of nowhere and surprising a new partner, of insisting on spending time with her alone and creating their own little world together, which can be harbingers of more insidious abusive relationship dynamics such as stalking and isolation. The relationship creates a dynamic in which it is simpler and safer for Paula to doubt herself than to question him.

Atherapist bears witness and validates the pain of her clients, hoping to engender insight, change, and the ability to steer one’s own life. I have spent decades turning off the gaslights that flicker and glow in my client’s lives. They experienced the denial of childhood trauma by parents and family, or the invalidation of controlling spouses who acted as judge and jury on their emotional states. My clients have been told by another person or persons how they feel for so long that they no longer feel able to identify their own emotions. To work with clients being gaslighted means dismantling childhood and religious teachings, societal frameworks and cultural codes of conduct. Year after year, I listen to stories of ‘wonderful’ childhoods that devolve into a Eugene O’Neill play under the harsh glare of sunlight and therapeutic interpretation.

Where this struck me most was in working with clients who have endured gaslighted marriages for 20 years or longer. (My specific focus is in an area called narcissistic abuse, a phenomenon whereby people become riddled with self-doubt, anxiety and confusion after being in a relationship with an unempathic, entitled, arrogant, egocentric, manipulative partner, family member or other individual.) These were marriages littered with a range of patterns including control, infidelity, a malignant neglect, deceit, an adult life spent having their realities and voices erased.

There was the moment in therapy, when the word ‘abuse’ would come out of my mouth, and the reactions were almost universal:

‘Abuse, no, that’s not me, it was just difficult, in fact, I think maybe my expectations were too high.’

‘He only pushed me once, we were both really mad.’

Over the years of their marriages, the self-gaslighting started to become reflexive. My clients fell into the propaganda that they termed marriage, and a chorus of enablers allowed them to maintain the delusion and the illusion. Once the word ‘abuse’ entered the conversation, a transformation occurred, a new narrative entered the room.

Some would terminate therapy. They would say: ‘Thank you for returning my reality to me, but I won’t leave the relationship, and now I understand I was fighting the wrong battles.’ Others used the therapeutic validation as a call to arms, once the gaslight was turned off, once they no longer fell into the narcissist’s reality, the mortar went out of the bricks of the relationship and, the next time the partner threatened divorce, they smiled and said ‘Sounds good.’

To watch a client come out of gaslighting is to witness someone come back into their own (or come into it for the first time). But I also witnessed clients become isolated. Nobody around them wanted to hear about it, and they would often face gaslighting outside of their marriage. ‘Are you sure it happened that way?’ or ‘That’s just your version of the events.’ They were rarely told that their reality was valid. Many of them were looking for a simple benediction that would strengthen their resolve. However, I wasn’t just seeing this in marriages. My clients who experienced abuse in childhood were still hearing family members tell them in adulthood: ‘Just let it go, he’s dead, and far worse abuse has happened to other people.’ The gaslighting of childhood was sustained in adulthood and made the trauma far more difficult to release. These lights can flicker for a lifetime.

Deconstruction of gaslighting as a concept is something that philosophers have done better than psychologists. Recent papers by

Andrew Spear (2019) and Kate Abramson (2014) addressed this phenomenon through a dispassionate lens, and proposed that gaslighting is a multistep process of indoctrination. It is comprised of initially drawing in a target; establishing trust and authority (or capitalising on existing trust – for example, a family member or a spouse); slowly dismantling that person’s sense of trust in herself through doubt and questioning or by manipulating elements of the physical environment (eg, moving or hiding objects – and then denying it); eroding a sense of self-trust and self-knowledge in the victim so the victim is less likely to doubt the gaslighter’s word; and finally winning over the victim’s agreement with the gaslighter’s reality. Ultimately, this robs the victim of his or her autonomy and cements the victim’s ongoing consent.

Traditional conceptualisations of gaslighting focus on the emotional abuse inherent in doubting a person’s reality with a goal of destabilising the victim. This isn’t just about the gaslighter’s need for control and capitulation, but their need for consent. The ultimate ‘agreement’ of their victim renders a picture of the relationship to the world that looks consensual and cooperative. The impact of gaslighting is most acutely observed in cult members or others who seem brainwashed – they espouse agreement with the tenets of the cult leader, and over time it appears as though the views of the cult are their own. Once that kind of agreement and acceptance are issued, it is far more difficult for the victim to exit from the situation or relationship.

There is a menacing simplicity to the gaslighter’s motivations – by and large, they appear to be motivated by power and control, which is likely a compensatory offset of their own sense of insecurity. Gaslighters project their own insecurity onto their victims and magnify any insecurity that their victims already have. To achieve this, . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And gaslighting is much more common than many (including current victims) realize.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2021 at 4:16 pm

Rep. Watson Coleman: “I’m 75. I had cancer. I got covid-19 because my GOP colleagues dismiss facts.”

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Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat representing New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, writes in the Washington Post:

Over the past day, a lot of people have asked me how I feel. They are usually referring to my covid-19 diagnosis and my symptoms. I feel like I have a mild cold. But even more than that, I am angry.

I am angry that after I spent months carefully isolating myself, a single chaotic day likely got me sick. I am angry that several of our nation’s leaders were unwilling to deal with the small annoyance of a mask for a few hours. I am angry that the attack on the Capitol and my subsequent illness have the same cause: my Republican colleagues’ inability to accept facts.

When I left for Washington last week, it was my first trip there in several months. I had a list of things to accomplish, including getting my picture taken for the card I use when voting on the House floor. For the past two years, I appeared on that card completely bald as a result of the chemotherapy I underwent to eliminate the cancer in my right lung. It was because of that preexisting condition that I relied so heavily on the proxy voting the House agreed to last year, when we first began to understand the danger of covid-19.

I was nervous about spending a week among so many people who regularly flout social distancing and mask guidelines, but I could not have imagined the horror of what happened on Jan. 6.

To isolate as much as possible, I planned to spend much of my day in my apartment, shuttling to the House floor to vote. But the building shares an alley with the Republican National Committee, where, we’d later learn, law enforcement found a pipe bomb. I was evacuated from that location early in the afternoon.

The next best option would have been my office in the Cannon House Office Building, where just three of my staffers worked at their desks to ensure safe distancing. Before I arrived, security evacuated that building as well, forcing us to linger in the hallways and cafeteria spaces of the House complex. As I’m sure you can imagine, pushing the occupants of an entire building into a few public spaces doesn’t make for great social distancing. Twice, I admonished groups of congressional staff to put on their masks. Some of these staffers gave me looks of derision, but slowly complied.

My staff and I then decided that the Capitol building would likely be the safest place to go, since it would be the most secure and least likely to be crowded. I’ve spent a lot of time since in utter disbelief at how wrong those assumptions turned out to be.

Everyone knows what happened next: A mob broke through windows and doors and beat a U.S. Capitol Police officer, then went on a rampage. Members and staff took cover wherever we could, ducking into offices throughout the building, then were told to move to a safer holding location.

I use “safer” because, while we might have been protected from the insurrectionists, we were not safe from the callousness of members of Congress who, having encouraged the sentiments that inspired the riot, now ignored requests to wear masks.

I’ve been asked if I will share the names of those members. You’ve probably seen video of some of them laughing at my colleague and friend Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) as she tries to distribute masks. But it’s not their names that matter.

What matters are facts, both about the covid-19 pandemic and the conduct of the 2020 election:

You can, in fact, breathe through a mask. Doctors have been doing it for decades. It is occasionally annoying — my glasses tend to fog, and when I wear makeup and a mask, I end up with smudged lipstick. That is a small price to pay for the safety of those around me.

You can, in fact, count on a mask to reduce the chances of spreading the virus. Studies of how many droplets escape into the air and the rates of infection following the implementation of mask mandates both prove effectiveness.

Refusing to wear a mask is not, in fact, an act of self-expression. It’s an act of public endangerment. The chaos you create  . ..

Continue reading.

Alex London (@ca_london) noted on Twitter:

Members of Congress who feel they have to carry a gun to protect their colleagues but won’t wear a mask to protect their colleagues, don’t want to protect their colleagues. They’re just hoping they get to kill someone.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2021 at 10:16 am

The Georgia Phone Call: Better Than A Psychiatric Examination

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Madeline Taylor and Bandy X. Lee write in DCReport.org:

Donald Trump’s behavior is imminently dangerous to the health and safety of all Americans and to democracy.  Despite losing the 2020 election, he has been fighting relentlessly to stay in power.

He has called for a protest in DC on Wednesday (Jan. 6), promising it will be “wild”, to which the misogynist and violent “Proud Boys” responded.  His conspiracy-mongering has enlisted 140 Republican representatives to plot to overturn the election by getting Congress to contest the validity of votes that are unfavorable to him, while Sen.Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has recruited at least 11 other senators to delay election ratification by 10 days, opening room for further disruption and upheaval.

Meanwhile, there have been warnings that Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act at any sign of discord in the streets, or begin a war with Iran to interrupt the inauguration.

On Sunday, the Washington Post released a recording of Trump’s hour-long call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state overseeing elections, first to berate, bully, and beg him into changing the vote totals, and then to threaten him when he refused.  The full recording reveals the president to be highly irrational and unstable, confirming better than any interview our previous assessment of lack of capacity for rational decision-making, but above all showing the president to be highly symptomatic and dangerous.  Here are some of our alarming findings.

A person who cannot tolerate certain realities may use various conscious and unconscious methods of minimizing those disturbing feelings by trying to change reality in their minds.  At the extreme end of this continuum, emotionally fragile persons can rely on delusions, or false beliefs that are rigidly fixed in order to support a vitally-needed belief, such as in their superior value.  Not only are these beliefs unamenable to facts and evidence, but they may bring a need to control what other people believe and say in order to ensure that the unbearable reality does not upset them. Here are some examples:

  • “I think it’s pretty clear that we won.  We won very substantially in Georgia.”
  • “We have many, many times the number of votes necessary to win the state.  And we won the state, and we won it very substantially and easily.”
  • “They say it’s not possible to have lost Georgia.  It’s just not possible to have lost Georgia, It’s not possible.  When I heard it was close, I said there’s no way.”
  • “We won this election by hundreds of thousands of votes.  There’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way.  We won by hundreds of thousands of votes….  I won the state by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
  • “Your numbers aren’t right.  They’re really wrong, and they’re really wrong, Brad….  Look, ultimately, I win, okay?  Because you guys are so wrong.”

The presence of delusions does not negate criminal intent.  Donald Trump appears rather to rely on and maintain them interpersonally, by using denial, dismissal, contempt, ridicule, domination, invalidation, belittling, ignoring, and psychological annihilation to advance his agendas and to control others.  His inability to hear anything that threatens his ability to feel good about himself pressures others to comply, and his actual conviction makes his false beliefs more persuasive.  Psychic annihilation of others implies that others believe what he believes, and may: tell others what they know or do not know; or entirely discredit and bulldoze over the perceptions of other people as if to implant his reality inside their minds.

  • “They dropped a lot of votes in there late at night.  You know that, Brad.”
  • “But in Fulton, where they dumped ballots, you will find that you have many that aren’t even signed, and you have many that are forgeries.  Okay, you know that.  You know that.  You have no doubt about that.”

Donald Trump’s emotional vulnerability relentlessly drives him to force external reality to conform to his internal reality—in this case, that he won the state of Georgia and also the election.  The need to assert this belief is evident in the phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in several ways: Donald Trump dominates the hour-long conversation, repeatedly asserting on Raffensperger his fixed false belief that he won the election.  He tries to annihilate the other person’s independent perceptions by assuming a kind of ownership over them.  He projects his feelings onto him and fails to differentiate between himself and “the state.”  Failure of differentiation manifests in ascribing to others one’s own thoughts, feelings, or motives, failing to recognize the difference between what he feels and what others feel, conflating his feelings and the needs of “the state,” or “the people.”  This facilitates narcissistic entitlement, which Donald Trump also displays, assuming that he should be able to get whatever he wants if he simply lets it be known and applies the right kind of pressure.

  • “So there were many infractions, and the bottom line is, many, many times the 11,779 margin that they said we lost by—we had vast, I mean the state is in turmoil over this.”
  • “We have won this election in Georgia based on all of this.  And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, Brad.  You know, I mean, having the correct—the people of Georgia are angry.”
  • “And I hate to imagine what’s going to happen on Monday or Tuesday, but it’s very scary to people.  You know, when the ballots flow in and out of nowhere. It’s very scary to people.”
  • “I think we should come to a resolution of this before the election.  Otherwise, you’re going to have people just not voting.  They don’t want to vote.  They hate the state, they hate the governor, and they hate the secretary of state.”

Donald Trump also refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of any statement of fact that threatens his false beliefs.  On the one hand, he must dominate in order not to have to hear information that in any way disconfirms the reality he needs to believe.  On the other hand, any spreading of hearsay, childlike conclusions, fantasies, cajoling, or attempts to humiliate, intimidate, and threaten are acceptable.

Trump: … why did they . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s damning.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2021 at 8:08 pm

Good insight: The far right embraces violence because it has no real political program

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Suzanne Schneider, a historian at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and author of the forthcoming book “The Apocalypse and the End of History,” writes in the Washington Post:

More than a week has passed since a pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol, but we are still struggling to come to terms with the day’s events. Much of the difficulty stems from the fact that the Trump mob was both menacing and ridiculous, dangerous and utterly delusional. On one hand, there was an absurdist quality to many participants: conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis, militia members, fans of animal pelts. Yet our cosplaying revolutionaries were not playing at all, leaving five dead and dozens wounded. Some said they were intent on genuine violence: “We will storm the government buildings, kill cops, kill security guards, kill federal employees and agents, and demand a recount,” a user reportedly wrote on 8kun the day before the assault.

We cannot make sense of the Capitol attack simply by trying to assess whether its perpetrators were really out for blood or just acting out a game of make-believe for the benefit of the cameras. The Trump insurrectionists exposed that a politics of spectacle, built upon delusion, is no less dangerous than “the real thing.” Precisely because they lack an affirmative political vision, far-right movements fetishize violence as the premier form of civic participation. It is what is offered to the masses in lieu of actual power. The result is violence that becomes almost casual, shorn of any political rationale and reflecting a reality in which human beings are just as disposable as their video game counterparts.

Events from recent years make it clear that the binary between fantasy and danger is a false one. Consider, for instance, the mass shooters who live-stream their rampages on Facebook or gaming platforms such as Twitch, a growing trend from Florida to New Zealand to Germany. Performative violence of this sort is no less real for being optimized for our new media ecosystem. If anything, performative violence gains its horrific quality because it treats human beings as means to an end — props that frame the protagonists’ moment of glory. The attack on the Capitol exists on a spectrum with these acts of violence, offering yet another instance of live action role play directed against real human bodies. The truly frightening thing about cosplaying in this regard is that it is part of a politics of delusion that is acted out in the real world. That many who participated in the attack are having trouble grasping the legal consequences that came along with their live-streamed insurrection testifies to this sense of confusion between material life and the revolutionaries they played on TV.

What does the growing prevalence of this mode of violence as spectacle — and the groups that embrace it — mean? In 1936, the German-Jewish critic Walter Benjamin observed that “fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves.” That is to say, fascists used art in the service of politics to deflect people from pursuing the redistributive demands that historically came alongside mass political movements. Today, too, such performances furnish excitement and purpose for participants while leaving alone the underlying power structures that oppress them. Benjamin noted the rise of fascist aesthetics in contemporary film, visual arts, and ceremonies and other civic rituals; today, we encounter a much-reduced range of aesthetic expression. To the extent that the far right makes art, composes music or writes literature, it is so poor in quality that it can be read only as kitsch. What is left, and what is truly glorified within the emerging far-right imagination, is violence. Ours might be a hollowed-out fascism, a reality TV version of the 20th century’s premier political horror, but that does not make it any less dangerous. Kitsch can also kill.

For far-right leaders today, inciting violence against the nation’s “enemies” offers the fan base a pathway to political participation that preserves the anti-democratic character of the movement, as if to say: We do not need you to govern, only to harm. It is no wonder, then, that intimations of violence have become a common mode of personal expression among adherents of current far-right movements: Cue a thousand photos of extremists decked out in tactical gear, toting their professional-grade death tools and looking eager to reenact some bit of revolutionary drama. The insurrectionist wearing the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt seemed ready to take up his guard duties against political prisoners but not to stop the certification of Biden’s victory. Violence has become the central act through which the far right understands political agency, which is why fantasies about harming the nation’s “enemies” — journalistsactivistsopposition politicians — abound within the right-wing imaginary.

Violence is not, in this sense, ancillary to far-right politics but central to preserving the vast inequalities that even its “moderate” supporters wish to maintain. Beyond the tax cuts and deregulation so favored by his plutocratic backers, President Trump’s signature accomplishments were notable for their gratuitous cruelty: the ban on travel from Muslim nations, family separation at the southern border, home invasions and deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that served no material interest beyond offering his fan base reasons to cheer. These are not disjointed parts of the right-wing agenda, as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have recently argued, but rather co-dependent, which is one reason the growth of white nationalism has mirrored the uptick in economic inequality. Acts of violence, particularly against people of color, are the spoonful of sugar that helps the GOP’s economic platform — notoriously unpopular among its base — go down. Violence does the deflective work Benjamin identified with fascist aesthetics.

The events this month also underscored that “freedom” — that most signature of conservative values — has been refashioned to contain violence at its core: freedom to carry a weapon and use it at will, to infect others around you during a pandemic, to die of preventable disease rather than submit to a national health-care system. Moreover, the primacy of violence within the right’s political vision also helps explain why our authorized death dispensers — police officers and military personnel — have become demigods in certain circles. (That’s why it was so shocking to see the Trump mob engage Capitol Police officers in battle, violating the unmatched sanctity of blue lives.) The right fringe also likes to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2021 at 7:09 pm

The ‘Shared Psychosis’ of Donald Trump and His Loyalists

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Tanya Lewis writes in Scientific American:

The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building last week, incited by President Donald Trump, serves as the grimmest moment in one of the darkest chapters in the nation’s history. Yet the rioters’ actions—and Trump’s own role in, and response to, them—come as little surprise to many, particularly those who have been studying the president’s mental fitness and the psychology of his most ardent followers since he took office.

One such person is Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist and president of the World Mental Health Coalition.* Lee led a group of psychiatrists, psychologists and other specialists who questioned Trump’s mental fitness for office in a book that she edited called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. In doing so, Lee and her colleagues strongly rejected the American Psychiatric Association’s modification of a 1970s-era guideline, known as the Goldwater rule, that discouraged psychiatrists from giving a professional opinion about public figures who they have not examined in person. “Whenever the Goldwater rule is mentioned, we should refer back to the Declaration of Geneva, which mandates that physicians speak up against destructive governments,” Lee says. “This declaration was created in response to the experience of Nazism.”

Lee recently wrote Profile of a Nation: Trump’s Mind, America’s Soul, a psychological assessment of the president against the backdrop of his supporters and the country as a whole. These insights are now taking on renewed importance as a growing number of current and former leaders call for Trump to be impeached. On January 9 Lee and her colleagues at the World Mental Health Coalition put out a statement calling for Trump’s immediate removal from office.

Scientific American asked Lee to comment on the psychology behind Trump’s destructive behavior, what drives some of his followers—and how to free people from his grip when this damaging presidency ends.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

What attracts people to Trump? What is their animus or driving force?

The reasons are multiple and varied, but in my recent public-service book, Profile of a Nation, I have outlined two major emotional drives: narcissistic symbiosis and shared psychosis. Narcissistic symbiosis refers to the developmental wounds that make the leader-follower relationship magnetically attractive. The leader, hungry for adulation to compensate for an inner lack of self-worth, projects grandiose omnipotence—while the followers, rendered needy by societal stress or developmental injury, yearn for a parental figure. When such wounded individuals are given positions of power, they arouse similar pathology in the population that creates a “lock and key” relationship.

“Shared psychosis”—which is also called “folie à millions” [“madness for millions”] when occurring at the national level or “induced delusions”—refers to the infectiousness of severe symptoms that goes beyond ordinary group psychology. When a highly symptomatic individual is placed in an influential position, the person’s symptoms can spread through the population through emotional bonds, heightening existing pathologies and inducing delusions, paranoia and propensity for violence—even in previously healthy individuals. The treatment is removal of exposure.

Why does Trump himself seem to gravitate toward violence and destruction?

Destructiveness is a core characteristic of mental pathology, whether directed toward the self or others. First, I wish to clarify that those with mental illness are, as a group, no more dangerous than those without mental illness. When mental pathology is accompanied by criminal-mindedness, however, the combination can make individuals far more dangerous than either alone.

In my textbook on violence, I emphasize the symbolic nature of violence and how it is a life impulse gone awry. Briefly, if one cannot have love, one resorts to respect. And when respect is unavailable, one resorts to fear. Trump is now living through an intolerable loss of respect: rejection by a nation in his election defeat. Violence helps compensate for feelings of powerlessness, inadequacy and lack of real productivity.

Do you think Trump is truly exhibiting delusional or psychotic behavior? Or is he simply behaving like an autocrat making a bald-faced attempt to hold onto his power?

I believe it . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2021 at 5:10 pm

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