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Culture war games: paying the piper

As mob lynchings fueled by WhatsApp messages sweep India, authorities struggle to combat fake news
By Annie Gowen

More than a dozen people have been killed across India since May in violence fueled primarily by fake social media messages, as officials struggle to rein in this growing technology-driven menace.

The perpetrators are largely villagers, some of whom may be using smartphones for the first time. Inflamed by fake warnings of child-trafficking rings or organ harvesters sent via the WhatsApp messaging service, they have resorted to vigilante justice — attacking and beating to death people who often were innocent.

To control the subsequent violence, state authorities hired “rumor busters,” including Sukanta Chakraborty, 33, a musician who was paid about $8 a day to travel from village to village in a van equipped with a loudspeaker, warning of the dangers of fake news. He and two others were beset by a mob wielding bricks and bamboo sticks in a crowded market Thursday.

“They killed him. He was pleading to the mob that he was only doing his duty,” Tanushri Barua, Chakraborty’s wife, said in a telephone interview. “No one listened to him.”

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Posted in Games.


Culture war games: dangerous ideas

Preface to Dangerous Ideas
By Steven Pinker

Many of our moral and political policies are designed to pre-empt what we know to be the worst features of human nature. The checks and balances in a democracy, for instance, were invented in explicit recognition of the fact that human leaders will always be tempted to arrogate power to themselves. Likewise, our sensitivity to racism comes from an awareness that groups of humans, left to their own devices, are apt to discriminate and oppress other groups, often in ugly ways. History also tells us that a desire to enforce dogma and suppress heretics is a recurring human weakness, one that has led to recurring waves of gruesome oppression and violence. A recognition that there is a bit of Torquemada in everyone should make us wary of any attempt to enforce a consensus or demonize those who challenge it.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” according to Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous case for freedom of thought and expression. If an idea really is false, only by examining it openly can we determine that it is false. At that point we will be in a better position to convince others that it is false than if we had let it fester in private, since our very avoidance of the issue serves as a tacit acknowledgment that it may be true. And if an idea is true, we had better accommodate our moral sensibilities to it, since no good can come from sanctifying a delusion. This might even be easier than the ideaphobes fear. The moral order did not collapse when the earth was shown not to be at the center of the solar system, and so it will survive other revisions of our understanding of how the world works.

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Culture war games: the constant renegotiation of societal norms

Psychology Desperately Needs a Massive Influx of Skepticism
By Lee Jussim Ph.D.

Skepticism is crucial for good science in a way that has some similarities to why removing weeds is crucial for a healthy garden. Bad weeds can choke off healthy plants; bad science can choke off good science if, like a runaway weed, sometimes, bad science becomes popular, highly funded, and adopted as a basis for law, social policy, and personal use. It then takes away attention and resources from good science and leads to impressive promises of personal and social change that end up as dead ends, or worse.

Even plants that have some value like scientific claims that have some truth but are wildly oversold can mostly function as weeds, if they go too far. Consider ivy that covers windows and doors; bamboo that takes over a yard; and scientific claims that have some truth but are wildly oversold.

Science has a long history of bad weeds, everything from bad astronomy theories choking off good ones to bad medicine. Social psychology has a disturbingly impressive track record of such “weeds,” including social priming, the power of the situation, stereotype threat, implicit bias, ego depletion, power posing, stereotype inaccuracy, stereotype bias, grit, delay of gratification, the Stanford Prison Experiment, facial feedback, and more (and more and more).

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Culture war games: us vs. them

The Dangers Of Online Conmunity
By Ben Sixsmith

The internet benefits a lot of people who have sought like-minded acquaintances, friends, and even lovers — yet it is a dangerous place. All across social media are what I call “conmunities”: not quite cults, lacking their organization and militancy, yet still drawing fragile, desperate people into exploitative relationships based on false hope, narcissism, and greed. Features often include:

  1. Charismatic leaders who act as mentors on the basis of selective information, rather than the more rounded perspective one might gain from acquaintance in real life.
  2. Clear hierarchies of status and influence, based more on popularity than expertise, experience, or achievements.
  3. Underacknowledged financial interests.
  4. Claims to exclusive truth.
  5. Severe resistance to criticism.
  6. “Us against the world” dynamics.
  7. Reinforcement of destructive behavior.
  8. Relationships based more on shared beliefs and preferences than shared experiences.

These features make conmunities vulnerable to herdlike conformity, financial or narcissistic exploitation, and latent social ties based on shared opinions, taste, and language that are hard to transform into trust, cooperation, and emotional fulfillment.

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Culture war games: callous, corrupt and corrupting

Kentucky governor blames violent video games, movies, not guns for school shootings
By Scott Wartman

Why is he convinced that it’s video games and not guns? Because when he went to school in New England, students would bring guns in for show-and-tell.

“Sometimes they’d be in kids’ lockers,” Bevin said. “Nobody even thought about shooting other people with them. So it’s not a gun problem.”

Bevin claimed there were more guns per capita 50 to 100 years ago than now. A report commissioned by Congress in 2012 disputed that. The number of firearms per capita in the United States doubled since 1968, going from one firearm for every two people to one firearm for every person, according to the report performed by the Congressional Research Service.

Experts: The Myth of Video Games Making Killers Is ‘Nuts’
By Tanya Basu

Video games have long been blamed for violent tendencies. The theory is that viewing and pretending to do violent things somehow rewires a person’s emotions and neurology and makes them more likely to think it’s okay to do something horrific, like use a rifle to massacre students and unarmed teachers at a school or a mass shooting.

That’s blatantly untrue, though, and been proven to be so for years now.

Chris Ferguson is a professor of psychology at Stetson University. He has extensively studied how video games affect violence.

“Trump’s claim is nuts,” he told The Daily Beast. “It’s long been discredited. This is not a thing.”

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Posted in Games.