The backfire effect gambit

oroboros

New Member
To argue with a man who has renounced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead.
-- Thomas Paine, The Crisis


It might be tempting to quote Paine in arguments where we think the other party is being unreasonable. But very few people actually renounce their reason, and I think those who do are still acting from reason even after renunciation.

It seems plausible that we evolved reasoning as a means to win arguments, rather than as a means to discern what is true. If so, then perhaps a strategy of argumentation starting from the backfire effect might yield results where changing beliefs seems otherwise impossible.

I recently tried this approach of starting with the premise that argumentation may be insufficient to change anyone's mind, including my own. I made a couple mistakes, but hope to fine tune it.

I think it's critical when using this gambit to acknowledge openly how it applies to you too, and not just use it as a weapon against your opponent. Knowing about biases can hurt people, and it's probably about as difficult for a believer in chemtrails to change their mind as it is for a skeptic.

By opening from this position, that the argument between a strong believer and a strong skeptic is unlikely to change anyone's beliefs, I hope to crack open the door just a tiny bit. If there's anything dishonest about this approach, it's that I'm subtly challenging the other person's autonomy by declaring that they can't rationally evaluate their own strong beliefs once they've acquired them. I think this is why acknowledging the difficulty as it applies to myself too is so important. In a sense, we're both in the same boat and there's potential solidarity in understanding that our beliefs have such a tight grip on us that we can't change our own beliefs any more than we can change the other's beliefs.

My strategy is then to discuss what I know about the formation of persistent contrail cirrus. I use some anecdotes about a friend who studies cloud physics. I conclude by acknowledging that I can't be sure there isn't a secret chemtrail program. Because I know enough about how and why contrail cirrus forms to know that it is a real phenomenon, I have no way of visually differentiating between contrail cirrus and chemtrails in photos or videos.

For me to change my mind about the chemtrail conspiracy requires something other than visual evidence of airplanes leaving trails. This is all completely true, of course. Someone who wants to change my beliefs will have to provide better evidence than I've yet encountered. I leave open the possibility that I could change my mind if presented sufficient evidence.

It's my hope that by showing why I reject photographic evidence of trails in the sky without claiming absolute certainty in the matter, I can get people to move closer to questioning their own certainty.

fMRI studies and experiments with split-brain patients show that we engage in post-hoc rationalizations all the time, even those of us who believe we always operate from reason. We're so adept at inventing cover stories for our actions that we don't even realize when we're fooling ourselves. I'm pondering if and how to incorporate this information into my backfire gambit.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
It can be a little disheartening, however that's tempered by the knowledge that some people have eventually moved away from a belief in chemtrails, and in part because of sites like contrailscience.com. 911 truthers DO eventually see reason, and 911 debunking sites are valuable resources once they start to think skeptically.

I'm not sure that admitting you have cognitive biases is helpful. It seems like it's too much of a change in the subject. It also seems to give a false balance to the dispute. I think that many of the people you talk to are simply not sophisticated enough to understand what you mean, and then it almost seems like you are deceiving them.

I never claim absolute certainty, I focus on their evidence, and try to show them their evidence is not very good. To do this effectively though, you need to know how they think, and how their thinking might evolve over time. All your points and links are very relevant.
 

oroboros

New Member
It also seems to give a false balance to the dispute.

Is it too much respect to beliefs that just aren't respectable? I really like Asimov's essay, The Relativity of Wrong and that suggests another approach. One place I like to start with the wilder conspiracy advocates is to acknowledge that there are conspiracies. Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraq WMDs and the Niger yellowcake forgeries, etc. are proven conspiracies. Some are more known and less wrong... even what we know about the proven ones may still be "wrong" to some degree.

I like what motivates Julian Assange as described here:

If total conspiratorial power is zero, then clearly there is no information flow between the conspirators and hence no conspiracy. A substantial increase or decrease in total conspiratorial power almost always means what we expect it to mean; an increase or decrease in the ability of the conspiracy to think, act and adapt…An authoritarian conspiracy that cannot think is powerless to preserve itself against the opponents it induces.



There's a trend toward openness that Wikileaks exemplified. It's inspired similar new services like the recently announced Honest Appalachia which has developed a whole platform for supporting leak services. The TED 2012 global theme is radical openness.

So I use these things to try to instill a sense of hope that the trend toward openness, including the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and citizen journalists/bloggers, means that the real conspiracies have to restrict their communications and limit the connections between members to avoid exposure. That inhibits their ability to function as Assange notes. The trend toward openness should make conspiracies less and less effective over time.

Some of my bias for radical openness comes from my day job.

I do understand what you mean about it being too confusing for some. In general I try to elevate the level of discussion, and I don't have enough tolerance for the lowest common denominator.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
One place I like to start with the wilder conspiracy advocates is to acknowledge that there are conspiracies. Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraq WMDs and the Niger yellowcake forgeries, etc. are proven conspiracies.

Indeed. I often find myself at a point in the conversation where I suddenly realize that my conversational partner holds certain mistaken opinions about me - opinions that I took for granted they would not take, either because I'd explicitly stated the opposite, or because I though it was obviously not the case.

Particularly people mistakenly think that:
  • I trust the government (I don't)
  • I think I have disproved their theory (I just generally think they don't have evidence)
  • I think conspiracies don't happen (clearly they do)
  • I am arguing to a position, not to the facts. (my position would change if it did not fit the facts).
  • I'm an anonymous impostor. (I'm Mick West, just some guy in Venice, CA. Let's have a beer).
It important in conversations with believers to try to address the unsaid things they incorrectly believe, as well as current topic. Sometimes the latter is largely supported by the former. Fix the foundation.
 

oroboros

New Member
Particularly people mistakenly think that:
  • I trust the government (I don't)

I can relate to that. I was lectured yesterday about corporate corruption in politics in this discussion at naturalnews.com about the Texas rabies vaccine program.

I spent time this morning researching a reply that their spam filters seem to have eaten. It included an investigation of how much the vaccine maker Merial had spent on lobbying. In total they spent $114,000 over the last two years lobbying about the oral rabies vaccination program. I don't like that, and said so. In the relativity of wrong there is a range between a conspiracy to buy undue influence and win contracts that is a long way from the 'weaponization of vaccines' and 'militarization of medicine' for profit.

I think that finding solidarity on core issues like corporate influence can help. Maybe I'll try reposting over there. The Facebook commenting system isn't very reliable.

I like how Robert Kennedy Jr. puts it:

What we have to understand as Americans is that the domination of business by government is called communism. The domination of government by business is called fascism. And our job is to walk that narrow trail in between, which is free-market capitalism and democracy. And keep big government at bay with our right hand and corporate power at bay with our left.



 

Jay Reynolds

Senior Member.
The Raboral V-RG bait used is not a live virus and cannot cause rabies.


RABORAL V-RG is composed of vaccine filled
plastic sachets contained in fishmeal
polymer baits. The vaccine is a Type III
recombinant virus which means it contains
a live virus vector which carries
and expresses a foreign gene. In this case,
the viral vector is vaccinia virus, and the
expressed gene product is rabies virus
glycoprotein. This vaccine cannot cause
rabies because it expresses only the antigen
which is important in inducing immunity.

http://www.raboral.com/pdf/Raboral_Brochure_0608_r9.pdf

Here is the Contract:
http://esbd.cpa.state.tx.us/bid_show.cfm?bidid=95557

I fail to see anything wrong with hiring a veterinary doctor from Agworks solutions, as done by Merial, to promote the sale of their products or idea to the State of Texas, or to anyone else.

Unless there is a quid pro quo proven, what is the difference between a company using a "lobbyist", a company using a salesman, a company sending their CEO, and an environmental organization such as Nature Conservancy or Clean Energy Works sending one of their people or hiring anyone else to sell their idea or property?

Who chooses who anyone can hire to represent their issues?
I think that would be an infringement of free speech and would be wrong.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Lobbyists would be fine if all they did was talk, present cases, etc, and if all lobbyists had equal access.

The real issue is money for legislation. Corporations basically pay to have legislation enacted, or to get earmarks (like the "bridge to nowhere"). Lobbyists largely exist to facilitate that transaction, which they do in large part by direct or indirect campaign fundraising.

Here's a good example.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/12/20/144028899/the-tuesday-podcast-jack-abramoff-on-lobbying
 

Jay Reynolds

Senior Member.
Yes, but when I send a political donation, the money is fungible and can be spent on further fundraising. I expect the candidate to vote my way. What is the difference if I do so or a public employees union does the same? The supreme court has already said it is free speech, and there are limits on direct contributions.

Should Laurance Rockefeller be allowed to pay a lobbying organization like the League of Conservation Voters $5000:
http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgave2.php?cycle=2012&cmte=C00252940

so they can send it and pay for these campaigns?
http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cycle=2012&cmte=C00252940

and pay lobbyist "Allegiance Strategies" to represent their interest?
http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000288

What is the difference between Merial hiring a Veterinarian Doctor to explain their product and what happened above?

It looks like money directly changed hands from Rockefeller to LCV then to a campaign, does he expect something, or do you think Rockefeller just gave it away to anybody for fun?

Or is it just that Merial has the prefix "Corporation" in front, instead of Mr. or League ?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I don't think anyone should be able to pay lobbying organizations to do what they are doing because ultimately it means the person (or corporation, and I don't think corporations are people) with the most money can have a disproportionate influence on policy and legislation.

Money for campaigns should not be the driving force in writing legislation. I would prefer public or anonymous funding of campaigns, with the legislation being driven by the wishes of the people.

Anyway, perhaps a little off-topic.
 

Jay Reynolds

Senior Member.
I don't think anyone should be able to pay lobbying organizations to do what they are doing because ultimately it means the person (or corporation, and I don't think corporations are people) with the most money can have a disproportionate influence on policy and legislation.


So, that includes any person, corporation, NRDC, Nature Conservancy, Women Against Drunk Driving, or any group of any kind.

Their wish to send a person(lobbyist) as their representative and to donate for the election campaign of an elected official who will support their cause would not be allowed. And who would decide which candidate gets "public funding", the government?

I don't think corporations are people
Corporations are organizations of people, the stockholders and their representatives.
The League of Conservation Voters is an organization of people as well.

But back to the topic of rabies, it looks like Texas has a good reason to do what they are doing.
My wife worked as a nurse and had to undergo the painful shots in the belly after treating a man
who subsequently died of rabies from a rabbit.
here is some recent news:
http://m.beefmagazine.com/health/be-aware-rabies-warning-signs-cattle

http://www.westerncowman.com/october2011/rabies.html

I wouldn't doubt that some ranching organizations have been "lobbying" for the rabies control.

BTW, perhaps you might want to check out the Public Campaign Action Fund, they are a Corporation which is lobbying to have public funding of campaigns!

Guess who is helping fund "Public Campaign"?
Well, of course, the Rockefeller Brothers!
http://www.publicampaign.org/about/directors-funders
How much is being given, who knows?
They don't publish their statement:
http://www.publicampaign.org/financial-information
Do you suppose the Bros. intend to let you and I fund things while they take a breather?

The world is a strange place!
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I don't think people should be buying action from their politicians. Should we let those with the most money decide on the tax code? Should a billionaire entity be able to spend a few million to change the law so they profit to the tune of hundreds of millions?

I don't pretend to have all the answers on this topic. But I think the current system has a huge amount of corruption, and much could be done to improve it. I don't expect a sudden shift to open democracy, but there's room for improvement.

When I say I don't think that corporations are people, I mean I disagree with the legal notion of corporate personhood.
 

Jay Reynolds

Senior Member.
Ah, the myth of 'Corporate Personhood'. You should really look into it. Almost everyone who labors and ceratinly all who live off of investments are stockholders in corporations these days through 401K's or mutual funds. Anyone who holds stock is an actual stockholder with voting rights or as a mutual fund or 401k holder one by proxy through the fund that actually owns the shares. This is all part of that wonderful democracy, where we are all connected by ownership, not some mythical Corporate Beasty pulling the levers behind a curtain. Realize you may have been under a false impression about this, corporations are simply organizations. Organizations that create a living for folks who invested and expect a return and are responsible enough to know. As we age, more and more of us will derive a larger percentage of their personal income directly through such investments in retirement, and it wouldn't be a wise things to predict the end of corporations that support grandma and grandpa. What will happen when granny's retirement is wiped out by some overtaxing or restriction against a corporation, while some other group gets to siphon off money and power?

My opinion is that any person or organization of people has the right to support any candidate in any way they wish. I consider corporations be they tax-exempt or non-profit, labor unions, and advocacy groups of any kind as organizations of people who have goals, and they should all be treated the same. However, we already see that labor unions are tax-exempt even though they derive income from involuntary payroll deductions of their members and they do make campaign contributions same as corporations who must pay taxes. The deck is already stacked.

An examination of the top 100 all time campaign contributions is in order:
http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php

The restriction against one group of people over the other means making a choice of who wins and who loses, which is not up to a government to decide. Just because money is spent on a campaign, however, doesn't always decide who wins or whether the individual who contributed gets his way, as you said in the example of the billionaire. It is becoming increasingly hard for individuals or groups to exert such influence as communications allow better examination of a candidates background, voting record funding, etc., and individual contribution is easier than it used to be.

For instance, I have already contributed twice this year to a candidate whom I expect to burn rubber working to change the tax code for me!
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Where's the myth? Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission means that corporations may spend now spend unlimited funds to back candidates, and they do. They spend this money specifically with the expectation of getting something back. So the people with the most money have a disproportionate influence on elections.

I do not think people (or corporations, or unions) should be able to support politicians in any way they want. I do not think a person should be able to pay the politician money in return for the politician supporting legislation that makes that person more money.

I have less of a problem with people simply contributing to the campaign of a candidate whose stated goals they agree with. But what we are talking about here is the politician changing their position for money, and for sums of money only available to large organizations or rich individuals.
 

MikeC

Closed Account
I think you guys are drifting away from chemtrails a bit........fascinating, but perhaps a different forum is more appropriate?? :)
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I agree. Politics has its own bunk (and vast difference of opinions), but it probably better to focus on the matter at hand :)
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
I can relate to that. I was lectured yesterday about corporate corruption in politics in this discussion at naturalnews.com about the Texas rabies vaccine program.

I spent time this morning researching a reply that their spam filters seem to have eaten. It included an investigation of how much the vaccine maker Merial had spent on lobbying. In total they spent $114,000 over the last two years lobbying about the oral rabies vaccination program. I don't like that, and said so. In the relativity of wrong there is a range between a conspiracy to buy undue influence and win contracts that is a long way from the 'weaponization of vaccines' and 'militarization of medicine' for profit.

I think that finding solidarity on core issues like corporate influence can help. Maybe I'll try reposting over there. The Facebook commenting system isn't very reliable.

I like how Robert Kennedy Jr. puts it:

What we have to understand as Americans is that the domination of business by government is called communism. The domination of government by business is called fascism. And our job is to walk that narrow trail in between, which is free-market capitalism and democracy. And keep big government at bay with our right hand and corporate power at bay with our left.




I came across this article last night on a chemtrail site and did quite a bit of reading around the program. (Rabies is unkown in the UK apart from a few bats and my ex wife). I was amazed at its effectivenes. Anywho I did come across a few articles but one I found interesting was a cost-benefit analysis of the program. https://www.avma.org/News/Journals/Collections/Documents/javma_233_11_1736.pdf

There are a few figures thrown in there but the interesting one is:

Now for me that is one cost effective program especially given the efficacy figure the DSHS state

https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/rabies/orvp/statistics/

 
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