We citizens of enlightenment have been bollixed lately by technological amplification of stupidity. In fact, it‘s happened before.
Going back to Gutenberg’s time, every new technology that expanded human abilities to see and know had initial bad effects, before good ones set in. Today’s toxic social media are much like the waves of slander-pamphlets that poured from printing presses, around 1500, inciting murderous rage amid Europe’s religious wars… or 1930s hate tsunamis spewed by radio.
Our core problem? The internet is immature… lacking synergistic methods for competitive accountability that earlier generations developed for older arenas like markets, democracy, science, courts and sports. But that’s a broader topic for elsewhere – a long-term problem we must solve.
Near term, we need fresh tactics for a life-or-death struggle against misinformation and lies. Fresh tactics like 100+ that I recommended here. Starting with a proposed FACT ACT that could institutionally empower verified truth to defeat lies.
Alas, the good side in this phase of civil war is led by generals who would not recognize a fresh tactic if it bit them on the derrière! So, I’m afraid we’re going to have to do this ourselves, countering the fact-hatred and lies, person-by-person.
I’ve been experimenting for years and two methods stand out. Because, at one level, they always work.
== The fundamental problem ==
You’ve all experienced this. Someone trots out an assertion that is either entirely false or else a yammer-anecdote, distraction or gross exaggeration. You denounce it, offering disproof, perhaps citing a scientific study or clear counter-examples.
Has that ever worked? Even once?
You know they always just roll out another jpeg issued by a vast disinfo-agitprop industry. They aim to exhaust all fact people, making us throw up our arms, giving up… as many of you already have, according to your own statements.
SO PONDER WHAT’S NEEDED, IN VERY BASIC TERMS.
Any effective method must:
(1) Offer disproof of the disinformation… many of you have done that, then felt frustrated at its ineffectiveness. The spewers only giggle at your frustration! It is their food – demanding that you put in further time that you know will just be wasted. Even if you corner and demolish a particular falsehood, they simply move the goalposts.
And so the method must also…
(2) Offer an enforceable incentive for the dis-proving party to engage in what will otherwise be a complete waste of lifespan! Clear rewards for me, if I spend the time and prove my case.
(3) A method for adjudication, agreed upon in advance. Yes, they will writhe especially hard – even desperately – against this one! But it’s central. Our dads would use the bartender for a sports bet. You may need to offer parties who the yammer-spreader cannot reproach. I offer some, below.
But the most important trait of an effective lie destroyer is this. The method must…
(4) …inflict disincentive PAIN upon the spreaders of blatant falsehoods. Not only for any particular lie, but to deter the malignant addiction to blithe and joyful lie-spreading that is the core thing that playground bullies need. Impunity. Oh and one last thing.
(5) The wagered matter must be clear, explicit and either provable or falsifiable. That one should not have to even be mentioned, but explicitness is absolutely essential. (See the examples in the sample wager challenge, below, all of them directly testable against facts.) If anyone tries wriggle out of #5, make falsifiability the first bet.
Only this combination will work. Remove one element and you’ve got nothing. Have all five? It’s a devastating combination.
Look, you are welcome to offer up an alternative to making it about a cash wager – see below where I describe “aleatory contracts” that also fulfill all of those five traits. But essentially what I just described is a wager!
Moreover, it is one of only two polemical devices that I have found – for ten years – to work against the MAGA madness.
== The Wager-Demand Challenge ==
“Okay fellah, if you are so sure of that assertion you just made, how about backing it up with a cash bet, the way our dads would have done?”
Sure, it sounds brash and immature – which is why it skewers home! Especially to MAGAs and Foxites, who feel that facts are irrelevancies, easily countered by an insipid jpeg or yammer-meme. Just answering “That’s not true!” sounds to them like the nerd’s plaint on the playground: “that’s not fair!” It’s called owning the libs. It is their food…
…while bullies are terrified when you meet macho with macho: “Put up or shut up, you blowhard coward.”
For years this challenge has resulted in them turning flight, running away. Though lately there’s been a frantic pushback.
“I won’t cater to David Brin’s gambling addiction!”
Of course that is mere drool. Event-based wagering is fundamental to civilization! In general terms, an aleatory contract is one where an uncertain event determines the parties’ rights and obligations. Yes, gambling, wagering, or betting typically use aleatory contracts, but another common type is an insurance policy, or derivatives and options.
Of course there is another irony to the ‘gambling’ excuse… that non-Native casino moguls, especially from Macao, Moscow and the Vegas Strip, are co-owners of today’s Republican Party and among its top donors. (In some cases blatantly funneling laundered funds from rival, autocratic nations.)
In an era when almost every moral turpitude or addictive behavior is statistically far worse in every red state (but Utah) than in every blue state (but Illinois), that accusation is especially rich. And sure, make that assertion the basis for an adjudicated wager!
If you want to see such a challenge laid out very aggressively, in great detail, skip down to the bottom of this posting!
== Did I mention a second method? ==
In fact, there are scores of other methods that I offer in Polemical Judo! But one in particular works well with your MAGA uncle or cousin who is still a sweet fellow, who you do not want to push too hard.
Wagers are aggressive and effective at denying MAGAs the macho superiority they relish. They may be too aggressive if you’re hoping for an intervention with a koolaid drinker you actually care about! With whom you want to maintain a relationship.
And so… an alternative is to suggest a field trip! A fun and enlightening activity together… e.g. to find out, in person, whether university scientists really are the nerdy-lemming fools portrayed by all the propagandist yammerers on Fox News.
Invite your MAGA uncle to go with you physically to a nearby research university. Pick random buildings to knock on twenty random doors and actually question the inhabitants thereof!
Even the lefty nutters in soft studies departments will be more persuasive than your MAGA expects. More human and less stereotyped. But the scientists? They won’t fit the Foxite image of jibbering nerds, or standard model slave lemmings, or officiously snooty, narrowminded elites. Instead, you will interrupt and meet some of the greatest minds alive. And some of them… even most… will also come across as deeply wise.
You and your uncle will come away having had a ripping good time, learning fantastic amounts about stuff you never remotely imagined, from fine people who are generous with their time, eager to explain! And nothing at all like the Fox/Sinclair yammerers depict them.
That’s a method for your MAGA who still has some residual decency and mind, left. And yes, look up the old expression “All Heaven rejoices when…”
But that won’t happen anywhere near as often as (alas) your encounters with deeply-committed liars, spewing hate and lies and traitor memes. And for them, aggressive cornering is the only way.
You are all soldiers in this fight! And here, now, is a sample of the kind of confrontation they fear most.
== The core win-win of these methods ==
Even if (actually when) the MAGA flees from your wager challenge… or when your sweet, Fox-hypnotized uncle finds some excuse not to go with you on a fact-finding field trip… you will win at the level that matters most, that of displayed confidence.
Watch any evening of Fox News and you’ll see that the core element is macho bluster! A desperate effort to portray not only liberals but all fact professionals as nerdy wimps and whiners. Both of these challenges refute this image at the most fundamental level.
The implication will be clear. I was willing and eager to test for truth. You ran, leaving me standing here, confident that reality is on my side.
== An example of a wager challenge ==
In order to save myself time, I have distilled the following
STANDARD PASTE-IN RE WAGER TERMS. And yes, they always flee. Sometimes they writhe and yowl a bit before running away, but no one has ever, ever once, taken up the challenge. They flee, shamed in front of witnesses. And a seed is planted in those witnesses. A seed of doubt that maybe they chose the wrong side.
So here’s my standard, paste-in wager challenge revealing the cowardice of fact-free rightwing blowhards:
“Okay fellah. Let’s settle this. STEP UP. Have your lawyer write to me confirmation that you’ve escrowed $10,000 for wagers on things like ocean acidification or party differences in fiscal responsibility (budget deficits), or rates of moral turpitude in red vs. blue states, or outcomes for market health. Or ratios of half-truths and lies versus verifiable assertions on Fox vs. say CNN.
“Again, if you are so certain of the accusations and denunciations and assertions that you howl, after bobble-heading with Alex Jones, or Hannity, or Tucker, or Pirro, then you should want a manly wager over those ‘facts!’ Gather and pool investments from others who share your confident belief in them.
You should want to bet, in order to take my money!
Alas, experience shows that members of the foxite chant-hypnosis cult have neither the guts nor honesty to pay off bets that aren’t secured in advance. Hence, only when stakes are escrowed — then and only then — will I deem it worth my time to deal with the squirming and writhing, to establish clear wager metrics and to set up a panel of retired senior (not known to be highly partisan, or NKTBHP) military officers to adjudicate.
Why them? because it is the one category in American life who you – as macho rightists – can’t dismiss with a shrug, the way you do scientists, jurists, scholars or anyone else who might tell you that “you are wrong based on facts; so now pay up!”
Till I receive that missive from a reputable attorney, the record is clear. I offer manly wagers over actual facts… like the clear fact that Ocean Acidification (OA) is a deadly threat to our ecosystem and to our children, something we can measure ourselves (come with me and a pH meter down to the beach!) and the acid can only have come from human carbon emissions, including methane vented illegally at compliance of top Republicans, thus directly threatening the lives of our descendants. You can deny that? or shrug it off? Let’s bet!
Or on fiscal responsibility! On which party puts the brakes on wild government deficits vs. stomping the accelerator.
Or actual measurable economic outcomes. across each 4-year administration, Democrat vs. Republican.
Or whether the Supply Side mythology is supported by the predicted positive outcomes (e.g. in Money Velocity in the economy) after any of the five major and dozens of minor experiments in that vampire voodoo, costing the nation tens of trillions of dollars.
In all three of those “conservative” issues, Democrats don’t just score better, but perfectly better. Let’s bet!
“Fake News”? Was there ever any attempt to tabulate and prove that slander-accusation hurled at a quarter of a million of our neighbors who chose the profession of journalism?
Why is it that Fox was the one outlet most-shrill about ending the Rebuttal Rule, that gave opponents a few minutes per day of response on each network? It is Fox who in legal arguments claims that it is not “news” but “entertainment,” and hence no one in their right mind would take their content as assertions of actual fact. This argument was made openly by Fox Lawyers. BET ME ON IT!
How about the “deep state” insults spewed at the quarter of a million skilled, professional men and women in the intel agencies, FBI and military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on Terror. Limbaugh-parroted yammers assert a vast conspiracy among those heroes – who defeated Hitler, stymied Stalin, thwarted Mao and got bin Laden! But suddenly they are a dark conspiracy because they now say an American Fifth Column serves a slightly relabeled KGB and Vlad “I loved the USSR!” Putin.
Bet on whether those “deep state” insults (of folks who are vastly better Americans than you are) can be supported at all… even slightly… by actual fact.
Wanna go all QAnon on us? Let’s wager over which party has a higher rate of horrific pedophile monsters in its elected political caste! The cult shrieks that Democratic politicians are multiple times more likely to be proved pedophiles, or convicted or plea-bargained sexual predators, or known complicits. That’s quite an accusation, spewed with repeated hot venom! So, care to bet on it? Let’s make it easy for you! How about just two dems for every gopper pedophile? That’s still “multiple times.”
Tell you what. Let’s make it even easier for you. I’ll pay up if the rate of child predator perverts among dem pols is EQUAL to the rate of known perverts among top Republicans.
Heckfire, let’s make the Big Lie even more blatant. I’ll pay if the pervert ratio is less than 2:1 Republican! (It’s actually 6:1.) What, no guts? No truth?
Here’s a biggie. Indeed, if you won’t bet on this one – utterly crisp and clear – then you are no man and no American.
Let’s randomly pick any ten Trumpian lies from his registered list of 40,000. (About 20% of them happened under some degree of “oath” or accountable by law.) You pay if 1/3 of them are bona fide lies – almost certainly knowing lies – as adjudicated by a panel of retired, senior (NKTBHP) military officers. (Any president who lies that often was a stain on America. You shrieked at one lie by Bill Clinton.)
You pay double if a majority in the sample are ruled outright lies. And triple if every one of the ten was false, irrespective of intent. I’ll pay triple if the score is majority-true plus some mere political exaggerations or errors subsequently corrected, and hence your president is adjudged NOT to have been a damned, relentless liar.
Here’s a side bet. Can you name one fact-centered profession of advanced expertise your cult isn’t waging open war against, as sampled from tirades on Fox? From science, teaching, journalism, law, medicine etc. to those brave protectors you insult as “deep state”? Name one! Betcha can’t. (Actually, I can name one!)
Economics? Let’s sample some facts: Job growth (non-farm) under Reagan averaged 168,000 per month, versus 216,000 for Carter, 55,000 for H.W. Bush, and 239,000 for Clinton… and NEGATIVE 100,000 for Trump! And now job growth under Joe Biden has broken all records. Measuring the number of jobs created per month is limited for longer time periods as the population grows. To address this, we can measure annual job growth percentages, comparing the beginning and ending number of jobs during their time in office to determine an annual growth rate. Jobs grew by 2.0% annually under Reagan, versus 3.1% under Carter, 0.6% under H.W. Bush, and 2.4% under Clinton and NEGATIVE 3% under Trumnp! Yes, that sort of thing.
Or let’s compare deficits, the rationalization spewed by McConnell for blocking anything that might help working Americans.
Or how about red vs blue state rates of entrepreneurship…
…or how red and blue states states (except outliers Utah and Illinois) compare re: STDs, domestic violence, teen sex, teen pregnancy, gambling, drug addiction and yes … abortion. Abortion goes down under Democrats! It’s the hypocrisy of lecturing us on how immoral Blue America is, when red states (except Utah) score worse in almost every category of turpitude and malgovernance.
A party which used to decry gambling as sin is now co-owned by Casino moguls.
A party which decried divorce is now rife with marriages shattered by betrayals, in its upper ranks. BET ME on the comparative rates.
A party that has never been fiscally responsible still fools fools into thinking that recited incantations can substitute for the real thing.
Oh, and it is mostly blue states backing out of the insane War on Drugs. So much for libertarians.
No, I won’t negotiate with you over any of these challenges – or even discuss them, wasting lifespan – until your attorney has confirmed escrowed stakes! You yammerers won’t lure me into wasting more lifespan than I have spent on you, already, proving you to be a blowhard coward.
And don’t try to substitute your own list of unexplicit magical incantations. Oh, I’ll bet over those too – especially whether they are actual, falsifiable and general (not anecdotal) assertions, but only after we deal with mine, which are explicit and clear and testable.
You won’t understand any of those concepts so it boils down to “I issued my challenge first! Wait your turn!”
And no, you can’t pick just one and leap “Aha!” All of these are devastating to the confederate-Putinist cult. So we bet on all of them.
And if you won’t bet, then we know what you are, and what you are is no man.
So now it’s all in one place. Most of it is also in Polemical Judo! Along with tons of other tactics that no one on the good-side in this civil war has the imagination to try, alas.
Will this work? Not if your goal is to win cash bets! Because the blowhard always run away. That is always.
But that can be our victory. Like nerds on the playground who finally realize that bullies are imbecille cowards, we can turn “that’s not true!” from a whine into a devastating emasculation.
“That’s not true… and all you are is a traitor-liar-cultist who is a gasbag of hot air.”