Blog about geeky stuff, computers, physics and life.
Created on Sun, 13 Jun 2021
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.