9 votes

Can we mock and/or threaten people into changing their beliefs? (And more importantly, should we?)

10 comments

  1. [5]
    NaraVara
    Link
    I think he's right in general but I don't know about the applicability of the specific case where there is specific, targeted disinformation being put out malicious actors. You literally can't...

    I think he's right in general but I don't know about the applicability of the specific case where there is specific, targeted disinformation being put out malicious actors. You literally can't exercise persuasion when they are, themselves, stuck in this bubble so what's the alternative? He draws the parallel to the internal dynamics of his Pentecostal Church as a kid, but what about the external dynamic of the members of that church and the outside world? If there wasn't some amount of ostracism would they ever have incentive to change? For the most part maybe we can ignore it, but once it spills over into endangering public health or the political system, suddenly the outcome of the beliefs people have become more important than the empirical processes they use to reach them.

    Does this have unfortunate implications for the search for Truth in general? It sure does! But what's the alternative?

    10 votes
    1. kfwyre
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I had the same takeaway as you in reading this. This line jumped out at me: That’s the nail on the head right there. The problem is that I think the author sees the latter statement as more of an...

      I had the same takeaway as you in reading this. This line jumped out at me:

      Bad faith sucks. The pervasive assumption of bad faith is worse.

      That’s the nail on the head right there. The problem is that I think the author sees the latter statement as more of an individual failing rather than a systemic one. “Don’t give in to cynicism, please!” seems to be the message, and it’s definitely a worthwhile one, but I can’t help but feeling that persistent bad faith is the main driver behind pervasive assumptions about its existence. We’re not lapsing in our judgment — bad faith is actually just that common.

      COVID in particular has really opened my eyes to this. I used to think misinformation was more of a fringe thing, and we only saw a lot of the people who believe/spread it because the internet liked to surface the worst examples for outrage or mockery. I thought it was only a handful of individuals pulling focus, creating the illusion that they had more import than they really did.

      I have instead slowly realized how wrong I am.

      I took my dog for a walk today, and my heart sank when I saw a new “Unmask Our Kids” sign in my neighbor’s yard, put up to coincide with the start of the school year. This is someone I’ve talked to on multiple occasions. I walk by their place almost daily. Our dogs get along.

      Both my neighbor and I are a year and a half into a pandemic that has killed millions of people and fundamentally altered life for every single human being on the face of the planet, and they are choosing that ground for their palpably ignorant and, honestly, outright offensive stand.

      Theirs is not the only “unmask” sign in the neighborhood, either.

      A position isn’t fringe if it’s omnipresent, and even though I have no idea where you live, I have no doubt that you probably know, personally, some anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. You probably have some similar signs on display in your neighborhood. Ditto for every other American on this site, and probably even some of the users here in other countries.

      Is it wrong of us to have a pervasive assumption of bad faith at this point? Is that our own personal failing — of allowing ourselves to cave to cynicism — or do we not have any say in this and all we can do is throw up our hands? I am powerless against hearts that have refused to feel the whole fucking world hurting, all at fucking once.

      Is that my fault? It doesn’t feel like it should be.

      I feel like this entire pandemic I’ve been watching deniers and moving my own goal posts for them. It felt like every week, sometimes every day, there was some big new development, and my thought was always “now that ____ has happened, they’ll finally take it seriously!”. Now that 1,000 Americans have died; now that schools have shut down; now that 10,000 Americans have died; now that travel is restricted; now that 100,000 Americans have died; now that hospitals are over capacity; now that Trump himself got COVID; now that 500,000 Americans have died…

      I’ve stopped dragging the posts around. I’ve honestly stopped caring. And stopped believing there will ever be the right “now that” moment. When I saw that “Unmask Our Kids” sign I should have been angry, but instead I was just numb. Bad faith kills hope because there is no winning against it, and that applies whether the person is acting in bad faith or just mindlessly transmitting someone else’s.

      Like you, I don’t really see a solution. I’m reminded of WarGames, where the only winning move is not to play, but the nature of the situation is that we are forced into play with them because their actions, choices, and beliefs affect us and others.

      17 votes
    2. [3]
      mrbig
      Link Parent
      Brainwashing doesn't go well with democracy, even brainwashing with virtuous goals. But, when my actions impact the lives of others, my freedom must be reasonably reduced. It is illegal to cross a...

      Brainwashing doesn't go well with democracy, even brainwashing with virtuous goals. But, when my actions impact the lives of others, my freedom must be reasonably reduced. It is illegal to cross a red light, and my personal views on the matter are irrelevant. Vaccines are the same. You're putting others at risk, your opinion shouldn't matter.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        arp242
        Link Parent
        Maybe, but the undeniable facts are that 1) these people exist, 2) that they're not going magically disappear, and 3) many are acting in good faith, misguided or inspired by bad-faith actors as it...

        your opinion shouldn't matter.

        Maybe, but the undeniable facts are that 1) these people exist, 2) that they're not going magically disappear, and 3) many are acting in good faith, misguided or inspired by bad-faith actors as it may be, and 4) "listen up fuckwit" is not an effective way to change their views.

        3 votes
        1. mrbig
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Of course, they exist. Evidently, there's no magical way to make them disappear (nor should we do so if we could). Good faith is certainly relevant but is not enough to determine the lawfullness...

          Of course, they exist. Evidently, there's no magical way to make them disappear (nor should we do so if we could). Good faith is certainly relevant but is not enough to determine the lawfullness or moral justification of an action. Finally, we shouldn't berate someone into taking a vaccine. But we could sanction them for not doing so. Some employers are doing that already. One might, in addition, be reasonably fined. Which is, incidentaly, precisely how traffic infractions are dealt with.

          4 votes
  2. [5]
    joplin
    Link
    I see the point they're trying to make and while I agree with the sentiment, their thought process seems really misguided to me. For example, they say: It's unclear during what time period they're...

    I see the point they're trying to make and while I agree with the sentiment, their thought process seems really misguided to me. For example, they say:

    We did not have the science on our side when governments were closing parks and beaches in the name of COVID prevention.

    It's unclear during what time period they're talking about here, but at the beginning, we didn't know how it was transmitted, so we needed to be as cautious as possible.

    We've known for over a year that both present very low transmission risk and, more importantly, allow people to avoid far more dangerous indoor gatherings. And yet, we acted the exact same way toward doubters.

    I don't know where the author lives, but here in Los Angeles, they showed the local beaches on the news. People were walking shoulder-to-shoulder down the boardwalk towards oncoming people without masks. It doesn't matter that "you're safer outdoors than indoors," when you aren't doing any sort of social distancing whatsoever or wearing a mask. These same people would have done the same thing inside, but likely with a lot fewer people around since most indoor activities were closed. At the beach, you're walking directly into the airstream of people potentially breathing out COVID.

    Sometimes the government needs to make decisions that minimize risk and are actually enforceable. It doesn't matter if there's less risk of catching COVID at the beach. People couldn't control themselves and do it safely, so closing the beaches was helpful. Indoor stuff was also closed for a lot of the pandemic, so they weren't going to movie theaters with hundreds of other strangers. Bars and restaurants were closed, so they weren't going to those with hundreds of strangers, either.

    7 votes
    1. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      I tried making this same point to my brother near the beginning of the pandemic. He lives in a much more conservative part of the country, and is more conservative than I am. He was in the "I...

      It's unclear during what time period they're talking about here, but at the beginning, we didn't know how it was transmitted, so we needed to be as cautious as possible

      I tried making this same point to my brother near the beginning of the pandemic. He lives in a much more conservative part of the country, and is more conservative than I am. He was in the "I won't be forced to live in fear" mindset, and I tried to point out that that's a fine sentiment except when there are legitimate reasons to be afraid. If someone calls in a bomb threat to a building, does anyone stubbornly stay in their cubicle until someone can prove to them the bomb is real and it's close enough to where they are that it might harm them? No everyone GTFO's and is generally ok with the fact they did, even if it turns out to be a prank call.

      Near the beginning all we knew was that COVID was fairly contagious, and it had an appreciable mortality rate. We knew nothing about long-term effects, long-haul COVID, natural immunity rates, the longevity of acquired immunity, and a myriad of other aspects. We didn't know where the bomb was in the building or how big it was, but we were 100% certain it was there. So the vast majority of people GTFO'd, stayed home, washed our hands, and masked up. And it sucked. But it's better than being in a building with a bomb.

      8 votes
    2. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      He's talking less about whether it was the right call or not, he's focused on how the point is advanced and argued for and whether people feel comfortable reevaluating that conclusion as more...

      He's talking less about whether it was the right call or not, he's focused on how the point is advanced and argued for and whether people feel comfortable reevaluating that conclusion as more information comes in. We have been pretty bad at this. Lots of COVID alarmists continue to oversanitize everything and wash their produce because they're confusing and this very much seems to be motivated as much by a sense of fear of being shamed than an actual concern with disease transmission.

      6 votes
    3. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      You're saying that like it's obviously bad, and I'm not so sure about passing someone when there is good ventilation. It's very brief outdoor exposure. There's some risk but it seems low, at least...

      People were walking shoulder-to-shoulder down the boardwalk towards oncoming people without masks.

      You're saying that like it's obviously bad, and I'm not so sure about passing someone when there is good ventilation. It's very brief outdoor exposure. There's some risk but it seems low, at least pre-Delta?

      5 votes
      1. joplin
        Link Parent
        This wasn’t “passing someone when there’s good ventilation.” This was thousands of people, in some cases literally shoulder-to-shoulder standing and walking around as if nothing was going on and...

        This wasn’t “passing someone when there’s good ventilation.” This was thousands of people, in some cases literally shoulder-to-shoulder standing and walking around as if nothing was going on and interacting with others, having conversations, directly talking to each other, etc. Was it better than being inside? Probably. Was it harmless? Not likely. I do think it was obviously bad.

        7 votes