Want to Help People Escape Crazy Conspiracies? Read This

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2020 witnessed the rise of an absolutely bonkers conspiracy theory based around some anonymous internet poster. You may know somebody who believes the illogical thoughts that led to the insurrection in Washington last week and are concerned for their mental well being. If you know somebody deep into illogical and self-defeating conspiracies please check out this article from last November in the Guardian (to be clear, some conspiracies are real).

Like with most problems facing the world right now we can solve it by better educating people and applying critical thinking skills.

Finally, some conspiracy theorists greatly exaggerate debates among experts themselves. Not all epidemiologists will agree on the best measures to reduce the spread of the virus, but this disagreement shouldn’t be used to justify the idea that the whole pandemic has been engineered by the government for some nefarious end.

The tobacco industry used these tactics to great effect in the 1970s, with adverts that quoted fake experts and rogue scientists who questioned the harms of smoking.

“It’s a really persuasive form of misinformation,” says Prof John Cook, an expert in “science denial” at George Mason University. Fortunately, he has found that educating people about the history of this common deceptive tactic can make people more sceptical of other fake experts at a later point.

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USA Court Rules NSA Spying Illegal

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Edward Snowden risked his life and freedom to bring to the world’s attention that the American government illegal (and unethically) spies on innocent people everywhere on the planet. Many Americans called Snowden a traitor and a liar. Now, the courts in his home country agree with Snowden: the wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) was indeed illegal. Hopefully the American government will stop spying on innocent people, and with his vindication hopefully others will be inspired to speak truth to power like Snowden did.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that the program, under which the NSA collected and analyzed bulk data provided by telecommunications companies, was in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and could have been unconstitutional.

“Seven years ago, as the news declared I was being charged as a criminal for speaking the truth, I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” said Snowden, who fled to Russia after exposing the program, on Twitter. “And yet that day has arrived.”

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Collision: Shaquille O’Neal Wants Your Life to be Steady

Today at Collision conference Shaquille O’Neal made an appearance to promote Steady, a company that wants to help working Americans get a steady financial life. The company was founded by Adam Roseman a few years ago with the goal of making life more predictable for the average American. As nearly everyone knows, inequality has been increasing since the last recession and now companies like Steady are looking to stop that growth. Their platform helps people find work while also learning how to budget and other financial bits of wisdom.

Growing up in a single-parent home, Roseman saw first hand the daily financial struggles many Americans face. The vision for Steady came to Roseman after seeing the plight of his recently retired father. Like many Americans, his father found he didn’t have enough retirement savings and needed to work part-time to make ends meet. Roseman stepped in, suggesting his father look for flexible work opportunities that fit his needs, availability and interests. And through Steady, Roseman and his team hope to help millions more.

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I’m attending Collision at Home this week.

Protesting Works

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Democracy is messy and in order for it to function many voices need to be heard, when some groups can’t be heard they peacefully take to the streets. Despite a history of protesting for a good cause resulting in beneficial societal change there are people who doubt the efficacy of such movements. There is a long history of groups getting together and rallying behind a common cause which we take for granted today, like weekends and liberty. Given what is happening this week in the USA it’s high time we all show our support (in a non COVID-19 spreading way) for those fighting for human rights and eradicating racism.

In 1911, 146 workers were killed by a fire in an unsafe factory. At the time, workers often dealt with extremely hazardous working conditions. The tragedy prompted a march on New York’s Fifth Avenue of nearly 80,000 people. This march helped to pass new laws to ensure workplace safety and helped the growing union movement. This eventually led to laws that we still use today, like the minimum wage requirement and the right to collectively bargain as a union.

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Ways to Reduce Police Violence

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This past week saw Americans out on the streets en masse to protest police violence, in particular race-based discrimination practiced by police throughout the nation. Non-white individuals get harassed more, suffer more violence, and are treated worse by the judicial system than white people. This has been proven time and time again, with people getting increasingly sick of it with every passing year. 2020 has seen many needless deaths due to racist and untrained officers – Americans have had enough. We can show solidarity (and many already have with rallies) while calling for systemic change in the USA and in our own countries. A few years ago Scientific American looked into ways we can change American policing.

If implicit bias workshops may not be the answer, what can police departments do?
We don’t know how to de-bias people because the culture is so saturated with those stereotypes. My general recommendation is—and I think it’s consistent with what the Center for Policing Equity is generally proposing—that departments find ways to reduce the rates at which these interactions are occurring.

Meaning what?
Police have a lot of discretion on who they can engage with and who they detain, and that can result in wild variation in discretionary stops. You can reduce the amount of contacts without compromising public safety and then the chance for biased outcomes gets reduced dramatically. We have seen that in NYC: The number of stops are way down and the racial disparities are mathematically necessarily reduced because there is less room for disparity.

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