Monday, April 30, 2018

News Media Practices: Slanting, Implying, Innuendo, Speculating

Media Technique: Slanting

Senator Target was walking his dog in the park one morning, when he noticed a young girl had dropped her doll’s necklace. He hurried over and picked it up. “Excuse me, young lady,” he said, tapping her on the shoulder, “but I believe this necklace is yours.”
At that moment, the child’s mother looked over from a nearby park bench and saw the expression of fear and uncertainty on her daughter’s face. “Help! Police!” she shouted. “A man is molesting my child!” A park policeman soon arrived, and in spite of Senator Target’s protests, arrested the senator.
After a lengthy discussion at the station, Senator Target was released. However, a reporter assigned to the police blotter recognized the senator’s name. Soon there was a front-page story in the local paper, “Senator Target Charged with Child Molestation.” (The paper did run an “Additional Information” note on page 12 two days later, noting that the charges had been dropped.)
Picking up on the article in the local press, the Big City News ran an indignant editorial that included sentences such as, “Do we have no better people to represent this great state than rapists and child molesters?” and, “Reliable sources also tell us that Senator Target offered the four-year-old a jeweled necklace, apparently in an attempt to seduce the child into who knows what perverted situation.”
Senator Target issued a press release, explaining what actually happened. In response, the Big City News and now several other papers in the senator’s state ran stories with the headline, “Senator Target Claims He Is Not a Child Molester,” and quoting the child’s mother as saying, “Who knows what would have happened if the police hadn’t arrived when they did?” The story concluded with her comment, “I don’t trust that man.”
This comment spurred another, growing round of editorials, in which indignant editors sneered, “Who, indeed, can trust Senator Target, when he so willingly violates a child’s safe space by unlawfully touching her? Indeed, where is the law here?”
A new round of editorials soon emerged, calling for the State Attorney General to take charge of a criminal investigation and to uncover any collusion, bribery, or other prosecutable practices that might have resulted in the charges being dropped by the park police.
Hundreds of postings to social media echoed and further distorted and amplified the “facts” that were being “suppressed” by the newspapers. The papers occasionally noted that the new “facts” were unproven, as in, “An as yet unconfirmed report says that virtually all of the park police on duty that morning are members of Senator Target’s Federist political party. So no matter what the senator really did—which remains unclear—the police were likely willing to look the other way. That’s all the more reason for the Attorney General to get involved as soon as possible, to remedy this gross miscarriage of justice.”
At one point, it was discovered that Senator Target had attended a park fundraiser just three weeks before the incident with the little girl in the park, and that he had donated $400 for “park improvements.” The Big City News was all over it. “While, this donation could probably not technically be considered a bribe,” one of the paper’s editorials noted, “it certainly does smack of a quid-pro-quo inducement, not dissimilar to the protection money that crooked small town cops used to extort from helpless shopkeepers.” The donation was held up as an act of “questionable ethics” and “shockingly tone deaf decision making.”
When it came time for Senator Target to run for re-election, his opponent put up billboards and sent out flyers all over the state. Underneath a photo of the candidate embracing his wife, kids, and dog was printed, “Vote for Joe Doax for senate. He’s not a child molester.”
His political career over, Senator Target retired to a small cabin on a small lake, in a small village in another state.
Years later, two men who had worked at the Big City News when the scandal was hot were reminiscing on it. “You know,” said one, “what happened to Senator Target was almost unfair. Still, I guess, we did get rid of him.”
“Not only that,” said the other, “but we sold a lot of papers.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

OF COURSE, Russia Wanted Trump to Win

To: All Operatives
From: Vlad
Re: 2016 Presidential Elections
Date: Sometime 2015

We are in great position, comrades. In United States, is excellent prospect for furtherance of global agenda, the weakening, destabilizing, and ultimately destruction of West and Western Nations. We continue to plant "news" stories and release dossiers prepared by KGB Central, casting doubt on integrity and competence of all candidates. We have prepared collections of disinformation for each candidate, so that no matter who wins, we have much plenty to  use to blackmail or expose winner, thereby weakening foolish Americans' confidence in democracy and authority.

For preference, is almost tossup. There is Hilary Clinton, woman person, with much shady dealings, actually true, to be exposed, in addition to much we create. Then is Donald Trump, such easy target, who takes foot out of mouth only long enough to put other in. To choose, must be to prefer Donald Trump. News media, especially MSNBC CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, all of which have our moles and stooges on staff, are all support of Hilary Clinton and oppose Donald Trump, so media will be cake walk to report on false stories created by KGB against Trump. Media will believe and report enthusiasm any story about buffoon, whereas would defend H. Clinton. as progressive woman.

Alert all agents to continue leaks and smears, and may most smearable win.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Yes, They Are Trying to Control Your Brain: Brain Railing

Sometime close to twenty years ago, I was in the market for a Chihuahua puppy. I visited a few pet stores and searched the classified ads in the newspaper (I did say this was  early twenty years ago), and located some possibilities. At one pet store, I was shown a loving, mocha-colored short-haired dog that impressed me so much I even named him, “Latte,” for his coat color. The downside, which I mentioned to the owner of the pet store, was the price--$1,000. I wondered aloud whether or not such a dog could be obtained for a lower price (hoping the owner might make a substantial adjustment). The owner scoffed, and said, “These pets are certified purebreeds. We get them from legitimate breeders, not from some Arkansas puppy mill.”
This declaration caused my mind to wander off the present issue and to focus on what kind of sinister locus of animal cruelty and exploitation an “Arkansas puppy mill” could be. This was one of my first exposures to brain railing, a common technique for controlling the focus of a discussion. Brain railing introduces a compelling idea, embodied in a compelling phrase, that immediately becomes the center of the conversation. It puts your brain on rails that can move your thinking along in only one direction, the one that responds to the phrase.
Students of logic will recognize brain railing as somewhat related to red herring, where the discussion is led off topic by the introduction of a new subject that demands attention. Commonly, in the past, the red herring was an entire sentence or more:

“I think the shortage of electricity could be addressed by building more nuclear electric generating plants.”
“But nuclear power is dangerous.”
“Actually, it has a great safety record.”
“But what about Hiroshima and Nagasaki?”

Suddenly, the subject changes from the desirability of nuclear power to the use of nuclear weapons.
In the past, a red herring was often only an off-the-cuff statement intended to derail the argument and move it in a direction that benefited its introducer. Now, though, the brain rail is more often carefully constructed as a memorable short phrase that obtrudes itself into the entire communication dynamic, changing the subject and forcing the focus of the discussion onto the new topic, as framed by the brain rail.
Brain rails can become part of the linguistic structure of our culture, serving as automatic, knee-jerk thoughts. As an example, a few years ago I was watching a quiz show where the object was for the contestant to guess a word based on a verbal clue given by a teammate. Thus, the word “waste” is a clue for the word “basket,” because “waste” and “basket” form a common pairing, so common, in fact, that “wastebasket” is now a single word.
But imagine my surprise when on the show the clue given was “religious,” and the teammate’s immediate guess, without a second’s hesitation, was “fanatic.” Not “religious service,” not “religious worship,” not “religious experience, “ not “religious book,” not “religious monastery,” but “religious fanatic,” now functioning as one of our culture’s habitual, preprogrammed brain rails.
Current brain rails sometimes have built into them the implication that the subject has been debunked, refuted, or otherwise discredited, so that it can be safely ignored. There is often an element of ridicule built into the phrase. In her book, The Smear, journalist Sharyl Attkisson says that the term “conspiracy theory” was created to allow easy dismissal of any explanation of events that conflicts with the official version. Referring to an explanation as “just a conspiracy theory” seems to imply that only toothless hicks and leftover hippies still smoking nontobacco products believe it. Other examples are “nuts and sluts” from the Bill Clinton era, “pseudoscience,” and, of course, “fake news.”
Many brain rails are constructed to force the discussion down a certain track, while ignoring or preventing an alternative discussion. A common example is “hate speech,” attached to any statement that the accuser disagrees with. Rather than a possibly fruitful discussion about a controversial idea, what follows is an attack on the character and motives of the accused, who must defend himself. Argument over terms ensues and the original topic remains unexplored.
Other examples of brain rails include “war on the poor,” “war on women,” “white privilege,” and “fair share.” In all of these cases, a controlling concept has been introduced that demands discussion under its own, biased terms.
We should strive to avoid adopting automatic response, fixed boxes to which we compulsively turn for our terms of discussion and our understanding of controversy. Concepts expressed in a phrase or a slogan are often contained in such boxes, unable to incorporate objective reality or measurable data into their ideological mass. While it is unlikely, in my experience, to move the discussion on to something profitable when interacting with someone insisting on following a brain rail down the road and around the bend, it might be an enlightening act to ask the railer to define his terms.
John: “I oppose affirmative action.”
Jake: “You’re a racist.”
John: “What is your definition of a racist?”
Jake: “You.”

This is a typical example of brain railing. Rather than engaging in a discussion of the pros and cons of affirmative action, the brain railer immediately changes the conversation away from an idea and onto a person. The subsequent discussion, if there is any, revolves around the guilt or innocence of one of the speakers, who feels attacked and defensive over the charge of racism.
Eventually, I bought two Chihuahua puppies, from a backyard breeder not far from my house. We just recently said goodbye to Bear after 18 years of joy and love. (His brother, Wolf, an equal source of joy and love, passed away four years earlier.) They weren’t pedigreed, certified purebreds, but one thing is for sure—they didn’t come from any Arkansas puppy mill.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Some Ideas to Help Prevent Mass Shootings and Gun Crimes

All people are rightly concerned over the school and venue shootings in recent times. We want to do something that will reduce or eliminate these tragedies. Similarly, many violent crimes like robbery are committed with guns. Here are a few ideas that together should help reduce these horrors.

1. Require gun owners to have gun safes. When someone wants to buy a gun, a proof of ownership of a gun safe large enough to house the gun must be presented, or a new safe must be purchased at the same time. A typical handgun costs about $500, and a rifle can cost from $500 to $1500. Small, portable gun safes could be prohibited, requiring the ownership of large safes fixed to the ground. These large safes cost from $750 to $2500, so on the lower end, a large, fixed safe is only about the price of a single gun. Many states have some kind of safe gun storage law already. Beefing them up to a large gun safe should improve things even more.
A. Children and mentally ill household members would not have access to the guns. Nor would visitors to the house (repairmen, housekeepers, guests).
B. Since many gun crimes involve the use of stolen weapons, a large gun safe bolted to the floor would keep those guns from entering the black market through a burglary.

2. Arm and train venue staff and school staff and faculty. Nothing deters gun crime, especially mass shooters, as much as knowing that they would meet armed resistance. Not every faculty or staff member needs to be armed; just enough to present the sense of safety and vigilance.  Latched holsters would prevent others from grabbing the weapon from the staff member.
A. Schools and entertainment organizations cannot afford to hire dozens of policemen working off duty, nor can municipalities afford to assign them to schools as an on-duty shift. But giving staff the necessary safety and use training would provide almost the same benefit.
A. What about the risk of being shot accidentally? The recent risk of being shot and killed accidentally is about 1 in 646,000; of being murdered by a gunman is about 1 in 29,000, and for context, the risk of dying in an automobile accident  is about 1 in 8,000.

3. Reascend to virtue training in the schools. The school system used to teach the virtues of kindness, compassion, respect for others, the value of human life, generosity, and many others. Certainly these are not so controversial that students can't be allowed to learn them.
A. If students learned to respect everyone else, there should be fewer disgruntled kids shooting their teachers and classmates.
B. As a bonus benefit, there should be less racism, sexism, classism, etc. as students celebrated their common humanity and the values that underlie that.

4. Improve mental health practices. This is the elephant in the living room. No one wants to talk about the millions of mentally ill people being ignored by everyone, especially the healthcare system. Most of the mentally ill are harmless, but a tiny few can be dangerous. Mental health laws need to be revised to allow for treating and monitoring persons with an identifiable illness--bipolar, schizophrenia), and, when necessary, medicated.

5. Connect the buyers database with  lists of known criminals, suspected terrorists, and people who have come to the attention of the authorities as potential threats. The list might be set up to include a large number of people, but they wouldn't necessarily be prohibited from buying or owning a gun. They would simply be subjected to additional scrutiny before being cleared.

6. Encourage Hollywood and video game makers to stop glorifying guns and first person shooter games. These entertainments produce heartless children who have no feelings toward those they kill.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Getting Life Backwards: Cultural Appropriation

It appears to be popular now in academic circles and in circles that vibrate out from them, to object to any person's use of anything not native to that person's culture. The crime is labeled "cultural appropriation." A yoga instructor had her class canceled because she was not East Indian, and therefore was guilty of cultural appropriation--which is evidently a euphemism for stealing. A white person wearing dreadlocks or making tacos are also examples of cultural appropriation.

But those who object to borrowing ideas from other cultures have it all backwards. Cultures grow into civilizations by aggregating ideas, practices, foods, and so on from other cultures. When one culture learns that another culture has a better solution to a problem, that solution is adopted.

If the adoption of better solutions from other cultures had been prohibited from the outset, we'd all still be using Roman numerals instead of Arabic numerals.

Cultures whose ideas are adopted by other cultures should celebrate with pride that their idea or practice was found to be superior to the previously reigning one.

It has been said that every great city is situated within 50 miles of the ocean or a navigable river because the international trade brings not only goods but good ideas to the city.

So, feel honored and not resentful when your culture is the source of ideas other people find useful.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My Parkinson’s Disease is Not Progressing

My Parkinson’s Disease is Not Progressing

It’s one thing for me to notice that I’ve become a bit more unstable on my feet, or that I’m beginning to slur or stutter occasionally, or that my muscle control is lessening a bit. But when I’m told that this means that my disease is progressing, it gives me a headache.

I mean, look up the word progress in the dictionary. “Progress: gradual improvement, betterment, moving forward, ascension, advance, enhancement.” This describes my physical diminishment?
Wouldn’t it be better for me to say instead, “My Parkinson’s Disease is decrepitating”? Or how about, “My disease is dilapidating”? Or maybe declivitating? Imagine the use:

“Welcome to Walmart. How are you today?”

“I’m declivitating. And you?”


“Welcome to Denny’s. How many guests?”

“Two non-smoking and one declivitating, please.”

I mean, let’s be realistic and use the right words. Saying that our Parkinson’s  is progressing makes it sound as if it’s going to conquer us. And we won’t let it do that.

We know as Christians that the best part of life is ahead. We get new bodies in heaven, and they will obey our commands. They’ll walk easily, speak clearly, and feel full of energy. That confident hope sustains us, no matter how much our disease “progresses.”

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 
—1 Corinthians 15:51, 53

In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
—John 16:33b

My Name Is Bob, and I Don’t Have Parkinson’s

My Name Is Bob, and I Don’t Have Parkinson’s

So they look at me and notice some things about me and say, “You have Parkinson’s Disease, don’t you?”

To which I say, “No. I don’t have Parkinson’s Disease.”

And they say, “Then why do you take little shuffling steps and sometimes freeze and can’t decide which foot to step out with next?”

And I reply, “Oh, my legs have Parkinson’s. That makes them often uncooperative. I don’t like it when they shuffle like that, but what can I do?”

So they say, “Well, if you don’t have Parkinson’s, then why do you sometimes slur your speech and drool and talk too fast and so softly that people can barely hear you?”

And I answer, “Don’t you see? All those effects are the result of my mouth having Parkinson’s. I keep telling it not to slur or talk too fast or too softly, but it just doesn’t pay attention. That’s common in mouths with Parkinson’s Disease.”

So they say, “Oh, I get it. I suppose the reason you no longer have a sense of smell is not because you have Parkinson’s, but because your nose has Parkinson’s; and the reason you have tiny, unreadable handwriting is not because you have Parkinson’s, but because your hand has Parkinson’s.”

And I say, “Yes, you’re catching on. Now you understand when I say that I don’t have Parkinson’s.”

And they say, “Then what’s wrong with you?”

And I say, “Nothing is wrong with me. After all, I’m still me. I’m not my body. I’m Bob.”

That is why we never give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. 
—2 Corinthians 4:16

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Darxul Comments on Political Argument

One breezy sunny day at the park, the aging Darxul was approached by a young political activist who handed him a brochure supporting his candidate and attacking the candidate's opponent.
     "I don't believe I can support your candidate," said Darxul, "because he is a liar."
     "All politicians are liars," said the activist.
     "Tell me something," said the old man; "how much education do you have?"
     "I have a college degree," answered the activist, a bit taken aback. "Why?"
     "I was afraid you would say that. During your college career, did you ever study critical thinking?"
     "What are you implying?"
     "Your statement that all politicians are liars is a poster child for poor thinking."
     "But it's true."
     "Let' think about the statement. The first error is that the claim is unknowable. We simply cannot know in any objective way that all politicians tell lies, or that a certain percent do, and so on."
     "Just listen to them."
     "Second, the statement is a sweeping generalization that is almost certainly false, as many such sweeping generalizations are. There are certainly a few, and possibly many or most, politicians who are not liars."
      "I'd like to meet one sometime," sneered the activist.
      "Third, the claim implies a tu quoque type of fallacy. Your implied argument is that because other politicians tell lies, it is justifiable for your candidate to tell lies. If telling lies is wrong, it is wrong for everyone, regardless if other people lie. You wouldn't argue that because other people rob banks, it's okay for you to rob a bank."
     "You're changing the subject. We're not talking about robbing banks."
     "I was using an analogy. The logic of the argument about banks is analogous to the argument about lying. At any rate, the fourth logical problem with the argument is that it does not distinguish between degrees of the offense. For the sake of argument, let's say that all politicians do tell lies."
     "See? Now you agree with me."
     "Even if all politicians have at one time lied, their culpability is likely much less than that of  a candidate like yours, who tells one lie after another, many of which are enormous fabrications."
     "But all politicians lie," said the activist.