Discussion of Metabunk's Politeness Policy

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As opposed to something that was written in an 2,000 yo book, a hundred odd years after Christ lived…and also when they believed the earth was flat.
1. Egyptian and Greek scientists knew that the Earth was a globe for several centuries before Christ.
2. The first part of the bible, the Old Testament, and the Jewish Torah, were written long before Christ. They were an orally transmitted body of work before that.
Is there a "bible" UFO believers refer to as proof?
No I think they base their beliefs on hundreds of often very credible accounts from well respected people, over 6 decades.
3. The bible can be said to be "hundreds of often very credible accounts from well-respected people" (with apologies to those who believe that the bible represents the word of God in some direct way). I don't know any respected theologician who considers the bible "proof" of anything.

Lol…I’d be hitting that report button 4 times a day.
I'm sure there were days when I've done that. It's free!
On short posts and obvious cases, I click the button, type "politeness", and send.
On longer posts, or less obvious insults, I also quote the part that I find impolite.
I don't get feedback on every report, it kinda depends on what the mods decide to do.
 


This goes for labels like "climate denier": it's an accurate description, but because it contains within it the idea that they oppose the mainstream, some of those people feel it decreases their standing. However, it's not the label that does that, it's them taking that position.

Similarly with "UFO believer": it's the element of belief that is actually inherent in that position that makes this label descriptive.

Propagandists (and con men) throughout history have resisted being labeled what they are, because they thrive on confusing their audiences. It is important for critical thinkers to be able to use accurate and concise descriptions. Obviously, these should not be needlessly offensive. But when someone takes offense to a justified description, I suggest the way forward for them is to maybe rethink some of their own choices.
 

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That's not to say it's impossible to change someone's mind, but it might prove to be difficult indeed, and painful for that person.
I agree, but with a qualification. Debunking - or skepticism, if you prefer - may be aimed either at the holders of unjustified beliefs, or at a wider public who are undecided, neutral, or even hostile towards those beliefs. Experience shows that it is extremely difficult to change the mind of someone who is already deeply committed to a cause, for example 9/11 'truthers'. It is generally a waste of effort trying. This suggests that the primary audience for debunking is the wider public. For that purpose methods that might be classed as impolite, including sarcasm and ridicule, may be effective. But even for that purpose is is usually best to avoid crude insults and personal attacks, which are liable to be counter-productive. They may be popular with those who are already firmly committed on the 'right' side, but are more likely to be off-putting to those who are undecided.
 
There's what is referred to as "sunk costs", and if the person has already devoted a large part of his time and effort in a pursuit that you think of as folly, he is going to cling to it even more stubbornly. That's not to say it's impossible to change someone's mind, but it might prove to be difficult indeed, and painful for that person.
I'm not intending to conflate "politeness" with "changing somebody's mind." (However, bear in mind the old saying about being able to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar -- it doesn't say you'll catch every fly, every time, only that your chances of success are better.)

In this context, though, "politeness" is to me more like "I did what I could to be kind." I would hope my friends would be kind to me, would be polite, and I hope I'll do the same to them.

Sometimes that might mean "We're not going to talk about Flat Earth," or politics, or whatever. But if for whatever reason it is necessary for me to tell a friend they are wrong, doing so with kindness, being polite, seems the way to go. Not based only on how effective I think I'll be, but also on my not wanting to act like a jerk towards a friend. I benefit from being polite -- looking back on moments I regret in life, none of them involve "shoulda been less polite there!":D

In terms of effectiveness, I'll wager that a friend is more likely to cling stubbornly to demonstrable error if I am harsh with them than if I were polite -- a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down might make the prospect LESS difficult and painful, though possibly not drop the unpleasantness level to zero.

By extension, the same policy looks to me like a good one when dealing with folks who are not friends, such as folks I have not yet met who post on a very interesting Internet forum! :)
 
Whilst I agree with the politeness policy.....I also tend to agree with Daniel Dennett...

quote-there-is-no-polite-way-to-suggest-to-someone-that-they-have-devoted-their-life-to-a-dani...jpg
I would disagree strongly. There are very impolite and very polite ways to suggest that, and everything in between. Perhaps what he meant was there is no way to suggest this, such that the recipient might not get mad... but that's a different thing.

I basically agree with both perspectives here. I interpret Dennett's comment to mean: 'despite how politely I state my (strong) disagreement with your belief/stance/opinion, you may always take this as a personal attack, and thus consider me offensive, and inconsiderate of your feelings, thus you will consider me as impolite!'.

To recap from earlier in the thread: post #23
If someone's theories are stupid, what adjective should we use in order to describe them?

Sir, with all due respect, I must inform you that your theories are differently-sensible.
And bolded version from my post #24, relevant to this current portion of the thread:
I also did not state an opinion about the word stupid, either way, in my post. This is the difficulty with keyboard conversations, there is no context or personality visible from the body language/facial expressions. I will admit my post was not as crafted I should have made it, trying to shoehorn it into a brief work-break, and my nuance may have got lost in translation. The thrust of the point I was trying to make: there are certainly ways to state disagreement that are more or less likely to cause insult. Stupid is a strong word to use and invariably considered derogatory; and when applied to personal beliefs almost guaranteed to cause offence. The risk will always exist of somebody conflating attack of beliefs with attack of the person: with religious matters, many folk define themselves by/as their beliefs, perhaps even more so than the regional issue discussed above (but the two are not mutually exclusive, either).

For someone experiencing strong cognitive dissonance over their beliefs, any statement of disagreement may cause offence, regardless of the terminology/politeness/phrasing/intent. (Personal opinion, no reference cited.)

Bottom line: choose your battles, and your strategy, accordingly.
 
Debunking - or skepticism, if you prefer - may be aimed either at the holders of unjustified beliefs, or at a wider public who are undecided, neutral, or even hostile towards those beliefs.
That's a great point -- and MetaBunk sort of straddles both possibilities. When a poster joins us here to discuss their own experience with, say, seeing a UFO, or comes here to defend their beliefs about chemtrails and show us the error of our ways, we're engaging one on one (or, as it happens, dozens on one) discussion between this community and a holder of a belief. But the larger purpose would be to to engage with that portion of "the world" who stop by to see what we have to say about whatever debatable topic they just saw on their FaceBook feed. We may have to waive the right to use some of the rhetorical artillery (sarcasm and ridicule, as you mention) which we might use elsewhere in debating before a neutral audience. Or at the least we may want to use them more subtly, less confrontationally.

I have mentioned in another post that online communities WITHOUT a policy enforcing some level of politeness, in my experience, don't turn into useful places to debate, discuss, figure stuff out, or persuade anybody of anything.
 
basically agree with both perspectives here. I interpret Dennett's comment to mean: 'despite how politely I state my (strong) disagreement with your belief/stance/opinion, you may always take this as a personal attack, and thus consider me offensive, and inconsiderate of your feelings, thus you will consider me as impolite!'.
That is not the discussion here. The title is "Discussion of Metabunk's Politeness Policy." The focus here is on claims of evidence and not a discussion of an individuals sanity or intelligence. How an individual feels about evidence presented that goes against their viewpoint is not subject to the Politeness Policy.
 
When a poster joins us here to discuss their own experience with, say, seeing a UFO, or comes here to defend their beliefs about chemtrails and show us the error of our ways, we're engaging one on one (or, as it happens, dozens on one) discussion between this community and a holder of a belief.
It should be clear to all that this "engagement" is not a fight.
The prevailing motive should be curiosity, not antagonism.
 
Bottom line: choose your battles, and your strategy, accordingly.

Well, you know what they say about internet discussions and wrestling with a pig? Sometimes *you* can be the pig! What, that isn't what they say? Whatever, I prefer my version.
 
Well, you know what they say about internet discussions and wrestling with a pig? Sometimes *you* can be the pig! What, that isn't what they say? Whatever, I prefer my version.
"The Internet" is in two minds here:
pig.png
SmartSelect_20231207-180638_Samsung Internet.jpg

But whether you wrestle with pigs, or not, or be the pig, on Metabunk you need to do it politely.

The-Polite-Pig_Full_29892.jpg
 
Whilst I agree with the politeness policy.....I also tend to agree with Daniel Dennett...

quote-there-is-no-polite-way-to-suggest-to-someone-that-they-have-devoted-their-life-to-a-dani...jpg

one good example is changing his actual quote to "folly". As "folly" is more polite than delusional.

Article:
“I listen to all these complaints about rudeness and intemperateness, and the opinion that I come to is that there is no polite way of asking somebody: have you considered the possibility that your entire life has been devoted to a delusion? But that’s a good question to ask. Of course we should ask that question and of course it’s going to offend people. Tough.”
― Daniel C. Dennett
 
Some might say trying to appeal to emotion to win a debate is folly. :)
Sometimes emotion is the reason people get into strange and erroneous beliefs. The phrase (whose originator I do not recall) is "You can't reason people out of beliefs they didn't reason themselves into".
 
Be mindful that the level of emotion that gets people into strange and erroneous beliefs comes from something much more profound than, "yer belivin in folly!"
 
Sometimes emotion is the reason people get into strange and erroneous beliefs. The phrase (whose originator I do not recall) is "You can't reason people out of beliefs they didn't reason themselves into".
I've read that quote a few times in recent years--and liked it--but
I've never seen it linked to any author. :(

It does remind me a little of the classic J.P. Morgan quote:
"A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason."
 
one good example is changing his actual quote to "folly". As "folly" is more polite than delusional.

Great digging, deirdre! Folly would have been a better word, he missed an opportunity there, but delusion is immediately nothing but negative. I think he boobed - perhaps someone took him up on that point, and he reworded it later for the unattested meme quote? If we're talking atheists, like Dennett, then "folly" isn't that negative at all, perhaps not at all. Many atheists are known to have a nihilistic streak in them - we're not here for a reason, there's nothing we were put here to do. And a corollary of that is that everything we do could be considered a folly. E.g. my beer-hunting hobby - if someone were to say that it was a foolish waste of money, I would have no counter-argument save "but I enjoy the hunt". That's most of the way to being a "folly", and the bits that are not explicit I can almost certainly demonstrate if prodded. However, were anyone to throw the word "delusional" into their criticism of that hobby, I'd wonder if they were delusional themselves. I've almost certainly seen way more places around the world than I would have done without it. The serotonin wave I currently get when I go to the local supermarkets and see a can of beer - at eye level - with my nickname on it, is probably doing good for my wellbeing too! But it's still probably a folly, and I think not delusional.
 
"You can't reason people out of beliefs they didn't reason themselves into".
I've read that quote a few times in recent years--and liked it--but I've never seen it linked to any author. :(
Article:
You cannot reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into.

The book was published in 2008.

Article:
Quote Investigator: In 1721 a slim volume titled “A Letter to a Young Gentleman, Lately Enter’d Into Holy Orders by a Person of Quality” was published. The author was Jonathan Swift, and the following salient phrase was included:
Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired.
 
E.g. my beer-hunting hobby - if someone were to say that it was a foolish waste of money, I would have no counter-argument save "but I enjoy the hunt".

Off Topic for just a minute:

"Phil's Beer Hunt Folly" sounds like a hell of a YouTube channel! Let me know when you have an episode that swings through NorCal to sample some Tap-room only gems. ;)
 
one good example is changing his actual quote to "folly". As "folly" is more polite than delusional.

There seem to be numerous different versions of the same quote. For example many sites ( such as the New York Times ) quote it as 'illusion'...

“There’s simply no polite way to tell people they’ve dedicated their lives to an illusion "

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/...ition-pumps-and-other-tools-for-thinking.html

I'd argue that 'illusion' would be more in keeping with Dennett's actual language than 'folly', or 'delusion'....as Dennett's entire argument has been that consciousness is an illusion. One would need to track down the original source.

I recall once tracking down an 'Einstein quote' only to find that the first place it had ever appeared was in 1999 in a pictorial meme on some obscure site, and there was zero reference to it before that.....yet it had spread wildly across the internet since then.
 
I agree with Dennett. I think that "politeness is in the eye of the beholder" (OK, perhaps the "ear", but you know what I mean.) What you seem to be saying is like "...but I didn't MEAN to hurt you/your feelings!" The fact remains that in such a circumstance, protestations that you used polite language might still mean you've lost a friend. There's what is referred to as "sunk costs", and if the person has already devoted a large part of his time and effort in a pursuit that you think of as folly, he is going to cling to it even more stubbornly. That's not to say it's impossible to change someone's mind, but it might prove to be difficult indeed, and painful for that person.

I agree with Dennett's general sentiment...because there are situations we all come across where we know we are arguing against Dunning Kruger syndrome. I'd include almost all flat earthers in that category. You can present such people with the actual facts...but if you've ever seen Sci-Man Dan's channel you'll know the effort is wasted and the facts are just ignored. I have to admire Sci-Man Dan's tenacity at so futile a pursuit as rescuing flat earthers from (edited for politeness). And there's the point.....surely at some point the word '(edited for politeness)' either has to enter the equation or one just gives up.
 
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I disagree 100% with the you cant reason people out of beliefs they didn't enter into with reason.

if that were the case we should packup the site!

If you think you can't reason a flat earther out of believing in flat earth, you're wrong. Its been done time and time again.

I wager you can't find one flat earther that stopped believing in it to fit into normal society and be accepted by strangers.
 
One would need to track down the original source.

bold added for emphasis
Article:
Julian Baggini interviews Daniel Dennett, the least apocalyptic of new atheism's "four horseman". (First published March 2010).
....

That’s why his major contribution to the recent new atheism debate, his book, Breaking the Spell, is often hailed as the most thoughtful and intelligent. Dennett acknowledges the differences, but is at pains to defend those who take a different approach.

“I don’t object to being lumped in with the others. I don’t think, well, I was doing it the moral way and they were doing it the immoral way, or I was doing it the politic way, they were doing it the impolitic way. I don’t think that’s right. I think we all adopted slightly different but defensible strategies. All four approaches are necessary because there are different people out there, different audiences that have to be reached.”


the entire interview discusses the topic of polite vs unpolite. note: Richard Dawkins is a focus and his book was called 'THe God Delusion" or some such.
 
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I disagree 100% with the you cant reason people out of beliefs they didn't enter into with reason.

if that were the case we should packup the site!

Gosh...well I think you are requoting Christopher Hitchens there....so let me fire Sam Harris back at you...

To me this is the entire crux of the matter....

quote-if-someone-doesn-t-value-evidence-what-evidence-are-you-going-to-provide-that-proves-sam...jpg
 
Gosh...well I think you are requoting Christopher Hitchens there....so let me fire Sam Harris back at you...

To me this is the entire crux of the matter....

quote-if-someone-doesn-t-value-evidence-what-evidence-are-you-going-to-provide-that-proves-sam...jpg

that's why the target audience should be reasonable people. which i believe the vast majority of the public are. It's not that most ufo believers (or others) dont value evidence, it's what they consider evidence differs from what 'we' consider evidence. OR most often, they dont understand what they are actually looking at.

It would be nice if the public school systems spent more time teaching useful things like ACTUAL critical thinking vs all the other fluff they've jammed into the curriculum over the years. :(

But if one is only interested in trumping some guy on twitter, then one should go do it on twitter.

Article:
Avoid Promoting Bunk. Don't post links to something unless it's being taken seriously by people open to reason. Very marginal claims are best ignored - don't give them traffic.
 
let me fire Sam Harris back at you...
There is some truth there -- it is not easy nor is there guarantee of success. But it DOES happen. I don't know if anybody here followed the saga of flat-earth personality "Ranty," who was staunchly in the nonsense-spoutingest wing of the flat Earth community -- but like water dripping on stone, accumulating facts and the accumulating silliness of the ad-hoc arguments needed to refute them wore him down, until finally there was a "straw that broke the camel's back" in the form of a picture of the Blackpool Amusement Park and the mountains beyond... on a flat Earth, a few hundred meters of lower slopes of the mountains should be visible and the tower should appear shorter than the mountains.

blackpool.JPG
Photo by Kevin Jackson

There was nothing particularly probative about this one bit of evidence as opposed to all the others, it could have been hand-waved away as easily as any other but of evidence -- but it's the one that eventually got through to that one particular flat Earther. So in spite of pithy quotes to the contrary, while it IS hard and there is no guarantee of success, it can be done.

PS: It may be that this image broke through with Ranty because HE found the image and recognized it did not fit in with his earlier notions about flat Earth. He actually Did His Own Research! (He was actually somewhat famous for it, actually filming boats going over the curve and other evidence that disproved his position, requiring his flat Earth compatriots to come along behind him and try to hand-wave it all away. But this image is the one that finally convinced him.)

Conspiracy Kats's video recounting Ranty's discovery is here:
Source: https://youtu.be/Onmx5HkQHIk?t=514
 
Gosh...well I think you are requoting Christopher Hitchens there....so let me fire Sam Harris back at you...

To me this is the entire crux of the matter....

quote-if-someone-doesn-t-value-evidence-what-evidence-are-you-going-to-provide-that-proves-sam...jpg

An opinion that someone doesn't value evidence is an opinion.

Folks don't believe in flat earth because someone just told them it was flat. Someone presented evidence that convinced them it was. They go to great efforts to prove it.

All you have to do is present the correct evidence in the right way and they will believe you.
 
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All you have to do is present the correct evidence in the right way and they will believe you.

That doesn't have a great historical track record. Galileo was one of the first to find out that approach doesn't work.

I suggest you visit Sci-Man Dan's channel on Youtube. He's spent 6 years presenting flat earthers with the actual facts. Which they just ignore.
 
that's why the target audience should be reasonable people. which i believe the vast majority of the public are. It's not that most ufo believers (or others) dont value evidence, it's what they consider evidence differs from what 'we' consider evidence. OR most often, they dont understand what they are actually looking at.

Well....let me turn the argument round the other way and ask a pertinent question. Do you think that being overly polite might actually be the cause of the proliferation of irrational beliefs these days ? Perhaps irrational views were to some degree held in check in the past because people feared ridicule for espousing them. Or is it that people had those views anyway but did not express them ? The latter would make a politeness policy a good thing. The former would not....if it actually leads to a proliferation of irrational views. This is essentially what I originally wanted to discuss....and whether it has merit or not.
 
That doesn't have a great historical track record. Galileo was one of the first to find out that approach doesn't work.

I suggest you visit Sci-Man Dan's channel on Youtube. He's spent 6 years presenting flat earthers with the actual facts. Which they just ignore.

I think Galileo has made more of an impact by developing the scientific method than his fight with the church.

He may have died in house arrest failing to convince the powers that be, but the world follows his doctrine.

I think the big question is - do you want to convince someone? Or do you want to win an argument with them?

You can easily win arguments and not convince someone at the same time.

Just as Galileo lost an argument, and convinced everyone at the same time.
 
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I think Galileo has made more of an impact by developing the scientific method than his fight with the church.

He may have died in house arrest failing to convince the powers that be, but the world follows his doctrine.

I think the big question is - do you want to convince someone? Or do you want to win an argument with them?

You can easily win arguments and not convince someone at the same time.

Just as Galileo lost an argument, and convinced everyone at the same time.
We are not going to drift into talking about Galileo. There is always going to be a segment of society that will believe the world is flat, lizard people run our government, a pedophile network is being run out of a pizza place in Washington DC, etc. No matter what or how the evidence is presented. But some people will come around.
 
There is always going to be a segment of society that will believe the world is flat, lizard people run our government, a pedophile network is being run out of a pizza place in Washington DC, etc. No matter what or how the evidence is presented. But some people will come around.

Well, the debate here is if the people that "come around" are the ones that were convinced because they found presented data and evidence to be more convincing than than their emotions.

Or if it's a greater or at least equal distribution of people that were shamed into coming around.
 
What does that have do with the debate about convincing people with compassion and evidence being inferior to appealing to emotion and shaming them?
There is no debate about doing that here. You can't. As to the overall effectiveness of one versus the other, there plenty of examples of appealing to emotion and shaming. Old Usenet, Reddit, Above Top Secret, etc. It doesn't seem to work. Do you have evidence that it does?
 
There is no debate about doing that here. You can't. As to the overall effectiveness of one versus the other, there plenty of examples of appealing to emotion and shaming. Old Usenet, Reddit, Above Top Secret, etc. It doesn't seem to work. Do you have evidence that it does?
I think (admittedly unsupported by evidence) that emotion and shaming are often the reason people get INTO cults of religion as well as cults of pseudoscience. If all your friends believe in bigfoot (UFOs, Ogopogo, pedophiles meeting in the basement of a basementless Pizza restaurant, zombies) and laugh at you if you don't, it's more comfortable to go along with them, especially if you are not strongly committed to the opposite viewpoint, or well-versed in logic. Not everyone invests an effort into a deeper understanding of a subject.
 
I suggest you visit Sci-Man Dan's channel on Youtube. He's spent 6 years presenting flat earthers with the actual facts. Which they just ignore.
To be fair, though, he is not doing so with excessive politeness! He's playing to the audience that enjoys his sort of dry-snark approach.

The only YouTubers I can think of off the top of my head who make a point of arguing with various conspiracy theorists and the like with politeness, sticking to the facts, are Mick West and Dave McKeegan (https://www.youtube.com/@DaveMcKeegan) in the vids he does addressing Apollo disbelievers and flat Earthers from the point of view of a photographer, so it is an underutilized technique on the Internet, in my experience!

I'd also question whether those with YouTube FE channels that Dan tangles with are a good representative sample of FE believers -- I'm unsure how many of them actually believe, and how many know they are talking nonsense but have found an audience they can sell to advertisers. They have a monetary incentive to continue at least claiming to believe FE as they have audiences of subscribers who tune it (and watch ads) to see FE claims being made.
 
Just as Galileo lost an argument, and convinced everyone at the same time.

Galileo didn't lose an argument. There wasn't any argument. The authorities refused to even look at his evidence. And...it took 359 years for those authorities to 'apologize', so let's not let them off the hook quite so easily.
 
To be fair, though, he is not doing so with excessive politeness! He's playing to the audience that enjoys his sort of dry-snark approach.

The only YouTubers I can think of off the top of my head who make a point of arguing with various conspiracy theorists and the like with politeness, sticking to the facts, are Mick West and Dave McKeegan (https://www.youtube.com/@DaveMcKeegan) in the vids he does addressing Apollo disbelievers and flat Earthers from the point of view of a photographer, so it is an underutilized technique on the Internet, in my experience!

I think there is a big difference. The Apollo disbelievers at least present a partly coherent argument that is not internally self contradictory. For example the claims about the amount of light displayed in photos of astronauts stepping off the lander are plausible....so one can then present a rational explanation as to why they are not true. And indeed, the amount of light does have a good non-conspiracy explanation. Case solved.

In the case of Sci-Man Dan ( and many others ) and the flat earthers, again and again the issue is that flat earth 'science' is terribly self contradictory. Largely because in order to evade the actual scientific facts the flat earth believers just pile multiple layers of invented stuff on top of each other. This prevents the failure of any one item from cascading through to the rest...which makes it all but impossible for debunkers to get through. I can understand the 'snark'. I think 6 continuous years worth of just dry 'here are the facts..' would be all but impossible without it. Though generally he will use terms like 'epic fail' rather than any direct ad hominem.

One has to admire those who can hold to extremely high standards in the face of exasperation.
 
There is some truth there -- it is not easy nor is there guarantee of success. But it DOES happen. I don't know if anybody here followed the saga of flat-earth personality "Ranty," who was staunchly in the nonsense-spoutingest wing of the flat Earth community -- but like water dripping on stone, accumulating facts and the accumulating silliness of the ad-hoc arguments needed to refute them wore him down, until finally there was a "straw that broke the camel's back" in the form of a picture of the Blackpool Amusement Park and the mountains beyond... on a flat Earth, a few hundred meters of lower slopes of the mountains should be visible and the tower should appear shorter than the mountains.
if I recall the interview properly, there were some changes in Ranty's personal life that preceded his conversion. I don't think the claim that it was just that one image (and none of the many others he'd taken before that also prove the globe) that did it is supportable.

There's always psychology at work, and while logic has a role on the way out, it's often not the trigger for the change.
 
Do you think that being overly polite might actually be the cause of the proliferation of irrational beliefs these days ?
i'm from America and read American media (all types), so i really don't have any idea what you are talking about! :)

I personally think the internet and the need for click bait (as well as youtube paying people to be as evocative as possible etc) is to blame for 'proliferation'.
 
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