Opinion Dressed Up in ‘News’ Clothes

The QuipperyWhat we used to call the ‘News‘ isn’t really news anymore, is it!? Often it is simply ‘Opinion‘ dressed up in its ‘news’ clothes… and there is so much of it. It is hard not to be overwhelmed with the volume of information that you might have to digest in order to make a decision about something.

This is why people switch to the default mode –  ‘Confirmation Bias’. It makes life so much simpler. You can simply choose to read opinions that support what you’ve come to believe, and ignore the rest.

Terry Pratchett calls this type of ‘news’ – ‘olds’:

In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds… Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true.
– Terry Pratchett; from the novel The Truth –

Are you Stuck in the Olds?

There is a wealth of information on the internet that can help you to explore fact based arguments that might take you beyond where your bias has parked you. Unfortunately, you have to dig pretty deep sometimes to find the information that supports a narrative that opposes the politically ‘correct’ arguments of the day.

The News is Worse but the World is Better

In the video that follows, Steven Pinker, Author and Harvard Professor discusses the basic paradox – news today seems worse than ever – but based on a number of key metrics, the world is better than it’s ever been. Pinker explores the data and makes the case for how can we tackle the world’s problems while not drowning in negativity.

Let’s explore bias.

What controversial issue do you feel strongly about? Would you be willing to seek out information that contrasted with your belief?

 

Differing Opinions, Honest Conversations

Fannie Flagg’s book, ‘Standing in the Rainbow’, was published in 2002. One of the central characters is a politician who appealed to a similar electorate as President Trump did – people who felt powerless and voiceless.

One of her characters spoke for marginalized older white men when he said:

What bothered him and other men his age and older was that the things that they had been willing to die for were no longer appreciated. Everything he had believed in was now the butt of jokes made by a bunch of smarty-assed late night-TV so-called comedians making a salary you could support a small country with. All he heard was people saying how bad we were, how corrupt we had been, and how terrible white men were… He had never knowingly been mean or unfair to another human being in his life. Now it seems he was the oppressor, responsible for every bad thing that have ever happened in the history of the world.
– Fannie Flagg, Standing in the Rainbow –

While the postmodernist has valid points that sexism and racism are the causes of many disparities, does it mean  that the way to balance those disparities is by assigning a blanket blame on a large part of the population for the deeds of a few?

We should not be teaching our students the following lesson: “He called you a racist name. That victimizes you.” That lesson says, first, that you should judge your skin color to be significant to your identity and, secondly, that other people’s opinions about your skin color should be significant to you. Only if you accept both of those premises are you going to feel victimized by someone’s saying something about your skin color.
– Stephen Hicks –

It is election year in Canada. I hope voters will exercise decision-making power in an informed manner. The only way they can do so is if there is lots of discussion and vigorous debate between individuals who accept that the individual is not the group they have been assigned to.

In this video, Ben Shapiro interviews Dave Rubin. They discuss identity politics, online censorship and the value of open and honest conversation between individuals who have differing opinions.

The Revival of Conversation – Peterson, Shapiro, Rubin

Jordan Peterson (Canadian clinical psychologist and educator) and Ben Shapiro (American Jewish conservative) join Dave Rubin (American gay libertarian) for a discussion about postmodernism, religion, free speech, and rules for life.

Two of the most well-spoken advocates for freedom and responsibility take the stage on one of the best free thinking forums today. The individual versus the state, religion, gender politics, and the art of the conversation.
– The Libertarian Catholic –

In an era of goldfish-level attention spans, Rubin hosts a talk show featuring two or three people, seated in chairs, who discuss politics or society or religion for about an hour, often longer. It’s his solution to a societal trend he considers harmful to free speech.

Rubin, Shapiro and Peterson: If these three men were NFL players, their rookie cards would be worth a fortune. They aren’t quite household names, but you get the sense they will be, and anyone who’s attuned to the new media landscape knows how consequential they are.
– Kevin Ryan –

Drinking Straw Ban – Facts and Fiction

The movement to ban drinking straws and other single-use plastics is growing around the world. The ban prohibits restaurants, bars, and other food service businesses from handing out plastic straws to their customers. Some cities impose fines. Other cities are considering the possibility of jail time for repeat offenders.

The humorists have had a field day. (See more Memes at the end of this post.)

In 2017 there were about 63 billion straws used in the United States – about 170-175 million straws per day. (Data from Technomic – a consulting and research firm).

The Be Straw Free Campaign, however, claims that Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. That’s an average of 1.6 straws per person per day which supposedly is enough to fill over 125 school buses. The 500 million number apparently came from a 9 year old boy who did a telephone survey of some straw manufacturers in 2011. No one bothered to check the validity of that number.

The City of Vancouver recently claimed that Canadians use 57 million straws a year — a number they extrapolated purely by adjusting the 500 million figure for Canada’s population.
National Post, July, 2018 –

Strawless Ocean takes that exaggerated number (500 million) even further by saying:

Plastic straws are really bad for the ocean. We use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life.

Most of those straws, however, don’t end up in the oceans:

A 2015 study in the journal Science ranked countries by their rate of “mismanaged” waste. Ocean pollution heavyweights such as Bangladesh were mismanaging up to 89 per cent of their garbage. In the United States that rate was only two percent — a number made all the more notable given that the average American generates up to five times more trash than a Bangladeshi.
National Post, July, 2018 –

500 million straws is just one example of estimates gone wild. How many straws do you suppose are discarded on the entire world’s coastlines? To find that number, two Australian scientists used the amount of trash collected on U.S. coastlines during cleanups over five years. They came up with a figure between 437 million and 8.3 billion plastic straws.

In other words, no one really knows to any degree of accuracy how many plastic straws are used, nor how many end up on beaches. They also have no clear idea how many are washed into the ocean, but it is estimated that if all the straws that might be on beaches all washed into the ocean, they’d account for about .03 percent of the plastics estimated to enter the oceans in a given year. Maybe.

What really kicked off the Straw Ban Campaign, though, was a viral video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw in it’s nose. The turtle was the trump card, if you’ll pardon the pun.

The drinking straw ban – a feel good thing that let’s people feel virtuous without actually having to do much.

Climate Change: Scientists Vs Politicians and Media

The QuipperyClimate change is an urgent topic of discussion among politicians, journalists and celebrities… but what do scientists say about climate change? Does the data validate those who say humans are causing the earth to catastrophically warm? Richard Lindzen, an MIT atmospheric physicist and one of the world’s leading climatologists, summarizes the science behind climate change.
– Prager U –