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Nevilledog's Journal
Nevilledog's Journal
February 24, 2023

COVID deniers claim a new study says mask mandates don't work. They should try reading it


No paywall


The mask critics are now touting what they seem to think is evidence for their claim that mask mandates don’t work. It’s a meta-study — that is, a compilation — of studies on physical interventions against the spread of respiratory viruses. That includes chiefly masks of various types and hand-washing.

The anti-maskers jumped right on the study soon after its publication on Jan. 30 by the usually trusted Cochrane Library, asserting that it proved that masking didn’t work against COVID-19. Leading the triumphal parade was Bret Stephens, a New York Times columnist and certified member of the “don’t confuse me with the facts” crowd.

Stephens surfaced the other day with a column purportedly based on the Cochrane study and headlined, “The Mask Mandates Did Nothing. Will Any Lessons Be Learned?”

He wrote, “Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as ‘misinformers’ for opposing mandates were right. The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong.”

A few things about this.

First, one lesson about Stephens that many people learned long ago was that he doesn’t do his homework.

February 13, 2023

A "weaponization of government" trope explainer (long, but really good read)


The Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government began its business this week. The hearings were not been especially interesting, replaying old grievances of how Trump had been mistreated, with a star FBI whistleblower who turned out to have left government in the last century.

What is more interesting is the way in which the idea of “weaponization” itself has emerged and been, well, weaponized.

The creation of the new subcommittee represents the formalization of a new trope that has quickly become part of the partisan language of government, serving as a linguistic shorthand for an array of imagined misdeeds, in the way that “woke” or “CRT” has come to do. The word “weaponization” is intended to evoke a pavlovian response that short-circuits actual engagement about evidence: you know the narrative already, so no need to critically assess the specifics.

As it is used, “weaponization” appears to mean an inappropriate use of government resources to target people for unjustified partisan purposes. But “weaponization” by who? And against who? As the Stefanik example above makes clear, there is no effort to employ it even-handedly: the implication is that the federal government is coming for conservatives. (Stefanik is a member of the committee, along with notables such as Matt Gaetz, who was investigated for sex trafficking by one of the agencies the committee will investigate). So where does the trope come from?

February 11, 2023

Trump campaign paid researchers to prove 2020 fraud but kept findings secret


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Former president Trump’s 2020 campaign commissioned an outside research firm in a bid to prove electoral fraud claims but never released the findings because the firm disputed many of his theories and could not offer any proof that he was the rightful winner of the election, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The campaign paid researchers from Berkeley Research Group, the people said, to study 2020 election results in six states, looking for fraud and irregularities to highlight in public and in the courts. Among the areas examined were voter machine malfunctions, instances of dead people voting and any evidence that could help Trump show he won, the people said. None of the findings were presented to the public or in court.

About a dozen people at the firm worked on the report, including econometricians, who use statistics to model and predict outcomes, the people said. The work was carried out in the final weeks of 2020, before the Jan. 6 riot of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol.

Trump continues to falsely assert that the 2020 election was stolen despite abundant evidence to the contrary, much of which had been provided to him or was publicly available before the Capitol assault. The Trump campaign’s commissioning of its own report to study the then-president’s fraud claims has not been previously reported.

“They looked at everything: change of addresses, illegal immigrants, ballot harvesting, people voting twice, machines being tampered with, ballots that were sent to vacant addresses that were returned and voted,” said a person familiar with the work who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private research and meetings. “Literally anything you could think of. Voter turnout anomalies, date of birth anomalies, whether dead people voted. If there was anything under the sun that could be thought of, they looked at it.”


February 8, 2023

Twitter Kept Entire 'Database' of Republican Requests to Censor Posts


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WHEN THE WHITE House called up Twitter in the early morning hours of September 9, 2019, officials had what they believed was a serious issue to report: Famous model Chrissy Teigen had just called President Donald Trump “a pussy ass bitch” on Twitter — and the White House wanted the tweet to come down.

That exchange — revealed during Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on Twitter by Rep. Gerry Connolly — and others like it are nowhere to be found in Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files” releases, which have focused almost exclusively on requests from Democrats and the feds to the social media company. The newly empowered Republican majority in the House of Representatives is now devoting significant resources and time to investigating this supposed “collusion” between liberal politicians and Twitter. Some Republicans even believe the release of the “Twitter Files” is the “tip of the spear” of their crusade against the alleged liberal bias of Big Tech.

But former Trump administration officials and Twitter employees tell Rolling Stone that the White House’s Teigan tweet demand was hardly an isolated incident: The Trump administration and its allied Republicans in Congress routinely asked Twitter to take down posts they objected to — the exact behavior that they’re claiming makes President Biden, the Democrats, and Twitter complicit in an anti-free speech conspiracy to muzzle conservatives online.

“It was strange to me when all of these investigations were announced because it was all about the exact same stuff that we had done [when Donald Trump was in office],” one former top aide to a senior Trump administration official tells Rolling Stone. “It was normal.”

February 2, 2023

Tyre Nichols Was Killed By Black Police Officers Because the Whole System Is Racist


In America, we routinely witness white police officers murdering Black people, though these crimes are rarely called murders. Thousands of people may spend months, sometimes even years, protesting and demanding that officers be charged for the killings we saw them commit. But those officers are very seldom prosecuted or convicted, and even when they are — even after they’ve been convicted — some segments of white America will still find a way to defend them.

We recently saw five Black Memphis police officers get charged with murder just 19 days after they killed 29-year-old Tyre Nichols — before we saw the video footage, before we protested and marched all over the country. This time, many in the media insisted, the footage would show the most brutal police assault we’ve ever seen. Everything that played out before — and after — authorities debuted the video of the vicious attack that led to Nichols’ death heightened anticipation, as if it was the long-awaited release of Dr. Dre’s Detox, and is a testament to several things most Black people have long known.

First: There doesn’t need to be a white person in the room for white supremacy to function. Second: Although white supremacy wholeheartedly welcomes Black cops (and any other Black person who wants in) to be its agents, it will never protect you as it protects its own. Third: Diversifying police departments doesn’t address the fact that policing is as systemically racist as it is innately violent. All too often, hiring more Black and brown officers just provides us with the privilege of being brutalized by people who look like us.

As James Baldwin wrote, “Black policemen were another matter. We used to say, ‘If you must call a policeman’ — for we hardly ever did — ‘for God’s sake, try to make sure it’s a white one.’ A Black policeman could completely demolish you. He knew far more about you than a white policeman could and you were without defenses before this Black brother in uniform, whose entire reason for breathing seemed to be his hope to offer proof that, though he was Black, he was not Black like you.” Or in the words of N.W.A, who put it simply: “But don’t let it be a Black and a white [cop], cause they’ll slam ya down to the street top, Black police showin’ out for the white cop.” The danger posed by the Black police officer is well known and documented across the Black community.


January 30, 2023

The Two-Decade Red State Murder Problem


Republicans have made crime a major selling point over the past several elections. In 2020 and 2022, they ran ads accusing Democratic candidates of wanting to “defund the police”– a position held by only a handful of fringe Democratic officeholders. In October 2022, one-quarter of ads from Republican candidates and PACs focused on crime. Republican-aligned Fox News aired, on average, 141 segments on crime across weekdays in the two months leading up to the midterms. In the week after the midterm, their coverage of violent crime dropped by 50%.

In March of 2022, we released a report that found murder rates in 2020 were 40% higher in Trump-voting states than Biden-voting states. In this follow-up report, we studied homicide data going back to 2000 to see if this one-year Red State murder epidemic was an anomaly. It was not. Despite a media narrative to the contrary, a wide and widening Red State murder gap has spanned the past two decades.

In this study, we collected homicide data from 2000 through 2020 for all 50 states from the Center of Disease Control Wonder’s National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Data. Data is based on death certificates collected by state registries and provided to the National Vital Statistics System. We chose CDC data over FBI data because it’s more up to date and does not rely on voluntary reporting from counties and states. All states are required to report mortality data to the CDC; they’re only encouraged to report crime data to the FBI. The United States Department of Justice has acknowledged that CDC data is more accurate. (There were four states with several years of missing data–New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. In these instances, we relied on FBI numbers from the Uniform Crime Statistics.)1 To allow for comparison, we calculated the state’s per capita murder rate, the number of murders per 100,000 residents, and categorized states by their presidential vote in the 2020 election, resulting in an even 25-25 state split.

We found that the murder rate in Trump-voting states has exceeded the murder rate in Biden-voting states every year this century. Cumulatively, overall murder rates since 2000 were on average 23% higher in Trump-voting states. For the past 21 years, the top 10 murder rate states have been dominated by reliably red states, namely Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Missouri. Even when we removed the county with the largest city in Trump-voting states (and kept them in for Biden-voting states), murder rates were still significantly higher in these red states.


January 28, 2023

How Republicans Fed a Misinformation Loop About the Pelosi Attack


No paywall

WASHINGTON — Within hours of the brutal attack last month on Paul Pelosi, the husband of the speaker of the House, activists and media outlets on the right began circulating groundless claims — nearly all of them sinister, and many homophobic — casting doubt on what had happened.

Some Republican officials quickly joined in, rushing to suggest that the bludgeoning of an octogenarian by a suspect obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories was something else altogether, dismissing it as an inside job, a lover’s quarrel or worse.

The misinformation came from all levels of Republican politics. A U.S. senator circulated the view that “none of us will ever know” what really happened at the Pelosis’ San Francisco home. A senior Republican congressman referred to the attacker as a “nudist hippie male prostitute,” baselessly asserting that the suspect had a personal relationship with Mr. Pelosi. Former President Donald J. Trump questioned whether the attack might have been staged.

The world’s richest man helped amplify the stories. But none of it was true.


January 24, 2023

Online Amplifiers of Anti-LGBTQ+ Extremism


Published: 01.24.2023
From: Center on Extremism
In recent months, a handful of high-follower social media accounts have driven the rapid spread of dangerous and false narratives designed to marginalize and demonize the LGBTQ+ community. Online amplifiers of anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremism use their influence to push baseless tropes and conspiracy theories to their millions of followers. These claims are frequently picked up by major far right media personalities, expanding their reach. Online amplifiers are key players in an ecosystem of anti-LGBTQ+ hate that drives online harassment campaigns against LGBTQ+ individuals and groups, and spreads narratives which inspire real-world extremist activities, threats and even violence.

The Center on Extremism is tracking several of the biggest online amplifiers of anti-LGBTQ+ extremism:

Libs of TikTok

Libs of TikTok (LoTT) is an anti-LGBTQ+ extremist social media account run by Chaya Raichik. Using false allegations of “grooming,” “child abuse” and “indoctrination,” LoTT frequently targets educators, healthcare professionals and drag performers who either identify as LGBTQ+ or work on LGBTQ+-related issues. Notable narratives promoted by LoTT include an “investigation” into Boston Children’s Hospital and a mega thread vilifying drag shows during Pride Month. Those targeted often report experiencing threats, harassment and real-world violence in the wake of the LoTT campaign against them. LoTT, with a large following of 1.7m on Twitter and significant presence on other major social media platforms, is frequently cited and further amplified by right-wing media figures and politicians, including Tucker Carlson, Glenn Greenwald, Ron DeSantis and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Tweet on Dec. 27th showing LoTT’s promotion of hateful and baseless conspiracy theories regarding the LGBTQ+ community following Raichik’s interview on Tucker Carlson. This post reached an estimated 1.2M viewers, up from LoTT’s average of 984K views per Tweet.

Following LoTT’s inflammatory “investigation” into the gender-affirming care services offered by Boston Children’s Hospital in August 2022, three bomb threats were directed against the facility with two perpetrators directly stating they were targeting services for LGBTQ+ minors.


January 22, 2023

Early Abortion Looks Nothing Like What You've Been Told


No paywall


Primary care clinicians like us who provide early abortions in their practices have long known that the pregnancy tissue we remove does not look like what most people expect. After Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and early pregnancy termination was banned across more than a dozen states, we felt it was important to make this information public and show the images we have seen more widely.

It’s important to us to counter medical misinformation related to early pregnancy because about 80 percent of abortions in the United States occur at nine weeks or earlier. So much of the imagery that people see about abortion comes from abortion opponents who have spent decades spreading misleading fetal imagery to further their cause.

Last fall, as members of the MYA (My Abortion) Network, a clinician-led organization dedicated to educating people about abortion and expanding early abortion services into primary care settings, we launched a multimedia project to provide accurate information regarding early pregnancy tissue after abortion.

The Guardian published our first photos on Oct. 19; they went viral, appearing in media outlets and getting shared widely on social media.

Many people, even those who support abortion rights, did not believe the photos were accurate. Some insisted we had deliberately removed the embryos before taking the photos. The images weren’t consistent with those often seen in embryological textbooks, magnified on ultrasounds or used in anti-abortion propaganda; these enlarged images are not what you see with the naked eye after an abortion. A Stanford gynecologic pathologist has validated our photos, but many people could not believe the pictures were presented unaltered.


Forced birthers still won't accept this
January 22, 2023

What Are Conspiracy Theories? A Definitional Approach to Their Correlates, Consequences, and Communi




Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, social media were rife with conspiracy theories about the origins, spread, and treatment of the virus. One conspiracy theory alleged that the virus was deliberately manufactured in a Chinese laboratory to wage war on the West. Another put forward the notion that it was all a hoax. In early 2022, a conspiracy theory alleged that there were US chemical weapons laboratories in Ukraine, and another conspiracy theory advanced the argument that the war in Ukraine was started deliberately by billionaires while they prepared a new virus to let loose on the world. Conspiracy theories like these—allegations that two or more actors have coordinated in secret to achieve an outcome, and that their actions are of public interest but not widely known by the public—abound in social and political discourse. However, even though they are more visible due to advances in communication technology, they are not a new phenomenon. For instance, in earlier decades conspiracy theories have alleged that Diana, Princess of Wales, was assassinated by the British secret service; that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job; and that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax. Conspiracy theories have therefore always been with us. When we hear news about important social and political events and circumstances, we also hear conspiracy theories about them.

Despite the prominence of conspiracy theories, psychological scientists have only begun to study them in earnest in the past 20 years. The development of this research agenda is important for many reasons. To give just one example, belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories has been linked with reluctance to take the behavioral precautions and vaccines required to protect public health. Throughout their history, conspiracy theories have been associated with violence, war, terrorism, prejudice, poor health choices, and denial of climate change. In many important ways, therefore, conspiracy theories matter.

Progress in the study of this important topic has been spectacular. We have prepared this article to review this progress, highlighting what we know, and what we are yet to learn, about the psychology of conspiracy theories. Moving beyond the boundaries of a descriptive review, we argue that significantly more progress will be achieved if we pay more careful attention to determining exactly what we are studying. We argue therefore for analyzing the essential features of conspiracy theories and their implications for the causes, consequences, and transmission of conspiracy beliefs.

We begin by reviewing the empirical literature on conspiracy theories, highlighting both the abundance and the disorganization of empirical discoveries in this literature. We then take a step back to propose a reasoned definition of conspiracy theories. From this, we derive an inventory of some of their most important inherent characteristics. We then articulate a metatheoretical framework in which hypotheses about the acceptance, sharing, and impacts of conspiracy theories can be inferred from these defining characteristics. We argue that this framework synthesizes hitherto disconnected insights into the antecedents, transmission, and consequences of conspiracy belief, and it promises to promote and direct innovation in further research.


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