Less Open Debates for a More Open Democracy

Interview

The last few years of this bizarre decade have witnessed the resurgence of hate groups. Some of these hate groups are just nicer sounding Nazis and that’s a really bad thing. Since this site is dedicated to good news let’s take a look at how to deal with these ignoramuses. It’s often argued that we should debate people who espouse hatred because we can reason away their stupidity; however, that usually daren’t work. Instead hate groups gain legitimacy by being allowed to be a part of civil debates. The solution is to not to just ignore them but to shut them right out.

Curating debate participants is itself a political choice, because the terms of a debate inform public opinion as much as its content. I’ve lost count of the number of evenings I’ve spent in the role of “shouty leftist” juxtaposed with a set of Tory talking points in a suit, with ten or fifteen minutes (if we’re lucky, a whole hour) to decide whether poor children should be allowed to eat during school holidays or whether migrants deserve human rights. What matters is not who wins on the merits. What matters are the terms: who gets to speak, and who must be silent.

The far right are not themselves committed to the principle of free speech. Far from it. In my encounters with neo-nationalists and professional alt-right trolls I have found them remarkably litigious — more than willing to use money and legal threats to silence their more serious critics. I’ve been legally prohibited from describing racists as racists. That’s why you’ll see so many news outlets use phrases like “alleged white supremacist” or “the deportation policy, which critics have described as xenophobic.” It’s not because there’s serious doubt over where these people stand, it’s because journalists are silenced by threats from speech “defenders” who have the money and spite to shut down their critics. I will not be bullied by bad-faith actors trying to rules-lawyer my own principles against me into treating neo-Nazis with respect they don’t deserve.

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Ways to Better Avoid Fake News

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

The term fake news may new to the modern discourse but the idea is very old. Before President Trump started making up new phrases we called “fake news” we used words like lies, propaganda, and fiction. Regardless of the source of the term there are ways to protect yourself from falling prey to these efforts to destabilize your brain. A former CIA officer has provided six quick tips to help you better deal with an onslaught of lies when it seems hard to trust news sources.

Don’t Blindly Trust Sources, Assess Them

Diving into the meat of the story itself, readers should pay particular attention to the sources cited and how their background is relevant to the subject at hand.

“Intelligence analysts are careful to explain upon what they are basing their analysis, and that includes explaining the credibility of their sources,” Otis said. “If a piece is on the government, are [the journalists] citing people who worked in government 20 years ago or people who are there with first-hand experience now? Similarly, are they citing a diverse range of experiences and backgrounds, or quoting [or] citing a people who only agree with each other [or] confirm the assessment [or] the event in question?”

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Kids Don’t Benefit from Helicopter Parenting

Being a parent must be hard since websites are constantly telling you what you’re doing wrong. If you’re letting your kid explore the world on their own terms than you’re doing things right! Take a breather parents, it turns out that relaxing and stepping back is best for your kid. Parents who try to control their kids too much end up not letting the kids learn how the world works which means that later on in life those kids can’t cope. So, maybe just take it easy and watch your kids instead of directing them.

At the age of five the team looked at the children’s response to an unfair share of sweets, and their ability to think carefully about a puzzle under time pressure.

When the children were aged five and 10, the researchers asked teachers to rate problems such as depression, anxiety or loneliness in the children, the children’s academic performance, and their views of the children’s social skills. At 10 years the children were quizzed on their attitudes to school and teachers as well as emotional issues.

The team found that once factors including the child’s age, behaviour as a toddler and socioeconomic status were taken into account, more controlling behaviour by mothers was linked both to their children having less control over their own emotions and less control over their impulses by the age of five.

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WikiTribune to World: “Hello”

computer screen

In 2001 when Jimmy Wales launched Wikipedia he never thought that the website would become what it is today. This year he has launched (with many others) WikiTribune and hopes that it becomes as influential as Wikipedia is online. WikiTribune exists because of the disappointing state of news media right now (it’s worth noting the idea for the site came before Trump) and the hope is that WikiTribune can outsource news production to people like the way Wikipedia does.

This is the launch of a project to build a news service. An entirely new kind of news service in which the trusted users of the site – the community members – are treated as equal to the staff of the site. As with any true wiki, you can jump in and get involved at the highest levels, doing as much or as little as you like to help. As with any successful wiki, there will be detailed discussions and debates by the community to set policy on all the matters necessary to build a news service.

My goals are pretty easy to understand, but grand in scope (more fun that way, eh?): to build a global, multilingual, high quality, neutral news service. I want us to be in as many languages as possible as fast as possible. I want us to be more concerned with being right than being first. I want us to report objectively and factually and fairly on the news with no other agenda than this: The ultimate arbiters of the truth are the facts of reality. That’s agenda enough to keep us busy.

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15,000 Scientists Want to Change Climate Change

desert and stars

They want to stabilize the change and, ideally, change the trajectory we’re on.

Climate change is happening faster than predicted and the positive feedback loops have started (meaning that it’s even harder to stop climate change) – this is the warning from over 15,000 scientists. The Alliance of World Scientists released a statement and invite more scientists to sign on. They’re clear in what they want to do: “Our vital importance and role comes from scientists’ unique responsibility as stewards of human knowledge and champions of evidence-based decision-making.”

It all started as an assumption that scientists cared, and they care a lot.

Within two days, there were 1,200 signatures. Of the more than 15,364 signatures to date, 527 are from Canada, ranking eighth among 184 countries.

The goal of the paper is to raise awareness about the fragile state of the planet.

“The scientists around the world are very concerned about the state of the world, the environmental situation and climate change,” Ripple said. “So this allows them to have a collective voice.”

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