Archive for April 18th, 2011
At The Intersection (no relation), Chris Mooney points out that Intelligence doesn’t protect us from Motivated reasoning. In fact, intelligence can invite this problem. What is “motivated reasoning”?
In motivated reasoning, memory searches, interpretations of incoming information, evaluations of arguments, and even perception, are biased in such a way that we will be more likely to arrive at a desired conclusion (called a directional motivation . . . ). The way this is achieved, in essence, is by limiting the information that is retrieved from long term memory into current working memory (the store of information that is available for current processing), thereby biasing the information available for supporting or evaluating conclusions and arguments, as well as interpreting incoming information.
Climate-change denial is a good place to observe motivated reasoning in action:
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Chris Hedges had some sharp words for the modern day money-changers last Friday, during his speech in Union Square, New York City, during a protest outside a branch of the Bank of America:
The bankers and hedge fund managers, the corporate and governmental elites, are the modern version of the misguided Israelites who prostrated themselves before the golden calf. The sparkle of wealth glitters before them, spurring them faster and faster on the treadmill towards destruction. And they seek to make us worship at their altar. As long as greed inspires us, greed keeps us complicit and silent. But once we defy the religion of unfettered capitalism, once we demand that a society serve the needs of citizens and the ecosystem that sustains life, rather than the needs of the marketplace, once we learn to speak with a new humility and live with a new simplicity, once we love our neighbor as ourself, we break our chains and make hope visible.
Last year, Wikileaks released the now-infamous video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack that killed 12 men and wounded two children in Baghdad. (See here for more detail). Less well known is what happened on the ground after the attack, and the lesson it teaches regarding the mental health of soldiers. In this video, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now discusses the aftermath of the helicopter attack with a soldier who arrived at the scene after the helicopter attack. His name is Ethan McCord, and here are a few of the things he had to say:
Well, I placed the boy into the Bradley armored vehicle, and the Bradley was not a part of our unit, and neither were the Apaches. They were just attached to us that day. When I placed the boy into the Bradley armored vehicle, I was yelled at by my platoon leader for worrying about children instead of worrying about other—finding other people to kill.
. . .
Later on that evening, after the incident, when I was back at the FOB and I washing the blood of the children off of my uniforms, you know, my mind was a mess. I was very emotional, couldn’t really deal with what I had seen and, more importantly, was more upset with what I was a part of. So I went to my staff sergeant and asked to see mental health, so that I can talk about my feelings and what I was feeling. And I was denied to go to mental health. They told me I needed to suck it up and that there would be repercussions if I was to go see mental health, and I would be charged with malingering. And I was rather shocked that just by me needing to speak to somebody about what was going on and what I was feeling could constitute a crime in the Army.
. . .
I went to the Irwin Army hospital, where they had a psychologist who was on duty. He didn’t really talk to me or anything. They called my command, and one of the staff sergeants who were there came down to the hospital, and instead of—just degraded me while I was in there, said that I was nothing, I was nobody, because I was doing this.
Ethan appeared on Democracy Now to protest the military treatment of soldiers suffering from PTSD and other severe mental conditions:
They kicked me out, knowing I had PTSD, TBI and had metal rods and pins in my back. And they kicked me out on what’s called a Chapter 517, which states that all of my conditions were pre-existing. They’ve done this to over 250,000 soldiers. And it’s time to stop. It’s said between—twenty percent, at the minimum, of troops are suffering from some sort of trauma, whether it be TBI, PTSD or military sexual trauma. That’s an extreme amount of soldiers who are suffering. And they’re being denied their basic human rights to heal. And we’re trying to put a stop to that. It needs to end now. And we need to—we need to stop the redeployment of these troops.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I recently attended the National Conference on Media Reform in Boston. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps presented at one of the sessions (“The FCC at NCMR: a National Town Hall”). I did not take video of his presentation, but I wanted to share a few things Commissioner Copps had to say.
First, I need to note a few things about Michael Copps. He has had a long and illustrious career as FCC Commissioner– he has taken the job seriously, attempting to use the powers of his office for truly advancing the public good. Perhaps you are thinking that all FCC commissioners should be doing this, but the long history the organization proves otherwise. Copps is extremely for the principled stance is taken if the FCC and for what he has accomplished at the FCC.
Consider, for example, Copps’ stance regarding the recently approved merger of Comcast and NBC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Copps In January 18th, 2011 the FCC and the United States Department of Justice allowed Comcast to buy NBC Universal. Michael Copps was the only commissioner of the FCC to vote against the merger. Here’s what he had to say:
I searched in vain for the benefits (…) Pardon me, but a deal of this size should be expected to yield more than the limited benefits cited. (…)
In sum, this is simply too much, too big, too powerful, too lacking in benefits for American consumers and citizens…. I would be true to neither the statute nor to everything I have fought for here at the Commission over the past decade if I did not dissent from what I consider to be a damaging and potentially dangerous deal (..) At the end of the day, the public interest requires more-much more-than it is receiving. The Comcast-NBCU joint venture opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.
To put Copps’ stance in perspective, Barack Obama’s carefully handpicked Commissioner, Julius Genachowski, and all the other commissioners, voted to approve this hideous merger, leaving Michael Copps standing alone as a matter of principle.
Here are some of Copps’ comments at the Boston Media Reform Conference session I attended:
- Copps has always believed that government regulation could be a force for public good.
- Before Michael Copps joined the FCC, there had never before been a public hearing offered by the FCC. Since he’s been a Commissioner, there have been more than 50 public hearings.
- Copps has focused on not-inside-the-Beltway issues.
- The Republicans are arguing “hands off the Internet,” so that the telecoms can control the Internet. This goes to the heart of the future of democracy, and thousands of journalists are “off the beat” on the story.
- America is starved for factual news reporting., Yet how many facts are permanently buried, never made known public? We have lots of opinion, but opinions need to be based upon facts.
- The resolution of all major issues rides on how they are portrayed by the media.
- The Internet is not yet filling the role traditionally fulfilled by newspapers and broadcast networks. Most of the news we still see (90-95%) is produced originally by newspapers and broadcast networks.
- We need to bring back licensing regimens for the public interest is invited and it controls the renewals of station licenses. This would encourage broadcasters to talk to people about what to cover. It would help keep minorities from being stereotyped.
- In the 1930s, a quid pro quo was reached. The airwaves belong to the people of the United States, and stations are offered licenses to use those airwaves and they must use them to cover the public interest.
- Citizen action can still work, even though a small number of people in the United States hold vast economic and political power, and even though their money has immense influence.
- Copps is concerned about net neutrality in the short term. “There’s lots of room to do mischief.” He further noted that wireless is not included in the regulations that have been issued by the FCC. Long-term, he is even more worried. New technologies always end up getting controlled by corporate interests. The FCC has issued regulations with which he has called the Internet and “information service” under the 1996 Communications Act, rather than designating the Internet a “telecommunications service.” No other country in the world has gone down this road. What this means is that the FCC is not going to take charge to make sure that net neutrality is enforced.
- “We need to recommit ourselves to reforming the media, of, by and for the American people.”