Monday, October 10, 2016

Deliberate deception and confirmation bias

CW: mention of child rape, sexual assault, crass language

Two evils of gathering information through social media are the potential to mislead through ignorance and the potential to mislead deliberately.

I obviously hate the latter more. And I generally am not friends with too many people (knowingly, anyway) who are willing to obscure facts on purpose to get their way. I have seen too much of this in, specifically, the asexual community to avoid recognizing its scent in other contexts--we have, to use a recent example, people who redefine the term "demisexual" to exaggerate what it means so they can mock it and accuse demisexual people of "special snowflaking" their identity. I'm not sure why it doesn't cause cognitive dissonance for them if they knowingly distort what they're describing so it's easier to make fun of it, but they do it all the time. The fact that they have to fabricate before potential allies turn on the target does not seem to bother them.

But then we have politics.

Lately, in an attempt to "get back" at "the other side," two political posts have been going around. One is claiming Hillary Clinton volunteered as a lawyer for a child rapist and laughed at the child's fate. The other is claiming Barack Obama has "demanded ribs and pussy." These have been circulated uncritically among some people, and they are both DELIBERATE reframings of things that did not happen. Someone DELIBERATELY took these stories and replaced reality with nonsense to make their subjects look bad.

There are LEGITIMATE reasons to criticize these politicians. People who do not like them should criticize what they actually DID DO AND SAY.

Hillary Clinton did not eagerly defend a child rapist (she was appointed because he demanded a woman lawyer and she was one of the only ones available in the county at the time, and she explicitly tried to get out of it), and she did not laugh at the child's fate (one of the things she "laughed at" in the interview was that the rapist passed a lie detector test while lying, and she was chuckling at the absurdity while saying her faith in those machines was lost). The rapist was also pleading guilty, so she did not prove him innocent or whatever the latest meme is telling you. Someone took this case and tried to paint her as a monster for things she did not do, and they did it knowingly because they would have had to read or listen to the interviews to get those details. If you want to view her as a monster, at least use something she DID.

Barack Obama did not get recorded demanding ribs and pussy. Obama was the narrator for the audio track of his book. The line is from his book and it is quoting the words of another person. This one grosses me out even more because someone who has more than a passing knowledge of Obama's content went in and extracted this with an INTENTIONAL DECEPTION to make it seem like our current president is as crass and sexist and predatory as the Republican nominee. If you want to view Obama as awful, there are a TON of things he's actually done that you can jump on.

I am very very disappointed in anyone who passes this false information on. Almost as much as I'm disappointed in the people who made them. I don't know those people, and I know they think they're helping their "side" by lying about the other one. But I've seen a couple of my FRIENDS share one or both of these. And I am disgusted to know that instead of actually checking whether these bizarre reports are true . . . they just shared them. Maybe they wanted them to be true, or didn't actually care whether they were because hey, even if they weren't, surely they encapsulate what that person actually believes or would do, right? Doesn't matter if the actual described incident ever happened, because pretending it did fits with what they want to believe about that politician. They probably would have looked for evidence if it was someone they respected, but they don't mind spreading lies if it's about someone they don't like. 

That fundamental dishonesty is a trait I will not tolerate in a friend.

When the truth doesn't even matter to you because you already know what you believe about someone else, okay. You're entitled to live in a hole and believe things that are literally not accurate at all. I think the big problem begins when you become one of the pathways by which the false information gets spread. You (possibly gleefully, possibly just uncritically) share damning information that was literally divorced from its context so that it could make someone look like they said/did a bad thing, and you don't feel like that's a dishonest thing to do because it fits with what you already believed. You saw a lie consistent with how you think of that person, your confirmation bias led you to nod your head and join hands with others who are telling the world this thing happened, and you act like it doesn't actually matter when the lies all come out in the wash. It is so easy in our age of information to check whether something is true. I have no respect for you at all if this is how you live your life and this is how you share information.

I saw a conversation on a friend's feed from a guy who was obnoxiously sharing the Hillary story and pasting it everywhere, ignoring when point-by-point debunkings were offered (with sources). This guy also claimed Donald Trump could not have committed any sexual assault–related crimes because he was never convicted, but in the same conversation claimed that Hillary Clinton's failure to be convicted in an investigation was evidence that the courts were corrupt and biased. For this guy, lack of conviction for Trump proves he never did anything wrong, while lack of conviction for Clinton means there's something wrong with the system. He had no qualms whatsoever in stating publicly that he knows Clinton is guilty of wrongdoing despite an investigation determining otherwise, but that only a conviction would prove that Trump did anything criminal. And he doesn't think this is a demonstration of hypocrisy.

That's because in spite of all the blustering about due process, he thinks he has the ability to determine objective reality with his gut. And his gut is what he listens to. In spite of facts blaring on loudspeakers, with open invitations to read documents and view sources. The truth has a really hard time being shared if people who don't want to believe it go out of their way to avoid looking at it.

They're so transparent, but these people are part of our friend circles and our families. They avoid criticism sometimes by claiming relationships shouldn't be destroyed by ~differences of opinion~ and ~politics~, but I disagree. This isn't as simple as agreeing to disagree or political preference. This is a fundamental, deliberate denial of reality, and it is an enabling of deceivers who have an easier job day by day poisoning minds with tales of events that never happened, and it is having immediate, devastating, personal consequences in the lives of everyone who has been victimized by rape culture and sexual assault, among other things. This isn't just hee hee, lie about child rape and suggestive language to get your enemies in hot water. This is exploitative untruth that is making the world safer for abusers by spreading the lie that everyone talks like this. Everyone's guilty. Everyone's terrible. They're all equally awful. Plus Clinton's a woman and Obama's black, so we can say sexist and racist things that should make the white guy come out on top. (It's beside the point really, but I'm still baffled at how people seem to hate Clinton worse for getting cheated on than they hate Trump for doing the cheating, repeatedly.) 

If you disagree with something or someone, argue with their argument. Argue with what they are actually saying and doing. If they're as horrible as your gut knows they are, you should be able to find something they're doing or saying that you don't have to take out of context or give new context before it seems horrible. If you literally can't find something that helps you smear the person you're trying to smear without lying, hiding facts, or framing the facts dishonestly, then why do you really hate them?

Answer that before you participate in character assassination that literally isn't based on reality. Answer that before you click share.

And get acquainted with debunking sites or just plain easy Internet research, for cheese's sake.


1 comment:

  1. Well said.

    This election season is such a nightmare.