A Dream of Oceans, and Sunken Cities

Still enamored by R.E.M., which is why I’ve chosen another of their lyrics for today’s post title.

Today: more items about trying to understand the modern world.

  • How false information might be the top global risk in 2024;
  • An example of conservative trolling from Aaron Rodgers;
  • Items about the Trump/MAGA mindset, including “God Made Trump” and how Republicans “Openly Insult Women Nearly Killed by Abortion Bans”;
  • And in complete contrast, R.E.M.’s “The Lifting”

OnlySky, M L Clark, 10 Jan 2024: Is false information our top global risk in 2024?

If we can’t manage our mis- and disinformation crisis better, how can we ever hope to tackle our environmental, political, and economic issues well?

This story goes on and on — has been for years — but the problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

On January 10, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its latest Global Risks report, which included the usual suspects: environmental change, war, societal polarization, economic insecurity, and rising involuntary migration. In the WEF’s ten-year timeline, the top four anticipated issues are “extreme weather events”, “critical change to Earth systems”, “biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse”, and “natural resource shortages”. But topping the list for risks over the next two years is “misinformation and disinformation”, a technological category that includes the dangers posed to accurate data dissemination by so-called artificial intelligence, domestic propaganda, and censorship.

And that pressing short-term challenge could easily undermine our ability to tackle all the other issues on this list. In many ways, it already is.

Key issue with an example of relevance below.

Even if not disseminated with ill-intent, such acts of misinformation can have serious consequences for public perception, because humans tend to remember the first data they learned, even after corrections are issued. Too many conflicting details early in a chaotic event can also diminish confidence in the news source and major institutions later on, or create a foundation for false-flag conspiracy theories.


The example.

Salon, Melanie McFarland, 10 Jan 2024: Jimmy Kimmel explains why Aaron Rodgers’ reflexive pedophile smear is no joke for any of us, subtitled “The late-night host points out how the conservative strategy of weaponizing the word ‘pedophile’ has consequences”

I haven’t followed this feud closely, since I never watch late-night shows and so am only vaguely aware of who Jimmy Kimmel is, but it seems that Aaron Rodgers is a typical MAGA troll throwing out allegations against someone he doesn’t like — without a particle of evidence. He’s also heavily into various conspiracy theories. Of course.

Why is this dangerous? Because some people will believe him. See item above about how ‘people tend to remember the first thing they learn even after corrections are issued.’ Or even if they don’t necessarily “believe” him, the association between Kimmel and pedophilia will have been made. Conservative zealots seem to be doing this all the time… often under cover of “only joking” when they are called out about it.


A couple more items about the Trump/MAGA mindset.

Salon, Chauncey DeVega, 10 Jan 2024: Religion scholar on how Donald Trump has activated “the Christian enemies of democracy”, subtitled “David Gushee walks through the three stages in conservative Christian engagement with US culture that lead to Trump”

Part of an interview with David Gushee, complete with a four-stage timeline of “conservative Christian engagement with US culture” since the 1960s. Then there’s this, Q and A:

Trump is now basically proclaiming that he is the Chosen One, a martyr prophet empowered by Jesus and God. Trump is selling pieces of clothes like he is a saint. His followers and propagandists circulate images of him as being some type of Christ-like figure, being anointed and blessed. Several days ago, he released a video proclaiming that “God Made Trump.” Why is this message resonating with his “Christian” followers? To outsiders it looks ridiculous – but they are not the audience.

Trump is not well-educated or well-read, but he is cunning, and he knows how to find rubes and make money off them. He is at PT Barnum levels in that skill. So that is one dimension. Remember that he needs a constant flow of millions of dollars to finance his lifestyle and pay his legal fees.

I am persuaded by the diagnosis that Trump is a sociopathic narcissist, and he has faced many narcissistic wounds in his life – recently, none more lacerating than losing in 2020. He has only the most superficial knowledge of the Christian faith, but he has a variety of preachers around him. It was probably through them that he got the atrocious, appalling, indefensible idea of identifying his sufferings with those of Jesus. It also sells, so that works.


OnlySky, Jonathan MS Pearce, 8 Jan 2024: Bad politics, bad religion collide in ‘God Made Trump’

Sometimes claims are so off-the-wall that you really wonder whether the claimants believe themselves. Case in point: “God Made Trump”?

I would normally avoid dwelling on such craziness, except that this kind of thinking seems to be taking over the world, or at least the country. But alas, I will quote the core of the screed about God and Trump.

God said, “I need somebody who will be strong and courageous who will not be afraid or terrified of the wolves when they attack, a man who cares for the flock, a shepherd to mankind who won’t ever leave nor forsake them. I need the most diligent worker to follow the path and remain strong in faith and know the belief of God and country, somebody who’s willing to drill, bring back manufacturing and American jobs, farm the lands, secure our borders build our military, fight the system all day, and finish a hard week’s work by attending church on Sunday. And then his oldest son turns and says, “Dad let’s make America great again, Dad let’s build back a country to be the envy of the world again. So God made Trump.

I admit, as someone insufficiently trained in religious casuistry, that I don’t understand how this makes the slightest sense. Isn’t God omnipotent, omniscient, etc. etc.? Why does He need to create someone special to the run the world that supposed he already has complete control and knowledge of? But the first hallmark of the religious is inconsistency and incoherency. Things don’t need to “make sense” to them in the same way things “make sense” to people who understand the world and actually get things done. And oh by the way, how often does Trump “attend church on Sunday”? Guffaw.


Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, 9 Jan 2024: In Iowa, white evangelicals are embracing Donald Trump, not Jesus, subtitled “The critics were right about conservative Christians’ true loyalties”

This responds to a piece in the NY Times (shared link):

NY Times, 8 Jan 2024: Trump Is Connecting With a Different Type of Evangelical Voter, subtitled “They are not just the churchgoing, conservative activists who once dominated the G.O.P.”


Life under Republicans:

Slate, Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern, 9 Jan 2024: Republican Officials Openly Insult Women Nearly Killed by Abortion Bans, subtitled “Red states would rather let a patient die than let her terminate a dangerous pregnancy. And they’re barely pretending otherwise.”

Many, many links to evidence and examples.

What’s next, Republicans? Scarlet letters?


R.E.M., “The Lifting” from REVEAL.

“you’ve said the air was singing
it’s calling you you don’t believe
these things you’ve never seen, never heard,
never dreamed”

“once you had a dream
of oceans, and sunken cities,
memories of things you’ve never known
and you have never known”

Every day I reread and copy-edit my post from the evening before. If this comment is still here, I have not yet done so for this post.

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