Tom Harris places absurd limits on scientific truths and elevates ignorance to equal knowledge

Tom Harris asks his readers to put aside their common sense and reject knowledge and expertise in favor of ignorance and inexperience.

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

For the other posts in this series, click here.

Starting in the middle of December, 2014 and continuing through February, 2015, Tom Harris, Executive Director of the industrial climate disruptionA denying International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), wrote at least eight nearly identical commentaries that appeared mostly in small local newspapers and websites around the English-speaking world. The stated purpose of the commentaries was to call for scholars and philosophers to engage in the public discussion about climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change), and Harris wrote that “philosophers and other intellectuals have an ethical obligation to speak out loudly when they see fundamental errors in thinking.6” As S&R hosts an occasional feature called “Climate Illogic,” we accepted Harris’ invitation and looked through his own commentaries for illogical arguments as well as other issues of concern. Continue reading

On Nov. 6, I'll vote for a liar for president

No matter how I try to rationalize it, I’m going to vote for a liar for president of the United States. And, no matter how I try to ignore history, I realize that I likely have always voted for a liar for virtually any political office.

I do not know anyone who has not told a lie. Size and intent of the lie does not matter; lies are lies. I know that lies come in a variety of shades, some of which have become socially acceptable. Honey, does this dress make my ass look fat? A man who answers no lies to protect the dignity of the woman. Oh, don’t worry about those few extra pounds. You still look hot to me. The woman who says that protects the frail ego of a man. When the pet rabbit dies, mom or dad tells little Bobby I’m sure Hoppy went to heaven.

We lie to protect the feelings of others. But we still lie, because we know absolute truth corrodes relationships.

But politicians lie to manipulatively establish and maintain relationships. Lies fertilize the ground on which campaigns are constructed. Candidates at all levels of politics lie, cheat, and deceive. Google “political lies” and explanations of why they lie abound.

Politicians lie for one seriously egregious reason. The lie: I’m running for office to bring real solutions to the American people. The truth: I want to achieve status and power. Then, if I can help the people — especially those who helped me buy my way to status and power — I’ll do so. A few decades ago, particularly odiferous political lies were usually caught by the press, reported by same, and produced revulsion in the electorate. Ask Richard Nixon.

But not so much now. We longer believe truth is possible in political campaigns. The sheer volume of corporate-supported advertising bearing lies, falsehoods, prevarications, deceptions, and context-free “facts” has inured the electorate. After all, candidates in many deceptive ads say, I approved this message. They have permitted lies in their names. So we expect lies. Lies become Truth-Lite™, what candidates believe we want to hear rather than what we need to hear.

The press has been complicit in fostering the staggering growth in political deceit: As media critics have noted, journalists have often focused on who’s lying more effectively rather than correcting the discursive record distorted by lies — the new post-truth journalism. Add the notion that the electoral audience is now firmly camped in an endless electronic chat room less reliant on “gatekeepers.”

The methods of lying have become the news and the fodder of pundits — not the lies themselves. That’s made lying by politicians easier. It has allowed politicians to lie with far more sophistication and not be corrected on the record. Consider the emergence of false equivalence — the tendency fostered by the political press that “objectivity” is a function of “balance,” that “both sides do it all the time.”

The invention of issues by pundits has created discourse that isn’t grounded in reality in the first place — so lies fill the void, and they’re effective if the pundits have ingratiated themselves with an audience eager to be lied to. It’s called motivating the political base. Lying to the already converted — those resistant to reason and cordoned off by ideological choice from rhetorical reality — is highly effective modern political practice.

The modern media universe of celebrity and “tell all” journalism has not made lying less profitable. No lie is too large to halt the deluge of money from donors. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and given to politicians who lie. Therefore, politicians have permission to lie even more.

If lying has no significant political cost (although Sen. Gary Hart’s lie cost him his chance for the presidency), then lies beget more lies. Information becomes disinformation and misinformation. The public square has no shared factual commitments essential to honest discourse. Lying has eroded our ability to assess the moral compasses of our politicians. Are we now stuck with determining who lies less as the new standard for electability rather than who utters truth?

When it comes to our two presidential candidates, even the fact-checkers, it seems, cannot agree on which man lies most.

They both lie. So no matter which one I support, I will be supporting a liar.

Would someone please explain to me what we gain by having liars in the White House, Congress, and the statehouses of America?

h/t to my fellow Scrogues who allowed me to steal their ideas.

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #110: WEHT SWK?

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #101: Your Pal, Mike S.

“The guys who are shooting films now are technically brilliant, but there’s no content in their films. I marvel at what I see and wish I could have done a shot like that. But shots are secondary for my films, and with some of these films, it’s all about the shots. What’s the point? I’m not sure people know what points to make.” Who said it? Continue reading

9/11 happened on Obama's watch! GOP noise machine already hard at work on the history books of the future

Something wicked this way comes.

There are a number of problems with these assertions, not the least of which is that when Saudi terrorists started flying hijacked jets into large buildings on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush had been president of the United States for the better part of eight months. The lapses in memory noted above are all striking, but especially so in the case of Giuliani, who was, from September 11 until he dropped out of the presidential race on January 30, 2008 (a span of roughly 2,332 days, if my math is accurate), unable to say so much as “hello” without somehow shoehorning “9/11” into the conversation. Continue reading

Nota Bene #99: Heed the Peace Gnome

“You just pick up a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music.” Who said it? Continue reading

The uneasy truth behind Tim Donaghy's allegations

Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was convicted of two charges related to betting on NBA games (some of which he worked as an official), is out of prison, pimping a new book and telling his story to 60 Minutes and ESPN. What he’s saying, and who’s backing him up, has to be giving NBA Commish David Stern a king-hell case of the nightsweats.

We’ll stipulate up front that the witness has a credibility issue. Continue reading

Why isn't Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

America’s democratic ideal doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and in these cases it feeds our cynicism to the point where we’re tempted to conclude that the very possibility of true freedom is a sham. I know whereof I speak, because there are few people out there more soaked in bile than I am.

Still, this whole “marketplace of ideas” is a marvelous concept. Perhaps the most marvelous concept in history. Drawing on the Miltonian belief that if people are allowed to enter the agora and freely state their cases, then “the truth will out” (that is, an educated and informed citizenry will unerringly perceive the truth and that weaker ideas will be disregarded in favor of stronger ones), our nation’s founders crafted a Constitution that assured people the right to voice their opinions, free from government intrusion. Continue reading

American media’s signal-to-noise ratio problem, part 1

Part one of a two-part series.

From Walter Cronkite to Katie Couric: the Kingdom of Signal is swallowed by the Empire of Noise

The recent death of Walter Cronkite spurred the predictable outpouring of tributes, each reverencing in its own way a man who was the face and voice of journalism in America for a generation or more. The irony of all these accolades is that we live in an age where “broadcast journalist” is such a cruel oxymoron, and we seem to speeding headlong into an era where the word “journalist” itself threatens to become a freestanding joke. Why, against this backdrop, would so many people who are so involved in the daily repudiation of everything that Cronkite stood for make such a show memorializing the standard by which they so abjectly fail?

As I read what people had to say about Cronkite, I realized that something I studied and wrote about over a decade ago helps explain why our contemporary media has gone so deeply, tragically wrong. Continue reading

Science and faith: a reply to Martin Bosworth

Our old friend and colleague Martin Bosworth offered up a thoughtful take on science and faith a few days ago and his thesis has been percolating in my mind ever since. In this post he describes himself as experiencing a “spiritual crisis.” No doubt he’s in one of those deep periods of self-reflection that I experience from time to time, although he seems way too lucid for the word “crisis.” In any case, since he posted these thoughts to a public forum and promoted them a bit, I think it’s fair to conclude that he’s inviting conversation. As such, I thought I might take a few moments here to, well, conversate.

Let me begin by noting that Boz doesn’t need anybody’s approval to believe what he believes or to live his life as he sees fit. Continue reading

Meanings, pt. 2: a crisis of prevailing values

by Michael Tracey

It isn’t just that there is an appetite for scandal, sex, sleaze, death narratives, it is also that feeding such appetites can be very profitable. The fact is that an essential problem with today’s media, one that has been gestating for many years, even decades, lies with the families and trust-funders that own media chains, and with the media moguls that, like great beasts, roam the landscape of a new grim cultural ecology, gobbling up this and that tasty morsel, a television station here, a newspaper there, forever seeking to sate their own insatiable appetite. Continue reading

A truth is a truth is a truth, isn't it?

Y’know, these days, so many people with so many different motives are trying to tell me in so many ways what the “truth” is that I wonder whether I’d recognize a “truth” — any “truth” at all.

I give up. I’ve collapsed under the oppressing weight of lies, prevarications, deceits, “policy adjustments,” rhetoric, no-longer-operative statements, attack ads, Perino-isms, cunningly packaged spin, and Rovian stump speeches with the rhetorical content equivalent to the unflushed contents of a toilet bowl.

Would someone please make possession of a Teleprompter a federal crime, punishable by listening to Rush Limbaugh 24/7 for life? Or Al Franken, for that matter? Can we stop the incessant harangue so reminiscent of “Father Knows Best” or, in the event Sarah Palin is speaking, “Mother Knows Best”? Or Hillary or Bill: “We Know Best”?
Continue reading