Political propaganda drops all pretense of logical thinking #ACA #ObamaCare #MedicareForAll

“Faithfully executed, as the Constitution requires, the ACA was working and insurance markets were stable” – Andy Slavitt, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2015-2016.

During the period from 2014 to 2016, the average premium went up by 106% according to the CMMS, and in 3 states average premiums went up by over 200%. This, he says, is a “stable” market. And he was in charge during most of that time frame. Prices continued to rise at similar rates in 2017 and 2018.

The AP reports:

Of course – a very stable market requires ever increasing government subsidies while premiums rise at astronomical rates. Not.

This column in USA Today works as propaganda rather easily through the use of

  • Appeal to Authority (Slavitt)
  • Asserting things are true, that clearly are not. Which is just another form of lying.
  • Logical fallacy, “the ACA was working and the markets were stable”.
  • Censorship, by leaving out the writer’s relevant past experience.
  • The target’s quick acting System 1 thinking style that avoids details and misses the logical fallacies used in the proponent’s arguments.

The USA Today column mentions Slavitt’s involvement with CMMS but omits his full history. Once you learn of his past history, your perspective of his comments may change. What do you think?

Slavitt left a job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs to become CEO of a company named Ingenix, a subsidiary of United Healthcare. Under his leadership, Ingenix was sued, twice, for creating fraudulent data used in health care billing and paid $400 million in settlements. Slavitt, who led the fraud scheme, was appointed to head CMMS and implementation of the ACA. Ingenix changed its name after the settlements – and Slavit was put in charge of CMMS where he regulated his past employer which is a conflict of interest prohibited by the Federal government. However, the Obama Administration issued an “Ethics Waiver”, waiving its conflict of interest rules and permitting Slavitt to head CMMS anyway.

Commentary

Not only was the ACA not working due to how the Act was written, the ACA is not sustainable. I wrote a paper on the subject that was read by staff at the Oregon Health Authority, numerous Oregon state legislators, health care industry executives and economists and was, in part, influential in changing Oregon State law to partially fix the definitely not stable ACA markets here. To learn more, please read my paper.

Proponents who say the ACA is “working” and “stable” are simultaneously advocating “repeal and replace” the ACA:

Logically, why is it necessary to repeal and replace a government program that is “working” and “stable”?

The propaganda efforts by Slavitt are perplexing. Presumably he is trying to buttress his past association with the ACA. But he is doing so through the use of lies while supporters simultaneously say it should be repealed and replaced. There is a logical disconnect here.

Did Kurt Cobain predict in 1993 that Donald Trump would be President? No.

I just unfollowed the person who posted this item today. It’s not true. He should have known better than pass along such silly propaganda posters.

Several online meme debunking web sites have branded this as false (and Snopes here). The meme was created by a Facebook page called “Trump Train” in July of 2016.

Cartoon character Lisa Simpson, of The Simpsons, did in actual fact, predict President Trump all the way back in 2000. For some reason, she is never quoted in these meme posters.

Text for Search Indexing

“In the end I believe my generation will surprise everyone. We already know that both political parties are playing both sides from the middle and we’ll elect a true outsider when we fully mature. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not a business tycoon who can’t be bought and who does what’s right for the people. Someone like Donald Trump as crazy as that sounds.” – Kurt Cobain, 1993

Study: Higher testosterone level increases men’s desire for high-status goods

Researchers say that higher testosterone levels lead to men wanting “higher status” luxury goods. Marketing propaganda figured this out long ago – hence the image of men lounging in a high status beach resort or on the deck of a fancy yacht, or a $200,000 recreational vehicle, surrounded by attractive women.

By focusing on “conspicuous consumption as an avenue to status,” the new research shows what “value to others” means in a society where scarcity itself has become scarce, Von Ruedon said. These goods put others on notice that “you’re wealthy, and you must have some skills or some valuable something that’s allowed you to amass wealth,” he said. “It’s an advertisement that you’re of value as a mate or friend or leader.”

Trumble said he’s not surprised that marketers would use evolutionary anthropology to help them sell products. And if Wharton professors want to know how testosterone affects male consumers, that’s fine with him.

Source: An extra dose of testosterone increases men’s preference for high-status luxury goods, study says

Remember that advertising and marketing messaging are subsets of the propaganda field. This study highlights how marketing is crafted to “hook” men into acquiring high status luxury goods based on hypothesized evolutionary aspects of males. A corollary finding is that men and women admire men who have been influenced to acquire luxury goods.

From the study itself

Men experience situational elevation in T during and following sporting events, in the presence of attractive mates, and following meaningful life events such as graduation and divorce29,48,49. Our results suggest that in such contexts, male consumers might be more likely to engage in positional consumption, and might find status-related brand communications more appealing.

This is why marketeers place attractive people in advertising – or at trade shows. It also suggests that attractive people have an “attractive privilege”.

Further hypothesis might include:

  1. Do women who acquire luxury goods achieve the same results (status) as men who acquire luxury goods?
  2. Would men with lower testosterone levels be wise to acquire more high status luxury goods to attract mates?
  3. How can these findings be used in propaganda messaging to persuade others to adopt someone’s agenda?

I’ve categorized this under Appeal to Authority (an other categories) as a potential match to the idea that people with high status luxury goods are alleged to be better or superior (i.e. authorities). Which is a kind of scary thought.

Another explanation for why propaganda works so well

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.

 

Bertrand Russell

The most effective propaganda generally leverages and works off of the target’s presumed understanding of a subject.

The joy of living in a fact-free world of official government propaganda #Cellphone #Crashes #Propaganda

WCSO is the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. They put out this social media poster on Twitter, regarding cell phone usage / distracted driving and fatalities.

They cite ODOT Crash Analysis & Reporting, 2015.

But check the details.

  • Per the ODOT report just 1 of the 73 pedestrian fatalities was linked to cell phone usage (see page 18, fatal pedestrian accident data).
  • 0.7% of all accidents and 0.5% of accidents having a fatality were linked to cell phone usage.

Most people today presume a very large portion of auto related crashes are due to cellular phone usage even though neither state nor Federal data support that conclusion.

This works as propaganda through the use of:

  • Logical Fallacy – linking phone usage (the text in their tweet) to the item in their graphic (“Oregon was home to 73 pedestrian fatalities in 2015”) leads the reader to believe 73 pedestrians were killed due to cell phone usage in 2015.
  • Appeal to Authority – They cite an authoritative source for the data (Oregon Department of Transportation) as an Appeal to Authority. Even though the report does not support their claim, they likely know no one will read the report.
  • Each of the text points in the propaganda Tweet are factually correct but lead the viewer to a false conclusion (this is how high quality propaganda often works).
  • Their web site page, linked in the tweet, says nothing about cell phone usage and driving or pedestrians (it does say to avoid being distracted by a cell phone while your young children are swimming).

Our quick System 1 brain immediately concludes 73 pedestrians were killed due to cellular phone usage. But their cited report says only 1 pedestrian was killed as a consequence of vehicle operation and cell phone usage.

This is a great illustration of the power of official government propaganda messaging. At this point, the public thoroughly believes cell phone usage is a leading cause of all vehicle crashes. Over the years, newspaper reports have made bold claims that one third or more – and sometimes even the majority – of all accidents are caused by cell phone usage, even though this is not supported by actual data.

I have asked the WCSO on their Twitter page if they could help us understand the data they’ve cited.

(When real world data does not support a popular belief or theory, those who believe the theory must be correct invent an ad hoc hypothesis to explain the discrepancy. The ad hoc hypothesis is that police are not accurately reporting cell phone usage and if only they did, then this would prove cell phone usage causes many or even most accidents.While cell phone usage has skyrocketed over time, the number of drivers has increased each year and the average number of miles driven has increased each year, the number of fatalities has been on a long term downwards trend and the number of crashes has been nearly constant. In order of unreported cell phone related crashes to explain 1/3d of all accidents, then other factors would have had to decline by 1/3d. Thus, you then need yet another ad hoc hypothesis to explain how other factors were disappearing.)

Updated June 28th, 2018:

“Statistics show that 9 percent of all crashes are attributed to distracted driving — mainly cellphones,” said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Todd Royce. “However, we do know that it’s underreported.”

That means less than 1 in 10 crashes are attributed to the category of “distracted driving”; cell phone usage is a subset of that. The claim that it’s “mainly cellphones” is not supported by the data. Note the ad hoc hypothesis “we do know that it’s underreported”.

Second, the reporter does not verify the claim and reports it as if it is true. Readers, having seen these incorrect claims numerous times view these claims as proven facts.

Third, because reporters are not verifying claims made by interview subjects, news is developing a reputation for propaganda messaging and fictional news reporting.

News: When is a scientific study, or the reporting on it, just propaganda?

Today’s news brings the following announcement:

By modifying their lifestyle, including diet and exercise, people can lower their blood pressure just as effectively as with medication, according to a study.

Researchers studied the effects of adapting the Newstart Lifestyle program, which includes a vegan diet, daily outside walks, substantial quantities of water, adequate daily sleep and optional spiritual activities.

Source: Healthier lifestyle as effective as medication to lower blood pressure, study says – UPI.com

Most people will read only the headline and possibly the first few paragraphs.

Disclaimer – I personally lowered my systolic blood pressure by more than 30 points and my diastolic blood pressure by 20 points through lifestyle changes alone (different than those recommended in this study). My comments are not about whether this is effective but about the use of this study as a propaganda piece – without any useful analysis by the news media.

There is more to this news report that is important for context:

Second Disclaimer – based on personal experience I strongly agree that personal lifestyle choices can have a profound influence on health and blood pressure! If the Seventh Day Adventist Lifestyle program is right for you, by all means look in to it!

My comments are not about Seventh Day Adventists (I assume they are fine people). My comments are about “stenographer reporters” who copy press releases, enabling public relations propagandists to spin the story and control your mind. At a high level, this study comes across as a propaganda piece, defined as persuading the target to adopt someone’s agenda. The press release makes effective use of Appeal to Authority arguments, notably a university and an Institute affiliation, and linking to similar ideas from the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic.

This item is a wonderful example of how studies are presented by public relations (a.k.a. propaganda experts) to persuade others to adopt someone’s agenda. This item also illustrates how the news media works together with propaganda experts to deliver powerful propaganda messages to you. The news media ought to be in the business of sorting spin out of the reporting and disclosing potential conflicts of interest of their sources – and sometimes they succeed at doing that. But far too often, they become a party and a conduit for propaganda messaging.

Should professors have more free speech rights than others?

If we engaged in widely publicized hateful or hurtful or vile speech, our employers would likely begin job termination procedures within 24 hours regardless of whether we made such comments in a private capacity or not.

As the NY Times notes, “Speaking Freely About Politics Can Cost You Your Job“. Private sector workers ‘ “…don’t have the right to speak freely in the workplace.” Or even outside it.’ Unlike public sector workers: “… anyone who works for a government office, whether local, state or federal, is for the most part protected by the First Amendment”. In other words, public sector workers have a greater free speech right than do private sector workers (which is most of the workers in the country). This disparity warps public discourse as one very large cohort can be vocal while the other must often remain silent.

Professors and teachers argue their speech is protected by “academic freedom”, which they assert protects them from sanctions (or as seen below, even criticism by others) for engaging in hate speech. They assert they have greater speech rights than the rest of us. Randa Jarrar  says “I will never be fired” because she says, she has tenure:

While she asserts that her tenure gives her absolute freedom of speech, university officials publicly disagreed with her claim. Further views on that from the Washington Post.

A different Fresno State professor argues, in so many words, that objecting to his speech is wrong – while simultaneously condemning the speech of those criticizing him for his comments.  He asserts that due to academic freedom he has greater free speech rights than the rest of us and that he should be exempt from consequences (Read it: Fresno State’s Castro didn’t defend my free speech– from the title, he demands others defend his speech, thereby desiring to control the speech of others.)

The First Amendment restricts the government from passing laws controlling (most) speech; it does not require employers to embrace your speech nor does it prohibit employers for sanctioning you for your speech.  Nor does it prohibit others from condemning your speech and calling for sanctions. The First Amendment does not call upon others to defend your speech.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says ““Randa Jarrar’s speech is constitutionally protected, and Fresno State cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, discipline her for it”. That protection, however, does not extend to the rest of us, who as noted above, would be quickly fired.

Most expect professors and teachers to engage in civil discourse, based on facts and logic, and to not adopt the methods of propagandists using emotional language, swearing, hurtful and hateful speech, and doxxing a suicide crisis phone line. This is the behavior of middle school students – and not what we expect of professionals.

By creating two classes of free speech – those in a protected class and those who are not in a protected class – we distort public discourse.

For example, in my state all public sector workers are protected by law from retaliation in any form for their political views or activism. Private sector workers in “at will” employment have no protection and can be fired for any reason, including their political views.

This means public sector workers have a greater freedom to influence the political process than do private sector workers, giving public sector workers greater political power than private sector workers. This distorts the public discourse, harming democracy.

This distorted concept of free speech becomes a powerful tool in propaganda messaging. Randa Jarrar used the simple method of Name Calling (Bush is a racist). Academics frequently use the Appeal to Authority argumentative form (or as Jarrar put it, people want to listen to here, she’s a tenured professor and your not) but some also use their unique academic freedom to say what they want knowing that others are gagged. Which is a form of censorship that applies to one class but not the other.

As noted by the NY Times, public sector workers have greater rights to free speech than do private sector workers, giving public sector workers are louder and stronger voice in public policy discussions and activism.

Should some people have a greater right to engage in “free speech” – including hate speech – than others?

Note – my comments have nothing to do with left- versus right-wing, causes, statements or proponents. My comments are about the question of whether some are more entitled to greater free speech rights than others and the effect this has on public discourse. Further, the actions of (presumably) a few faculty tarnish the reputation of the school and diminish the value of degrees earned by students at these schools. How is such nasty discourse helpful to anyone and how does it lead to making lives better?

NAS, NAE, NAM seek to counter “misinformation” on the Internet

March 20, 2018

Statement by NAS, NAE, and NAM Presidents on Effort to Counter Online Misinformation

We are pleased to announce that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are exploring ways to mobilize our expertise to counter misinformation on the web related to science, engineering, and health. Part of the mission of the National Academies has always been to help ensure that public discourse is informed by the best available evidence. To that end, we are convening Academy members to discuss ways by which we could help verify the integrity and accuracy of content in these fields in a manner that is consistent with our standards for objective, trustworthy, evidence-based information; this exploratory phase will be supported by a grant from Google. We are excited to pursue an effort that aligns with our fundamental principles and that we believe is critically important at a time when misinformation is a threat to sound decision-making and an informed citizenry.

Marcia McNutt

President, National Academy of Sciences

C. D. (Dan) Mote, Jr.

President, National Academy of Engineering

Victor J. Dzau

President, National Academy of Medicine

Source: Statement by NAS, NAE, and NAM Presidents on Effort to Counter Online Misinformation

In theory, this sounds good. On the other hand, we have been led down the path of nutrition science malpractice in the 1980s leading to the obesity and diabetes crises of probably two generations – this could also end up causing harm.


For those not around in the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. government established nutritional guidelines for all of America. They decided all fat was evil and we should strive to eliminate all fat from our diets. We should also eliminate eggs, and at various times, coffee and salt. Sugar, interestingly, was not a problem. The government launched a major propaganda operation to promote the guidelines. This propaganda effort used media, employers and food corporations to promote it.  Almost immediately, average weights in the U.S. began increasing, and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes began increasing.

This led to an ever expanding list of special-case hypotheses insuring us that the government’s guidelines were correct and something else was to blame.

In the early 1980s, my wife worked as a biochemist for a large pharmaceutical company. The company sponsored seminars to promote the new guidelines, and families were invited to attend. Here, professional nutritionists advised us we should get rid of as much fat as possible from our diets. The person behind me raised his hand and asked, “So what your saying is that fat is bad but sugar is okay?”. The response from the professional nutritionists was that we did not need to worry about sugar unless we were diabetic. Oh, and the majority of our diet should consist of grains, which for most people meant ground up wheat.

Face palm moment. Yet for decades, anyone who questioned the scientific establishment was considered a heretic. Today, we now know this advice was bunk. Read any number of books on the subject, or compare the DASH diet of the 1980s with the DASH diet of today – nearly a reversal of what they preached in the 1980s.

The question becomes: how do we avoid this scenario from repeating itself where experts are far too confident in their hypotheses and use their authority (“appeal to authority”) argument to shut down dissenting perspectives?

“Leaders” now acknowledge the dangers of social media

If the last decade of SXSW celebrated the promise of social media, the next years may well be dominated by the reckoning. Questions about the unintended consequences of social networks pervaded this year’s event. Academics, business leaders, and Facebook executives weighed in on how social platforms spread misinformation, encourage polarization, and promote hate speech.

Source: The reckoning over social media has transformed SXSW – The Verge

Good to see that “leaders” have caught on to what seemed obvious to us peons 🙂

Glad I was ahead of the curve but I learned through this and my involvement in my work on defects in the ACA, it does not matter if you have facts and logic on your side. Unless you are one of the “Academics, business leaders or … executives“, no one will listen to what you have to say!

This is also a clue as to how propaganda works! As mentioned on this blog, one of the most frequent propaganda methods is “the appeal to authority”. While it is considered among the weakest of argumentative forms, it is commonly used in propaganda messaging because it works.

It works, in part, because it does not require thinking on the part of the message target. If “so and so” says so, then it must be true!

Further, “appeals to authority”, even when lacking facts and logic, are difficult for peons to counter. How dare you question so-and-so, she’s an expert? Who are you? And that line of questioning immediately derails further discussion on the facts and logic of the argument.

The Doomsday Clock is a propaganda tool

We’ve all seen news quotes like this one:

Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight on Thursday amid increasing worries over nuclear weapons and climate change.

Source: Doomsday Clock ticks closer to apocalypse and 1 person is to blame

The Doomsday Clock is a propaganda tool that allegedly represents how many minutes we are from Armageddon and the end of life on earth.

It works as propaganda through its ease of understanding, and its appeal to authority (it’s published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” – and its a non-profit so it must pure!)  The clock setting is not based on science.  But with its pedigree (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists), with a leadership, staff and governing board made up of scientists, it implies there is a scientific basis for the clock setting. Originally the setting was determined by a single individual; after he died, the setting was determined by a board of “scientists and other experts” (except when its still set by an individual).

The clock is perpetually a few minutes from midnight, using the method of fear to deliver its message. Each year it may move a minute or two one way or the other, with the implication that we are always just a few minutes away from Armageddon.

The clock has been around for 71 years – its effectiveness as propaganda has been excellent, but its effectiveness at predicting anything about the future has been non-existent. They even say the clock predicts nothing.

The goal, as explained in their FAQ is to get people to adopt the agenda of the Bulletin of the the Atomic Scientists, and to “share what you’ve learned with others” and to “tell your government representatives that you don’t want even more of your tax money spent”… that sounds rather political doesn’t it? In fact, their definitions – and their use of fear to encourage sharing – nearly fits the modern concept of fake news click-bait.

The Doomsday Clock group defines itself as propaganda messaging.

Every time they issue a new press release, the news media laps it up and spreads the propaganda.

Remember, journalists should be acting as firewalls against propaganda messaging but instead, they act as arm-in-arm partners in propaganda messaging.

The physics professor responsible for the most recent “closer to midnight” setting is now under investigation for sexual misconduct.