Sunday, November 14, 2021

Impossible Beliefs

I have had two past blog posts making claims that readers could check at first hand, in each case claims that someone on one side of an argument was saying something he knew was untrue. As best I could tell, very nearly nobody on the same side was prepared either  to agree with the claim or to offer a rebuttal that I thought a neutral party would have taken seriously. 

That people on one side or another of a politically loaded dispute are sometimes willing to lie in support of their side is not surprising. What I found surprising was how unwilling people were to concede that, in this particular case, someone supporting their side was doing so. It was an issue not of consistent beliefs but of loyalty; recognizing that someone on his side had lied did not require any change in his underlying beliefs.

It was the orthodox side of the climate argument that my claims offended. I am now looking for one or more similar cases from the other side, cases where someone arguing for the red tribe/Republican/right wing side of some issue closely linked to tribal identity, not necessarily climate change, said something that could be shown to be false with evidence directly observable by ordinary people and almost nobody on his side was willing to admit it.

The obvious candidate is the claim by Trump that the 2020 election was stolen. The problem with that case is that the evidence that it is false is second hand, primarily through the mass media, so someone sufficiently distrustful of the media can reject it. Are there better examples?

For the curious, here are my posts, including the comment threads:

A Climate Falsehood You Can Check for Yourself

Global Sea-ice, Deceptive Reporting, and Truthful Lies

There were multiple posts on each issue, but I think those two are sufficient to demonstrate the argument and the responses of those who did not wish to believe it.

I am not interested in rearguing those cases here; I already know there are people who reject my arguments. What I am looking for, for something I am currently writing, are new cases on the other side of the current political divide.

21 Comments:

At 1:01 AM, November 15, 2021, Blogger Thomas L. Knapp said...

"I am now looking for one or more similar cases from the other side, cases where someone arguing for the red tribe/Republican/right wing side of some issue closely linked to tribal identity, not necessarily climate change, said something that could be shown to be false with evidence directly observable by ordinary people and almost nobody on his side was willing to admit it."

The claim that the death penalty is a deterrent to violent crime, perhaps?

 
At 10:45 AM, November 15, 2021, Anonymous Michael Brazier said...

Regarding Trump, the mass media has not in fact produced evidence that the 2020 presidential election was properly conducted. That's because nobody has produced such evidence, anywhere. The legal charges of electoral fraud in Biden's favor, which would have elicited such evidence (if it exists) were nearly all dismissed on technicalities before the processes of gathering evidence began. So we have, now, strong grounds to suspect systematic fraud - and a certainty that those suspicions will not be investigated: the worst of all possible outcomes.

On the actual question, the closest example I can think of was the claim that Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, might have acquired nuclear weapons, which we know now was never a real possibility. But it's a dubious example, because the original falsehood there was Hussein's, who wanted the world to believe he was much more dangerous than he really was. The proof that he was bluffing wasn't available until he was overthrown.

If you want a right-wing politician who said something that was clearly false when he said it, without objection from other VIPs on the right ... nothing comes to mind.

 
At 2:35 PM, November 15, 2021, Blogger David Friedman said...

@Thomas:

That doesn't even come close. The first serious statistical analysis of the data, by Isaac Ehrlich, concluded that each execution deterred multiple murders. There is a long chain of statistical papers since, some critiquing Ehrlich's work. I don't think anyone can reach an opinion on the subject without a pretty sophisticated understanding of statistics and a lot of work. You can find discussion of the early stage of the debate here: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=6354&context=ylj

It isn't enough to observe, what may for all I know be true, that states with a death penalty had higher murder rates than states without, because that doesn't tell you the direction of causation.

 
At 11:42 AM, November 16, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am now looking for one or more similar cases from the other side, cases where someone arguing for the red tribe/Republican/right wing side of some issue closely linked to tribal identity, not necessarily climate change, said something that could be shown to be false with evidence directly observable by ordinary people and almost nobody on his side was willing to admit it."

Interesting that it's a lot easier to find examples of this on one side than the other. Almost as if the two sides aren't symmetric with regards to their relationship to the truth.

 
At 12:55 PM, November 17, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've excluded Trump's Big Lie for insufficient reason.

 
At 7:51 AM, November 19, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of mainstream republican leaders have very clearly and explicitly said Trump is wrong and there was no fraud. So that example very clearly does not meet the requirements. The Bush WMD example might be the best you can do. Bush and his cronies were absolutely aware that the WMD claims were lies when they were telling those lies, I don't think anyone other than Ron Paul was willing to call them on it at the time, and he doesn't really count as being on the republican "team". The CIA had briefed Bush and his handlers on the reality that Iraq had absolutely no WMDs.

 
At 11:12 AM, November 19, 2021, Blogger Thomas L. Knapp said...

"The legal charges of electoral fraud in Biden's favor, which would have elicited such evidence (if it exists) were nearly all dismissed on technicalities before the processes of gathering evidence began."

And the rest of the specific allegations were either 1) withdrawn by plaintiffs once they weren't dismissed and evidence would have had to be provided, or 2) unproven by on GOP-approved "audits" which didn't uncover what they were looking for.

Was there skulduggery? Well, there usually is, and the distribution of that skulduggery is generally bipartisan (I'm still not sure that the Cuban-American graveyard vote didn't bring Florida in for Trump).

The burden of proof in any controversy is mostly on the accuser even outside the strict bounds of e.g. court proceedings. The Democrats didn't have to prove they didn't steal the election, the Republicans had to prove they did -- and utterly failed to meet that burden.

 
At 4:41 PM, November 19, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only "Big Lie" about the election is that Biden legitimately won it, and that the cheating wasn't blatantly in your face obvious to anyone paying attention on November 4.

@Knapp Do you have some kind of bizarre complex that forces you to engage in blatant lying, or are you simply in capable of thinking without outsourcing you thought process to the "official authorities"?

 
At 6:36 PM, November 19, 2021, Blogger Thomas L. Knapp said...

If it was so "blatantly in your face obvious," then why have those saying so failed, so far, to produce so much as a crumb of evidence for their claims?

"It's true because I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnntttt it to be true!" isn't evidence.

 
At 8:56 PM, November 19, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Knapp

> If it was so "blatantly in your face obvious," then why have those saying so failed, so far, to produce so much as a crumb of evidence for their claims?

You mean aside from the videos of counters kicking out Republican observers and continuing to count, in one case even covering up the windows, producing ballots without any chain of custody, running them multiple times through the machine?

Not to mention all the statistical irregularities, the sword witness affidavits of fraud, and all the irregularities the Maricopa audit is uncovering.

Or are you one of those people who never grew out of school and thinks "evidence" means the pronouncements of teacher (or equivalent authority figure)?

 
At 10:40 AM, November 20, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trump's Big Lie is just that - and any Republican that fails to believe it is politically excommunicated.

Ask Liz Cheney. And all the other Republicans go along. Witness Kevin McCarthy's post-Mar-a-Lago flip-flop.

 
At 8:46 PM, November 20, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes RINO's who refuse to call out blatant fraud should be excommunicated.

 
At 9:37 AM, November 21, 2021, Anonymous rsm said...

Deficits matter?

 
At 2:25 AM, November 23, 2021, Anonymous Arqiduka said...

Seems to me that the WMD saga has largely ceased to elicit the passions of the right. It would have been a prime example back in the day though.

 
At 3:03 AM, November 23, 2021, Anonymous Arqiduka said...

Efficacy of the war on drugs? Marijuana legalisation?

 
At 5:08 AM, November 23, 2021, Anonymous rsm said...

《“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

— John Ehrlichman, quoted in Dan Baum, Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs, Harper's Magazine (April 2016)》

How many Republicans had personal experience with drugs that belied Nixon's tale, but publicly supported the War on Drugs for political expediency? Did we see Trump let Sessions continue that legacy, although Trump almost certainly believes marijuana is not that bad?

 
At 3:30 PM, November 23, 2021, Anonymous Michael Brazier said...

I remind you all - the requirement isn't for statements by a prominent Republican that the speaker knew were false; it's for statements that the public could easily establish were false, at the time they were made. Nothing Bush said about Iraq's WMD programs, for instance, qualifies, because the public could not know the truth about them as long as Hussein ruled Iraq.

Now, that's a very high bar to clear. But the fact that I can think of several examples of Democrats clearing it - with the additional requirement of it passing without objection from other Democrats - while the closest anyone has come for the Right is Republicans telling plausible lies ... well, it speaks for itself, doesn't it?

 
At 8:24 PM, November 24, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, you'll never be satisfied by any evidence that Trump's Big Lie is in fact, a Big Lie. That Republicans are politically decapitated if they speak the truth, well, that speaks for itself, doesn't it?

 
At 9:04 PM, November 24, 2021, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Michael, you'll never be satisfied by any evidence that Trump's Big Lie is in fact, a Big Lie.

It would help if such evidence actually existed. As opposed to the evidence that the election was indeed stolen, which does as I listed in my reply to Knapp above.

 
At 7:04 AM, November 26, 2021, Blogger newt0311 said...

@David

The graph on that first link of yours is broken because the underlying website seems to have disappeared. Recommend you find the latest place the data is hosted or at least use the archive.org link: https://web.archive.org/web/20180208015645/http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.anom.jpg.

Thanks.

 
At 5:05 PM, November 26, 2021, Blogger David Friedman said...

@Newt:

Thanks. Fixed, I think.

 

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