Happy 2020

In a few days, the blog will be a teenager. Ten years felt like a long time to blog, which is why I decided I would no longer put pressure on myself to post every day. I appreciate those who still drop by to see the occasional post. If you read one thing today, this is what I’d read.

Fact checking, unfortunately, isn’t what we think it is. Despite the superficial appearance, fact checking isn’t a helpful tool for determining the truth and for forming an accurate opinion. Instead, it’s actually an in/out group filter which segregates people by belief and value, while allowing each group to believe they hold the Factual High-Ground, and to claim any subsequent moral position which proceeds from being “factually correct.” 


15 thoughts on “Happy 2020”

  1. funny how “facts” are blessed – or cursed – depending on ones political beliefs…….

  2. I was never an Objectivist, but if I had been I’m thinking I’d be hating that argument like hell. Effectively it comes down to, not only that “facts don’t matter,” but that there are no objective facts; they are a function of what you believe.

    Being an Ole Country Boy, that sounds like the definition of Bullshit, to me. Tailor made for our contemporary era.

      1. Indeed, the entire point that I took from the post was (1) that people are naturally and unavoidably mired in confirmation bias, and (2) this confirmation bias means even if Facebook and their fact-checkers were 100% unbiased, *everyone* is going to confirmation bias their algorithms and fact-checkers right into conspiracy theory, and (3) starting right out the gate, at least one side considers their “fact-checkers” to be biased, so they are already starting off on the wrong foot.

        Fact are important, and we need to take steps to cancel out confirmation bias, but it’s something that individuals have to do on their own — and if a third party like Facebook tries to force someone to confront their confirmation bias, it never ends well.

        (One example I like to think about it is how Alex Jones and his audience already believes that everyone is trying to silence him — cutting him off from social networks only confirms what he and his audience already believes.)

        1. I expend a great deal of effort trying to fight my own confirmation bias but it grows harder by the year. First, as has been discussed here is the intense politicization of “facts” by everybody. Since one can only personally observe a few things, one must rely on what others write. But how to discern actual facts, when everyone is spinning (to be polite) like mad is a challenge. I have found that by looking at the headline and the source, I can predict with about 90% accuracy what the content is. So I don’t read it. I miss some stuff this way but I save a lot of time. What I do read, I use the old Soviet technique for reading Pravda. What message are they trying to send and why? And then try to divine the actual situation.

          The second barrier is the proliferation and tightening of paywalls. There is a fair amount of content I would read based on the above method but can’t get to. I am not going to do a subscription to anything because that is its own source of confirmation bias. If you are paying for something you are going to depend on it more than you should. The financial model for news is clearly broken and social media has actually made things worse. I am not sure what to do about this. I would like to see a return of the Golden Age of Blogs (to be treated with the same caution as other media) but there is no financial model for that either.

        2. Alpheus,

          “Fact are important, and we need to take steps to cancel out confirmation bias, but it’s something that individuals have to do on their own — and if a third party like Facebook tries to force someone to confront their confirmation bias, it never ends well.”

          That’s the kernel of it right there, yup.

          It’s related to the saying that “You can’t reason a person out of a position they didn’t reason their way into in the first place.”

      2. “but that there are no objective facts”. . .That’s an assertion that was not made.

        That seems related to the old riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, was there a noise?”

        Much of the essay was saying, in effect, that facts have no utility if no one will accept them or recognize them, and that in fact, humans will not accept the existence of facts that fail to support their biases. I guess I’m stretching things a bit, but that is coming close to saying that since there will be no one in the forest who will accept hearing the noise, the noise does not relate to the fact of a tree falling; and so it never existed.

        Basically I was put off by what sounded like an undercurrent of, “It’s OK not to concern oneself with fact-checking, and to dismiss the efforts of those who do it.” While the words may not have been said/written, I was hearing “everyone is entitled to their own facts, which become validated by the existence of their own opinions.” I heard too much validation of belief in opposition to objective fact.

        It is perhaps ironic that I’m commenting on what I was hearing, even if diagramming every sentence would prove that what I heard was never actually said. Maybe that’s related to “dog whistles?” :-)

        1. When it comes to fact-checking, though, one has to contend with the “who will watch the watchmen?” issue. And I think this was the biggest concern about the article.

          For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to believe another approach would probably be better: have something that checks what you’re about to post, and say “people have found this hateful” or “fact check org XYZ found this to be false” or something of that nature, and then ask “Are you sure you want to post this?”, then let treat the post as any other post, would probably be more productive. You’re less likely to generate censorship conspiracy theories that way, and if you’ve hit a false positive, the most that someone will do is roll their eyes and mutter “whatever, stupid algorithm!”

    1. I really appreciate the practical optimism of that article. And I especially appreciate the suggestion that we shouldn’t retreat to obscure corners of the internet, but do our best to keep ourselves out in the open, where everyone else is meeting too!

  3. I do miss the old blue South Park devil. Never would’ve discovered this blog had I not discovered Call Me Ahab after a call in interview on Cam and Company.

    1. There’s a name I haven’t heard in a really long time (Call Me Ahab).

  4. Hmmm…. I still have you bookmarked as “Snowflakes in Hell”.

    I’ve been stopping by daily for a while….

  5. While I wish you posted more (and look back with nostalgia at the “glory days”), I’m glad you continue to post!

    I understand that you are busy, and sometimes the news cycle isn’t (at least, not in the gun realm — which hasn’t been as true recently, with the shenanigans going on in Virginia and at the NRA — but has nonetheless been a factor in your posting); nonetheless, I appreciate your insight in whatever topic you choose to address, when you are able to address it.

    Thank you!

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