December 22, 2016

Snowden is right: You can't outsource bullshit detection.

I'm paraphrasing. He said:
“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other. The answer to bad speech is not censorship. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.”

72 comments:

Brando said...

I'm not sure that what you link isn't fake news so I don't know what to believe any more.

Bob Ellison said...

The problem of "fake news" is that it's a fake story being sold by the mainstream press and the Democrat Party in December 2016. There has always been fake news.

That's the problem. It's not a new thing. Oh, you heard a rumor the other day that turned out to be incorrect? Who knew such a thing could happen?!

tim in vermont said...

Hear! Hear! Mr Snowden.

Clayton Hennesey said...

There's been a great deal of newsy Sturm und Drang surrounding Kurt Eichenwald's latest self-reported chapter about suffering a seizure as a result of a tweet he opened from an improbably named "@jew_goldstein", most of it merely identical text echoed from one site to another to another around the Web. A great deal of fanfare over Eichenwald petitioning Twitter to reveal "@jew_goldstein" and Twitter agreeing and a great deal of fanfare over Eichenwald tweeting a copy of a civil suit he has filed against John Doe "@jew_goldstein".

Missing: any evidence of the alleged event itself beyond a still photo of a star shape overlaid with some indisputably mean text.

So this is what news is now: exciting controversy, potentially content-free, endlessly repeated to occupy attention and fill space. Sort of like, "Trixie flashes crowd, nipples powerfully erect!", endlessly linked and repeated - only in text.

rehajm said...

Yes. Fake news is just another leftie weapon in the control the narrative war. Granting themselves permission to dismiss damaging facts not neutralized by traditional spin.

Larry J said...

The biggest sources of "fake news" during this election cycle were ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, NYT, Washington Post, etc.

Mike Sylwester said...

I sometimes use Facebook, and a few weeks ago I fell for a Fake News item. It was some story about a military veteran being beaten to death because the attackers thought he was a Trump supporter.

I shared the article. An hour later, I looked again at my post, and I saw that Facebook had automatically attached to my post a couple of items informing me convincingly that this story was a hoax. I was grateful for the information. I did a little research, confirmed that it indeed was a hoax, and so I deleted my post before I embarrassed myself.

As long as Facebook limits itself to such actions, it is performing a useful service for its users.

Of course, Facebook eventually, soon, will fall to the temptation to turning this into a "fact-checking" program.

rhhardin said...

There's a market for bullshit, in the form of soap opera.

It's the audience that gives it an editorial effect, the stories that don't die no matter what.

The audience wants it to be news, so it's news.

Michael K said...

It isn;t just leftist "news."

The Muslims are getting their licks in, too.

This guy makes You-Tube videos for a living.

“I speak to my mom on the phone every flight,” Saleh told CBSN shortly after video he posted on Twitter showing his removal went viral. “She only speaks Arabic.”

According to Saleh, a woman in the seat in front of him turned around and told him he ought to speak English. Saleh said he told her he can speak whatever language he likes, and her husband responded by standing up and screaming at him.


My bullshit detector went off in the red zone when I saw this.

Saleh has a history of posting staged videos designed to look like the real thing, including an infamously faked viral video that alleged to have shown anti-Muslim bias from the NYPD.

In 2014, Saleh’s video “RACIAL PROFILING EXPERIMENT!” showed him and friend staging a fight twice in front of an alleged police officer, once in Western street clothes, and once in Muslim clothes. The Smoking Gun revealed the hoax relatively quickly, but two years later, as of Wednesday morning, Saleh still does not indicate that the video was staged in its description.


The story is still going on. The Flying Imams started it.

If some guy on a flight is speaking Arabic and making a commotion, you can bet I'm getting off.

Michael K said...

"I shared the article."

I almost never share anything and rarely add a "friend."

I do belong to several basset hound groups and post photos of mine but that's about it.

I link to a few articles in major sources.

tcrosse said...

Scott Adams has had plenty to say lately about how Confirmation Bias messes up our own internal Bullshit Detectors.

rhhardin said...

The airplane rule ought to be no performance art on airplanes.

J. Farmer said...

The reason we have a problem with "fake news" is because people, generally speaking, are gullible and not too bright. And less or more speech won't do much to change that. Some opinion polls show that nearly 30% of the population do not believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attack and perhaps as high as 10% believe that the US government carried it out.

Here's a simple experiment. Go meet someone with an IQ of 100 and see how swift they seem to you. And then understand that half the population has an IQ lower than that.

William said...

Snowden's has sought the protection of Putin in his quest for government transparency. I don't think he's anyone to preach critical thinking.

traditionalguy said...

Appointing Monitors of internet speech is the same thing as inviting a foreign Army into your country to Help You with some nuisance enemy.

When you wake up you have been conquered by your Ally.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I've been paying attention, lately, to the so-called "skepticism movement." I put it in scare quotes because:(a) the idea sounds preposterous to me; and (b) I'm pretty ignorant, on the whole.

But Snowden's remark/point-of-view seems to be congruent with theirs, except they seem to be big on top-down controls. Go ahead and call it censorship if that gives your brain a shot of dopamine.

The skepticism/critical-thinking people seem to be pretty smart, over all, but I'm wary that they might really be some sort of stalking horse for a rearguard Communist takeover of the free world.

That's why they poo-poo conspiracy theories . . . so we won't figure out their nefarious plan until it's too late to stop them.

Remember, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not all out to get you!

J. Farmer said...

@William:

Snowden's has sought the protection of Putin in his quest for government transparency. I don't think he's anyone to preach critical thinking.

That is such a dumb line of reasoning. Snowden is an American, so it's perfectly reasonable that he should primarily be concerned with reform in America, since that's the country he has the most ability to impact. Likewise, I would expect a Russian citizen to be primarily concerned with reforming Russia.

J. Farmer said...

@Eric the Fruit Bat:

"The skepticism/critical-thinking people seem to be pretty smart, over all, but I'm wary that they might really be some sort of stalking horse for a rearguard Communist takeover of the free world."

Just out of curiosity, have you ever worked for a large company, in a large office, or in a large bureaucracy?

Hagar said...

And the protection seems to hold so far. So not all that dumb.

Nonapod said...

The reason fake news is even a thing is because the mainstream media has engendered it by creating an environment that perpetuates half-truths and outright lies. The real problem is that the American citizen no longer implicitly trusts that mainstream media outlets are honest, fair, and objective in all cases. As a result people have been searching for less mainstream alternatives. This has allowed the flourishing of all sorts of opportunistic less than savory groups to take advantage of the situation.

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman said...

"We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular."

Isn't this getting the chicken and egg thing backwards? Obviously Snowden is not following Scott Adams.

Ficta said...

@Nonapod Exactly! When you know that the official media will suppress stories, and we do know that, then you go searching elsewhere to "fill in the gaps".

Scott McGlasson said...

There's a market for bullshit, in the form of soap opera.

There's a market for awesome, in the form of space opera.

Robert Cook said...

"The problem of 'fake news' is that it's a fake story being sold by the mainstream press and the Democrat Party in December 2016. There has always been fake news."

Yes, but you're badly mistaken if you think this is either a recent or a party issue. The U.S. Government has issued "fake news"--properly called propaganda--without cessation since propaganda as a named means of influencing the public was invented by (Lucian Freud's nephew) Edward Bernays 100 years ago. (Not that propaganda didn't exist or wasn't used before that, but it was simply lying, without the studies of demographics and psychology that informes modern propaganda.)

All governments do it--lie--all the time. They provide as much of the truth as suits them for their own purposes at any given time, or to better convince us of their veracity.

Government and media propaganda will not cease or even let up now that the Republicans are in power.

Robert Cook said...

"Fake news is just another leftie weapon in the control the narrative war. Granting themselves permission to dismiss damaging facts not neutralized by traditional spin."

See my previous comment.

Robert Cook said...

"Snowden's (sic) has sought the protection of Putin in his quest for government transparency. I don't think he's anyone to preach critical thinking."

Why not? Whether you admire or scorn Snowden--I admire him--if the principles espoused are sound, what does it matter who the source is?

Robert Cook said...

"The skepticism/critical-thinking people seem to be pretty smart, over all, but I'm wary that they might really be some sort of stalking horse for a rearguard Communist takeover of the free world."


Oh, for fuck's sake.

Hunter said...

@Robert Cook

Of course, let's not mention Vox, Mother Jones, Occupy Democrats, Media Matters, Addicting Info, Crooks and Liars, etc. etc.

Cause it's those nasty Republicans putting out the fake news.

Robert Cook said...

You can mention whomever you like. You shouldn't assume any news is necessarily accurate or true until it can be corroborated. You also shouldn't assume any news is false just because it reports information you don't like.

tim in vermont said...

Can anyone point me to the "fake news" story or stories that cost Hillary the election, or some kind of Google search terms to help me find them?

Robert Cook said...

@tim in vermont:

There aren't any. However, those with a vested interest in finding fault for Clinton's loss anywhere other than her, her campaign, or the DNC are framing it that way. Also, by stating outright (without corroborating evidence) or insinuating that Putin did it, we get the double whammy of "the evil Russkies are fucking with our democracy," which is darkly hilarious in more than one way.

Robert Cook said...

British journalist Claud Cockburn said of government statements, (repeating a remark by someone else), "Never believe anything until it is officially denied."

Michael K said...

""the evil Russkies are fucking with our democracy," which is darkly hilarious in more than one way."

Especially coming from Democrats.

J. Farmer said...

@Hunter:

"Cause it's those nasty Republicans putting out the fake news."

Ugh. I am sure Cook and I disagree on quite a bit; I'm basically a benign ethno-nationalist, while he is much more on the left/progressive wing of politics, but how hard is basic reading comprehension. In his first sentence he says: "Yes, but you're badly mistaken if you think this is either a recent or a party issue." He's explicitly saying that it's not the provenance of any single party. If you cannot understand that there is an embedded, permanent deep state apparatus that transcends petty partisan differences, then you have not been paying attention to the events of the 70 odd years and are just the kind of naive person "fake news" is designed to sway.

Robert Cook said...

"The reason fake news is even a thing is because the mainstream media has engendered it by creating an environment that perpetuates half-truths and outright lies."

It is a thing because it suits the government's purposes.

Hunter said...

Robert Cook said...
You can mention whomever you like. You shouldn't assume any news is necessarily accurate or true until it can be corroborated. You also shouldn't assume any news is false just because it reports information you don't like.

But who can be objective about information they don't like -- and, for that matter, information they do like because it reassures them of their own intellectual and moral superiority?

If people could be relied upon to filter out fake news that plays on their feelings, then fake news wouldn't have become an epidemic in the first place.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

"Especially coming from Democrats."

Sadly, dumb Russophobia is easily indulged in by both political parties when it suits their needs. Clinton's handling of Russia in the 90s was godawful, between the shock doctrine applied to the Russian economy, the enriching of corrupt oligarchs, the ever eastward expansion of NATO, etc. George W. Bush promised us good things after looking into Putin's eyes but still needlessly antagonized Russia via missile interceptors in Poland and encouraging reckless behavior on the part of Georgia. Obama was pilloried for his Russian reset, but he continued needlessly poking the Russian bear, including the exceptionally stupid decision to encourage an overthrow of Ukraine's government and replacement with a pro-western party. Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and wife of neocon extraordinaire Bob Kagan, was recorded publicly musing over who should run Ukraine.

Trumo's questioning of NATO's utility in a post-Soviet world and his recognition that we should work with Russia in Syria instead of again them were good signs, though I fear the Cabinet he is building will move him away from those imminently sensible positions.

J. Farmer said...

@Hunter:

"If people could be relied upon to filter out fake news that plays on their feelings, then fake news wouldn't have become an epidemic in the first place."

When, in your estimation, did it "become an epidemic?" And before that, what had prevented it from becoming "an epidemic?"

Hunter said...

@J. Farmer

I don't have an issue with that, until he brings parties back into it at the end of the post where he says parties have nothing to do with it.

Cook's reply entirely misses the point of what he's replying to, which is not a claim that only the left is putting out fake news, but that the left (politicians, media talking heads) are freaking out about fake news as if it's a recent development (and for the most part, they're freaking out about right-wing fake news).

Also, I have no idea why he is talking so much about the government since none of the outlets I listed -- or their counterparts such as TheBlaze, WND, Newsmax, Infowars, Daily Signal, Young Cons, Life Site News, etc. etc. -- are government outlets.

The conversation over fake news has nothing to do with either past or ongoing government propaganda activities, other than the extent to whichever party happens to have government power is guaranteed to have one set of fake news (formerly yellow journalism) outlets shilling for them non-stop.

mccullough said...

Did Snowden just go to the Russian consulate in Hong Kong unsolicited or was he a spy and operative for Russia for awhile? Maybe the SVR recruited him when he worked for the CIA in Geneva. He's a perfect recruit.

PB said...

I start with the assumption everything is BS/PR.

Robert Cook said...

"But who can be objective about information they don't like -- and, for that matter, information they do like because it reassures them of their own intellectual and moral superiority?

"If people could be relied upon to filter out fake news that plays on their feelings, then fake news wouldn't have become an epidemic in the first place."



It's not about our being totally objective, but about being skeptical and sensible. Does something seem plausible? Does it seem to fit too closely to a particular point of view that is being pushed? Also, can the facts be corroborated by independent sources? What is their evidence? "Unnamed sources" quoted by the government is a dead give-away that they're pushing a storyline they want us to accept. They should name the sources; provide the documents supporting their claims. (If the reporting is from an independent journalistic source providing informatin contrary to the government's story, "unnamed sources" may be somewhat acceptable, as those sources, if named, could find themselves fucked by the government.) Try to find reporting on the matter from many sources to see if there are contrary data available.

Don't confuse analysis or opinion pieces with reporting; these follow reporting, where the writer offers his or her own opinion on what the facts mean and may portend.

Robert Cook said...

"Did Snowden just go to the Russian consulate in Hong Kong unsolicited or was he a spy and operative for Russia for awhile? Maybe the SVR recruited him when he worked for the CIA in Geneva. He's a perfect recruit."

Who knows? Given that he revealed the NSA's secrets to independent journalists and didn't sell them to Russia, there is scant suggestion he is or was ever a spy for Russia?

What difference does it make?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Oh, for fuck's sake

I thought you were smarter than that.

Wishful thinking on my part, probably.

Robert Cook said...

"Also, I have no idea why he is talking so much about the government since none of the outlets I listed -- or their counterparts such as TheBlaze, WND, Newsmax, Infowars, Daily Signal, Young Cons, Life Site News, etc. etc. -- are government outlets."

I don't know what all these sources are, but some--InfoWars, Newsmax--aren't news outlets of any kind, but partisan opinion organs pushing their own beliefs and points of view. Also, don't think for a second that much or most propaganda coming from news organs is not coming from the government. (Of course, these days, much propaganda comes from corporate entities, especially when they want to counter proposed policies or legislation by the government that will require them to adhere to practices that may harm their bottom lines. Whether the propaganda is from the government or corporations, the means by which it is transmitted is by the news and opinion organs.)

Robert Cook said...

""Oh, for fuck's sake.'

"I thought you were smarter than that."


There's really nothing more than that that can be said to someone talking about "rearguard communist takeover of the world."

J. Farmer said...

@Hunter:

"Cook's reply entirely misses the point of what he's replying to, which is not a claim that only the left is putting out fake news, but that the left (politicians, media talking heads) are freaking out about fake news as if it's a recent development (and for the most part, they're freaking out about right-wing fake news)."

I have nothing to quarrel with there. I think Democrats are in a state of hysteria at the moment because they just took drumming on the national stage, effectively shut out of power among all three branches of the Federal government, so it's understandable. I don't necessarily call that "the left," since the Democrats, like the Republicans, are mostly just centrist, corporatist globalists mainly concerned with power then much of an ideological agenda.

Michael K said...

"the Democrats, like the Republicans, are mostly just centrist, corporatist globalists mainly concerned with power then much of an ideological agenda."

I was with you to that point.

Both parties, at least the DC branches, are pretty much in agreement about running the country from that one spot.

However, I can't think of anyone but Cookie, and maybe a couple of blokes over at Mother Jones, who could call Obama a "centrist."

"Deep State" I will buy. "Ruling Class" I will buy.

Joe said...

I consider most news to be bullshit until I confirm it through multiple, independent sources. If I can't, then it sits on my "don't trust this" mental shelf. (I say most since I do trust some news sources more than others.)

(If you want to have fun, read The Onion, then immediately read "serious" news stories.)

Robert Cook said...

"However, I can't think of anyone but Cookie, and maybe a couple of blokes over at Mother Jones, who could call Obama a 'centrist.'"

Only those on the far right lunatic fringe can see Obama as anything other than a staunch centrist. He serves the same masters as his predecessor: Wall Street, the corporate interests, and the long-standing post-WWII American project to dominate the world.

Sam L. said...

Lies are a super-duper growth field.

Jeff Brokaw said...

I agree in concept, but experience tells me that large chunks of the population are not capable of critical thinking, since they do not (and cannot) think analytically in the first place. Let's say that's 80% of the population, leaving 20% who can think critically (which is probably generous). Then on top of that, you need enough knowledge, or the desire to gain it, to add wisdom to your magical critical / analytical thinking capability. Now the number is down around 5%. Then you need the ability to put aside confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Maybe 1-2%, tops.

I.e., Scott Adams is 98% right that facts just don't matter.

Nonapod said...

Robert Cook said
It is a thing because it suits the government's purposes.


First off, in my original comment when I said "fake news" I was referring to the specific phenomenon of those click-baity links to completely made up from whole cloth stories that appear in social media streams. I was not talking about a more general concept of "fake news" that refers to stories that appear in main stream outlets that may be based on some truth somewhere but are presented and framed in such a way to engender a specific reaction amongst the readers in order to perpetuate a narrative. These are two separate concepts.

The first phenomenon can be attributed to opportunistic parasites who are trying to generate traffic to their garbage sites for ad revenue, and consequently have nothing to do with our Government (at least as far as I know with any certainty, I'm not big on proofless conspiracy theories).

The second phenomenon has far more to do with like-minded "journalists" who are trying to promote a specific agenda (The Progressive Agenda, usually) than any direct government intervention. But of course if you have any proof of the government directing things behind the scenes, I'm all ears.

My argument is that the second phenomenon helped the spread of the first phenomenon. That is, by being consistently untrustworthy the gatekeepers of news have helped promote parasitic charlatans.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

However, I can't think of anyone but Cookie, and maybe a couple of blokes over at Mother Jones, who could call Obama a "centrist."

I think that's a hysterical mythology that has been proffered about Obama. He's no more far left than George W. Bush was far right. In fact, Obama is broadly in line with the centrist realignment that folks like Bill Clinton represented. On the foreign policy front, Obama doubled down and expanded most of Bush's worst global war on terror policies, even if he tried to dress them up in more polite language. On the domestic front, Obama's most significant legacy is Obamacare, which is a huge corporatist program that pushes taxpayer money to private insurance companies.

madAsHell said...

On the domestic front, Obama's most significant legacy is....

Selling firearms.
It's a legacy that many of us helped him build.

Unknown said...

Don't ever forget. Pizzagate is REAL!

Bob Ellison said...

J. Farmer, that is not how leftism works.

Obama is a solid leftist. Corporatism is central to leftism. See China, Nazi Germany, etc. Obama wants central control. That's what leftism is all about. Power and money.

Obamacare is extreme leftism. Uncontrolled borders and immigration are extreme leftism. This is what they do.

Pookie Number 2 said...

On the domestic front, Obama's most significant legacy is Obamacare, which is a huge corporatist program that pushes taxpayer money to private insurance companies.

That's true, but it's more a consequence of his not understanding (or being willing to participate in) the mechanics of governing, which prevented him from achieving his preferred, more 'leftist' outcome. A competent governor would have found a compromise with Joe Liebermann or Susan Collins to achieve a public option.

Bob Ellison said...

Pookie Number 2, what the hell are you trying to say?

Obamacare is a disaster.

Are you a paid troller?

Pookie Number 2 said...

Pookie Number 2, what the hell are you trying to say?

Obamacare is a disaster.

Are you a paid troller?


Don't think so - but I'd welcome some coin if someone were to offer.

I agree that Obamacare is a disaster. I'm only disagreeing with the idea that it fully reflects Obama's ideology.

Rhythm and Balls said...

“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other."

Well, I guess that could work if you didn't have so many people who preferred ignorance to knowledge/enlightenment.

But then I read these comments sections and realize how naive Snowden is.

Bob Ellison said...

OK, Pookie Number 2, so you like fully government-controlled funding of health-care. Right?

Michael K said...

I think that's a hysterical mythology that has been proffered about Obama. He's no more far left than George W. Bush was far right.

You're half right. Bush was a centrist except in the decision to invade Iraq, which I supported and still support. He botched the occupation but that is another topic..

Obama is a Socialist every bit as far left as Bernie. Bernie is more cognizant of the Deep State machinations but only because he is on the outside, whereas Hillary was up to her ample thighs.

Michael K said...

He serves the same masters as his predecessor: Wall Street, the corporate interests, and the long-standing post-WWII American project to dominate the world.

Cookie, you are a one man carnival of silliness. Good work.

Pookie Number 2 said...

OK, Pookie Number 2, so you like fully government-controlled funding of health-care. Right?

Not even a little bit.

But I think (based on his own words) that Obama does. J. Farmer had suggested that the nature of Obamacare proves that Obama's not very far left - I think it proves that Obama's bad at getting what he wants.

Drago said...

R&B's: "Well, I guess that could work if you didn't have so many people who preferred ignorance to knowledge/enlightenment.
But then I read these comments sections and realize how naive Snowden is"

There is simply no way you would support a centralized group determining and disseminating real news, regardless of how dumb/ignorant/stupid you might think the rest of the people or groups of people happen to be.

Drago said...

No one has jumped down Cookies throat more than I but it is perfectly non-controversial to state the all governments put out only the information they want that serves their purposes.

We have to look much deeper for the "truth" beyond what official bodies disseminate.

However, it would also not be controversial to state that freer societies start from a very different position in terms of "truthiness" than totalitarian states.

Drago said...

And again, I have no problem with R&B blasting Trump, republicans etc because he sure wasn't shy about blasting the establishment democrats and the dem party/liberal lemmings who fall in line at the drop of a hat.

narciso said...

Edward Lucas concluded that snowmen was probably recruited by the sir when he was working for the CIA, that blackmailed Swiss banker story was too good to check.

narciso said...

Yardley proved there was a black chamber, forrestal set up the fore runner for for the NASA with coming, ghcq was birthed out of bletchley park and there are many facets if the global panopticon.

narciso said...

The zeitgeist even changed in the marvel universe, two years ago it was all good tomleak all the secrets, in civil war they sheepishly admit it wasnt that smart a move,

PianoLessons said...

Snowden says something so relevant (and oft ignored)....

We need to learn how to become better critical thinkers.

It is everything - in my opinion.

And we can learn how - but our current K-12 public school curriculum discourages this.

This is a big problem.