Google Delivers Russian Propaganda

I’ve got some feedback for Google

I don’t usually use Google now. I don’t know how many people even know what that is. If your phone is an android phone, you should be able to swipe right on the home screen to get to Google now. Google now isn’t even what it is called anymore, but it still is exactly what Google now used to be, it’s just referred to as Google these days. That makes the following feedback even more succinct.

Russia Today –

The screencapped story above was at the top of my Google feed today. A prime example of why I don’t use Google now very often in the first place. Top stories on my feed are almost always some flame-inducing bullshit from some less than trustworthy source. What does Google think I should read first today? A story from on Rachel Maddow. Google is suggesting I read an RT story about Maddow when there is a perfectly decent news article over on the Washington Post website that actually tells me what the real facts in question are. A news piece that isn’t about Rachel Maddow in the first place. So Google? Are you officially acting as a propaganda arm for the Russian government now? Why would I be offered a news story from in the first place, if not? RT is not a legitimate source for anything newsworthy. They are an even less reliable source than FOX is, which is saying quite a bit.

YouTube’s recommendation algorithms are designed to steer viewers to videos they may not have otherwise searched for, including by automatically playing more videos through its “Up next” function. But experts said that functionality can lead viewers down a rabbit hole of increasingly concerning videos of conspiracy theories, disinformation or offensive content.

YouTube’s algorithms have previously been designed to maximize watch time, which Chaslot and others have criticized as rewarding more shocking or sensational videos. YouTube said it now relies on information such as user surveys, likes, dislikes and shares to improve its recommendations.

Even its efforts to combat misinformation have in some cases backfired, as happened this month when videos of the flaming collapse of the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were incorrectly identified by YouTube as imagery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

Washington Post

Here’s a thought, Google. A thought I’ve offered to you as design advice more than once. I want the ability to exclude URL’s directly as an input function. I want to be able to key in URL’s directly and exclude those URL’s from my news feed. This would be useful in two ways. One, it would stop your customers from flaming you every time you offered an article that the user felt did not adequately outline the facts in question. Secondly, this block information should be useful as a rule of thumb determinate for the reliablilty and general acceptability of the source among the general public. A general trustworthiness rating of a site.

The subject in question is an excellent example of the problem. If I want to know how to get to the meaning of the Mueller report, I have plenty of reliable sources that I could go to, none of them controlled by the Russian government. Here’s one.

Thursday I surveyed the entire Mueller report. I read some sections carefully; I skimmed others. My job was to anchor Lawfare’s initial coverage, so I needed to have a sense of the big picture, as well as detailed knowledge of certain findings and arguments. Starting Friday, however, I am reading the entire document carefully, starting at the beginning. I’m writing up my thoughts as I go in this post. There will be no cohesive argument to this journal. It will simply be a collection of my observations, questions and thoughts as I go through the document. It will get long. I will not attempt to summarize the underlying document, merely to reflect on it, but I will organize this post by document section. I will update the post as I read. I hope people find it useful.

Lawfare Blog – Notes on the Mueller Report: A Reading Diary

Lawfare is world’s above in reliability for communicating legal information than any other site I that I can think off right off the top of my head. So, contrary to the talking head on the RT Youtube video that dismisses the entirety of the report as some kind of conspiracy against the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) you might discover that the Mueller team uncovered real crimes committed by the sitting president of the United States, and we might want to impeach him for these crimes. It would probably be a good idea.

It would probably also be a good idea not to act as the propaganda arm of any government, Google. The numbers of propaganda organs that survive unscathed after the existing powers are unseated is a number very close to zero. You might want to contemplate your future employment plans if you continue down this road. The vast majority of the American people are not fooled by this chicanery conducted by the OHM and his Russian buddies. There will be hell to pay, eventually.

Google is not the only culprit here, either. Google is simply the culprit pushing misinformation on my personal device. In this TED talk, listen while this journalist describes the multiple crimes and misinformation spread by the leave campaign, with direct ties to Donald Trump and Russia.

Carole Cadwalladr – TED2019 – Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy

This is the real harm in allowing ourselves to be used in this fashion. Allowing ourselves to be pushed in a direction we really don’t want to go except for the lies being told to us. The referendum that Theresa May thinks she has to honor was conducted outside the law. It baffles me why she thinks doing the stupid thing the referendum calls for, leaving the EU, is the thing that has to be done. What has to be done is to punish the lawbreakers who enacted the sham on UK citizens. The felonious results of the sham are irrelevant.

The Orange Hate-Monkey Accosted Me on YouTube

The Trump ads have to go away Google. Now. Not later, now. More generally, I want to be able to remove ads for users and subjects, for causes which can be enumerated to Google as an ad provider. I never want to see the Orange Hate-Monkey’s face on any screen, ever, and I definitely am not interested in any fucking thing he wants sell me. So give me the ability to block his and any other content I deem harmful or erroneous with the ability to flag said content for review by responsible authorities, which unfortunately doesn’t include the sitting president of the United States. Make this happen, Google or I will start blocking all ads on Android like I do on Windows.

Feedback on the YouTube forum.

Gmail Hovercard Doesn’t Sort by Address Anymore

Why Google? Why?

Feel free to spam those addresses all you like.

The hovercard doesn’t sort by address anymore? Why? That function is perhaps the single, most used function in Gmail. Thousands of people are now screaming at their laptops in frustration. All of those thousands of put-off tasks now immediately requiring attention because you can’t find a fucking thing in your inbox easily anymore because you can’t isolate the one section of messages you are interested in seeing. Now that mess that you’ve put off cleaning up for months has to be dealt with, and the raging emergency that sent you in search of that one email that you can’t find now because Google changed the interface in Gmail, again, this time for good, and the new interface won’t let you isolate the newest, most important messages from that one address without having to manually type it out.

Do you think you will make me empty my inbox by making it harder to find stuff in it? Is that what you are thinking Google? People are not using email anymore because it’s such a frustrating mess of things that they just don’t want to look at it? You think you’re going to make me clean my room now, do you, Mom? I really don’t think you want to get in that fight with me. I’ve been known to throw out important things, like my favorite software providers, when pressed to do things I don’t want to do. I’m going to go play video games now, Google. Let’s hope one of us feels like making up when we see each other again. 

Wrong Again. Why am I Not Surprised?

On this day in 2015, Robert Reich started his status about the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) with this gloomy paragraph,

Donald Trump is leading all other Republican candidates — not just in polls but also, according to Google Trends, in Google searches. This could push Trump even higher in Google’s search rankings, and such higher rankings would in turn bring him even more support.

He went on to prophesy that the OHM could well win the presidential race based on Google’s skewing of the preferences of Americans through their use of specific algorithms to produce search results. At the time, I was completely oblivious to the structural problem in the internet’s construction, the bias that serving us more of what we wanted to see lent confirmation to the beliefs that we operate under on a day to day basis. This fact alone probably explains why I thought Hillary would win (she did win, but not where it counted) Google served me results that confirmed my bias, masquing the discontent that was felt by far more people than I ever suspected. Felt most especially in three key states that squeaked out a lead for the OHM in the Electoral College. My response three years ago was,

Donald Trump is and will always be a three time loser. In order to be this at running for President, he will have to run one more time after he loses this bid. I encourage him to stick with it. I would like to be right in a prediction for once. In the meantime Bill and Opus for President 2016.

Sadly, Bill and Opus did not win, although the brain that briefly inhabited Bill the Cat’s body did apparently get enough electoral votes to become president. The conspiracy that aliens are controlling the OHM remotely remains a distinct possibility, however, since the brain of Donald Trump has never been found after it left Bill’s head.

Looking back at my utter cluelessness as to just how ready nearly half the US voting population was, willing to watch the entire place burn rather than vote for Hillary Clinton, makes me wonder just how much of that ire is Facebook and Google’s fault? How much of my cluelessness is the fault of their algorithms and how much is my own desire to see the United States continue in some recognizable form?

HIDDEN BRAIN Voting With A Middle Finger: Two Views On The White Working Class October 15, 2018

No matter what the answer is, the America that emerges from under the OHM’s attempted dictatorship will be a different America than went into it. That much is certain. It is certain because America has already changed under the OHM’s naked propagandizing, suppression of the government’s regulatory ability, disregard for disaster relief, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum. Whether that change is for the better or the worse will be determined this November. I’ll see you all at the polls.

Texas Gun Hater

I thought they were mythical creatures, like unicorns or well-educated conservatives. Then I ran across one on a Google+thread, and he was exactly the kind of gun-grabbing asshole that conservatives always said existed. The thread started out innocuously enough;

Every time there is a mass shooting the public screams this is unacceptable , this must stop. How could that madman do such a thing. Walk for one thing , he didn’t act alone, his accomplices were every member of the NRA. His accomplices were every politician that took their dirty money. His accomplices are the people of Florida and Texas and Pennsylvania. The spoiled brat generation that think a gun is manly. The great White hunters of this nation that worship the errant second amendment. The dentist that killed A harmless old lion , who would shit his pants if he didn’t have have his trusty elephant gun and a safari. Their manhood, and in some cases their womanhood is their gun. Those kids in Porkland have your number and they will eventually take your AR playthings away from you. One teenager told BillMaher,”Your generation fucked up , but that’s alright we’ ll straighten it out !” My money is on the youngster!

All Texans, blah, blah, blah. I really hate broad generalizations. I figured I’d set the man straight on his terminology. “Armaphiles is the word you are looking for. All Texans may have guns, but not all Texans substitute guns for sex.”

…and then the unicorn showed up.

I’m a Texan, and I have never touched a gun. There are a lot of non gun owners here. I was born in Tyler, now in Dallas.

Randy Ellis

“You are a weird Texan. I know, because I’m a Texan. Wasn’t born here though. I grew up in Texas from about age two, if you count Texas as being all the lands that once were Texas. You grew up in a small town and never used a gun? What a waste of freedom. I carried my b-b gun everywhere with me. I managed not to get into too much trouble with it. I never lost an eye, either.”

I was trying to be light hearted and clever. That was my mistake.

I never felt the need for a gun. I’m not a pussy.

Randy Ellis

“That’s a knee-slapper there. I was shooting pheasant and goose with my dad when I was 14. It’s called hunting. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. The thing you used to have to do to eat? Before there were supermarkets? You probably don’t remember that far back.

You act like our Governor and Lt. Governor and the conservative majority of the state aren’t actively seeking to arm teachers, students, clergy members and anyone else they think should have a gun. I’m surprised they haven’t tried arming the pets yet. So you might think that sexist slurs (as if pussy-owners aren’t capable of handing your balls to you on a plate if most of them felt like it) about people who own guns in Texas might be just a little bit off. You might want to sit and think on that one for a spell.”

I was still trying to keep it light, even though the guy had some serious misogyny issues there, thinking women were weak and other such foolishness. His next response showed me what level of ignorance I was up again.

I’m not in favor of more guns. In fact, I want to destroy the fucking things.
You don’t like my opinion, go fuck yourself. I think Abbott is a sorry piece of shit,and I will vote straight Democrat to get rid of the NRA owned assholes.
I think gun owners are cowards, afraid of their own shadow.

Randy Ellis

That sound you hearing is me rolling up my sleeves. “This is just another example of total adherence to confirmation bias. I think this way, therefore everyone should think this way.

Just like the author of the thread that condemned all Texans even though Democratic turnout in Texas doubled in the primaries. Doesn’t matter, all Texans think one way.

…but which way is it? Like the cosmopolitan Dallas resident who doesn’t realize he’s almost a state of one person? Or like the OP says Texans are? Which way is it?

I have a very (very) nuanced opinion on guns. I’m frequently called a gun grabber. I expect to be blocked here and called a gun nut. I think I’m a realist, but then I would think that because of confirmation bias.”

Then there was his final volly.

You started on me. If you need a gun, and have to kill for fun (hunting when you don’t need to) you’re not much of a man.  

Randy Ellis

The guy goes around calling the majority of his fellow Texans weak, misattributed his beliefs as the beliefs of the majority of Texans, then states flatly that I’m not a man (my children would say otherwise) …and he has the gall to say I started in on him. What the actual fuck is going on here?

You Randy Ellis are the poster boy for every liberal that the NRA smears. You are doing them a favor with your knee jerk responses “just ban guns” “gun owners are sissies” (again, coded sexist language that portrays women as weaker) I’m aware that there are Texans who don’t own guns and never have touched a gun, but I’m genuinely shocked each time I get a confession from one because they are as rare as hens teeth everywhere but the cities in Texas.

I grew up in rural farm country in the seventies. You hunted for food even then. People still hunt for food now, they just don’t have to (food deserts in central cities aside. Hunting for food there takes on a different meaning) I moved around in Texas from one small town to another until I finally made it to Austin. Everywhere but Austin, everyone pretty much owned guns, used guns.

I don’t need guns, I own guns. I have only needed a gun once (thankfully) and I didn’t have to use it because the police arrived before I was forced to shoot the man trying to bash down my apartment door. I would have shot him had they failed to arrive in time but the shotgun would have made an awful mess. I was glad I didn’t have to clean that up. I generally tell everyone I meet that hasn’t used a gun to try shooting a few times before deciding on whether they want to take a side in the gun argument. I say this because you simply sound uninformed without some experience handling firearms.

If you, Randy Ellis, were actually interested in convincing your conservative neighbors that you had ideas they couldn’t dismiss out of hand, you might start with the argument that there should be no semi-automatic weapons (not assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons) available to the general public. That owners of these semi-automatic weapons should pay for licensing and insurance for them, just like you have to do with automatic weapons today. Once the gas-powered receivers that enable semi-automatic fire become rare on the market, you will see fewer and fewer mass shootings, just like everywhere else in the world.

Your armaphiles neighbors will retort something about criminals not following the law or I’ll make my own weapon, but you can counter that there are few machinists that are capable of the fine work required to make a semi-automatic weapon fire reliably, and they will not be anxious to be sued and jailed for making weapons that are required to be registered and insured by the owners of those weapons. A machinist capable of doing all the work required to produce reliable semi-automatic firearms is certainly going to charge more than the average street criminal can afford to spend.

You could point out that there is no need in the general public for a weapon that reloads itself. You could expand the argument to include revolvers and repeaters if the armaphiles won’t see reason on the semi-automatic argument. Or you could talk about reinstating the draft for weapons training if the other arguments don’t work.

In the end, we cannot continue as we are now. That would be crazy. As crazy as you are for not recognizing a fellow traveller, Randy Ellis.

Ted Nugent encouraging his followers to shoot Liberals and Democrats should be grounds for his arrest and confiscation of all his weapons. Any harm that some crazy person does because their crazy leaders tell them to do these things should come back squarely on these peoples (Nugent, LaPierre, Norman) shoulders. They should be held accountable for their reckless statements and behavior. Nugent and Norman specifically should see jail time for dangerous threats and reckless behavior.

Facebook – Elizabeth Moon

Going Blu

The battery on my second Nexus 5 is cycling about every other hour now; that is two hours of battery life just sitting in my pocket with GPS, wifi and bluetooth active.  If I’m listening to podcasts that life drops to about an hour. This qualifies as pathetic battery life in my opinion, and not at all what it was when I bought the phone or what it was on my first Nexus device. On Nexus devices the battery is wired in, so replacing the battery isn’t a simple switch-out process.

The power button which failed on the first Nexus 5 is also failing on this second device. It’s already acting squirrelly, shutting down abruptly and/or opening the camera (the default function when you double-click the power button) it went into bootloop today, a clear sign that the time to switch to a new device is now, not later. I managed to get it to stop looping by whacking it a few times (the last ditch effort of any engineer worth his salt) but I really, really need to work on getting the only other smartphone in the house up to speed if I don’t want to spend a few hundred additional dollars buying a phone I like.

The only other smartphone in the house? A Blu Energy X 8 gigabyte phone. I refuse to call the two iPhone 4’s that we still have smartphones. They’ll work in a pinch, but I’m not going to willingly start using one unless I have to. And I don’t have to if I can make the Blu dance and sing to the tune I want rather than the tune that Blu installed on it. Getting that to happen means swapping out the OS or ROM as the programmers refer to them, and that means rooting the device and getting a recovery mod working on it.

Rooting is the first hurdle. I’ve been down this road before. I’m inclined to suspect every program that offers to root my device for me, because I know that rooting the device is a violation of most software contracts, voiding the phone’s warranty and essentially placing you at the mercy of the sick sense of humor of the programmers who prey on the uninformed who enter their domains.

Doing some searches for rooting on this device reveals that there are no clear tried and true methods for getting from where I am to where I want to be. Blu’s are simply not that popular of a phone, and they go through a pretty frequent cycle of promoting whatever new thing they’ve come up with, giving it a new name and loading it with new hardware. Pretty much the way every other hardware manufacturer does. But this particular phone has a good battery life. I’ve kept it running for longer than a week on a single charge, so it should be able to handle heavy use and not require charging more than once a day. It is the low overhead (8 gigs onboard memory) that is the problem, and the only way to solve that is to alter the OS. Rooting is a necessity for this to occur.

There are several websites that come up the first time you try to do a search for root. Getting root access or rooting is a throwback label to the Unix orgins of Linux and the most popular OS on the face of the planet today, Android. Root access, also called Superuser or SU, means you can control all functions of your hardware directly, which also means you can permanently screw up all sorts of things that you don’t even know are in your computer without even realizing you are doing it. This is why system administrators jealously guard their access privileges. You never know when some random user might try to reformat every hard drive linked to a network or maybe just deny everyone access to them. If you have SU access, you can do a lot of damage to your information at virtually the speed of light. It is best not to go doing random things just to see what happens.

The fact that several websites come up right away, offering to root my device for free, is the first warning sign for me. The existence of these sites means that a lot of people are allowing these companies access to their information and not even thinking about what granting someone access to their information means. They just want their devices to work the way they want and they don’t care who profits from knowing the minute details of their lives.

I decided to try Kingroot first, because I had run across that name several times in the forums. With a healthy dose of skepticism, I created a testing account on Gmail for the purposes of accessing the Google play store during this phase of the process. Kingroot did manage to successfully root the device on the third try, which was a good sign. As soon as I had it booting stably with root access, I installed Malwarebytes from the Google Play store and had it do a full scan, just to see what I had signed up for. As I suspected there were several pieces of malware currently installed on the system, two of which came pre-loaded with the OEM software that Blu shipped on the device.

Getting root access, and keeping root access are completely different animals. This is especially true when you have rooted your phone with software that wants to make sure it stays on your phone. It tends to keep you from replacing its SU binaries, requiring you to come up with creative ways of digging it out of your system.

porting to new device? For TWRP and LineageOS? Possible for me to do?

I now needed to find a recovery mod and firmware for the recovery mod to install onto the system memory. Almost immediately I discovered that the world in Android had changed in the few years since I last tried this.


I got this far in the process of rooting the Blu phone, and not much farther. I did get root access and then I promptly deleted parts of the Blu installed software without making sure I had a rom I could install on the phone in place of its original programming. It is still sitting in a box at the back of my desk here in the office, waiting for me to finish screwing around with it. Since it was a cheap phone, and since I didn’t need the phone after we changed from Ting and got new phones from T-Mobile, I’ve never bothered to revisit the problem of installing a new rom on the cheap Blu phone and running it through its paces. My lack of interest in this challenging programing problem should prove that I’m really not that much of a programmer at heart.

This Week In Google

Here’s a This Week In Google (TWIG) catchphrase “This Week In Google, the show where you can find everything, just like the search engine.” You are welcome.

This week’s show was no exception; Google’s move on hardware (Google Home becomes Mesh enabled) which lead eventually (circuitously) to a paranoic discussion of just how easy we are to find in this web-based world (creepy easy, in fact) onboard encryption possibly becoming a thing of the past forcing us all to use encryption apps if we want privacy, facial ID and how to defeat it, the renewed interest in 1984 and it’s ties to today’s fears about tracking, the tempest in a teapot that was the Pepsi ad (I am convinced that half of all viral trends like this one was were set up by the corporations themselves to generate attention for their brands) the Jenner/Kardashian connection, bots abusing Twitter and the media’s inability to ignore Twitter as the irrelevant social platform that it really is, news integrity

We’re excited to announce we are helping to found and fund the News Integrity Initiative, a diverse new network of partners who will work together to focus on news literacy. The initiative will address the problems of misinformation, disinformation and the opportunities the internet provides to inform the public conversation in new ways. The News Integrity Initiative will be led by and housed out of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. We’re in good company with over 25 funders and participants, including the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Tow Foundation, AppNexus, Mozilla and Betaworks. Learn more about the initiative and our involvement on CUNY’s website.

Facebook News Apr. 2, 2017 Introducing the News Integrity Initiative

(the only way to render false narratives ineffective) How fake news has been around as long as news has been, Gaslighting and what that has to do with modern disinformation efforts, Youtube TV (not yet available in Austin) Extreme vetting proposal to force people to reveal their social networking passwords, Google Home getting more integration, The Founder a movie about McDonald’s Ray Kroc (will be watching that) the messaging bot Trim, California regulations and the proposition process and James Comey’s secret social media accounts. Finally, the title subject, the horrible new name for Yahoo. Closing thoughts followed.

Why I took the time to write this episode outline for Facebook is beyond me. It was probably because I thought the catchphrase was good. Stopping by the TWiT website I see that show #400 was the episode where they got me hooked on I was watching the show a lot at that point. I haven’t watched or listened much since. I just haven’t had time to follow more than news since about this time last year. I wonder why that is?

Text Editing

Facebook – Stonekettle

I just use Google Docs these days. I know, I know. It’s not good enough for real writers. I’ll have to bite the bullet eventually I guess. I might take Sandra’s advice and resurrect her copy of Textra from 1988 and/or possibly install Libreoffice since Openoffice died a tragic death.

As the Wife said when I went downstairs to inquire the name of her ancient word processing program (I had to add it to the wikipedia page on historical word processors as well after I asked the question)

No one chooses to use Microsoft software. It is just there on their computer when they buy it.

What I like about Google docs is that it’s in the cloud. No tragic events in this house will affect the contents of my Google drive. I’ve lost enough data over the years to respect an offsite backup system. My one problem with most online backup systems (Google drive, OneDrive) is the extremely limited size of the backup space. I’ve had to allow Google to set the size of images so that they don’t charge me for images backed up to the cloud, and there isn’t any equivalent to that on Microsoft’s cloud drive at all as far as I can tell.

Office 365 will give you a TB of storage on OneDrive, but you gotta buy that office suite ($100 annual subscription) and I have a problem with paying Microsoft for software. They haven’t proven they are worth the investment, but then neither does Adobe or AutoCAD or half a dozen other software companies considered to be standards that businesses pay for. When it comes right down to it they are not good values. I’ve fought this battle endlessly with business owners that I’ve worked for in the past. I know when to give up and walk away, but it doesn’t change my opinion of proprietary systems that protect their market share by making their systems hard to work with externally.

I’m not buying this subscription idea that has swept the corporate software world. I’m going the Free Software Foundation route when I can.


I Know Where to File Your Objections, Facebook

So Facebook has concluded that my shares from G+ via Twitter are somehow a violation of community standards. Who knew? I really had no idea that using G+ and sharing it was an insult to the intelligence of Facebook users.

My apologies, I’ll get right on pretending Facebook is the be-all and end-all.



It amuses me, on reflection, to think about how much work I did just trying to not have to do more work reposting status updates across the early social platforms. Copying and pasting may be mindlessly repetitive, but I could have not bothered in the first place and just wrote the important stuff here instead. I think I’ve rectified that problem now.

Confirmation Bias

I Shared the featured image on Facebook just to ask this question; How many people do this? This is the essence of confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as a confirmation of your existing beliefs, even when the evidence is disconfirmational.

I try never to simply agree with the first thing I find in a web search, and instead click and read at least four of the offered links on any given subject before allowing that my original thoughts might be correct. Still, the temptation is always there when that first result agrees with what you think is true.

There is a reason that the first item you see if you Google a topic is generally one that agrees with what you think. Google makes the results appear this way. This is especially true if you have used the search engine for years and years. You have helped Google craft a viewpoint for you that mirrors your opinions. They algorithmically apply a target to the search results that will most likely get you to click on them.

The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think by Eli Pariser

There were several people who (surprisingly) were willing to admit that they fell for confirmation bias. I find that when I don’t do the due diligence and click through 3 or 4 references, confirmation bias will get me too.

I want to be validated, dammit. 

Someone linked this comic in the comments for the featured chainsawsuit confirmation bias comic strip that was originally shared on the SGU’s Facebook page:

Several people who replied under the Wondermark strip were trying to suggest that the comic isn’t humorously poking fun at the circular nature of internet arguments. As if the circular firing squad of internet conversation isn’t exactly like that strip represents it to be.

I’ve found most arguments flow just this way, because inevitably we are all just armchair quarterbacks who have no real insight into the subject matter, even though we like to think we do. Not all arguments go this way, but nearly all of the ones in which the evidence itself is three or four times removed from the discussion inevitably end up in the circular firing squad scenario.

The original comic intrigued me. There is a real tendency amongst skeptics to act as if they are better than the rest of the people who fall prey to what is obviously (to them) pseudoscience or conspiracy. But I find that all of us fall prey to this from time to time. That all of us have subjects that we just KNOW we understand, but really don’t. It’s like a rake waiting in the grass for you to step on it and then smack yourself in the face with.

There is a real ingroup versus outgroup tendency to pretend to superiority or something to that effect. I should expand my observation to include all groups rather than just singling out skeptics. I run across this attitude everywhere (especially in gaming) where acquired knowledge is used as a cudgel against anyone who hasn’t obsessively researched a subject. As if knowing more somehow makes them a superior person.

Knowing the right things at the right times is a handy survival feature. Pretending to know everything perfectly is a Darwin award nomination waiting to happen.

We all view the world through the filter of our own experience and sometimes we apply that experience to a situation that we think we understand but don’t. We apply the experience in error because the situation lends itself to promoting this error. As an example; few people can even try to be objective in the face of purposely charged phrasing and political barnstorming. They move with the crowd, only later discovering how wrong their initial assessment was.

When I’m looking for a product or service, I appreciate Google’s attempts to deliver accurate hits. There are times though, where their attempts at delivering me what they think I want gets in the way of finding the thing I really want. The truth.

facebook h/t to Cat Zartman and Liz K. Burton for their inspiration.