ConspiraciesTags: English, politics, opinions, essays, life
Created on Thu, 19 Aug 2021
I've been listening to a lot of arguments lately about the "safety of the vaccine", "the lie about the Corona". My last five or so blog posts (since about 3 months ago) are all about me going as deep as I can tolerate into some conspiracies and questioning truth, reality and authority. Now, I am spending my summer vacation in the worst country in EU regarding vaccination rate (~15% fully vaccinated as of writing of this post in August 2021) but also one of most corrupt - 69th/180, and with least press freedom - 112th. Correlation doesn't imply causation of course. So let me causate it using my observations.
In my view there are three types of conspiracists. Take "The Earth is Flat" conspiracy:
The first group might be schizophrenics and other categorically mentally ill people for whom is hard to discern reality. This is not a small group of people - prevalence of schizophrenia alone is 0.33-0.75% of the population so maybe up to 1 in 100 people might be having physiological issues with understanding what is real and how to judge any sort of truth.
Trolls - people that know the Earth is Round but for whatever reason want to put fuel in the fire. Their motivations can be as bening as for Lulz (i.e. just for fun, to see people freaking out and going over their heads to prove) and as bad intended as the proverbial Russian (or American, Australian, Chinese, Macedonian or pick-your-blame-country) state agent trolls hired to spread misinformation and undermine trust in science, authority or democracy. Possibly there may also be a group of corporate trolls that make it hard for other companies but nonetheless - these are people that are paid to spread missinfo.
The last group is otherwise seemingly healthy and rational people that have genuinely started believing the Earth may be (or is) flat - either due to the influence of the other two groups or (more dangerously) other people that are close to them that are already in group 3 (i.e. self-group influence).
The last group would be most interesting to me. What makes people throw away sanity, rational thought and start believing insane things such as the Earth is flat?
Well, maybe let's start that they may not be throwing away sanity or rationality. Especially from their perspective, they may believe they are totally coherent in their thoughts, beliefs and views. How come?
First of all, some conspiracies have been correct: The NSA tapping our computers and networks, the Opioid crisis, the Volkswagen test cheats - just to name a few.
Second - a lot of the elaborate conspiracies, the ones that survive are driven by forces similar to natural selection - they have answers to a lot of the standard rebuttals. They are also deep rabbit holes with lots of "proofs", some of them may require high technical knowledge, math and science skills that would be out of scope for "otherwise rational people". Even if you are good at math and some science, you for sure are not an expert in all of Physics, all of Biology and Chemistry and all of their subfields like Astronomy, Medicine, Pharmacology; or the more "softer" sciences such as History, Anthropology, Economics and Politics. Common misconceptions that you don't know in the science may be thrown at you and even if you notice one of the arguments in the field that you know that is off, you may not notice the other ones which are off your expertise, unless you are ready to become an expert in all of humanity.
But what would be the kind of person from the third group that would even consider following the initial link sent by a friend or found in a Facebook group, "news" website or other source? Well, not everybody, but a lot of people trust their friends and give a lot of credulence to someone who they knew were usually previously right about things. Remember - people from the third group are usually "otherwise rational".
So it's just the slippery slope, the slow boiled frog? I think there is one more ingredient.
General distrust in authority and/or people.
This could be at a lot of levels. A person may generally distrust the government and the information "they" are saying. Maybe they lived through a transition period of regimes and things didn't get perceptually better - what many people would say in Bulgaria that lived through the 90s. It could be distrust in "mainstream media" because of perceived corruption, lack of freedom of expression or influence. This can also be societal problem of the whole nation, percolating up and down groups of people. Or it could be that the individual in general distrusts people now or in the past. Perhaps their parents got divorced when they were little. Perhaps they had a long string of bad relationships, cheats by significant others, betrayals by friends. They now don't believe what people tell them and want to find "alternative" truths elsewhere. Or the reveal of the truth about Santa was somehow particularly harmful during a vulnerable period of their life.
Whatever the case may be, logic will probably not win. Explaining the geometry of the Earth, safety of the vaccines or anything else will inevitably trickle down to "why do you trust authority
There is no point in explaining the workings of the mRNA vaccine, the rates of covid, transmissions, hospitalisations if one doesn't trust the numbers that are produced worldwide for an ongoing issue that is highly politicised and affects daily lives of pretty much everyone on the planet in the past year. I mean - people can believe something as inconsequential as "the earth is flat". Think about it - most people would not be really affected if tomorrow they woke up and indeed it turned out there was a big lie going on in all the science books and observations that one can do - sure a lot of trust will be lost, but in general people will still be able to order their Venti latte or whatever. And convincing people about a currently unfolding event, having huge consequences to their personal lives where the data from each country are with literal error bars - some almost unquantifiable… it's almost impossible, especially if there is no trust somewhere down the line.
So my point is: when you see an antivaxxer, climate change denier, flatearther or an astrologer - kill them, they are useless part of society that are just slowing down progress and we need a nation of rational beings that understand science.
JK. Try to think if you personally have ever gone down a path that you believed something that turned out to be false. I have. Many, many times. If you've never done it perhaps you are not as critically thinking as you would wish to be. I've been wrong many times and it's shameful to come out on the other end, admitting you were wrong and you were spreading bad information to your friends, family and other social groups.
Try to be more empathic towards the history of that person - where are they coming from, what made them go the "wrong" paths, give them the benefit of the doubt - maybe you could even find a nugget of truth in all the crap they are telling you. Maybe one of the 50 "facts" they tell you, you could even agree is somewhat correct. Hold on to that, show that you are on their side at least for one thing. Everyone wants to hear that they are smart and have found a "different truth", that they are unique, that they are special. It's now easier than ever to find an opinion of experts that agree with yours - whatever yours is. It is easier for them to confirm their beliefs that the world is evil, corporations and governments are lying and untrustworthy - some of them actually are!
I'm preaching but this is also advice for myself - I'm the worst at this. I am not that empathic, I dismiss bullshit and run away from it like fire. I stop talking to people even when I notice they may be obsessed with shit beliefs. It doesn't help me in the long run although it's tempting to show intellect superiority. I hope this is as much advice for me as it is for you, dear reader. I know it's some how more correct to be patient with people, not dismiss them and live among the ones with different opinions. But I'm not good at that and some days/weeks I'm not even trying. I hate irrationality, probably because of some of my own trauma somewhere in my life that I'm yet to realize. Who knows.
Hope this helped a bit. Till next time!
I'm an average idiotTags: English, personal, life
Created on Wed, 30 Jun 2021
"What if YOU are wrong? What if you’re not a Galileo Galilei, but an Andrew Wakefield?".
This ^ woke me up. Andrew Wakefield is the dude that started the initial conspiracy of "vaccines cause autism" back in the 90s. This long (but deservedly so) video explains in more detail that you ever wanted to know:
On the other side, the argument about being "Galileo" (which I also referenced in my last post) is refering to this article by Heather Heying, who usually co-host the podcast DarkHorse along with her husband Bret Weinstein.
So, as I started doing counter research to what I've been recently dipping my toes in the conspiracy theories, I found the good old investigative journalism articles that do a good job at dismounting "evidence" claimed by a fairly small group of people that reinforce themselves, claiming that "they" are silencing them and so on.
It's easy to go into the rabbit hole, spending hours into conspiracies, feeling that there are a lot more voices counter to the "mainstream narrative" where in fact one forgets how consensus is made and starts wishing that he is the special one along with the others that is discovering the truth rather than thousands and probably millions of health professionals around the world.
Sure, there are conspiracy theories and corporate scandals every once in a while. But what is the chance of such a huge conspiracy that encompass media, governments and health agencies around the world, each with thousands of people all blind, vs. a few that can "see" the truth?
It is more romantic in a way, but which is more likely?
Are these people Galileos or a Andrews?
When you put it like that - of course it's more likely that they are Andrews. But if I turn the question to myself - of course I dream to be a Galileo. So I want to think that I'm smart, a genius maybe by virtue of following "different thinkers".
But I'm most likely an idiot to even think that. Looking at the articles which disprove the claims - well, it makes me feel small. There are much smarter people than me and it's even difficult to follow all of the arguments.
These people are called part of the "Intellectual Dark Web". It's tempting to get there (the term is by the way claimed by the brother of the Bret's DarkHorse podcast guy referenced above). They seem smart and logical. But as with most humans - we are idiots individually. Different thinking is not necessarily a sign of intellect - most of the time it's a sign of stupidity.
So that's what I think happened with me. I don't like much of the centralization of the web - but this topic is huge for me and probably for another time. I projected my own grievances, some of which may still be valid, into the whole situation, trying to find alternative narratives. The initial spark was outside of me - a new relationship - but this could've easily been some internal curiousity, an interesting conversation or an argument with a friend that I wouldn't let go.I started slowly dipping my toes until I stopped realizing that my whole body is now swimming in bullshit. One by one, as the proverbial "boiling frog" misconception goes - I didn't realize how many assumptions I've made - mistrusting thousands of smart scientists that do difficult work, coming to consensus for each new sentence that engulfs me.
I liked some of the journey - I thought a lot about what is true, what are the different ways that we can be manipulated and how many times in living memory we have been, true conspiracies that come to life and of course the whole experience of getting into one, at least for a while.
But I must now come back to rationality. Humanity has problems - more than we can count and measure. But there are choices we make every day that are not easy - either with too little, or too much information. As one of the sources above said: "which is better: conspiracy ideas spreading around like wildfire or some community guidelines that is the discretion of a private company, doing its best to protect some dangerous discussions with the cost of limiting some free speech"?
I still don't like centralization of the web, staying in one's own bubble and calling the other side "stupid". We all are on some level. Division is not good. But I fight with myself and try to pull myself up from the bullshit to see what is the consensus and trust the massive amounts of people, as I originally claimed in my first post. I can only appreciate more in what trouble we are as humanity if it's that easy to slip these days into shit but also hope that people will wake up see when they are sinking like I was/am doing.
Can YouTube be wrong?Tags: English, technology, opinions, life, politics
Created on Tue, 29 Jun 2021
No. This is simply, mathematically impossible.
YouTube (Google/Alphabet) is not made of people. It's made of omniscient gods. I am one of them, therefore it must be true.
So when YouTube puts this in their guidelines:
It is impossible that they (we) are wrong.
"OK, " - a mere mortal might ask - "Why are they (you) claiming this? Joe Rogan invited that guy that you talked about the other week and this new doctor dude to talk about some medicine. They seem calm, rational and calmly talking about evidence-based research, just look:"
Ah, so you are watching this outside of the exclusive deal that Rogan has with Spotify, you filthy pirate! How dare you!? Also, why are you going after this far-right idiot? He is American comedian, podcaster, and UFC color commentator - not a medical doctor! He likes being controversial, that doesn't mean he is right. There is a reason he is mostly off our platform now - other than some clips here and there
"OK, " - a shithead like you will say - "How about Dr. John Campbell with >1M subscribers on YouTube talking about a study called Ivermectin for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19 Infection - a peer-reviewed, Systematic, Meta-analysis, and Trial Sequential Analysis to Inform Clinical Guidelines"
One-doctor science does not make! He is not even a medical doctor but a nurse with a PhD. Besides, these are small-scale studies made by clinicians, not our trusted fact-checked sources, we need clinical studies! Stop spreading missinformation, it's hard enough for us.
Let me answer your stupid, uninformed, conspiratorial question. Just let me warn you that once you start going into questioning the dogma of the times, you are a conspiracist, you dumb, dumb flat-earther! What now, we didn't land on the moon?! How far-right you've gone - there is only left and far-right - either you are with us or you are crazy!
Few things, you 9-11 denier:
First of all, YouTube (actually - Google LLC or the parent conglomerate - Alphabet) is a private entity that is holding, among other things, the domain youtube.com. They (we) pay for that domain that just so happens to be the second most popular. So what goes on that piece of the Internet is their (our) own business. They (we) can ban purple giraffes tomorrow if we want to. We can ban you from posting anything. We can ban The President (of the USA of course, you dummy, who else), we can make the whole site full of dickpics tomorrow if we want to. The fact that you are smart enough to be getting your information from that highly reputable source just shows how independent and thoughtful you are and we thank you.
WHO, FDA, EMA says that this medicine is only up for clinical trials and that the evidence from current studies is weak. Therefore it's true because agencies have never been wrong. "No such piece of paper ever existed. You invented it, and later you grew to believe in it. You remember now the very moment at which you first invented it. Do you remember that?"
By the way, the highlighted medicine is being studied as possible treatment in UK. But that's just studies so we still prohibit discussing the recommendation of it. The fact that so many people get their info from us and our rival partners just shows how thoughtful you are. You should trust us to block content that we don't want discussed on our domains even if science is still undecided. And also: UK is not U.S.A.
Are you worried by some adverse side effects that happens to young males after their second vaccine? Yeah, don't. It's for the common good, you should all bear some individual sacrifice!
By the way, this podcast that talked about this medicine and other stuff has been "removed for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines." so you know we mean business. Some idiots have saved copies on their self-hosted websites but you know - they are not that popular.
By the way, we hold the whole .dev domain so if this fucker becomes inconvenient, we "reserve the right to slightly kick him off our domain".
Anyway, here's what we would've told Galileo if we had ultimate control of what is being discussed in public in XVII century: Buy your own domain!
But seriously, we would've obviously agreed with G.G. We applaud creative thinkers and challengers of the status quo. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia
C'mon: Think logically.
Is it possible that all these worldwide organizations are blind or miss led? No
Is it possible that the vaccine producers don't care about people but just money? No. Obviously no. I mean, why would you not be able to sue them if they turn out to be wrong!?
C'mon, the whole scientific community can't be misled!
So we stand by banning discussion about content that we are experts in. We are the elite programmers in the world and therefore we also understand medicine and the whole world also, basically.
What would it mean for all this to be true?
</sarcasm> (which means ""end of sarcasm", you stupid non-programmer people. Why are you not a programmer? You should be! If you inspect the code of this article, you will actually see that it starts with a
<sarcasm> tag meaning this whole thing was exagerated for fun. Stop doing other stuff that interest you and start programming, learn the truth! Okay, really
It would mean that really all the conspiracies that we've known so far, some of them linked above, must come true. That really all the trustworthy, hundreds of years old media, newspapers and agencies with decades of experience, agencies that have successfully eradicated smallpox in the past - have all been somehow manipulated.
But what about not manipulated but silenced?
Removing videos from the most popular video platform with a large stroke will inevitably have some rate of false negatives - i.e. videos that speak something "true" but are removed due to general guidelines.
Is it possible that a lot of doctors (or otherwise claimed authorities) are shutdown in the past
>year (another programmer's thing: meaning "more than a year", just really: learn it already!) have been discredited and "cancelled" by the common narrative? How would we ever have Galileo's or any of the people that challenged the status quo in science?
The people in the Joe Rogan video might be wrong. But it's really, really hard not to listen to them. They don't sound like so called "conspiracy theorists". They don't sound like "anti-vaxxers" in general. They may be showing true data that needs to be discussed - but I'm not in a position to understand what the data really is - that's why we have specializations like doctors.
For sure, I see the point of YouTube and folks - it's a hard problem to allow true science while blocking quackery. There will be false positives and false negatives. You don't want everything to be questioned - that's the equivalent of a Denial of Service attack. Especially at a time with Prisoner's dilemma sort of choice in which the strategy of "wait until everyone else vaccinates" wins against some possible, albeit rare, side effects of the fastest vaccine in the world.
But these folks don't question everything. They question the following: * TL;DR(W): Is it possible that a particular medicine, from which companies won't have profit because its patent has expired, be somehow hidden from recommendations for public use so that vaccines are pushed to "emergency authorization" mode quicker to benefit BigPharma?
That's a much narrower question than "the whole pandemic is a scam".
They are also talking about possible under-reported adverse side-effects from the vaccine. Even YouTube's guidelines say that they prohibit "Claims that any medication or vaccination is a guaranteed prevention method for COVID-19". So why should this vaccine be different?
I urge you to watch or listen to Joe's podcast on his official Spotify thing. I download and host copies on my own self-hosted peertube because I don't know anymore what dissapears from the Interwebs and I don't want to have Spotify account. I guess until that podcast is still hosted officially, and you don't mind having Spotify account, it's probably best to listen to it there so that somehow he gets the $$$.
So, to sum up: I have no idea what I'm talking about but you go, listen to the show and tell me they are all crazy people. Listen to the whole thing that is, not excerpts, and tell me they don't make sense to you.
Then go to this DarkHorse Podcast Clips channel (while it still exist), watch some clips and tell me these folks don't know what they are talking about. I'm pretty sure they are wrong about some things but they don't seem arrogant. Is it possible that they are one of these Russian propaganda machines and they are doing a double-subversion - i.e. being pretty good experts but just throwing in miss/diss-information for the sake of confusion? Sure.
I could be completely in the rabbit-hole now. I could've succumbed to negativity bias and went too far. I'm trying to balance and it's getting really hard to know what's true...
Normalizing what used to be taboo
I stopped watching US comedians a few months ago. Perhaps a month or so after their election. Why? Cause I felt what I have felt in my home country with a particular Bulgarian ex-comedian that is soon going to become president, prime-minister or I don't know what: extremely politically biased.
For me a true comedian is true to themselves. A political comedian will target mostly the current in-power. It would be a similar spin to proper news-information media but with in a fun way.
US comedians I believed are like that for some time. But they are not. They are annoyingly political.
However, a couple of weeks ago, this old legend came to a the new host of The Late Show and threw a bomb, ridiculing the ignorance of the Lab Hypothesis until a month ago:
The current host was struggling to contain him. Maybe it was an additional layer of skit to his comment (otherwise, highly probably, would've been taken down or not promoted by the show producers). But I feel a struggle in Colbert, a struggle that he has been wrong.
How many people have been wrong during this pandemic about one thing or another? I for sure have been - I've admitted that in the beginning I thought it's "the next scare from the media". Then I run the numbers and convinced myself that is serious. But I didn't have to - there were strong enough messages from canceled flights to events, work from home and masks everywhere. I'm pretty sure every single person has been wrong on some level, about something during these turbulent times.
But how easy is it for people to admit they have been wrong. Multiple. Times.
We divided into camps. Pro-masks and anti-masks. Pro-lockdowns and anti-lockdowns. Pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine. Communication between the groups became less and less as people got tired of convincing "the other side". Once you are in one camp, you accept all the other opinions of the group around you. You conform - you have other things to worry about. You isolate the messages, you get tired of digging for the truth as it is so difficult and hazy anyway. You don't want to switch about anything to the other side - you will lose your friends and people who have been with you during these times. The other group may not accept you for being a traitor anymore.
BigTech is not the only one at fault, but it helped the divisions. Showing "similar" or "recommended" videos and posts from what you already are like, it limits what you will see on the other side. But even if it didn't - you don't want to see it. You are scared of going to the other side or even learning about them. They are idiots or "libtards". "Nazis" or "soyboys" (I'm not good with this new terminology).
Journalists are people too. Tech are people too. People working in the big agencies, are people as well. They also chose camps.
And when the vaccination is so important to be done quickly any kind of hesitation will put off some people. So block this. Don't talk about this.
Tech people have had the mantra that "the user is drunk" for too long. That means - don't trust that the user is smart or is going to read anything - just present them with the easiest choice and easiest pre-digested information.
140 characters for "in-depth" information. Clickbaits journalism. Videos that are at most 10 minutes long or if they are longer - cut them into chunks of "ideal" 10 minutes.
Then it became worse.
Memes and infographics. Infinite scroll. Dancy videos. Always consume, never think. Or when you think, you may be conspiracist.
Then it became even worse.
Propaganda. Bots. Fake accounts. Fake groups. Fake fake accounts. Fake fake bots. Real bots behind fake people. Thousands and millions of unknown profiles, looking convincing. We lost what is true and how to know it. We depend on BigTech to figure it out with "AI, Blockchain or Big Data". But it's still mostly humans and some way-from-ideal technology that makes all sorts of errors.
All was good until some stupid elections in some third world countries were maybe manipulated and we all had a good laugh out of Brexit or Trump.
And now lives depend on these companies to be arbiters of science and truth.
We won't tell you the exact risks that are for you individually - we will group you under large cohorts and give you aggregated statistics, assuring you we've done the calculation for the global good for you. It doesn't matter if you had COVID before or not. It doesn't matter what is the current herd immunity - you still need to get it. We've calculated the DALYs and other risk-benefit calcs. And it seems like a stronger message from the politicians that "everyone needs to get vaccinated" rather than having a more gray approach - after all, you want to travel, don't you?
What if we are wrong?
Well, then, you can't sue us. It's emergency and we make billions, so all is good. We won't open source the vaccine or remove patents, even if that will accelerate the process.
We are fighting the good fight - removing missinformation. And if some legitimate information gets also removed - well, then - it's emergency, there is no responsibility. We are a private company, you chose to participate by clicking "I agree" and wanting the "cookies".
We control the information so that you don't have to.
The Internet was not supposed to be like this... But the monopoly game is in its final rounds and it shows.
What would convince me to NOT vaccinate? (part 3)Tags: English, politics, opinions, essays, life
Created on Thu, 17 Jun 2021
So, part 1 - Why I got vaccinated and part 2 - What is True are my attempts to figure out how to find truth in this day and age. My conclusion: it's hard.
Today, I play the devil's advocate. My usual conversation when someone presents me with a conspiracy theory is to ask "What would convince you otherwise?". So, let's play this game on me today - what would convince me that the vaccine is NOT safe?
My response is that first, I trust the World Health Organization (WHO), European Medicines Agency (EMA), the US's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the regional Swiss authority for up-to-date information on what regulations I should follow. So naturally if there an announcement about vaccine unsafety, it would go there. I somewhat trust that the news would propagate from these authorities to me as I don't follow these daily. But if a news (or other) article does not source information eventually from one of these (or similarly highly authoritative sources) I would be skeptical to it's validity or as usual - extraordinary claims would require extraordinary proofs.
So let's start from there - is anything alarming on these authorities right now? Most of the side effects are the shoulder swelling or mild flu-like symptoms for a few days. Nothing too scary.
General other rare side effects include anaphylaxis (that's why we stay for a few minutes in the clinic, because it can easily be treated), very rare case thrombosis with J&J which got pulled off in some regions for further evaluation and also not recommended for pregnant women. (CDC, EMA)
Something more scary? Well, recently all of them are investigating "cases of mild myocarditis" (WHO, CDC, EMA, Swissmedic). The jury is still out since most of the data is coming from self-reporting systems and it's a temporal correlation, not necessarily causation and it might be a somewhat increased incidence due to many people vaccinating in a short amount of time or more awareness of systems for self-reporting (i.e. everyone is now super vigilant and on high alert to report anything even slightly suspicious). Or it might be the case that it does actually is caused by the vaccine and the risks should be re-evaluated and eventually pause the massive vaccination.
Why do you trust THEM, sheeple?!
Alright, playing the devil's advocate - is there an argument to lose trust in all of these agencies?
Let's start with the more benign hypothesis - Maybe their assessment of risk is "it's better to kill 10,000 people but save 1,000,000" - but this is hard to communicate since no one wants to be in the 10,000 group of people. And deciding to vaccinate yourself vs. "just living your life" feels a lot more dangerous since it's a decision you take that "powerful people" have made vs. "nature/God running it's course". Although, of course, purely cold risk analysis puts the situations as similar - your decision to stay at home or go out and meet people is a decision that increases or decreases your risk of long-term COVID effects which may kill you - but slowly, each day, one decision at a time. Compare that with the one-time injection - a one-time medium risk vs medium-times small risk - they could both be equal but one feels more decisive.
Or each may trust other colleagues in a "the king is naked" situation - no one individual wants to speak up since their reputation is going to be ruined or marked as a conspiracist. Or they might be afraid that if they blow the whistle now with some uncertaintly, it might push enough people in an already misstrusting societies to not get vaccinated and thus never returning to "normalcy" - so better postpone until a much higher level of signal can be obtained.
BUT, the organizations' might be more devious than that. They might be too slow to approve alternatives or pull out vaccines. They may have some corrupt structure inside that get incentivised by BigPharma, BigTech or BigGovernment(s) to lie, cheat or at least postpone "the truth". They may be censored or cartelled in some way to promote interests worldwide.
It reminds me of the movie "The Big Short" - where there were a few "crazy" people that fore-saw the financial crisis in 2007-8 but were claimed as nut-jobs or conspirators. They looked at the numbers, they assumed all the big banks are blind to the situation and they also had to assume the "government is asleep at the wheel", "the rating agencies were crooked" and so on. Huge leaps of faith that turned out to be true.
This is extremely rare, but it's a proof that it does happen. Sometimes conspiracies are right - as we've seen in the previous posts, the Opioid crisis, the tobacco industry and as The Big Short shows - the financial crisis of 2007-8. But for each conspiracy theory that turns out to be right, there must be thousands or millions that are not. How do you decide? And how strong is the conspiracy - which parts of the theory may be right and which are completely outlandish. You gotta be pretty deep into understanding how things work to be able to draw plausible conclusions of whether the system is crooked or is it the KGB that spreads missinformation and tries to undermine democracies (as I've showed in the last post).
Following each conspiracy theory closely can get you (D)DoS-ed - there might be legitimate ones that should be paid attention to but there will be thousands which will be complete bullshit and are by definition wasting your time trying to get to the "truth" confusing you with false data.
A video example
So, I got across a certain video and in this section I want to show what kind of investigation I want when someone decides to "show me the truth - don't you see!?".
On the short video below these three dudes talk. The whole podcast is three hours and I listened to it (my peertube copy) so I have some thoughts which I will share below.
But let's check at least one of the dudes first. This is how I operate to "fact check" something.
Dr. Robert Malone self-claims on his consulting website that he is the inventor of the mRNA vaccine and is credited as such on the podcast. First, I find it suspicious that there is no wikipedia article for this guy. There is no mention of the guy on the RNA vaccine wiki page however, there is a "semi-protected edit request on 2 March 2021" on the talk page. The user proposing the edit got blocked since "wikipedia police" decided he is spamming advertising and promotion.
Why would I trust the "wiki police"? Well, we can see the history of Glasspool1 contributions - and they are all about DNA and RNA vaccines, therapeutics and we can also see the difference in history edits always trying to push that "DNA vaccine was invented at Vical, Inc in 1988 by Dr. Robert W. Malone" and so on.
Wikipedia is cool - tons of investigative journalism could be done there. And maybe someone does it, but I don't know. Anyway, let's continue.
Could Glasspool1 be right and there is a higher force in wikipedia to "censor the truth"? Okay, so now we must include User:RandomCanadian who warned him of blocking, User:ToBeFree that actually did block him and investigate what would their incentive be to be blocking "the truth teller", what are their contributions and for how long, could they be acting as puppets to someone else telling them to block these "truth seekers" or "conspiracy theorists" and so on. We also need to look at the references of the claim of the edit, what they mean and how all of these are connected.
Could Dr. Malone be censored on purpose? His twitter feed seems to be full of trying to defend his position on the inventor of the mRNA vaccine. Is he fighting the right fight and wants to get acknowledged for his life's work or is he trying to steal the glory of someone else?
And then we also need to check out the other dudes - who are they, what they do, what are their beliefs and claims. The business dude for example seems to have an aligned interest to promote certain medicines for treating COVID instead of vaccinating the world. So how much can we trust his stance?
And the podcast dude can obviously be taking the views from conspiracy theorists, just making the bucks. Or he could be geniunly interested in public safety.
Anyway, that's why we should have investigative journalists that get paid to do all of this work, because it can take days, weeks or even months to untangle all of that just for this one video.
Then, as always, the question becomes how do you trust the investigative journalist? Well, how do you trust me, reading this post?
I presented links to wikipedia that (unless I hacked one of the post popular websites in the world) show progress of events as clues as to what has been going on in recent months. My conclusion (that may differ from yours) is that someone was trying to push the narrative that Robert Malone is the inventor of the RNA vaccine when he might not be or at least it's disputed. Or your conclusion might be a step further - that someone is censoring wikipedia. But then the point is to gather a lot of evidence from both sides of the argument, present them and let the reader eventually come to a conclusion which side has more merits.
As I talked in part 1 and 2 - it's extremely hard to come up with what is True. But I would rather see this kind of investigation than what is currently presented as "news" - clickbaity titles at best, competing for attention, clicks and ad-revenue, or even random 100-something character tweets that in no way can get into any substance or possibility of trying to draw conclusions as to what might really be happening.
Disclosure, as usual
Oh, right, let's move past ad hominem and look at the arguments themselves.
Let's assume the dudes are right - we are in a sort of a Big Short situation and they are the ones seeing the truth. Their basic argument seems to me is that vaccines have more side effects and cause way more deaths than reported, we should be focusing on finding ways to prevent and treat COVID but huge forces such as BigPharma block these attempts. Moreover, the topic of discussing anti-vaccine is taboo and so it's harder to get to the truth.
I need to be careful since obviously I'm a tech dude, not a virologist, epidemiologist, not even any sort of biologist - just have a basic understanding of RNA and viruses (as most people these days on planet Earth). I don't have good historical context or know how the government or the agencies work. Don't know what it means to try to push a drug, publish a paper or run a hospital. Don't know what it means to be a physician and cure people, don't know how to live with assessing risk/benefit and deciding the fate of a single human or a population as a whole.
In other words - I'm just a dude with a blog, trying to make sense of what the video (and the article) says.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The King is Naked and other stories
Could the dudes be somewhat right. Or even if they are wrong but some other dudes in some future time - a week, month, a year - come up and they are right. What would make society believe that something is off and we should stop?
Well, one way is that WHO, CDC, EMA (called TheOrgs from now on) and the rest get convinced or act in a good faith and pull the vaccines off. Another one is what is proposed in the end of the podcast - Elon Musk or someone cult-person like that tweets that we should not get vaccinated.
But would they? As I alluded previously any individual whistle-blower is risking everything in such a polarized society. Moreover - they are most likely to get blocked and banned by BigTech and mainstream media, marked as a conspirator etc. Edward Snowden took huge risk when disclosing the NSA privacy invasions that happen - and that was not such a forbidden topic by the main conversation medium of the day - it was actually interesting. Today - we are much more on social media and isolated at homes for a year and it's not about invasion of privacy - but invasion of our bodies. Literal life or death situation. The wrong message is deadly - the wrong arguments are going to kill people. The false flags of "pull the vaccines" will make people hesitate.
So one must be certain beyond doubt to do certain thing. And then how far away his message will go? Just look at the video above - on YouTube or elsewhere it's still up but don't know for how long. And how many people will watch it. And how much is it going to be pushed by YouTube's algorithm or the author might get demonetized.
How many are possibly blocked right now "telling the truth"? The anti-DDoS measures taken must have false-positive/false-negative rates - and when we don't have transparency or ways to check the quantity of true-positives and true-negatives but just blindly blocking everything then we are blind to potential red flags.
I was initially skeptical of the whole corona-thing way back when I first heard it in January 2020. I thought it was "just the next virus happening somewhere else that the media is overexagerating as they usually do". In just my lifetime, there was swine flu, bird flu, ebola and others that hadn't infected me in the slightest but were huge media news everyday about these.
So I was almost naturally trained to not care about the corona. I thought it's something happening in China, so no trip there - whatever.
Then it got stronger, it got to Italy. There were visuals of people staying at home but still didn't get it - thought it might be an overreaction or something.
Then it started affecting me. Flights, trips and plans canceled. Stay at home. Masks. We all know it.
Then I looked at the numbers. I made this video for exponential growth (in Bulgarian).
So it might be real. But for a few months I was not believing, thinking it's a hoax, it's an overblown flu for some political reasons and so on. I was in the "boy who cried wolf" situation - I had the perception that the media lied to me too many times.
I can see how some people are still doubtful. Numbers are complicated and as I spoke previously - (thank God/Random/etc) it's not The Plague that we see death everywhere. It's just dangerous enough to keep on spreading and with the potential to overwhelm the health system if not contained.
But are the measures still effective? Are masks good? Are lockdowns effective? Or are we in the TSA kind of situation where we introduced a metric like checking you at the airport for dangerous stuff for the "security theater" which makes us believe we are safe and protected and people in power don't dare to pull the measures off so that they don't seem weak or other political stuff.
This erodes trust. Blocking people while necessary to stop spread of missinformation also erodes trust in people having a true-positive story. Journalists wouldn't talk about anti-vaccine effects. See how the theory of the Lab-leak was taboo and then suddenly, when Facebook lift the ban, it became mainstream and normal to talk about again. How is that good if we want to find truth?
How long would it take for WHO and the rest to recognize a true positive of a lot of deaths in the population? After all, if doctors believe that the vaccines are safe, would they ever report a death as a causation of a vaccine or would they always assume it must be something else?
What would get me convinced not to vaccinate?
Honestly, my belief is starting to get shaken up. And of course it will - I've been deliberately going into looking for negative information about the vaccines lately. As a human, I'm also subject to negativity bias so everything that is bad, deadly is gonna be way more intense than the hundreds of millions of people that are fine after >2 BILLION vaccines administered. When you have such big numbers, one in a million events are going to happen 1000s of times!
I shouldn't have to look at rate of background mortality for myocarditis and have the statistical knowledge to decide whether I now have an increased risk after vaccinating or that's just a correlated effect coming from something else - like selection bias and so on. It should be TheOrgs to do that and get a decision quickly, preferably before my second vaccine...
I'm getting obviously selfish here. I wouldn't care much if they come up with a decision after my second vaccine - I'm already in the pot. As I don't care much of long-term effects after my first vaccine that may come up - I've already done it and what happens will happen regardless of how much I worry.
But they may not. Me and millions of people will get vaccinated in the next months and every day that delay will push more and more potential harm. It seems we may truly be in a kind of a guinea-pig situation where the population works as a huge test surface. But I can also see of course the argument that extremely rare events would not manifest until extremely large pool of the population gets exposed (to the vaccine). I can also see the argument of the risk of side effects of the vaccine are smaller than risk of side effects of the virus. My trust lies in TheOrgs to calculate the risks using known background incidence rates and metrics such as Quality-adjusted life year (QALY) to make a decision based on whether certain people should vaccinate or not. And of course, it would make sense for certain cohorts to vaccinate and others - not. Also, as time goes on perhaps the vaccinations of certain individuals can tip the scale as being more dangerous - as COVID is not circulating that aggressively anymore.
That puts these two options as the only ones on the table. What if "the dudes" are right - what if there was the option to spend more time and research money on treatment and prevention instead of the fastest vaccine in the world for the first time with this technology of mRNA? What if we took the time to explore other options for not only staying locked at home but restructure (part of) the education system to allow for more in-nature education?
Are there still options or are we pass this point? What if the next crisis we need to solve is the after effect of a rushed vaccine - treating all those people for whom the solution was worse than the problem?
For sure I'm not even close to the smartest people on the planet working at TheOrgs. I'm not even the only one who is getting a bit scared of all of that. It's a symptom of the loss of trust TheOrgs because of so many issues and true conspiracies previously, incentives which align with the wealthy and powerful so that businesses can reopen quick and the-always-must-be-growing capitalistic economy turns its wheels again.
So officially what would convince me is: a message from TheOrgs that risk profile is changing. I still trust them although I see some arguments not to. One the one side - I don't want to fall into the sunk cost bias - I'm reevaluating my risks these days. The fact that I've done one shot shouldn't make me more likely to get the second one, even if I have an appointment. Things change, risks change and perhaps is better not to. On the other hand - I still want to travel and a single dose gets me no closer to travel than no dose. On the other hand on protection level-argument, I'm about 30% less likely to get COVID and possibly also transmit it to my parents or other people I care about since I got the first jab. So now I must weight the risks of getting the second jab and have a slightly higher risk for a (mostly) treatable inflammation of the heart and unknown side effects from a vaccine vs getting exposed to COVID and getting it with the unknown long-term side effects from COVID. Waiting to see what the stance of TheOrgs is but this kind of time pressure is definitely no good and shows a huge whole in the whole "we should all quickly get vaccinated to return back to normal".
Here is the summary of my concerns:
- Blocking discussion, claiming everything on the side of non-vaxxing is conspiracy while there might be legitimate concerns.
- BigTech and media censorship leads to possible under-/over-reporting of bad stuff, influencing scientific method, losing trust in The System and leading all nutheads and shity arguments like the one in my blog to exist, further eroding trust in authorities and organizations who should be able to make decisions.
- I should not be dealing with calculating risks of side effects - every action has risks and I don't do this for my daily activities including stuff like skiing or boarding a car. Though at some point, those seem to be concerning and is about "informed concent", not imposing from employers or governments.
- Giving pharmaceutical companies a golden ticket into my body. They will not be sued because they leveraged that it's an emergency vaccine etc. so they will not be liable.
- Opioid crisis as proof of malice in pharma companies
- Non-opensourcing vaccines
- Regulations are political, the theatre of security rather than real protection.
- WHO suggested lockdowns don't work but countries impose them
- A never-ending "temporary" measure,
- Lack of consistency and criteria on how said rules are applied and enforced
I'm much much more tolerant to non-vaxxers after this almost a month into the rabbit holes of trying to figure out what is happening. And after this post I'm sure I will get claimed by some to be spreading fear, doubt or be claimed as an anti-vaxxer. Read my other posts. I want the freedom for people to be skeptical and don't want the black/white either you are pro- or anti-. But in the world of echo chambers, fast-food news and mistrust in authorities - that's what we get. 1 or 0.
One more thing. What happens to conspiracists if some of the claims in some currently censored/banned discussion turn out to be true? They will have much more arsenal to say "See, that thing turned out to be true, therefore my other arguments are also true!". Since there are thousands of iterations of conspiracy theories with various level of claims - from Bill Gates injecting a chip, to controlled population and so on - some of them may eventually turn out to be true. Classic survivorship bias. The logical way is: one thing at a time - if one thing gets demonstrated - e.g. lab leak theory turns out to be more likely - it doesn't mean that vaccines are dangerous and vice versa. But conspiracists don't think this way and all humans in general will lose trust, no matter how scientific or logical one claims to be. It will get even more difficult to defend trust and not turn the nice neighbourhood into a gheto
What is true? (part 2)Tags: English, opinions, essays, life
Created on Sun, 13 Jun 2021
Edit: see part 1 - Why I got vaccinated and part 3 - what would convince me NOT to vaccinate for progress on opinions in this article.
I want to continue talking in this blog about truth, facts, miss- and disinformation, propaganda. Today - a YouTube video from New York Times, talking about "Operation InfeKtion":
... which is NOT about the Corona (video is from 2018). It's rather about an operation back in the 80s sponsored by the Russian KGB aiming to spread a story that the HIV virus was secretly created by the US, starting at a single newspaper story in India.
The video is extremely worth watching in this day and age where misinformation is literally costing lives of people, prolonging the crisis in which we are, partly because of the disbelief in authorities, everyone knowing how to be an expert, because they can google and each looking for alternative news, because the mainstream media is paid by THEM (whoever they are).
In my Last post I talked about how hard it is to get the truth of anything - not even hard sciences like physics would be immune to difficulties in getting to the bottom of something claimed to be a "fact". Experiments can be flawed, scientists have incentives which are not always aligned with pure truth but with money and these money may come from corporate sponsorship.
I also discussed that even the queen of truth - Math - would be vulnerable to truth-seeking in certain scenarios and that Godel's theorem would make it impossible to prove consistency. I also played with some more understandable tricks that may put even the most known facts such as 1+1 to be questionable.
Literally yesterday, the YouTube channel of Sabine Hossenfelder (who has a PhD in physics and is presently a Research Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies) posted this video, talking about a few more ways in which 2+2 is not equal to 4:
Then I finished with an exhausted doom and gloom mood because I just got tired of the impossibility to know what could be true, touching briefly on complicated tools such as DeepFakes.
So let's get started once more...
"I trust alternative sources.."
"...because they would not be paid, they would just like to get the truth out there".
Well, watch the video from NYTimes. Watch the whole thing, because the second part starts talking about more current events like Russian interference in the presidential elections.
Of course, getting the elephant out of the room - NYTimes is almost the definition of mainstream media, a newspaper with 170 years of history and of course - American. Moreover, the video is marked as "Opinion" - so not really a "fact" for whatever that means. Is it possible that this video is itself actually a propaganda by THEM to continue distract you and let you see a reason for injecting yourself with something that can control and manipulate you?
How many layers can you go with this?
Is this video disinformation itself about disinformation from Others (if there is a THEM, is there US?). It is posted on YouTube from all the platforms, and we know YouTube is part of THEM. So can you show this video to your conspiracy friend and let them see the truth?
These will be some of the arguments which you will hear from them. They would trust smaller, independent media but more importantly - media that agrees with their own opinions already. This is the definition of Selection bias.
But selection bias requires these opinions to already be there for the person to look for alternative media. Where is the seed coming from?
The best pandemic
This might be the best pandemic the human population has known. I don't want to diminish in any way the tragic deaths of millions of people, the suffering and long-term effects which are coming out of this terrible, terrible disease. But at the same time, many people may not have even a single person in their circle of friends that have died or have had terrible consequences - this disease mostly happen "to someone else", "some old people that will die anyway soon" and "most young people don't even have symptoms or it's just like a mild flu".
In other words - it's not The Plague. But what if it was? Would the same people claiming that the vaccines are not needed, that they are a way to control the society, making us sterile or whatever other claim there is now - would they get vaccinated if they could see deaths and terrible consequences of an awful disease everywhere?
But it's not The Plague and deaths are not so everywhere than "some mainstream news" try to show us.
The Persona of a non-vaxer
Let's draw a persona of the current non-vaxers. I don't want to conflate it with the different group of previous anti-vaxers, the ones that believed way before the Corona that vaccines cause autism and so on - this seems to be a relatively small group compared to current non-vaxers.
Imagine yourself a non-vaxer. This is not every non-vaxer and this is not to say you are smarter or dumber than average - you may as well be in the top of your professional development. You may fit some of these but not others - you may even be a doctor! You may be in the filter bubble of certain non-vaxers Facebook groups, Telegram or WhatsApp group chats propagating that this is a "Plandemic". They (and you) are sharing documentaries and news articles from various websites that you may not have seen before, but also from websites that you trust - you see Facebook or YouTube at the top - and these are websites you visit daily so you trust the posts there.
You and most of your friends are probably not too scientifically minded and a few people in the world would be able to explain what various statistics mean, what are exponential growth, how viruses work or spread, what is mRNA, what are things like "effectiveness", "true/false positive/negative". Even if you meet those people that could explain you this, you may not be too interested to listen because perhaps you have bad memories with studying maths or sciences in school - maybe you found it too boring or needlessly complicated. In any rate - these scientists sound too arrogant, always knowing the best, the only solution. They have belittled you previously of your personal beliefs or understanding of the wonders of life, they are too sure, maybe even too naive of explanations that the so called "science" provides.
You maybe believe that God sends diseases and this is natural. BigPharma tries to alter the human genome so that we are more dependable and controllable. Maybe it even wants to control population growth. Maybe it wants to make us sterile or be able to track us - you never know what technologies are developed but even if you do - military is probably ahead of what they would show us.
Maybe you have been unlucky in life, you haven't benefited from "The System". You have done your own research and have seen many of the conspiracies that turned out to be true. What about what they told the Jews in Second world war? What about The Opioid crisis? Or the tobacco industry manipulation of the whole scientific community?
You will questions "official statistics" and "official authorities" because they are part of The System that has betrayed you already previously. You are not an expert at these things perhaps, or maybe you are in some of them, you have seen how "the saussage is made" or you know someone working in the pharma industry or a doctor telling you they would never vaccinate themselves.
How would such a person ever get convinced to get vaccinated?
Let's switch back to you being a non-non-vaxer (also known as a "sheeple-person").
If they are all of the above - perhaps they won't. Or it would take an insane amount of specialist convincing so that they do. It's not even about "calmly explaining them what the vaccine is" - they would not be there yet. They would not listen to you, even if you spend hours, days or weeks talking to them, showing them articles, sending them information - they would just counter with "alternative information" endlessly, sending screenshots and articles, finding ways to tell you "here is a scientific report as you wanted" citing some "scientist" and then you would go into dissecting the article piece by piece, carefully fact checking or trying to explain each point.
But they would DDoS you this way. They would send you links of articles of which they read wholly or partially but you would have to spend disproportionate amount of time debunking with unclear status in the end if they heard your counterarguments at all. Because any "fact" you present will be questioned that you naively believe everything.
And because you are a person that likes to check facts and doubts things - you would start doubting of course. You would try to research "why should I trust WHO or any other agency for that matter?", "How do news get produced, what are their sponsors and their incentives?".
You would try to understand a non-vaxer and go into their world, dig into some of these "alternative news". And you will feel that some arguments start making some sense - there are legitimate questions which you haven't asked yourself before.
Maybe you would start questioning the whole nature of Truth and how you would understand anything.
Maybe you even write a blog post or two trying to describe this whole process because you want to flesh it out, questioning your own sanity.
So this won't work.
At some point you call it quits - or at least a time off. You are tired of the (D)DoS attacks and you see that you are getting nowhere. You retreat to think of different strategies or if it is worth it at all to fight this - after all we don't need everybody to vaccinate, we just need herd-immunity, right?
And what if they are right on some level, for some things? What if things start confirming some of their "conspiracy theories" - like the US starting to investigate the question of whether the virus came from a the Wuhan lab? How do you stand in front of them continuing to stand your ground after some of their control hypotheses are given more credibility?
Is it possible for US to ever understand THEM? Get back to that video of NYTimes in the beginning - what if it's true? What if it's false? How many layers of propaganda are there? Isn't this a bit like a version of "The Two Generals Problem" that I tried to describe in my last post? Jumping from one version of the truth to another? What is your ground truth if you can't even trust math or science? Is it that God thing again that you should trust unquestionably? But then can "God lift a stone they can't create?" or does God live even outside the realms of Math and logic and is going to be incomprehensible to our mere mortal understanding of Math? And even if I put God at the center of my belief system - does that help me to decide whether I should vaccinate myself?
People like to feel in control. People like to feel they are intelligent and they understand something more than others. People like to put agency and blame to events that may be random. People like blaming rich and powerful (and sometimes for a good reason). So can we go one step further while keeping these emotions at the person that we are arguing with?
Doing vs Not-doing
It feels one thing to get infected by Corona by going to your day-to-day life and getting nasty side-effects.
It feels different to willingly inject yourself with a vaccine made by humans and getting nasty side-effects.
Even if the two probabilities are different, you have chosen to do the harm yourself if you inject yourself and you are just living your life if it happens to get the Corona.
One feels that you are just following God's path. The other is that you go against it. Even though - God has given you free will. I have no idea how religious people reconcile this - God has a plan that you will follow no matter what but also you have the free will to decide not to? Really, God can only live outside of logic and people following it will never get convinced by arguments like these.
We speak different languages.
So: perhaps try to frame it the same way a propaganda machine would frame it. Just go one step further.
What if THEY want you to believe that BigPharma will do all those terrible things so that you don't vaccinate yourself and kill thousands of people this way?
What if THEY want you to doubt statistics and authority?
Who are THEY? What it it's "The Russians/Chinese/Un-lizard people".
Perhaps frame it that you also used to think that they want to control us. But then you realized that it goes one step further - that they want to spread doubt and misinformation so that they control us.
Maybe the NYTimes video helps some souls out there.
Maybe this blog posts get read by someone struggling with the same questions and helps them.