Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News.

From The Atlantic, March 8, 2018. fake news “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift once wrote. (Usually, I put content from others in italics, but in this case my own comments will be in italics, because I have included so much of the article here, and it’s easier to read in regular print)

It was hyperbole three centuries ago. But it is a factual description of social media, according to an ambitious and first-of-its-kind study published Thursday in Science. The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor.

Though the study is written in the clinical language of statistics, it offers a methodical indictment of the accuracy of information that spreads on these platforms. A false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story, the authors find. A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.

Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news. “It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. He made a truth machine: an algorithm that could sort through torrents of tweets and pull out the facts most likely to be accurate from them. It focused on three attributes of a given tweet: the properties of its author (were they verified?), the kind of language it used (was it sophisticated?), and how a given tweet propagated through the network.

Why does falsehood do so well? The MIT team settled on two hypotheses. First, fake news seems to be more “novel” than real news. Falsehoods are often notably different from the all the tweets that have appeared in a user’s timeline 60 days prior to their retweeting them, the team found. Second, fake news evokes much more emotion than the average tweet. The researchers created a database of the words that Twitter users used to reply to the 126,000 contested tweets, then analyzed it with a state-of-the-art sentiment-analysis tool. Fake tweets tended to elicit words associated with surprise and disgust, while accurate tweets summoned words associated with sadness and trust, they found.

Yet these do not encompass the most depressing finding of the study. When they began their research, the MIT team expected that users who shared the most fake news would basically be crowd-pleasers. They assumed they would find a group of people who obsessively use Twitter in a partisan or sensationalist way, accumulating more fans and followers than their more fact-based peers.In fact, the team found that the opposite is true. Users who share accurate information have more followers, and send more tweets, than fake-news sharers. These fact-guided users have also been on Twitter for longer, and they are more likely to be verified. In short, the most trustworthy users can boast every obvious structural advantage that Twitter, either as a company or a community, can bestow on its best users.

The truth has a running start, in other words—but inaccuracies, somehow, still win the race. “Falsehood diffused further and faster than the truth despite these differences [between accounts], not because of them,” write the authors. In short, social media seems to systematically amplify falsehood at the expense of the truth, and no one—neither experts nor politicians nor tech companies—knows how to reverse that trend. It is a dangerous moment for any system of government premised on a common public reality.I have a lot to add, but will do it in my next blog post.

 

How (anti)-social media ruins lives.

I’m back with another episode of Chicago PD. But this one was about a bombing, and how “social”-media trolls led to people’s lives being destroyed. The episode began with a bomb going off in the TV studio. One of the people killed by the bomb had a few years ago, as an intern at an online entertainment rag, send a tweet about a reporter who was writing an article about a murder. The tweet was meant as a kind of a joke, implying that the reporter who was writing about the case might have been the murderer as well. The tweet was stupid, it was pure speculation, it was intended as a joke, and years later it got this reporter and a bunch of other people killed by a bomb.

And who was the bomber? The bomber was the reporter who was fired from his newspaper because of that tweet implying that he might have been the actual murderer, which was then “retweeted”, leading to the internet trolls making all sorts of accusations about him that were untrue. His wife left him and later committed suicide. He was blackballed by the newspaper industry and journalism in general. At that point. he decided he had nothing left to lose, and built his whole life around the crusade to punish those people who ruined his life with false accusations. One of the detectives asks, incredulously, “you mean all these people are dying because of a two line tweet?”

During the course of the investigation into the bombing, the Chicago police department had arrested a suspect, and once again the internet “blew up”, as they say, with false accusations about this suspect. He was rapidly cleared by the police and released, but not before his family was the subject of many threats–both phone and internet–bricks thrown through their window, bullying of his children and his generally being roasted on social media. Or should I call it Anti-social media? In this new age of “fake news”, anonymous mass accusations, tweeting/retweeting of irresponsible speculation, the more intelligent and circumspect among us are asking “what ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

Here are some quotes from a mainstream newspaper (Chicago Tribune) commentary on that question; the whole commentary is well worth reading innocent: “One of the core principles of an advanced society: the presumption of innocence. The great liberal English barrister John Mortimer called this presumption the “golden thread” running through any progressive idea of justice. And it’s a thread that is being weakened in the febrile post-Weinstein climate. It is now astonishingly easy to ruin a celebrity or near-celebrity. You can do it with a social media post. Spend five minutes writing a Facebook entry about how so-and-so in Hollywood once did something bad to you and — boom — that person is done for. You can dispatch him from polite society with a press of a button on your cellphone.

“Some have argued that the presumption of innocence is a legal standard that does not apply in everyday life. The law must not prejudge someone, but we can. In fact, that’s how Mitt Romney framed his condemnation of Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate. “Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” Romney wrote on Twitter. In a narrow sense, that’s perfectly true. But Romney’s line of argument can lead us astray. Legal standards aren’t cold, abstract ideas. They embody what communities over time have agreed is a more civilized way of doing things. People are brushing aside the presumption of innocence as legalism so they don’t have to feel bad when they tweet: “This man’s disgusting.” They’re saying that while judges should exercise restraint, mere mortals don’t have to. What spectacularly low self-expectations.”

In the Chicago PD episode, the suspect who was arrested then released confronted the detective who had arrested and interrogated him, after holding him for 48 hours. “You can’t even look me in the eye and apologize, can you?” he asked the detective, whose only response was a stone-faced “you’re free to go.” That gave me an idea. What if that police department had an official website, and Twitter and Facebook accounts, and posted, on their own social media, a declaration of innocence or something like “we cleared so and so of the crime for which he was arrested and strongly condemn anyone who uses social media to shame or make threats against this individual.”

Oh, wait one, Chicago police DO have a website and Facebook account, and many individual police have twitter accounts. What does the police dept. post on their website? Pages and pages of wanted and arrested criminals, including faces and names. What about Facebook? Announcements of various sorts, lots of community congratulations. Anything about clearing innocent arrestees? Nope, not a one. I understand–even if they wanted to clear someone’s name publicly, what would that lead to? Lawsuits for “false arrest”, lawyers up the wazoo, unscrupulous losers trying to get arrested so they could sue and all manner of harm to the police trying to do their job. Hmm, I guess I won’t expect to see social media exoneration countering social media harm anytime soon.

As far as the principle “presumption of innocence” goes, what can we say about the fact that there are over 300,000 Federal crimes in the U.S. code? Countless U.S. citizens are guilty of a crime without knowing it, and are often tried in the various sorts of media these days. Presumption of innocence? By whom? Has that bird already flown? Maybe the root of the problem is too many lawyers who have to justify their existence.

Can a true protector be sanctimonious about predator’s lives?

My favorite TV show right now is Chicago PD. The latest plot went something like this. Really vicious gang leader, Jorge Pena, was initiating some younger guys into the Gang. The initiation consisted of their finding young girls, pulling them into a drug house, raping them and killing them.  The police knew who was responsible but they couldn’t prove it in court.  My hero, Sgt. Hank Voight,  confronted Pena, in a bar. Pena knew the police couldn’t prove anything so he was willing to discuss his general strategy for “taking over the neighborhood.” He said in order to take over a neighborhood you first have to “kill its soul.” He stopped short of actionable specifics, but the aftermath of his initiation was one teen girl dead, one traumatized from rape and her escape from death, and two teen wannabe gang members dead and castrated.

Oops, those last two weren’t direct casualties of that initiation, they had been killed in their home by persons unknown. The police Intelligence Unit, the heroes of the show, recruited a confidential informant (C.I.) named Q to help them trick the gang leader into helping them find the killers of the two wannabe’s, by pretending to have a load of weapons to sell. Q, as it turned out, was a woman who had been raped years ago by Pena during his initiation into the gang, and she had killed and castrated the two wannabe’s on behalf of the girl whom they murdered. What do you imagine her real agenda was? Hint: It wasn’t bringing the murderer of the two gang wannabe’s to justice!

When she meets Pena, with the police watching in hiding, he says “Q, haven’t seen you in a long time, thanks for reaching out.” She says “oh, I’ve been thinking about you a lot, just waiting for the right time to connect.” Then she moves over to her car to open the trunk with the weapons, while she drawing her own. Before the police can move in, as she shoots Pena twice, after he tells her “little girl, you ain’t got it in you.”

Later the female cop who had recruited Q is debriefing with Voight, the honcho of the Unit, who just got off the phone with his boss after being reamed for losing Pena. In most shows, she would be expressing regret at how the meet went down and her boss would be reprimanding her. In this show, she admits to her boss, “I knew Q had a gun and was probably planning to kill Pena, and I didn’t tell you because I wanted her to kill that pig for all the pain he caused.” In most shows, he might express his disapproval and even suspend her. In this show he sits her down, grabs a bottle of whiskey from his drawer and two glasses. “It doesn’t matter. You ask me, Chicago is a better place with Jorge Pena dead. Just let it go.” Then they raise their glasses!

Yepsibah! Bravo! Right on! Are you shocked at my attitude? I am a Protector, a “sheepdog.” protector  Or maybe I’m just a brute who gets off on killing “bad guys.” Either way, I can’t stand the sanctimonious hand wringing over the “rights” of criminals, those bipedal wolves and predators. Chicago PD is never sanctimonious. Am I turning off some readers? Then go read someone else’s blog. This is me.

This Pop-Up Restaurant Asks Whites To Pay More

popup holdup  As part of a month-long “social experiment,” a pop-up restaurant in New Orleans is asking white customers to pay extra for their meal in the name of wealth redistribution. According to Civil Eats, the pop-up called Saartj gives white customers — and only white customers — the option to pay “$12 for lunch or the suggested price of $30” while black customers are “charged $12 and also given the option to collect the $18 paid by a white patron as a way to redistribute wealth.”

Restaurant creator Tunde Wey says that his project seeks to educate patrons on the “nation’s racial wealth gap.” After they order, Wey tells each diner about the nation’s racial wealth gap, pointing to stark facts, such as higher education increases a Black family’s median income by $60,000, where as it increases a white family’s median income by $113,000,” reports Civil Eats.

Once the conversation finishes, Wey then asks his white customers how much they will pay. The “white guilt” definitely pays off, with close to 78% of his white customers paying more than double the required price, according to Wey. This guilt, which Wey calls “positive social pressure,” is entirely intentional and designed to elicit payment. “Refusing to pay more comes off as anti-social and people don’t want to be judged for that,” Wey said. “People look on the other side of the till and see me standing there and they’re thinking that I’m judging them. If they couldn’t pay a higher amount, they gave a me a list of caveats why they couldn’t.”Should white customers ask important questions like “where does the money go?” Wey chides them for their attempts to make their “wealth virtuous.”

“The ownership of wealth has been contingent on taking from someone else,” Wey tells customers, relying on the “zero-sum” economics fallacy, “and money doesn’t distill virtue on you. If black customers offer to pay the extra $30 themselves alongside their white counterparts, Wey denies them the dignity of doing so. 

So, is his social justice social experiment working? Does the wealth redistribute? Actually, no. A vast majority of the black diners refuse to take money from other people guilted into paying more. “After looking at the preliminary data collected from the survey, one of the most interesting results is that of 70 or so diners, 76 percent of the Black diners refused to take the $18 that they were offered,” reports Civil Eats.

“The current racial wealth gap is very much the result of decades of discriminatory public policy,” said Janelle Jones, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. “Besides facing discrimination in employment and wage-setting, for generations even those African-American families that did manage to earn decent incomes were barred from accessing the most important financial market for typical families: the housing market.” Even after the policies that made these practices possible were dismantled by the Fair Housing Act in 1968, Black families could still be discriminated against when purchasing a home or land, whether through overt segregation efforts like redlining or other less explicit but discriminatory practices.

I am imagining a conversation I might have with the proprietor:

Wey: Welcome to SAARTJ white man, are you here for the conversation or the cuisine?

Me: Since Nigerian food isn’t high on any white person’s cuisine list, and I can go down the street and get the Thai lunch special for $9.95 without a helping of guilt, it must be for the scintillating conversation. In fact, why not dispense with the food altogether and get right to the point–extortion by race and the resultant expiation of “white guilt”. Why else would a whitey come to a restaurant specializing in cassava root?

Wey: Do I detect a note of white supremacy in your sarcasm?

Me: No, it’s just good old fashioned cynicism. I might be melanin-challenged in my skin, but not in my soul. What I am most cynical about is this: I read that even if a black patron wanted to pay the arbitrary $30 extra, you would refuse it. Why?

Wey: To whom would I give that money? The guilt dictates that the direction of money is strictly white gives to black. If I kept their money, that would be black to black, and even worse would be to give it to whites. Transfer of money is transfer of power I have said.

Me: But if that is so, isn’t the one giving the money the one with more power, and the one taking it the one with less power? Another thing, 76% of your black patrons refuse your attempt to give them the white person’s overpayment, even though they or their forebears suffered wealth discrimination. If the principle of your restaurant is “past oppression is best treated with coerced transfer of present wealth”, why does the majority of your constituency vote with their money against you?

Wey: They haven’t been woke yet.

Me: You ask if we whites have ever received cash gifts from parents, and how that money changed lives. If you really want to know, I suggest you read the Millionaire Next Door. The author shows conclusively that parental giving of cash impoverishes their children! Why? Because they then get into the habit of living beyond their means.  All the millionaires interviewed for that book also agreed that wealth is less related to income and more related to controlling spending. By accusing patrons who ask where the money goes of trying to appear virtuous, you therefore discourage accountability for spending, the lack of which is THE MAIN CAUSE of poverty.

Wey: My thesis assumes that wealth creation is the result of passing down wealth that has been misappropriated from others. If you’re wealthy it’s at the expense of others.

Me: Rich DeVos, a famous billionaire, was asked “the secret to wealth.” He said, “I always spent less than I made and invested the difference consistently.”

Wey: That’s too simple and racially neutral to be true. So anyway, now it’s time to pay up. What’ll it be, $12 for the cheapskate, $30 if you’re woke.

Me: Neither. Since the utility of the meal and the conversation was not even worth the $12, I am going to pay you what I would have paid the Thai restaurant for a much better meal without the indigestion–$9.95. Since I have a high melanin soul, you can make up the difference from the white guilt money. I mean really, it’s cassava!

 

Woke, yeah!

From Douglas Wilson, Woke with the Win-Wams woke: “Let us define our terms. Being woke means that you have grokked to your complicity. Let me start over. Being woke means that you have come to realize that you (and better yet, your parents and teachers) are guilty, guilty, guilty of all kinds of nefarious things, to be itemized later, and that you have resolved to atone, atone, atone for all your guiltitudinous privileges, and you are going to do so by trembling on the lip of being woke, woke, woke, and if you ever start to slip back into your somnolent white supremacy or your torpid male privilege, then you will just pinch yourself and peddle, peddle, peddle, yes, harder, harder, harder. (my comment, I think he means pedal, rather than peddle, harder). Self-salvation, in other words. Described another way, self-salvation is a maelstrom of guilt, works, envy, slavery, snobbery, and lust.

“But there are two basic kinds of religion in the world—one predicated on grace, and all the others predicated on performance. In the former, all the glory goes to God, and the liberty goes to the forgiven sinner. In the latter, the glory, such as it is, goes to the sinner, who turns out to be god in this system, and the glory is solemnly pronounced over the chains that have been made to shine like silver, but which still rattle and clank for all that. 

Those ways of salvation that are predicated on performance have to figure out a way to turn failure into fuel. This is necessary because, since we are incorrigible sinners, failure is a given. Consequently, failure becomes the energy that drives everything. And that is why modern secular forms of self-salvation are a toxic mixture of guilt, shame, and fear. By modern secular forms of self-salvation, I am referring to racial wokeness, gender wokeness, enviro-wokeness, foodie wokeness, gun-control wokeness, and all the rest of it. Guilt is the raw energy for these religions, but it exists in the form of crude in the ground. After it has gone through the social justice refineries (which smell like nothing on earth), what we have is rage by the barrel.

“A prisoner chained to the wall who sees another prisoner walking away free can go in two directions. He can seek liberty himself, on the same terms that his freed brother got it (“Tell me the gospel! Take me with you!”), or he can resent the freedom the other has and seek ways to re-enslave him. This is the way of envy, and many choose it. Given the fact that the gospel frees us from real sins, and the enslaved don’t like reminders of real sins anyway, what they do is cook up a host of fake sins, manufactured sins. Like the deep and grievous sin of not being “woke.” They have generated a thick fog of legalisms.”

I want to add my own observations. if you paid attention to (assuming you read it) my post worldviews on the major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Secular Humanism) two things are evident in relation to Pastor Wilson’s post: other than Christianity, all the other religions are “salvation”–such as it is–through works, placing the practitioner of the religion in the center (the “god of the system” as Wilson said); the various “woke” forms of self salvation are all part of Secular Humanism. Some forms of internal guilt can, within reasonable boundaries, lead to improvements in life. Greater awareness of preserving our environment, improving our nutrition, being more conscious about misuse of guns, respecting women and loving all races are valuable in their proper contexts. They become “toxic” when carried to the extremes of making them secular religions.

Even more toxic are the perversions of(?) works religions that preach salvation by the act that represents the ultimate usurpation of God’s prerogative–taking of life. If your religion preaches killing unbelievers as the surest path to salvation, I question what makes you think you are worthy of salvation? Even if I don’t single out one religion for this perversion, how many of you would not know which one I am referring to? I wonder how many of us, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, refrain from preaching murder outwardly while thinking murder inwardly. There is yet a higher standard than merely saying the right things.

 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:21-24.

Who kills whom?

Here are some excerpts from this article in U.S. News and World Report us news

“Of the 13,455 cases from last year in which the FBI listed a victim’s racial information, 7,039 victims – or 52.3 percent – were black. That compares with 5,854 cases – or 43.5 percent – in which the victim was white, an increase of about 8 percent from last year.

It’s a disparity that becomes more pronounced in the context of population.

2015 Census estimates suggest that whites account for 77.1 percent of the overall U.S. population of roughly 321 million, while blacks comprise 13.3 percent.

“The vast majority of homicide victims are killed by people of their own race. People tend to kill who they know. “You hurt people who are a lot like you. That’s how it works,” says David Kennedy, a professor and director of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

“Among the roughly 6,000 cases in which the race of the victim and the offender were known, the number of blacks killed by blacks rose to 2,380 last year, an increase of about 8 percent from 2014. The number of white people killed by other whites rose 3.5 percent to 2,574 victims in 2015. Since 2001, the share of black-on-black and white-on-white homicides as a proportion of those killed of each race peaked at 91.9 and 84.2 percent, respectively.”

Now compare the facts to this perspective, from the website verysmartbrothas.theroot.com. verysmartbrothas
“In America, white people are everywhere, and this ubiquity connects to perhaps our greatest irony: We (black people) are vastly outnumbered by them. They also own more land, earn and possess more money, and have all the guns. Most of the people making laws are white, as are most of the people enforcing them. There are entire states you can drive through without seeing one of us, entire lives that can be led without ever having any meaningful interaction with us. We are surrounded, outnumbered, out-resourced and outgunned. Our entire existence here is a continual assault on our bodies.”
If “black on black” homicides comprised 91.9% of black homicides since 2001, how are white people the problem? Do the lies and willful disregard for the facts in this kind of “black narrative” feed white racism? I don’t know, but it certainly helps fuel the rage of blacks, which encourages more violence against police, which in turn makes neighborhoods less safe. Which neighborhoods? Neighborhoods that depend on police to respond faster–black neighborhoods. This is the same narrative that ISIS and other violent Muslim groups use to rally their troops (“the ‘Crusaders’ are killing our brothers in Muslim lands–that is why we are killing innocents!”).

It isn’t theft….is it?

Self-checkout stations in stores and supermarkets, you hate them or love them. I love them, for a lot of reasons. I am getting old, and that means I buy increasingly more embarrassing things for physical conditions like constipation, gas and (someday, not yet) leaky bladder. Why should I allow that foxy young female checker to see all that? But the main reason I like self-checkout is that there are rarely lines, and the slowest kind of people (i.e. the old lady who has to fish in her overstuffed purse for small change or, God forbid, a checkbook! There’s this thing called a debit card now lady….) usually require human checkers. So it’s faster, and I get to overcome my temptation to steal.

Okay, I said temptation, not the act! Self-checkout theft can lead to some really tortuous rationalizations. An article in The Atlantic magazine banana trick, featured a Reddit discussion thread, “Anyone who pays for more than half of their stuff in self checkout is a total moron,” reads one of the more militant comments in a Reddit discussion on the subject. “There is NO MORAL ISSUE with stealing from a store that forces you to use self checkout, period. THEY ARE CHARGING YOU TO WORK AT THEIR STORE.” Darn, why didn’t I think of that, yesterday when I easily could have failed to scan a few items at the Walmart where the lady at the exit always waves me through without even looking at my receipt? The article said that normally honest people, who would run after you to give you the $20 bill you dropped, are more prone to stealing when they rationalize they are cheating a machine–the scanner–rather than a person–the checkout clerk. 

The article cited a study by Leicester U. that said that for $21,000,000 items self-scanned there were $805,000 taken without scanning. That’s 3.83%, and is probably low. Here are some excerpts The Daily Mail article called “Are you a swiper?” The comments are from psychologist Emmeline Taylor. Shoppers who steal groceries by not scanning them at supermarket self-service checkouts now have a name – they’re called ‘swipers’. A staggering 33 per cent of customers regularly steal through the do-it-yourself checkout area, with fruit and vegetables and breads highest on the list for ‘swipers’. ‘Shrinkage’, the cost of people stealing including the ‘swiping’ at do-it-yourself checkouts, costs the retail industry an estimated $US 119 billion each year. So some swipers are ideological and say they steal because they (the supermarkets) are big corporations who have made everyone redundant, and they rip off farmers. People can sometimes do this accidentally, and once they got home they realise they have not paid for the goods and start thinking ‘how easy was that?’ Individuals can steal up to 95 times before they are ever apprehended.

I admitted I was tempted from time to time, but have never stolen an item. I am extremely uncreative with rationalizations to dishonesty, but more importantly, as Proverbs 15 states, The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. The eyes of the Lord see all–that gives my temptations pause–and I would rather have the tongue of the wise than pour out folly–though we call it rationalization.