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Thu Nov 19, 2020, 04:37 PM

It's a cancer. Can we defeat it without sacrificing the First Amendment? I think so... here's how: [View all]

Last edited Thu Nov 19, 2020, 06:49 PM - Edit history (2)

With every iteration of humankind's ability to communicate, there's been upheaval. I imagine our far-off ancestors who first progressed from gesture, facial expression, and simple syllabic phonemes to the development of complex verbal communication quickly overwhelmed and out-competed their neighbors who felt that grunts and hand-waving were enough for anyone and all these new-fangled "words" would just corrupt the youth and destroy all that was morally admirable in the contemporary social fabric.

Writing? Oh, we really took a wrong turn there. Being able to record experiences, transactions, and communications from the Divine fucked everything up and killed billions.

The printing press? The telegraph? Radio? Teevee? The devil's tools, every one, causing and/or contributing to an endless series of mass social upheavals, uncountable death and destruction. (Anyone remember the role of radio in the Rwandan genocide of 1994?)

And now here we are with mass social media being exploited by someone (who? More on that later...) to create powerful malign propaganda for the purpose of undermining democracy and destroying any social order based on social responsibility and mutual assistance.

Yes, I'm talking about QAnon, and here's an excellent and very thorough expose of just how this particular cancer was created, disseminated, and how it metastasized in America's body politic: A Game Designer's Analysis of QAnon.

Like any cancer, it has help from an immune system stressed by other assaults, and like many cancers, it weaponizes other systems of the body politic, distorting them and turning them into allies facilitating its spread and its destruction of healthy cells and structures.

It is serious. It is potentially fatal.

And it is all too tempting to apply remedies analogous to radical surgery, near-lethal chemotherapy or destructive radiation, in the form of First Amendment curtailments.

These remedies never really work, though. At best, they leave a vitiated, impaired body with a shortened lifespan and greatly diminished quality of life- at worst, they can be as fatal as the cancer itself. In the evolution of human communications, every time a new capability has developed, attempts to restrain, control or eliminate that capability have not ended well.

What, then?

My belief is that we can begin fighting back using two tools, and if they are consistently and vigorously applied, in time the health of the body WILL be able to reassert itself.

The first tool is understanding. There's a reason successful con artists never wise up the mark: It makes it difficult to use the same con again, as the mark remembers that the money they saw in the dropped wallet was only there for a moment and was quickly replaced with scrap paper.

The article linked above neatly exposes the mechanism of this particular con and why it is so powerful: It relies on apophenia, the human tendency to perceive patterns in unrelated events or objects. We are a species that evolved based on our ability to perceive and respond to patterns, and this is being turned against us.

When apophenia combines with the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon and our innate tendency to confirmation bias, we can be highly manipulable. And this is what's happened to the QAnon cultists.

Once you understand this, it becomes easier to resist apophenic dysfunction: Yes, the cloud looks like a galloping horse for a few seconds and there was a horse in the field you just passed and you dreamt about the sound of hoofbeats last night after watching that Western movie, but that doesn't mean God is telling you to buy a horse, or even go riding.

As the game designer's analysis (linked above) points out, attacking the rationality and validity of any of the QAnon propaganda has the paradoxical effect of making them believe even more fervently, and questioning their rationality or accusing them of gullibility merely antagonizes them.

Vigorously promoting a broad understanding of just how this type of phenomenon works, however, can happen at a remove from the 'personal' level of the cultist. Continually exposing the mechanism of the con, rather than rating the gullibility of the mark, has more chance of succeeding in generating the cognitive dissonance that will loosen the hold of the propaganda. Discussing confirmation bias, apophenia, the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon as normal processes that affect all of us may eventually have an effect.

And here's the other tool:

My granpere was the first (but by no means the last) to tell me that "Idle hands become the devil's tools" and I lost count of the number of times my own foolishness was met with an exasperated "You don't have enough to do" by parents, supervisors, teachers, friends, etc.

Being a dedicated QAnon rabbit-hole diver takes TIME. Many hours of it, spent on social media outlets, searching for "breadcrumbs", communicating with other initiates, etc.

These people truly don't have enough to do.

Imagine, if you will, that there were lots of good jobs within their ability to perform and paying enough to allow them to build an interesting life doing something other than hunching over a tablet?

We need a major public employment initiative. We need high-speed broadband available to every household in America and a corps similar to the CCC to make it happen. The Rural Electrification Act was a major building block in America's economic recovery from the Great Depression and it allowed us to tool up for war production in the face of the looming World War.

We need major public employment programs to manage the pandemic, to implement a robust power grid based on sustainable power sources, to preserve and restore the integrity of our water sources, clean air, and arable land. We need to re-tool public education to allow distance and in-person learning and to make higher education affordable and accessible to all.

These are jobs. Millions of them. And people doing jobs they can do, having accomplishments that matter, are way less vulnerable to being dragged down "you're hard done by and here's the conspiracy that's keeping you down" rabbit holes.

Yes, it would require major deficit spending, but in the long run, as with the New Deal programs, it would pay for itself over and over again in a better future and a more stable, secure and united America.

Without trashing the First Amendment.

Is anyone on the Transition Team listening?


P.S. On the "more about that later" thing related to who's responsible for the creation/dissemination of this toxic propaganda: I'm not sure it's worth a lot of effort identifying culprits right now. As with the "root cause" hypothesis for alcoholism/addiction treatment, it's more important to detox the brain and establish some stable recovery first, though it may be helpful in avoiding relapses. But if a culprit must be identified, I'd suggest examining two things: 1. Who benefits from a disunited and increasingly undemocratic America; and 2. Who has the resources to plan and carryout a vast propaganda offensive in relative secrecy?

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Reply It's a cancer. Can we defeat it without sacrificing the First Amendment? I think so... here's how: [View all]
TygrBright Nov 2020 OP
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