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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

Wishful thinking drives much of the focus on misinformation. It's unpleasant to be disagreed with. It shows people don't share your values, or heaven forbid, that you might be wrong. Misinformation evades that unpleasantness. People don't really disagree with you, they're just misinformed.

It's part of the broader "politics as entertainment" problem. If your top priority is to win elections and enact policy, there's an obvious downside to implicitly labelling as stupid those who disagree with you, and whom you need to persuade to cross to your side. But if you're just trying to feel good about yourself, it's great.

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Thanks for this synopsis of reality. I'm using it this week among my quotes of the week section.

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I think a lot of the misinformation panic comes from the kind of techno optimism that a lot of people lived in in the 90s and 00s. That good information would drive out bad and basically we’d just end up debating marginal tax rates forevermore.

Almost baked into a lot of that era’s cheerleaders like Thomas Friedman is the whole world will one day, soon act like elite westerners and there will still be gatekeepers on respectable conversations it will just include a bit more diversity.

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I'll agree with that and extend it. Against that backdrop we had two shocking events over the past 5 years that are were meaningful ways driven by / associated with misinformation: Trump's Presidency and COVID-19. I think the large impact of those two events greatly increased the stakes around "misinformation" because it cut so hard against the "good information would drive out bad" sentiment.

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Okay, but how are these high stakes around misinformation and other b.s. reasoning anything new? Heard of the Salem Witch Trials? The democratically elected Nazi party?

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Neither of those events followed a few decades of substantial optimism about their relevant subjects. The Salem trials followed a century or two of anti-witch sentiment and trials in Europe. The Nazis came to power in the chaos of post WWI Germany, and after other fascists had already risen to power in Europe. They are both shocking from our vantage point in 2022, but less so in their own time.

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true that cultural shifts and tribal conflict, where tribe sizes number in the mega-millions, can evolve and generate high stakes much more quickly in our hyper-connected era

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It's the complete loss of gatekeepers that is causing most of the disconnect here, in my opinion. Elites no longer can control the conversation. First, because Fox News and other right wing media are just doing whatever makes money, regardless of how disreputable their professed views are by other elites. And second, because new informational channels like Joe Rogan's show exist which now have national audiences and are not subject to the same kinds of elite pressure that previous channels were.

So stuff that used to have an elite consensus could determine publicly available information which probably also influenced average opinions. That almost doesn't work at all anymore. There are pros and cons to this change, but I tend to agree with the OP that misinformation per se has not gotten any worse. The dynamic of what misinformation is prevalent has though (in my opinion).

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Absolutely and what MY gets wrong in this is comparing conspiracies of the past with those of today. When he was a teen it was very costly to create and post misinformation and only the most avid theorists engaged in the moon landing stuff. Today the cost is zero. Thousands of people marched on DC believing an election had been stolen despite no evidence. That isn’t the same as a handful of people showing up at Area 51 asking to see the aliens.

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Lots of people believed that the state murdered JFK, but it's not like these people did that much about it. Today, the believers of a conspiracy theory about the election are more organized and coherent in their worldview and goals. This lets them turn conspiracy theories into concrete action.

The election is a worrying instance of misinformation infecting a specific, critical place, but on the whole, people are genuinely better informed across a variety of topics compared to a generation ago. The literature on conspiracy theories as a whole doesn't show that much change over the decades in conspiratorial thinking. The difference is that people today are much more able to cherrypick facts to suit their worldview and social forces are better at organizing them into camps.

This is important, because many people are calling for social media sites to take down misinformation from their sites. There's a lot of research showing that this might not be effective in most cases, and it might actually exacerbate polarization by turning people against media institutions.

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Let's be careful not to conflate "lots of people" in the case of JFK with "the vast majority of Republicans" in the case of the 2020 election. If you are going to go with "lots of people" in the past yada yada, then you have to allow for "a lot more people in the present" yada yada. So if you are trying to suggest that things are not worse now, you're going to need a better argument.

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Feb 17, 2022·edited Feb 17, 2022

Its not that this isn't a big issue, it's that the problem isn't, "People are more likely to believe bs than in the past." People have always believed stupid shit. The issue is social forces, including social media have encouraged people who believe certain types of bs to go out and try to undermine democratic norms. JFK conspiracy theories are more common than Big Lie, but they don't inspire people to try to tear everything down. The BS is still bad but in different ways, and trying to pin the problem on people having bad critical thinking skills instead of polarization, which is fueled in large part by well-informed people, is going to not accomplish much and backfire.

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Well, I agree with you that this is a big issue. I disagree with Matt, insofar as the general thrust of his argument as stated in the headline that this idea that there is a big problem is misinformed. I disagree with that argument, even if I agree with the examples in the article. I just don't think they add up to proving the headline. I also agree with you that people have always believed stupid shit. Human nature has not changed. There is nothing new under the sun in that regard. But so what? That fact does not speak to the thesis of the headline, which makes the claim that it is not true that we have a big problem today that is any different or worse than the problems we have always had. I agree with you that Matt is wrong about that. Matt has identified some things that are not worse now than they were in the past, but from that point it does not follow that nothing is worse now than it was in the past. You are further making the distinction that what IS worse now is NOT that people are more stupid. Again, I agree. And I remain unmoved from my original statement. We have big misinformation problem right now. As evidence of my claim, I present the fact that the majority of self-described Republicans claim that they do not believe Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. Do I think they are stupid? No. Do I think this is a problem that can be categorized under the umbrella of a "misinformation problem?" Yes.

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I think we've lost the plot on how the "Stolen Election" rallying cry became a thing and eventually took on such a life of its own that we now collectively treat it on all sides as if it's literally a dispute about about the facts of vote tallies on an election-swinging level.

The Big Lie was not coined as a term until many weeks after the initial cries of "voter fraud", because the initial cries were seen as what they were - a parroted talking point from sore losers who became obsessed with finding rare instances of real or potential voter fraud... because they were sore losers. Not b/c they genuinely believed that fraud had swung the election against their favored candidate. (In some cases, these sore losers were also strategic partisans looking for excuses to make voting harder for Dem-leaning voter groups generally, not would-be fraudsters specifically.)

In reality, the Big Lie was not *literalIy believed* by any but the most epistemologically confused (not just about politics) slice of Trump fans. (Many Trump fans did become convinced state elections were tainted by voter fraud. The party line that this alleged fraud had occurred on an election-tipping scale that called for embarrassing legal hardball cosplay was an opportunistic seizing of a culture war-granted opportunity to extend the engagement of Trump's base, boost Trump's ego, and raise MAGA morale.

Only then did it became known as The Big Lie. Dems and allied media made the mistake of dignifying the tantrum-turned-legal cosplay by calling it dangerous misinformation instead of just letting judges be seen rolling their eyes while they nipped the cosplay in the bud, treating the lawsuits as the frivolous joke they were.

People initially understood Trump's cries of 'Fraud!' Stolen election!" as an attempt to save face on his way out the door by playing the hits - his signature style of self-promoting bald-faced nonsense delivered with a smirk at the audience for letting him get away this same old insult comedy shtick for so long. We, the the public, somehow lose sight of what used to be widely understood by his fans and detractors alike: Trump's signature brand of smirking swagger had a lot more in common with an insult comedy performance than anything else, and should be regarded as such.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

The tech amplification of mis/disinformation changes everything. When people say "there's always been conspiracy theories" I grumble "yeah, there's always been wildfires too" (I'm from CA).

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For me, the "misinformation panic" stems from the fact, reported by the WaPo that "the vast majority of Republican voters say they agree with Trump's unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen" https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/07/republicans-big-lie-trump/

If it is not true that the majority of the Republican party currently believes that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" then I would entertain the claim that the "misinformation problem" is "misinformation." But if it is in fact true that the majority of the Republican party currently believes that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen," then we do indeed have a very serious misinformation problem.

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I think the "misinformation" craze is a moral panic that's a continuation of the same phenomenon the world has seen around almost every new communications technology or art form. Whether it's jazz, or comic books, or rap, or metal, or porn, or video games, you hear people say, "I'm as strong a supporter of the First Amendment as anyone, but this new stuff is just too powerful, and we should make an exception." But if you support the core idea behind freedom of speech, you have to understand that *the median person is capable of being a critical consumer of media*.

The "misinformation" crowd will cite the *volume* of false or misleading news articles and how many people saw them on Facebook, which tells us *nothing* about the proportion of viewers who took it seriously. The internet right now is such that the sides of tons of web pages are crammed with absolutely insane, scummy ads about poorly aging celebrities and video games that are too sexy to play until you're 45. AND DIGITAL NATIVES HAVE LEARNED TO JUST LITERALLY TUNE THIS ALL OUT. "Misinformation" is not a magic spell that turns people into zombies, and porn and video games aren't either, any more than jazz ever was.

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Well said. I'm going to bookmark this article as some ammo whenever I argue that misinformation has always been a problem since the printing press, and likely even before mass written media, and what we're dealing with now may be different in technology, but not in relative magnitude.

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Those greatly concerned about "misinformation" in politics are, I think, not actually very big fans of democracy. The heritage of the early American republic is of a rough-and-tumble knives out fight for democratic power. But that faded into a long period of voters mostly being irrelevant to the truly important policy considerations. The parties were not nearly so ideological, and voters were important insofar as they put a constraint on how much of an asshole or failure a particular representative could be (or how salacious their sex lives could become). But the real question of governing the country was held by a relatively small group of educated elites who were invested in the political conversation.

The much larger educated elite of today wants to continue this process of basically controlling the entire country. They do not *really* believe that some guy whose only education is how to be an electrician should wield any significant power. They pretend to, because they're supposed to, but they don't like true democracy.

Whether or not they are wrong to feel this way is a separate question, but they are not interested in truly popular governance despite their protests to the contrary.

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"They do not *really* believe that some guy whose only education is how to be an electrician should wield any significant power. They pretend to, because they're supposed to, but they don't like true democracy."

That's certainly corroborated in my view by the extreme degree of contempt for voter referenda you find amongst putative pro-democracy elites -- "One Man, One Vote, so Long as that Vote is for Another Man Among Many" might as well be the slogan.

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My favorite thing about American journalists and pundits who are fixated on “misinformation” is that they don’t seem to care that much when people like Sanders call European social democracy “socialism”. No mention of how both Maastricht and Lisbon make it impossible for any member state to implement any socialist policy, and no mention of the fact that socialism actually existed in some EU member states until 30 years ago but not anymore.

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I physically cannot restrain myself from chiming in to complain about Sanders's habit of referring to the US as "the only major country without universal healthcare". He does this constantly, and he means "rich country". China and India, which do not have universal healthcare, are "major" by any possible definition of the term, to say nothing of the many other developing countries with tens or hundreds of millions of inhabitants. I may be the only person bothered by this, but I will not be silenced!

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It seems to me that it's not only limited to Sanders--I've noticed it as a generic debate tactic by the left to argue that "The US is the only country without [this really good policy], therefore that's a disgrace and we must enact [this really good policy]!"

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This cycles back to the notion that "the United States is pretty good" is a winning political message, and the current flavor of self-styled progressives are bad at winning elections and therefore enacting policy.

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founding

The problem is that in about 50% of cases, it's either not even true, or they endorse enacting a version of the policy that doesn't actually exist anywhere else.

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Oh absolutely, just adding to the sloppiness of the argument.

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China has a closer stab at universal healthcare than the United States.

While hardly up to developed world standards, it’s actually pretty damned good compared to health services in similarly wealthy places like Mexico or Bulgaria

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Can you find a cite? Because all I'm seeing is quotes where Sanders says that the US is the "only major country" that doesn't guarantee a right to Healthcare.

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deletedFeb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022
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"China is way richer than many developed nations."

Just saw this.

No. This is absolutely not true, under any definition of the word "rich".

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"No. This is absolutely not true, under any definition of the word "rich""

It is the richest country by purchasing power parity. You can argue that's not a good definition of "rich", but it is a definition --- and a pretty common one at that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)

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I have literally *never* heard the term used like this, ever. It's certainly not a definition of rich that I'd accept.

It'd be the equivalent of an extended family of five siblings, spouses, and kids living together and saying they're richer than my household because each adult has a minimum wage job.

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"I have literally *never* heard the term used like this, ever."

I'm happy that you have now been introduced to this useful measure that is commonly used for comparing wealth and income across counties.

"It'd be the equivalent of an extended family of..."

No, it wouldn't be. I'm not even sure how to compare an economic index with a hypothetical situation, but higher PPP leads to exactly the opposite of the situation you describe.

Simply put, PPP is basically an international version of a cost-of-living (COL) adjustment combined with local income levels.

E.g. I think it's commonly accepted that someone who lives in Des Moines and makes $60k/year is financially "better of" than someone who lives in NYC and makes $65k/year even tho they make less money. Certainly, the former has more disposable income than the latter. As a consequence, the person in Des Moines may well own a house while the person in NYC lives in a small apartment --- possibly with other people. (In other words, the exact opposite of the situation you describe.)

Just as you can compare COL in two cities in the US, you can compare COL in two countries. If the income in a country is half of that in the USA, but the prices paid for everything is a quarter of prices in the USA, then the people in the other country will in a meaningful sense be financially "better off" than people in the USA: they can buy twice as much "stuff" as people in the USA.

Of course, this breaks down in a number of ways. For example, PPP doesn't capture hard-to-quantify personal preferences. E.g. NYC has better cultural amenities than Des Moines, and that's not captured in the COL. So, if theater is super important to you, then the you need to make a personal-preference adjustment to the COL. Likewise, smog and pollution in Chinese and Indian cities isn't captured in PPP, and not having smog is valuable to people.

So, I think that most economists agree that PPP misses a lot. That said, it also captures a lot, and it's silly to simply dismiss it.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

China has more millionaires and billionaires than any other country besides the US. I would wager that there are more people in China making over 100k than in most European countries.

So your example is more there are 10 people in the household and that 5 of the adults make a dollar a week, 3 makes a dollar a day, 1 makes minimum wage and 1 makes a million a year.

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“It gave life to this idea that communism is maybe good, in limited doses.”

I read a paper once that concluded the primary driver of USSR’s economic growth were huge increases to both the labor force participation rate and to average hours worked. Neither of these resulted from people volunteering to work, or to work longer.

So, yeah, sure: limited serfdom is better than unbounded serfdom.

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Mostly true. Land inputs also increased considerably as more land was brought under the plow, mineshaft, or oil well. Capital inputs as well, given the large accumulation of heavy capital goods (albeit of low quality) at the expense of consumer/citizen standard of living.

Long story short, the USSR's economy grew based on input growth, and when that stopped its fate was sealed.

China has enough market-induced discipline right now to avoid that fate, but the CCP seems bound and determined to strangle that, so we'll see.

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Political debate would be so much better if people had to put a dollar in the swear jar every time they used terms like "capitalism", "socialism", "neoliberalism". Be precise about what you're advocating for and what your terms are!

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The Internet has greatly reduced the cost of calling bullshit. Being contradicted by wikipedia is prima facie evidence of bullshit and we all carry the entire wikipedia in our pockets. Because calling bullshit takes less time than before, it happens more often. Thus, we more frequently see bullshiters get outed and try to rationalize. This second order effect makes bullshit look more common when, in reality, it’s just become easier to expose.

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I definitely think some pro-vaccine people should perhaps calm down a bit, about misinformation and everything else. Vaccines work, and you should get them for Covid and other stuff. But the reaction against some people who refused to get vaccinated seems to want to punish them for the sake of it.

For example, Dr Eric Topol is a person worth viewing on Twitter for some interesting, but totally normal information about Covid. He also has a free Substack, where he recently said we should acknowledge that natural immunity is strong and long lasting. People who have been infected before, particularly with a pre-Omicron version of the virus, are unlikely to be seriously affected by reinfection. Any vaccine mandate that does not recognise this is just punishing people for the sake of it. And how many people who are unvaccinated have not been infected yet?

Now read this Twitter thread where he introduces his recent post:

https://twitter.com/EricTopol/status/1493253430453817344

The silliness on that thread from people who should know better is amazing. Somebody called Ebony Jade Hilton, apparently a doctor and MSNBC contributor, thinks Topol was advocating that people should get infected rather than vaccinated. She is like a shrill animal rights advocate that makes a vegetarian want to eat a rare veal steak, or an environmentalist that that makes you want to roll coal in a monster truck.

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The denial of post-infection immunity is a a big deal. It’s denying basic immunology. If you have a background in biology there’s a good chance you have had some uncomfortable conversations with friends or relatives who thought you had gone full MAGA when you said that post-infection immunity exists.

Eventually a significant fraction of the population will realize that post-infection immunity exists and that “experts” said it didn’t exist because they were afraid that if they told the truth people would get infected on purpose. As a result, there will be less trust in experts.

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I don’t think experts have ever disputed that natural immunity exists, but this issue became muddied by people foolishly insisting that getting infected is the best way to stop getting reinfected (see this XKCD here: https://xkcd.com/2557/).

Of course, there is a big difference between someone getting infected with covid without vaccination, and the public health implications of someone recovering from covid after being infected. To deplore the former doesn’t mean we should ignore the latter.

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For a seemingly long time (certainly more than 1yr), US public health agencies justified broad-based restrictions on civic activity even for the vaccinated on the basis of protecting the unvaccinated. I think a lot of hatred against the anti-vax is bottled up resentment over the way those restrictions impinged on people's lives.

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Worst misinformation lately was that i must have died from a drug overdose

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Gonna guess a drink or two + Klonopin = fall in the bathroom. Lived long enough to clear the alcohol.

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In my personal life experience the internet didn’t so much as serve as a vector of misinformation as it made confirmation bias worse. When it comes to information consumption a lot of people don’t necessarily want the truth but want their beliefs reenforced and will only go to sites/follow people on Twitter that they agree with. The people I know who were the most against the Covid vaccine were people who were previously very prone to believing every conspiracy theory they hear.

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I think it should be pretty clear at this point that the human mind did not evolve to deal with the vast amount of information now available to it, nor the near-constant exposure to the ideas and thoughts of those with whom we disagree.

That constancy enables an acid drop of de-humanization; “that is stupid” to “they’re stupid” to “no reasonable person could believe this” to “no one could believe this” to “they’re a paid shill” to “they should be (harmed in some way)” is just not an uncommon chain of thought when faced with persistent disagreements that can never be reconciled like they must be in personal relationships.

What to *do* about this understanding is a bit harder. “Nuke Facebook’s servers” is not an option.

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Narratives rule. One unfortunate thing about idealogical parties (and I was always an advocate for them) is that it makes it harder to disagree with "misinformaion" or a flawed narrative without being seen as a traitor to the party

As a former committee person and long time volunteer for Democrats I have been accused of that over the past 2 years because I don't buy every narrative. I am still a Democrat, but it makes it hard to do the party work.

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An additional problem is that it's just too easy to be imprecise or expansive when you start calling out "misinformation." Do you mean this person is lying? Do you mean this person is misunderstanding something? Do you mean this person is saying something that's basically correct but doesn't or shouldn't have the implications they think? Do you mean it's unproven so far but could be true? Or do you just disagree and that's just, like, your opinion man?

People use the term misinformation for all sorts of stuff like that. People being people, if it's relatively easy to weaponize something that's not tightly defined that lets you delegitimize your opponents, then they will. That doesn't mean misinformation doesn't exist. It just means that how the term is actually used is not really precise, and shifts over time based on usage, and can be a means of obscuring the truth as well as illuminating it. (Call this observation "critical misinformation theory"....)

And once people realize misinformation is in the eye of the beholder, that lets them give themselves permission to ignore cries of misinformation in other areas - even where they're dreadfully wrong. The end result is sadly predictable: increasingly frantic yelling about misinformation that accomplishes less and less.

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Holy cow I disagree with this post so incredibly hard on the big picture even though I think it contains a bunch of true facts. It's almost as if I feel that accepting it as true would leave me misinformed. Which is exactly the piece that I think is missing from this... it's great that people know more true facts these days, but knowing facts easily goes exactly the way Matt describes with the moon landing stuff. Just because you know more true facts does not mean the sum of information you're receiving more accurately represents the world, and I think that's the sense in which we're becoming more misinformed

I loosely crib the bias-variance tradeoff from ML to think about consuming modern media. If you live under a rock and never learn anything, your view of the world is probably not very biased, but it's super high variance because all you have for opinions is whatever you first think of when you hear about a topic for the first time. Meanwhile, if you consoom news media 24 hours a day you're going to have really low variance because you've formed some worldview that feels consistent to you, but probably really high bias because people getting sorted into polarized echo chambers is a super remarkable feature of everything media right now

I don't think this is an iron law like it is in stats or whatever, but I think it's basically accurate in practice nonetheless, and as far as I can tell we giga-shifted from variance to bias

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"I'd far rather be happy than right any day."

"And are you?"

"No. That's where it all falls down, of course."

"Pity", said Arthur. "It sounded like rather a good lifestyle otherwise."

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Sorry, I think this post missed the mark on several points. Example. I have a nice Republican neighbor, interested in rescuing stray cats rather than politics. A few weeks ago we were speculating on when things will get back to normal and I mentioned a new study confirms the effectiveness of boosters in reducing hospital/death. She looked confused and said she thought studies showed vaccines made you more likely to get Covid. A few days later I read about how a small observational heavily confounded and non peer reviewed study that was posted on the internet was picked up by Fox and right wing social media to push that idea. Prior to 2000, she would not have been targeted for that misinformation. Point 2- changing positions on masks as the available data and the context changes is what people should do, not evidence of failure.

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I think that is the point though. Your neighbor is misinformed in some broader sense. But their (almost certainly mistaken) belief that vaccines have negative efficacy is based on a real scientific paper which did in fact show that only two doses of the mRNA vaccines has negative vaccine efficacy against Omicron. Taken in context of all the other data we have available the most likely explanation is not that vaccines make you "more likely to get COVID" in a causal sense, but the belief is not the result of misinformation. It is as Matt says, based on a selective reading and interpretation of real information.

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I wonder if Matt is missing something here, though. Shouldn't one effect of partisan polarization be to make people more open to believing misinformation, when it comes from a trusted partisan source (in this case Fox News)?

And shouldn't another effect of polarization be that partisan sources are more likely to promote misinformation, even when they know that's what it is? Matt mentions in this piece that conspiracy theories in the past didn't tend to have a strong partisan lean, which should mean there was less incentive to spread them.

I think polarization leads to a third difference as well. If a conspiracy theory has implications for electoral politics, it's much more likely to lead to collective action, including violence. You don't see mobs of moon-landing truthers running around screaming at people.

Doesn't all this leave room for an "actually, you're both right" reading of the evidence? Maybe it's not true that the percentage of Americans with bizarre beliefs has increased over time. But if the old conspiracy theories were things like "they faked the moon landing" and the new ones are more like Qanon, then maybe the liberals are only slightly wrong. They mistakenly think misinformation is more common, because they're reacting to the fact that it's more dangerous.

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The way that I used to talk to conservatives about their media, in my organizing days when I had to deal with that: it’s not the lying. It’s (a) the information that they simply don’t put in front of you/things they don’t cover and (b) when stories fall apart they just drop them, rather than walk them back.

We have the same problems in our media, what used to be “the” media now. And the stories that they won’t cover are being covered by conservative outlets. Rather than counter that, they cede the conversation to ideologues and bad actors.

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There have been a few cases where conservative media were the first to get the facts right, but it's pretty rare. Remember when the federal government decided to compensate the descendants of black famers who'd lost their land because of lending discrimination by USDA? One of the fringe sites (I think maybe Breitbart?) ran a story claiming the program was mostly a massive scam, with people going door to door in housing projects and telling the residents: "Sign here and get your reparations money. They won't check to see if you had any farmers in your family "

I remember reading this and thinking: "Uh-oh, this sounds like something that might be true." And eventually it turned out it was true, because the Mainstream Media investigated and confirmed it. But I don't think this is a case where conservative media did much to help get the facts. If anything it probably slowed the process down: I'm sure the New York Times hates validating racially charged stories from Breitbart and the reporters probably had to push their editors very hard to get their work into the paper.

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Yes, if a Republican City Council candidate had attempted to assassinate a Mayoral candidate in Louisville it would be a huge national story, but because the guy who did it was a progressive and has a history of supporting civil rights issues will barely be covered.

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In other words, confirmation bias is a bitch.

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Anyone who says that the vaccines have been subject to long-term clinical studies is either being dishonest or has been misinformed. Therefore, they are experimental by definition.

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What definition of experimental are you using that wouldn't also include basically every other drug in existence right now?

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At what point would you deem it long-term?

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deletedFeb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022
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You can just look at the raw case and hospitalization number differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated people and draw your own conclusions. Differences aren’t subtle.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

I think what many on the left refer to as "misinformation" are actually right-wing talking points that are intended to advance a right-wing point of view. They aren't necessarily "wrong" (though they frequently are), but select and frame the truth in such a way that is intended to sow doubt, mistrust, and fear in the public. Liberals have a baked-in assumption that the public is supposed to put their trust in government, institutions and expertise, so any messaging that challenges that assumption feels like "misinformation". This type of messaging is very pernicious because the left-wing project of building a politics of collective action is already very hard, and that type of messaging uses a "divide and conquer" strategy that makes that type of collective action even harder. But that doesn't make it "misinformation".

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There also seems to be a belief that the liberal knee jerk position is going to be well-informed. In reality, knee jerk positions aren’t necessarily well informed. Liberal positions were often well-informed because there were people who were going through the evidence and willing to change their minds based on evidence

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I think this is swamped by both groups liking the institutions that agree with them and disliking the ones that don't. Both the left and the right have government institutions and organizations that they like and trust - and ones they don't like and don't trust. To give some examples - the left has swung hard in its perspective of the SC and is pretty down on the police.

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