Feb 12 2016

Concern Trolls and Free Speech Nazis

Note: This post was originally published on June 28, 2010 on SkepticBlog. Although it is not about the same issues as the current NECSS controversy, I found the underlying principles relevant, and I still stand by the position outlined here. 

One of the things that I love about the skeptical community is that it is a vibrant intellectual community that is not afraid to turn its critical eye inward. There is also sufficient diversity of background and perspective, superimposed upon a generally skeptical outlook, to provide some genuine conflict. While you won’t find many bigfoot believers in our ranks, we do run the spectrum from liberal to libertarian, militant atheist to Christian, scientist to artist, and politically correct to Penn Jillette.

The wringing of hands may at times seem tedious – but it’s all good. As long as we remember that at the end of the day we are all skeptics, a cultural minority looking to change the world.

Occasionally our diversity of approach does erupt into outright conflict, with the preferred medium usually being blogs. This happened recently in response to the appearance of Pamela Gay, an astronomer and co-host of the Astronomy Cast podcast with Fraser Cain, on my own podcast, the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. Pamela is a Christian, and on the SGU we have a tendency to be less than respectful of unscientific beliefs, including religious beliefs that wander into the arena of science.

This post is not going to be about the epistemological conflict over the limits of empiricism – whether or not science can address issue of pure faith, and how faith is distinct from “religion” – the latter being a cultural construct that involves many things, including using faith to invade science. If you are interested in that discussion, you can read here.

Rather, I am going to talk about the conflict between courtesy and free speech (which does often involve the religion issue as well). The start of this latest exchange was the blog response of Seth to an exchange we had on a recent episode of the SGU where Pamela was a guest. First, as an aside, Seth starts with the following premise:

This is an area of some controversy in the skeptical movement. Many skeptics believe that religion and personal belief are separate from skepticism, and that by conflating skepticism with atheism people with my viewpoint are hurting skepticism.

He then attributes this attitude to the SGU and many others. I would just say, this is not quite right, and you can read my earlier post for more detail. First, he conflates religion and faith (that is very problematic), and also he conflates science and skepticism – also a bit sloppy. I think that science and methodological naturalism are distinct and separate from faith. But skepticism includes not just empirical science, but also logic and philosophy, and you can take a philosophical approach to faith-based beliefs. You just cannot say that science proves faith is wrong.

Seth also makes another false assumption – that the distinction being made is largely tactical – it is about not “hurting skepticism.” While this is a legitimate concern, it is distinct from the epistemological issues.

But on to the meat of this post – Seth was concerned about the following exchange on the SGU, about which he writes:

So imagine my surprise when I was listening to The Skeptics Guide to the Universe episode 255 on my iPod today and heard the following exchange: (around 21:50)

Fraser Cain: That’s where the soul is. (General Laughter)
Steven Novella: Yeah, right!
Fraser Cain: So you remove all that, and the bacteria has no soul.
Steven Novella: A souless bacteria.

Bear in mind, Pamela Gay is on the phone at this moment. She is in the room. And her cohost from Astronomy Cast and the Host of the show she is a guest on are mocking the idea of the soul.

First, it must be noted that we and Pamela are friends. Pamela never voiced any concern over this exchange, and in a private e-mail to me following Seth’s post she expressed that while anti-religious talk may make her feel uncomfortable, we have never crossed the line with her and she likes coming on the SGU. Essentially – yeah, she is religious, but she is cool with it.

Seth’s post was followed by a thoughtful post from PZ Myers at Pharyngula. PZ makes some good points. I think he hits the nail most on the head with this statement:

The skeptic movement will be inclusive and allow anyone to participate, and participation means your ideas will be scrutinized and criticized and sometimes mocked and sometimes praised.

This is how I feel – our own beliefs are all fair game, whether religious, political, or social. We should not demand any litmus test for skeptical purity – that is not practical, reasonable, or healthy for any movement, let alone a minority movement like skepticism. Anyone who wants to participate should be welcome, in my opinion – even pseudoskeptics who don’t get it (but that doesn’t mean they get to speak at our meetings). However – everyone also has to recognize that your own beliefs are fair game for the criticism that is at the core of skeptical philosophy. That means that global warming dissidents, feminists, alternative medicine proponents, deists, free market zealots, anti-government conspiracy theorists, and communists all get to have their beliefs challenged, and have no reasonable expectations that their beliefs or their feelings will be spared.

Where I find the conflict within the skeptical movement to be most persistent and unresolvable is in the personal choices that people make with respect to balances between the dictates of free speech and intellectual integrity (a consistent application of skepticism with no sacred cows) and the desire for courtesy, creating a friendly and collegiate environment, and presenting skepticism in a positive light. Here we run the spectrum – at one end there are “concern trolls” who seem to advocate for an extreme of political correctness, and go out of their way to find offense. At the other end are “free speech nazis” (these are not my terms, BTW) who seem to go out of their way to be offensive, as if they are daring someone to ask for a modicum of courtesy so that they can cry “censorship” and get self-righteous about their freedom of speech.

While we have all likely encountered these extremes, most of us appear to be somewhere in the middle. It is also not easy to balance these concerns, as they are often at cross-purposes – so there is no perfect solution, you have to make a trade off and that will be driven for each individual by which concern resonates with them the most.

That is why I am not advocating for any particular balance. I don’t pretend to have the one true balance or compromise. I am advocating for tolerance and open discussion, and also just recognition that there are legitimate concerns on both sides and perhaps we can discuss it with each other without puffing our chests quite so much.

There are those, for example, who champion blasphemy as a form of social protest. PZ, Penn and Teller, Christopher Hitchens and others argue that nothing should be sacred. While individuals have the right to treat anything they want as sacred, they do not have the right to request that anyone else does so (a principle with which I agree). Some choose to make this point by going out of their way to blaspheme what others consider sacred – especially when they are being requested to respect the sacred. They have a right to this form of protest and free speech and I think it is important.

But also, not everyone should be expected to engage in this form of free speech. This has a lot to do with personality and style. It also has to do with (as PZ acknowledges) division of labor and specialization within the skeptical movement. I would add that context is also important – some venues and topics require more professionalism and courtesy than others. I would not go to a medical conference and decide that I needed to offend everyone’s religion just to make a point.

The SGU is one particular context. On our podcast we are open about our opinions. We champion the use of skepticism and reason in all areas. We feel free to use satire, sarcasm, and even occasional mockery to put absurd beliefs into perspective. But we also choose not to gratuitously attack individuals – we focus mainly on beliefs. We reserve our personal attacks not for the average believer, but for the promoters – those who are engaging in the public conversation and have made themselves fair game. They have no expectation of courtesy, and there the demands of public debate and exchange of ideas outweigh those of courtesy. With an individual “rank-and-file” believer, the balance is different.

Conclusion

I don’t expect this discussion to ever end – perhaps it shouldn’t. The complex balance of multiple social, ethical, and intellectual principles requires constant thought, discussion, and introspection. So let’s keep the conversation going. But I also advocate recognition that no one has the final “correct” answer – when value judgments and trade-offs are involved, there is no such thing.

122 responses so far

122 Responses to “Concern Trolls and Free Speech Nazis”

  1. hardnoseon 12 Feb 2016 at 8:56 am

    I completely agree with this post. Well, except that not all skeptics are trying to change the world. I am a skeptic and I don’t claim to have the answers about how the world should be changed. Usually people who feel they have big answers to the big questions have some kind of ideological agenda, and I don’t.

    The main thing I am constantly trying to communicate here is that there are things we don’t know, and we should recognize this and admit that we don’t know these things. I am not saying we don’t know anything, I am saying there are a lot of things we don’t know.

    And trying to be aware of what you don’t know is the essence of being a skeptical agnostic.

    There are things I do know, from personal experience or logic or evidence. Sometimes what I know is in conflict with the scientific consensus. I think it’s a mistake to accept the scientific consensus on every topic without analyzing or questioning it. That mistake is very often made at this blog.

    Anyway, overall, I agree with this post.

  2. 107197on 12 Feb 2016 at 9:01 am

    I recall a comment from a while back to the effect that if the *only* reason you want to make a statement is “freedom of speech”, then you don’t really have a good reason at all. There’s an equivalent in academia (my area): if the only reason you’re teaching something is “academic freedom”, they you really don’t have a good reason. Seems to me that the only argument that some free speech nazis have is “freedom of speech”. If that’s your only reason, maybe it’s not reason enough.

  3. Steven Novellaon 12 Feb 2016 at 11:42 am

    HN – What I think some people here, including myself, are annoyed at is that you take disagreements over how to apply basic principles as if we disagree with the basic principles, then you lecture us about those principles and call us ideologues. This is seriously flawed thinking on your part, and violates the principle of charity.

    Of course we don’t know everything, we should admit our ignorance, and be clear about the limitations of our knowledge. Of course the scientific consensus is not always right. Stop lecturing us on those points, it just makes you look arrogant and as if you are not paying attention to what we are saying.

    We disagree about the details of how much we do know. We also disagree about the validity of the scientific consensus on specific questions. While it is OK to question a consensus if you have a good reason, I think you need to be far more cautious and humble than you are being. If your opinion differs from the experts, it is best to assume the experts are correct and your knowledge is incomplete or your thinking is flawed – unless you have an adequate level of expertise yourself.

  4. hardnoseon 12 Feb 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Ok Steve N I see your point. However because I come from a different perspective, which I guess I can call systemic, there are things that experts currently agree on that I am absolutely certain are wrong. But ok, sometimes I might be too insistent about it, and people are not going to change their basic perspective no matter what I say.

    Also I guess I can admit I am a little anti-authoritarian. But I think some degree of that is healthy for skeptics. There is a very basic human tendency to follow and trust authorities, going back to our tribal origins. We have to fight that.

  5. Steven Novellaon 12 Feb 2016 at 12:29 pm

    HN – thanks for considering my perspective. Again – we agree about the limitations of authority and that it is very healthy to question authority. Absolutely.

    This requires context, however. Not all institutions are the same. The institutions of science tend to have opinions based more on logic and evidence than other institutions. Also, scientific expertise is a genuine phenomenon. No one says it’s perfect, but at least evidence does count for something.

    Also, and this is a huge point, science is often so complicated that non-experts really don’t have any chance of understanding the technical details sufficiently to question the opinion of experts. I know this creates an uncomfortable situation, but it’s the reality we face. It is a real dilemma for the non-expert. You hate trusting authority, and have good philosophical reasons to distrust authority, but you really don’t have much of a choice with complex areas of knowledge about which you lack sufficient expertise. The best you can do is monitor the process to see that it is fair, open, and transparent and try to discern what the consensus is, how strong is it, and are there any viable minority opinions.

  6. hammyrexon 12 Feb 2016 at 1:38 pm

    A lot of my personal threshold of tolerance comes down to sacred cow vs. the sacred farm.

    I think anyone has their sacred cow where they aren’t quite content with the consensus. I imagine Dr. Novella has some examples were his clinical practice directly contradicts guideline recommendations or consensus opinion on neurological topics (this happens all the time in my area – there’s always more questions than data). I actually kind of wish Dr. Novella would write more about controversies with neurology itself, but I also understand he has to avoid a situation where the blog could be interpreted as having any type of relationship with his clinical practice (now more than ever, given the past lawsuit). Anyway, my point is that people who make the argument “all you do is trust the experts!” don’t care to differentiate trusting an expert who is far beyond your scope of knowledge and trusting one in which you can actually understand all the nuts and bolts of how their decision was made. It’s the difference between problems within a theory and problems with a theory.

    However, when you make an argument that, all at the same time, all climatologists are wrong, all infectious disease physicians are wrong, all evolutionary biologist are wrong, all philosophers of science are wrong, all the cognitive neurosciences are wrong, all constitutional law academics are wrong, all physicists are wrong, etc. – it rests on a premise that you have better expertise than is even remotely achievable.

    If everyone is an expert, no one is. It’s just part of the human condition – there’s an opportunity cost of studying one thing over another, and most people will go their entire lives without sincerely becoming an expert even in what they do study.

  7. hardnoseon 12 Feb 2016 at 1:50 pm

    “The institutions of science tend to have opinions based more on logic and evidence than other institutions.”

    I think you are idealistic about the scientific establishment, and you under-estimate the ability of people to deceive themselves and others.

    Science can be corrupted just like any other human institution. In fact, the great respect science has now days just makes it more corruptible.

    The scientific method is one thing, the mainstream scientific establishment is quite another.

    Reverence for the scientific establishment can result in a paternalistic high priesthood that has too much power over, and too little respect for, the average person.

  8. JasonKon 12 Feb 2016 at 2:03 pm

    hardnoseon wrote:

    …there are things that experts currently agree on that I am absolutely certain are wrong.

    Such as?

  9. Ceepson 12 Feb 2016 at 3:32 pm

    In another organization entirely, the people in power started to justify censorship and stated it was so people’s feelings wouldn’t be hurt, that the community should be inclusive, and would you please think of the children. Of course in reality, it was used to silence criticism of the people in power, or to just censor people they didn’t like because it might hurt someone’s feelings.

    To take a middle of the road stand to appeal to both the social justice warriors and free speech nerds like myself seems a bit irrational, from experience. I don’t like seeing what you call “Free Speech Nazis” push the limits of what’s acceptable, but we’re adults, and we can deal with it, by calling them out on their bs. In real life, and not the internet, it’s even easier to persuade people to behave out of a social and moral obligation.

    I generally agree, though, that there are many things to divide us, and that’s not good for skepticism.

  10. pdeboeron 12 Feb 2016 at 6:03 pm

    HN – I think the quote you use:

    “The institutions of science tend to have opinions based more on logic and evidence than other institutions.”

    shows that Steve is not looking at science idealistically or under-estimating the ability of people to deceive themselves and others.

    The caveat of saying “tends to have more” is giving room for the imperfection and corruption of the human elements. I think its clear that my interpretation was intended.

    however, when you say “there are things that experts currently agree on that I am absolutely certain are wrong.” You leave no skeptical humility.

    Seems hypocritical and unskeptical.

  11. hardnoseon 12 Feb 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Sometimes we can know things for certain. Being a skeptic doesn’t mean knowing nothing, it means you know there are a lot of things you don’t know. We can try to figure out what makes the most sense to us, given incomplete and imperfect data.

  12. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 7:30 pm

    hn,

    “Sometimes we can know things for certain.”

    Such as?

    “Being a skeptic doesn’t mean knowing nothing, it means you know there are a lot of things you don’t know.”

    Really? Thanks for splainin’ that.

    “We can try to figure out what makes the most sense to us, given incomplete and imperfect data.”

    Truth is relative. Got it.

  13. mumadaddon 12 Feb 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Try to take a humble position now you’ve claimed that:

    a.) time is bi-directional, therefore psi
    b.) the rigorous endeavours of thousands of scientists are subordinate to your armchair contrarianism
    c.) HIV is related to AIDS but doesn’t cause it
    d.) methodological naturalism assumes that reality is made of material “ball bearings”
    e.) those who cite consensus science over your armchair contrarianism have a “19th century worldview”
    f.) WE NEED NEW PHYSICS TO EXPLAIN EFFECTS THAT ARE YET TO BE DEMONSTRATED

    “We can try to figure out what makes the most sense to us, given incomplete and imperfect data.”

    I think this is the rub. I really have to wonder, against what set of preconceptions are you evaluating what “the experts” tell you?

  14. Steve Crosson 12 Feb 2016 at 9:27 pm

    hardnose:

    Sometimes we can know things for certain. Being a skeptic doesn’t mean knowing nothing, it means you know there are a lot of things you don’t know. We can try to figure out what makes the most sense to us, given incomplete and imperfect data.

    Actually, this is fairly reasonable, as far as it goes. But you neglected to mention what is arguably the most important part of skepticism.

    As Richard Feynman said:

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.

    You will never actually be a true skeptic (as the term is used here) until you learn to honestly (and regularly) question your own beliefs. Ask yourself why it is that so many things that appear to be obvious to you are NOT obvious to anyone else. The fact that hardly anyone seems to agree with you on so many different things should be ringing your skeptical alarms bells at maximum volume.

    Obviously, underdogs have occasionally been correct in the past, but that is insufficient reason to assume that any particular challenge to consensus is likely to be legitimate. Rather, when most people interpret the evidence in one way, then a good skeptic will realize that simple doubt is not a good enough reason to overturn the consensus — the burden of proof and the amount of evidence will have to be at least as comprehensive as the amount of evidence supporting the original conclusion.

    With all due respect, with the exception of your belief that your own unique perspective allows you to see patterns that others may have overlooked, you have demonstrated no expertise in any of the fields in which you hold contrary opinions. An actual skeptic would be diligently applying the same level of skepticism to their own conclusions as they would to anyone else’s. In your own words, “you under-estimate the ability of people to deceive themselves and others.” Clearly, you are aware of the problem, but you have wildly different standards of evidence for your own beliefs compared to literally everyone else’s.

  15. BBBlueon 13 Feb 2016 at 1:27 am

    RD One of my main beefs with religion is the way they label children as a “Catholic child” or a “Muslim child”. I’ve become a bit of a bore about it.

    CH You must never be afraid of that charge, any more than stridency.

    RD I will remember that.

    CH If I was strident, it doesn’t matter – I was a jobbing hack, I bang my drum. You have a discipline in which you are very distinguished. You’ve educated a lot of people; nobody denies that, not even your worst enemies. You see your discipline being attacked and defamed and attempts made to drive it out.

    Stridency is the least you should muster . . . It’s the shame of your colleagues that they don’t form ranks and say, “Listen, we’re going to defend our colleagues from these appalling and obfuscating elements.” If you go on about something, the worst thing the English will say about you, as we both know – as we can say of them, by the way – is that they’re boring.

    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2015/09/never-be-afraid-stridency-richard-dawkins-interview-christopher-hitchens

    So lets homogenize science communicators until we eliminate all risk of offense to all people? You argue that dis-inviting Dawkins was a judgment call, a matter of balance and an attempt to set a proper tone, and so it is, which is completely within the rights of any such organization. Of course in doing so, the organization signals that they are not willing to defend those with the courage to bang their drum, and I think that is unfortunate.

  16. lagaya1on 13 Feb 2016 at 2:43 am

    For those of us who were wanting a real explanation for this Dawkins decision, this is certainly not that. You’ve all dropped a few notches in my opinion. At least you’ll always have hardnose…

  17. SteveAon 13 Feb 2016 at 4:21 am

    I’m puzzled by this post.

    What is it meant to achieve in the context of the NECSS debacle?

    Is it meant to excuse the distinct lack of courtesy shown to Professor Dawkins? It doesn’t.

    If you want to dis-invite someone to your gig. Go for it. It’s your party, but the way the NECSS went about it was odious.

    And if your opinion of the professor was on such a knife-edge that ONE tweet was enough to turn him from distinguished guest to hateful pariah perhaps you shouldn’t have invited him in the first place?

    I think your first duty is to write to your other invited guests and tell them exactly how close to the edge of the abyss you think they are. They ought to know, it’s only fair.

    Oh, and I finally got around to watching the ‘Feminists Love Islamists’ video…

    Really? That’s what all this is about? That’s the video that had the NECSS swooning on its divans? From the fuss made over this I was expecting to see babies on bayonets; instead it’s a two minute cartoon expressing one person’s opinions through the medium of a poorly rhymed comedic piano duet. It’s a cartoon; not a thesis.

    Once more the skeptical movement shoots itself in the foot…over nothing.

    Who pulled the trigger? Do we know her?

  18. hardnoseon 13 Feb 2016 at 10:13 am

    mumadadd,

    It’s easy to distort what people say. You have shown you can do that, but so what?

  19. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 10:17 am

    Wow, that’s hypocritical.

  20. hardnoseon 13 Feb 2016 at 10:17 am

    “You will never actually be a true skeptic (as the term is used here) until you learn to honestly (and regularly) question your own beliefs. Ask yourself why it is that so many things that appear to be obvious to you are NOT obvious to anyone else.”

    That is why I spend more time reading blogs like this than things I tend to agree with.

    But you probably don’t realize that most things that are obvious to me are also obvious to many others. It isn’t just me. You are so insulated in your materialist world view that you have never considered any of the alternatives.

    I doubt that you, or most others here, spend any time looking for information that might cause you to question your faith in the mainstream consensus.

  21. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 10:23 am

    “I doubt that you, or most others here, spend any time looking for information that might cause you to question your faith in the mainstream consensus.”

    I have. Particularly for god, afterlife, anything that would imply an immaterial component to consciousness. This is all motivated by crippling terror of ceasing to exist when I die. I haven’t managed to find anything that stacked up. Do you doubt that I’m sincere when I say this?

  22. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 10:26 am

    …and I really don’t think I’m alone in my fear, or in saying that I would be delighted if there were something “supernatural” (although I think the collapses in on itself when examined).

  23. Steve Crosson 13 Feb 2016 at 12:22 pm

    hardnose:

    That is why I spend more time reading blogs like this than things I tend to agree with.

    Its hard to picture you as a genuine, openminded truth seeker when almost all of your comments are equivalent to “That’s wrong because scientists have been wrong in the past.”

    But you probably don’t realize that most things that are obvious to me are also obvious to many others. It isn’t just me.

    Sorry, I should have been more clear. I meant to say that when comparing your own opinion to that of generally acknowledged experts (even if you also happen to be an expert), a true skeptic should be especially careful to avoid fooling themselves. Of course, I shouldn’t have to point out that non-expert opinions are almost irrelevant. As you already agreed, people are extremely good at deluding themselves. Literally billions of people believe in thousands of incompatible religions — it doesn’t mean that any of them are true.

    You are so insulated in your materialist world view that you have never considered any of the alternatives.
    I doubt that you, or most others here, spend any time looking for information that might cause you to question your faith in the mainstream consensus.

    HUGE, HUGE, Straw Man No one here (especially not Steve N) has ever advocated blind faith in the mainstream consensus. The general opinions seem to be: It is wisest to accept (at least provisionally) the mainstream view unless you have good evidence to the contrary.

    That seems pretty reasonable when you consider that science has an excellent track record in the long run. The reason for that success is simple: It’s because scientists are strongly encouraged to be skeptical of all results in the short run.

    No one here thinks the current system is perfect — just the opposite in fact. I think it is safe to say that the overall theme of this blog is that we all need to get better at skepticism, all the time.

    I think most of us here want to:

    Believe as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible. (Matt Dillahunty)

    The best way to do that is to fairly, and based on good evidence, question all of our own beliefs. The worst way is to reserve your skepticism for things you don’t believe.

    Finally, as mumadadd pointed out, many (probably most) of us would love to believe in life after death, psi powers or all sorts of other cool things. But there is almost an infinite number of conceivable supernatural powers or beliefs — we just would like to be able to know what is actually true instead of just something that we wish to be true.

    As Feynman said, it all comes down to avoiding fooling yourself. I know you deny it, but you give every indication of someone who believes that everyone can be wrong but themself.

  24. hardnoseon 13 Feb 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I”ts hard to picture you as a genuine, openminded truth seeker when almost all of your comments are equivalent to “That’s wrong because scientists have been wrong in the past.””

    I have NEVER said anything like that!

  25. jt512on 13 Feb 2016 at 2:05 pm

    @hardnose:

    [T]here are things that experts currently agree on that I am absolutely certain are wrong.

    In order for you to know that the experts were wrong about something in their subject, you would have to know at least as much about their subject as they do. That would make you one of the experts. But you’re not. Therefore, your certainty is unfounded.

  26. Steve Crosson 13 Feb 2016 at 2:39 pm

    hardnose,

    Please be serious. Many, many, many people have noticed and commented on your frequent tendency to play the “scientists have been wrong in the past” card.

  27. hardnoseon 13 Feb 2016 at 5:36 pm

    I have never played the “scientists have been wrong in the past card.” Everyone knows that scientists have been wrong in the past. That has no bearing on any current controversy.

    Sometimes experts are right and sometimes they are wrong. When the controversy is about something no one really understands (and that’s usually the case with ongoing controversies), then no amount of expert knowledge is going to make you infallible.

    Furthermore, there are experts who do not agree with the mainstream consensus on certain topics. Of course you will say the majority wins, and whatever most scientists believe is more likely to be true.

    I don’t happen to agree. As I have said here before, the scientific consensus can become self-perpetuating, since hardly anyone dares to oppose it. It can be career suicide for a young scientist to question the consensus.

    That was actually Einstein’s problem when he was young. He was always very anti-authoritarian, and therefore his professors didn’t like him and he had to get a job in a patent office.

    I don’t think it was abnormally high intelligence that made Einstein great. I think it was his anti-authoritarian nature, and his curiosity. His desire to understand was stronger than his concern with his career.

    And that is true of some alternative scientists today that I admire. Bem’s career was already well established before he started investigating precognition, so he didn’t risk very much. But others have sacrificed academic success in their search for understanding.

  28. hardnoseon 13 Feb 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Duesberg is one obvious example. I don’t happen to agree with his theories about AIDS, but that is not the point. He is an extremely qualified expert who did not agree with the consensus. That caused him to be ostracized and even despised.

    Montagnier was one of the discoverers of HIV and he has expressed doubts about the simple theory that has become the consensus. So of course Montagnier is ridiculed and despised by people who are much less qualified than he is.

    The scientific consensus often turns into mob rule.

  29. Willyon 13 Feb 2016 at 5:52 pm

    I am so, so thankful to have hardnose on patrol, keeping those blinded scientists in check and on their guard. Whatever would we do without an open-minded renaissance man like him watching over us sheeple.

    hardnose, jack (off) and “master” of many trades.

  30. Steve Crosson 13 Feb 2016 at 6:38 pm

    @hardnose,

    Nice try!!

    Whether or not you admit it to yourself, or if you even realize it, your entire world view can be summarized as:

    Scientists make mistakes,
    Therefore, I’m just as smart as they are,
    Therefore, My opinions are just as good as theirs,
    Therefore, I’m fully qualified to ignore their results when they disagree with my beliefs.

    I’m fully confident that the majority of people here would agree that this is a completely fair and correct statement of your attitude.

  31. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 6:56 pm

    It’s true that there are many other possibilities. It’s not true that just because I, or a bunch of people, came by some explanation, it somehow gets equal consideration with scientifically derived explanations. Turtles all the way down. Allah. Jaweh. The standard model. How does one distinguish between these explanations? Process, FFS.

  32. Ian Wardellon 13 Feb 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Steve Cross
    “The general opinions seem to be: It is wisest to accept (at least provisionally) the mainstream view unless you have good evidence to the contrary”.

    The mainstream view regarding what? Regarding “skepticism” i.e materialism?

    No it is emphatically not wise to accept this. Not when it one of the most transparent obvious falsehoods that human beings have ever possibly subscribed to.

    And the mainstream view changes depending on the time one lives at and one’s culture. The current mainstream view differs from the 17th Century, and no doubt will differ from the 25th Century.

  33. Julie Brandonon 13 Feb 2016 at 9:13 pm

    This blog entry and the comments are incredibly, inpenetrably cryptic to an outsider such as myself and hard to interpret without any clear description of the “NECSS controversy”, especially for those of us from afar who only have access to these debates via blogs and the SGU podcast etc. I assume this is something to do with Richard Dawkins being uninvited to the conference; however, what explanations for that I’ve seen have been somewhat cryptic and scant on details too, plus the argument with hardnose seems to be about something else entirely?

    Please try to keep in mind this blog is public facing and read by skeptics the world over. Perhaps give those of us not in on all the secret-looking workings of the NESS a chance to work out what on earth you’re talking about?

    Warm Regards,
    Confused from Derby in the UK

    PS Hardnose… curiosity is gnawing away at me, what is the thing that you know with such certainty that scientists generally disagree with?

  34. ccbowerson 13 Feb 2016 at 9:16 pm

    “I don’t happen to agree. As I have said here before, the scientific consensus can become self-perpetuating, since hardly anyone dares to oppose it. It can be career suicide for a young scientist to question the consensus.”

    This is among the dumbest of the narratives you repeat, and that is saying a lot. A scientist that demonstrates that a consensus science is incorrect would cause a paradigm shift and obtain all of the rewards a scientist could hope for, likely including a Nobel Prize. To say that scientists are just perpetuating consensus views to avoid causing a stir demonstrates that you have no understanding of reality or human nature. Scientific communities love to argue and disagree with each other. Egos are sometimes large, and a demonstrating that a bad idea is wrong can be as satisfying as any intellectual endeavor. The idea you propose is absurd in all but the smallest and insular groups.

    You try to emphasize uncertainty into consensus science to create a false equivalence with regards to the opinions of experts to everyone else. But you are simply wrong, and no, an underinformed opinion is not equal to an informed one. That is the very argument you make every day. And it is absurd.

  35. ccbowerson 13 Feb 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Julie. I do think about that, and that is why I do occasionally engage a troll (to avoid unopposed idiocy). It is hard to explain the history of past conversations but the Hardnose stuff you read here are pretty similar to exchanges in the past.

    As far as the Richard Dawkins situation, this post covers the conversation:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/necss-and-richard-dawkins/

  36. ccbowerson 13 Feb 2016 at 9:26 pm

    “The current mainstream view differs from the 17th Century, and no doubt will differ from the 25th Century.”

    Are you arguing that they’ll all be equal in accuracy? That we don’t have a better understanding now then we did in the 17th century, and that, barring major catastrophe, our understanding in the 25th century will be much better than it is now?

    More relevant to the issue is that experts now have better understanding than non-experts now, and that was also true in the 17th century as it will be in the 25th century.

  37. hardnoseon 15 Feb 2016 at 9:29 am

    Ok, maybe we should assume the experts are correct. For example, most parapsychologists claim to have found evidence for ESP. Since they are experts in the field, and the rest of us are not, we really are not qualified to doubt them.

    So we can all agree that the parapsychologists are correct about ESP?

  38. Steve Crosson 15 Feb 2016 at 10:11 am

    hardnose:

    Ok, maybe we should assume the experts are correct. For example, most parapsychologists claim to have found evidence for ESP. Since they are experts in the field, and the rest of us are not, we really are not qualified to doubt them.
    So we can all agree that the parapsychologists are correct about ESP?

    yFalse Analog

    Almost everyone here (especially Steve N) has explained that you must use due diligence to determine the strength of the expert consensus and to apportion your trust accordingly.

    In this case, parapsychologists are only a (highly biased) subset of the people who have actual expertise in the field. The consensus of the TOTAL number of scientists who have examined the evidence is that the probability is very small.

    Chiropractors and acupuncturists will also tell you that the evidence for their beliefs is strong. But the vast majority of people actually qualified to have an opinion will disagree.

  39. Steve Crosson 15 Feb 2016 at 10:13 am

    Grrr… Wish we could edit comments. Formatting error, should have been:

    False Analogy

  40. Steve Crosson 15 Feb 2016 at 10:15 am

    Ian Wardell:

    The mainstream view regarding what? Regarding “skepticism” i.e materialism?

    I was replying to hardnose regarding his ridiculous distrust of scientific consensus. Unless someone has personal expertise in the field plus contrary evidence, then the best course of action in any given situation is to follow the advice of the experts.

    Really, this is just common sense. The people that know the most about any subject, i.e. experts, will be the most familiar with the evidence and are the most likely to draw the correct conclusions. Of course, even experts make mistakes, but they are right far more often than the non-experts.

    There is a reason that actual scientists use the scientific method (or scientific skepticism or materialism if you prefer) — It Works! No one claims that the scientific consensus is always correct, but it is self-correcting. There will always be (and should always be) vigorous disagreement at the bleeding edge. But, at this point in time, the core tenants are solid and irrefutable. The evidence is all around us. Without a fundamentally correct foundation, many of the greatest scientific advances of the last few centuries would never have happened. Because all areas of science are interrelated and interdependent, advances in one area often enable discoveries in another.

    On the other hand, people that don’t rigorously follow the scientific method have not been nearly as successful. They often base their hypotheses on bad evidence and wishful thinking. A good example is the type of magical thinking on your own blog. Billions of people desperately want to believe in dualism or magic or various gods, but there has not been one bit of actual progress in the field or a shred of good evidence to support any of it. Even after thousands of years of searching, no one has ever figured out how to use the supernatural to make reliable predictions or do anything else of practical benefit.

    In other words, if any of it is real, why is there still no good evidence? And NO, your inability to understand something is not evidence for anything.

  41. hardnoseon 15 Feb 2016 at 12:41 pm

    “parapsychologists are only a (highly biased) subset of the people who have actual expertise in the field. The consensus of the TOTAL number of scientists who have examined the evidence is that the probability is very small.”

    There is over a hundred years of parapsychology research demonstrating ESP. I’m sure the only things you know about parapsychology are what you read on skepdic or jref.

    There are thousands of positive experiments, on the one hand, and then there are Wiseman, Blackmore and a few others, who always get negative results.

    You believe what you prefer to believe, regardless of the scientific evidence.

    You accept evidence that is weak and biased (and probably financially motivated) showing that ARV drugs give AIDS patients almost normal lives. You only accept that shoddy research because it (supposedly) supports the mainstream consensus.

  42. BillyJoe7on 15 Feb 2016 at 1:07 pm

    hammyrex,

    “I imagine Dr. Novella has some examples were his clinical practice directly contradicts guideline recommendations or consensus opinion on neurological topics”

    It is an error to think that your personal experience is more valuable than the consensus. By the consensus, I mean the conclusions of experts in any specialty or subspecialty area that has been arrived at after a full consideration of all the available evidence. By comparison, a single neurologist’s personal experience is much like an anecdote, though perhaps a little less so after 30 years.

    If Dr. Novella’s personal experience contradicts the consensus, I would imagine that he would seriously consider that his experience has been atypical, or that his memory has not been all inclusive.

  43. Steve Crosson 15 Feb 2016 at 1:39 pm

    hardnose:

    There is over a hundred years of parapsychology research demonstrating ESP. I’m sure the only things you know about parapsychology are what you read on skepdic or jref.
    There are thousands of positive experiments, on the one hand, and then there are Wiseman, Blackmore and a few others, who always get negative results.

    Thousands, millions or even billions of people believing anything based on bad evidence does not mean it is true — see any religion.

    Science allows us to make reliable predictions and achieve results of practical benefit.

    Your hundred years of “positive” results has accomplished exactly nothing! No one has ever been able to make reliable predictions or do anything else of practical use. They can’t even reliably reproduce their own (flawed) experiments.

    Come back when you’ve broken the bank in Vegas, or “psychically” sent an unambiguous message or something better than random chance.

  44. hardnoseon 15 Feb 2016 at 1:47 pm

    If you bother to become familiar with the research (but of course you won’t) you will see that very much of it is high quality. Parapsychology from the computer era is often automated, randomized, and blinded. Just because ESP is not infallible doesn’t mean it does not happen. And the fact that it does happen undermines your materialist ideology.

    It doesn’t matter whether someone uses ESP to win the lottery or not. What matters is whether it does happen, and it does. You can’t explain it away.

  45. hammyrexon 15 Feb 2016 at 2:45 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    You’re thinking about different types of problems. When I say consensus expert opinion, I mean consensus expert opinion that is absent higher quality data – i.e., they are using expert opinion because they do not have any reasonable cohort or RCT data. I am talking strictly about the value of expert opinion, not expert interpretation.

    When consensus expert opinion is the interpretation of studies, it’s one thing – when it says we have to, oh for example, get a lipid panel every 6 months because a panel of experts thinks that would be best – those kind of suggestions don’t really get any particular elevation.

    Guidelines are written by specialists, but not all practitioners dealing with a particular medical issue are those same specialists. If I followed guidelines verbatim, it would take me 45 minutes minimum to deal with any patient on each encounter. Practicality matters in practice.

  46. Steve Crosson 15 Feb 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Hardnose,

    You don’t trust scientific consensus or “materialism”, yet the tangible results are literally everywhere you look.

    But you do believe in ESP, in spite of the fact that no one has ever understood it well enough to do a single useful thing.

    Until that happens, it is ridiculous to try to claim that you have proof of its existence. If there is a measurable effect, NO MATTER HOW SMALL, it can be used to do SOMETHING. As long as you can reliably claim an accuracy of, say, 51% or better, then we already know how to do useful work.

    I’m sure a computer expert such as yourself can choose the best algorithm and write the appropriate code in a matter of hours. Now that I’ve given you the idea, I hope you use your Nobel prize money wisely.

  47. SteveAon 15 Feb 2016 at 4:49 pm

    hardnose: “Just because ESP is not infallible doesn’t mean it does not happen. And the fact that it does happen undermines your materialist ideology.”

    You keep pushing the idea that people ignore the evidence for the paranormal because of motivated reasoning. How would you like to hold up a mirror to that? From your responses over numerous posts it seems clear to me that you want the beliefs you have to be true because you think they offer you enough wriggle-room to slip in an after-life. I contend that that this is your motivation, HN: fear of death.

  48. hardnoseon 15 Feb 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Fear of death, that’s what atheist ideology assumes is the motivation for religion. But you obviously know nothing about religion, except maybe a distorted Christianity you may have learned as a child.

    In Judaism, for example, which happens to be my religion, there is no speculation about an afterlife.

    It is only because most atheists know so very little about religion, spirituality, and mysticism, that they assume it all was inspired by fear of death.

  49. hammyrexon 15 Feb 2016 at 5:21 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    I wanted to add that the ambiguity of language is my own fault – didn’t want my post to come off as an expectation that you read my mind.

  50. RickKon 15 Feb 2016 at 6:19 pm

    hardnose said: “It is only because most atheists know so very little about religion, spirituality, and mysticism, that they assume it all was inspired by fear of death.”

    Again, another insulting generalization that is demonstrably contrary to fact:
    http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/

    hardnose, your constant flow of false statements, presented as to demean people with whom you disagree, is tiresome in the extreme.

    Steve Novella – I understand the basis for your decision so far with hardnose. But I don’t believe someone who constantly repeats the same false statements, presents the same strawmen, and repeats the same derogatory comments about others in this forum is providing a useful service as a “foil”.

    I rarely support deleting comments or banning commenters, but I support banning hardnose. IMHO, Neurologica is spending too much of its energy being a sounding board for one person’s biases and insecurities.

  51. hammyrexon 15 Feb 2016 at 6:21 pm

    It’s an interesting observation that skeptiks can’t seem to win either way in the HN world: If we leave dense interpretation of the scientific literature to experts, then we’re accused of not being able to think for ourselves and being incapable of going with the power of personal experience that each of us harbors deep inside; yet, if we *do* have actual personal experience about a subject for which there is no degree of objective evidence (i.e., religion), but our own conclusions don’t come out “correctly”, then we’re wrong and we just need to ignore our beliefs and trust that the people who “get” religion are just inherently smarter than we are.

  52. hardnoseon 15 Feb 2016 at 6:42 pm

    “if we *do* have actual personal experience about a subject for which there is no degree of objective evidence (i.e., religion), but our own conclusions don’t come out “correctly”, then we’re wrong and we just need to ignore our beliefs and trust that the people who “get” religion are just inherently smarter than we are.”

    I can’t imagine what ever made you think I said that. If you have a personal experience about religion, or whatever, I would never say your experience was wrong. I respect the personal experiences of others, whether they are the same as mine or not.

    It is the pseudo-skeptics who have no respect for anything but the scientific consensus.

  53. hardnoseon 15 Feb 2016 at 6:44 pm

    “You don’t trust scientific consensus or “materialism”, yet the tangible results are literally everywhere you look.”

    Another myth that is constantly repeated by “materialists.” Modern science and technology are not the result of materialism. Materialism is an ideology, it is unrelated to science.

  54. Robneyon 15 Feb 2016 at 6:48 pm

    @HN

    “It is only because most atheists know so very little about religion, spirituality, and mysticism, that they assume it all was inspired by fear of death.”

    And it is only because most religionists know so very little about atheism that they assume all atheists assume that all religionists are inspired by a fear of death.

    See – its easy to make assumptions about the motives of those with whom you disagree in order to dismiss them. But its intellectually lazy.

    The point that the above poster was making was that he is motivated to believe in afterlife yet the evidence is not there. Nowhere was the claim made that all religious beliefs are motivated by fear of death. Obviously this is not true but neither is it the case that fear of death has nothing to do with many religious beliefs. A belief in an afterlife is fundamental to many religious belief systems.

    I come from a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their belief in an eternal paradise earth (sort of an afterlife) is undoubtedly a motivating factor in their beliefs. Their literature is plastered with images of their imagined spiritual paradise – where everyone depicted wears American casual sports wear, has a pet lion and eats a lot of fruit.

    I am envious of people who are comforted by their faith in an afterlife. When I contemplate my children dying it pains me greatly to think that they will no longer exist. I would much rather believe I will see them again in an afterlife – I’m motivated to believe.

  55. Robneyon 15 Feb 2016 at 7:23 pm

    By the way, I’m against banning Hardnose.

    I think people are mistaking his bad arguments with him acting in bad faith.

    He sometimes uses what could be considered intellectually dishonest arguments (mischaracterising positions with which he disagrees and repeatedly using discredited claims) but in his head I’m sure he thinks he’s a speaker of truth.

    Personally, I’ve learned a lot from his comments and the responses to them and I think he actually makes the discussion interesting.

  56. Steve Crosson 15 Feb 2016 at 8:00 pm

    hardnose:

    Another myth that is constantly repeated by “materialists.” Modern science and technology are not the result of materialism. Materialism is an ideology, it is unrelated to science.

    Sounds like someone’s jealous.

    Science has done spectacularly well at identifying material causes for material effects.

    Supernatural cause and effect?? — Not so much.

  57. ccbowerson 15 Feb 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Anyways, back to the topic of the post. (people both complain about a troll taking over conversations, yet people keep engaging the idiocy).

    As much as I find the discussion frustrating in general, this week’s “Rationally Speaking” podcast covers the very topic of this post, with a portion dealing with the Dawkins and NECSS situation. Julia Galef has Dan Fincke on as a guest entitled “The pros and cons of civil disagreement.”

    It is worth a listen, if you are interested in the topic:

    Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics – Current Episodes – RS 152 – Dan Fincke on “The pros and cons of civil disagreement”

  58. Robneyon 15 Feb 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks for the link, ccbowers. I’ll check it out.

    I was hoping for a group discussion on the SGU podcast about the matter but it doesn’t look like it will happen.

    Sam Harris briefly covers the it on his most recent Ask Me Anything Podcast. I didn’t entirely agree with his characterisation of Steve’s original blog post (he described it as mealy-mouthed) but I did agree with him that the dis-invitation was handled badly and Dawkins’ response was very gracious.

    It seems like it was a mistake to invite Dawkins in the first place if his invitation was so controversial and this mistake was compounded by the way in which he was disinvited.

  59. ccbowerson 15 Feb 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Woops. I meant to include the link. But I’m sure we all know how to use the googles.

    http://rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/

  60. SteveAon 16 Feb 2016 at 1:56 am

    hardnose: “In Judaism, for example, which happens to be my religion, there is no speculation about an afterlife.”

    Are you serious? This is just an outright lie. Where did you learn about Judaism, off the back of a bubblegum card?

    Then again, what should have I expected…

  61. CKavaon 16 Feb 2016 at 1:58 am

    @Robney
    “It seems like it was a mistake to invite Dawkins in the first place if his invitation was so controversial and this mistake was compounded by the way in which he was disinvited.”
    – And you can add to that now the wrinkle that the decision has been reversed; he has now been reinvited and an additional public apology provided. I agree with this decision (even though I think the video and Dawkin’s decision to retweet it were terrible) but it still makes the whole thing seem like a rather monumental fluff up.

    @hardnose
    If you think there is ‘good quality’ evidence for ESP you either have a very low standards or you don’t understand experimental design and statistical analysis. I would imagine in your case both apply. I’m familiar with the psi literature and it is replete with substandard studies, poor statistical methods, and over exuberant interpretations. It isn’t ignored by mainstream scientists because of its heretical findings; it’s because the literature is of such low quality that the only people it convinces are those who want it to be true or those who don’t have the relevant expertise to assess the quality of the studies.

  62. rezistnzisfutlon 16 Feb 2016 at 5:23 am

    I think the concern trolls outweigh the “free speech Nazis”, though I suspect that the political leanings of this forum tilts left. Regardless, I respect the need for the moderator to at least appear to maintain neutrality, as longevity is a major concern.

    However, in today’s political environment, the left owns the narrative. That means that freedom of speech is sacrificed at the alter of political correctness. We all know this is true, despite the claims otherwise, and this is seen in any comments section of any given media article (yes, BJ7, you are on notice here). Everyone knows that the media has a leftist bias here, and I highly respect Dr. Novella’s aspiration to remain neutral.

    Freedom of speech transcends government – it is a tolerance of speech that may be unpopular or disagreeable, but hold no actual harm to the parties in question, despite the claims of the aggrieved that harm was imparted by some simple words. The claim of harm is a political tool to silence those with an opinion that is contrary to those who are trying to push it, and unfortunately that sentiment has gained traction with those who hold sway over popular media.

    There are those who would love to silence ideas and opinions that are contrary to their own, but social issues will never be solved if they are never discussed and are censored. This is why the current push to censor and silence certain speech at places like universities is so disturbing, because examining ideas in the light of day is how they’re solved, not by sweeping them under the rug.

  63. rezistnzisfutlon 16 Feb 2016 at 5:26 am

    It’s too bad that Hardnose hijacks the conversation and allows folks to compromise their ideals. You’re allowing him to derail any meaningful conversation. I’ve noted that he’s done this over the course of years where he’s fouled skeptics up in order to prevent any real discussion of the issues, and you guys have fallen for it every time.

  64. Robneyon 16 Feb 2016 at 5:34 am

    I think they made the right decision by reinventing him and apologising.

    I thought the video was badly done, not funny and irresponsible (in that it characatured an individual who has been subject to death and rape threats). But I think it’s target (radical feminists and regressive leftists who defend Islamists and
    use ad hominims shut down debate) is worthy of satire. So I have some sympathy with Dawkins.

  65. BillyJoe7on 16 Feb 2016 at 5:42 am

    “yes, BJ7, you are on notice here”

    You’ll have to flesh that out. I have no idea what you mean.

  66. Robneyon 16 Feb 2016 at 5:45 am

    @ rezistnzisfutl

    I’m not sure if the media has a left bias. I think the media reflects popular opinion and people today are far more socially liberal – even people on the right. This is to be celebrated but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far.

    I’m definitely on left of the political spectrum but I believe there’s a fairly significant schism on the left between the overly sensitive politically correct progressives and those who believe more in classical liberalism (like myself)

    Increasingly I’m finding the defenders of free speech in today’s socuety not to be on the left but conservatives on the right.

  67. BillyJoe7on 16 Feb 2016 at 5:49 am

    Hammyrex,

    A consensus not based on all the available evidence is nothing more than a collection of anecdotes. I guess Steven Novellas personal experience would not suffer in comparison.

  68. BillyJoe7on 16 Feb 2016 at 5:57 am

    The problem with our resident troll Is that he lacks knowledge of the subjects on which he pontificates. You wouldn’t mind if he actually understood what he objects to. In the last thread he very clearly demonstrated his ignorance of modern evolutionary theory, but he showed not the slightest interest in correcting his lack of knowledge. But I will guarantee that the next time the subject is broached, he will regurgitate the same misunderstandings and offer the same hare-brained solutions

  69. Marcus_Morganon 16 Feb 2016 at 6:40 am

    Dear oh Dear. All sceptics, but Doc Stevo, you and your cohorts line up wood ducks and throw clods of earth at them like the apes from 2001. Then you have the temerity to pretend they are “victories”. Whereas I line you up with laser sighting, and you are much more dodgy! http://1drv.ms/1tnKM6f

  70. Marcus_Morganon 16 Feb 2016 at 6:58 am

    S Cross, you need to decide if Hardnose has got enough evidence, or you, or Doc Stevo, or anyone, son! I assume this is a continuation of a thread were you refuted his evidence or he refuted yours and for some reason you don’t bother to remind each other to end the argument. But I would not be surprised if it is just a circular “nothing”, fairly typical here.

  71. hammyrexon 16 Feb 2016 at 9:03 am

    BillyJoe7,

    Yes. Things have improved a lot over the years with guidelines because they now usually explicitly state when something is a recommendation, suggestion, or “we just made this up” – but historically they were far more mixed together in a frustrating way.

  72. RCon 16 Feb 2016 at 9:22 am

    “However, in today’s political environment, the left owns the narrative. ”

    Absolute nonsense.

    We spent 8 years talking about the possibility of Obama not being born in the USA (despite, you know, his birth certificate) – and the same issue with Cruz is an anectdote (you know, except him not being born in the Usa), and McCain is a non-issue.

    Clinton smoking a joint was a bigger issue than Bush being a coke addict.

    The media rakes liberals over the coals all the time, and conservatives get away with pretty much anything.

  73. steve12on 16 Feb 2016 at 5:34 pm

    “the left owns the narrative”

    Not in the US! The Leftist Media owned by Corporate America – I don’t think so. The US media’s crime are being facile and firmly afraid of the establishment. The leftist media thing is a strategy more than a reality.

    I will agree, however, that there is a real problem with “political correctness” in academia that has indeed gone too far.

  74. Robneyon 16 Feb 2016 at 5:55 pm

    The problem is our perception of bias in the media is skewed by our own biases and beliefs.

    We are far more likely to perceive media bias when it is contrary to our own beliefs. Whereas when the media is biased in favour of our position we are more likely to accept it as ‘reporting the facts as they are’

    I think there definitely are examples of bias in the media but I’m not sure whether the bias is predominantly left or right leaning overall. Its more of a mix.

    In England, for example, the BBC is left leaning but pro-establishment, the Guardian newspaper is far left and anti-establishment, Sky News and Murdoch’s newspapers are predominantly right wing. If you could aggregate all of this I honestly have no idea whether the average bias would be one way or the other. The same goes for Australia.

    I’m not so sure about America but as an outsider I get the impression that its a mix of biases just like everywhere else.

    It’s interesting though that wherever you go, many people on the left and the right think that the overall trend (of media bias) is against their own position.

  75. rezistnzisfutlon 17 Feb 2016 at 4:35 am

    The fact of the matter is, the media is largely biased these days, and it slants to the left overall. That means that although there are some media outlets that are on the right, the majority are on the left. Is it because most of the US and the world is now more liberal? Nope. it’s because controversy sells and sensationalism brings clicks.

    The one Fox News channel isn’t equal to the MSNBCs, major network news channels, CBCs, BBCs, New York Times, LA Times, and virtually every large city’s largest news publication. You go to a Yahoo feed, and nearly every story is either leftist or neutral, with the occasional bone to the right.

    Furthermore, who owns the media outlets does not necessarily equate to what is being written. We assess what is written based on what is written, not by who owns it. It’s a red herring.

    Yes, everyone has bias, including myself. What’s confounding is that, especially on a skeptical forum, how many self-labeled skeptics refuse to acknowledge their own bias.

    I used to be on the left myself, now I’m more centrist independent. I know exactly how the left thinks, and though I’m not a rightist, I believe that I’ve correctly identified the media bias. And no, it’s not reflective of what most people think, there are more than enough people like myself who are rather fed up with the bias that can attest to that.

    The reason I’m critical of it is that I think outlets claiming to give the news shouldn’t be biased. Journalistic integrity seems to be a lost art. We’ve all seen it, hastily written emotion driven articles dripping with ideological descriptors often with little due diligence and fact checking involved, more worthy of op-eds, or some teenager’s basement blog.

    The left does own the narrative, they outweigh not just the right, but non-leftists, by a very wide margin. News articles aren’t written as the reporting of facts as witnessed, but as commentary, often with a social justice orientation. It’s baloney.

    In this assessment, I’m not including personal blogs, Facebook pages, “alternative” news sources, or Youtube channels. I’m talking mainstream, the Fourth Estate, the ones who are supposed to be keeping the other branches of government and institutions transparent and in check. Yet, we are now having to watch the watchers as that has become corrupted itself. Which is why using examples of birthers and truthers as if they are equivalent to mainstream media is hogwash. In fact, much of that controversy was manufactured and maintained by the leftist media in order to impugn the right, often simply by association.

  76. BillyJoe7on 17 Feb 2016 at 5:02 am

    …better be careful, seeing as I’m on notice 🙂

    In Australa it is the reverse.
    Julia Gillard was dragged from pillar to post for reneging on her promise not to introduce a carbon tax, even though she formed a minority government with the Greens which, of necessity required compromise. Tony Abbott, on the other hand, was given a more or less free pass by the media when he reneged on numerous promises as leader of party that won in a landslide.

  77. Steve Crosson 17 Feb 2016 at 10:29 am

    rezistnzisfutl:

    The fact of the matter is, the media is largely biased these days, and it slants to the left overall. That means that although there are some media outlets that are on the right, the majority are on the left. Is it because most of the US and the world is now more liberal? Nope. it’s because controversy sells and sensationalism brings clicks.

    emphasis mine

    I’m curious if you have any independent evidence to back that up. It seems to me that Robney’s comment (“It’s interesting though that wherever you go, many people on the left and the right think that the overall trend (of media bias) is against their own position.”) is probably closer to the truth.

    I agree completely about controversy and sensationalism, but each outlet gets to decide which controversies they promote — And which “facts” they headline.

    A recent “PublicMind” survey concluded that Fox News listeners were LESS informed than people who watched NO NEWS AT ALL and merely guessed at the questions. In fairness, MSNBC listeners were only slightly better than the “No News” group, but when you consider that Fox ratings are much higher, it is hard to make the case for liberal bias.

    I think the joke about “reality having a liberal bias” is more true than funny. It is pretty obvious that a lot more people on the “right” seem to disagree with the evidence on climate change and often science in general.

    If anything, I think the mainstream media screws up by trying to be “impartial” and they often present two opposing viewpoints as simple disagreements with no context as to which views are mainstream and which are fringe.

  78. RCon 17 Feb 2016 at 10:41 am

    “I think the joke about “reality having a liberal bias” is more true than funny. It is pretty obvious that a lot more people on the “right” seem to disagree with the evidence on climate change and often science in general.”

    And this is exactly why the media is biased towards the right, and not the left.

    Reality has a liberal bias, and the media wants to report everything in a ‘fair and balanced’ manner. Promoting ‘balance’ on a subject where there’s no balance in the underlying facts and data is showing bias in the opposite direction. When the media reports about the ‘Climate Change Controversy’ they’re leaning right.

  79. steve12on 17 Feb 2016 at 11:12 am

    The overall liberal mainstream media bias is a myth, and easily falsified.

    The mainstream media (simply media hereforth) wants MONEY. The notion that their true prime mover over money is ideology is sufficiently unlikely that a lot of evidence is required. This isn’t to say there aren’t instances of liberal bias. Politically correct language – sure. But there are instances of conservative bias as well. (Discounting those is called confirmation bias, ha ha…).

    The liberal media nonsense is the equivalent of saying the ump doesn’t call balls and strikes right for your team. Of course you can find some instances, but int he aggregate it’s not true.

    Look at AGW. The media does talk about it, but they don’t want piss off conservatives so they pull the false equivalency a good deal of the time.

    Why would a Liberal Media do that?

    Or lets look at the run up to the Iraq War. This has turned out to be one of the most consequential decisions of post WWII America (the whole world, really). But the US media were simply lap dogs for the Bush Admin and the march to war. Mainstream media people who questioned the war on MSNBC (for chrissakes!) were fired (Phil Donahue and Ashleigh Banfield). You know the rest.

    Does that sound like a liberal media?

    Then think about the left leaning issues that the media refuses to cover or covers in a superficial manner. Anything that came out of the Snowden documents like the drone wars (who cares about non-American life?) the real causes of the 2008 crash (false equivalency keeps the ongoing denial alive and well) the redrawing of House districts to subvert democracy (can’t look like the “Liberal Media”! – after all the Democrats did the same 40 years ago), talking about historical tax rates at all in the US when this issue comes up (nevermind vis-a-vis macroeconomic performance), talking about globalization (very much not allowed), etc. , etc.

    No the mainstream media worships MONEY. And therefore does not want to offend the people they need access to or the viewers watching.

  80. BBBlueon 17 Feb 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Claims of liberal bias are often supported by data like these that indicate a strong majority of journalists are registered Independents or Democrates (78%) versus few registered Republicans (7%). Of course, to argue the claim about a liberal media based on those data one has to assume one’s party affiliation correlates with reporting bias, which I have not seen done other than anecdotally. However, my guess would be that if all journalists have about the same propensity to allow their personal politics to seep into their reporting, then based on the numbers above, a liberal slant to reporting is more likely, at least from the Republican point of view.

  81. mumadaddon 17 Feb 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I’ve been wondering about this ‘media bias’. I get pretty all my regular news from BBC, and I have read that have a liberal bias. I just can’t spot the bias though, which would make sense given my generally liberal viewpoint. What I really wonder is how they are deciding what constitutes biased vs non-biased reporting — all I could come up with is looking at % reports about x political party, their policies, or individuals that are:

    -favourable
    -unfavourable
    -neutral

    Which just seems like a recipe for introducing your own bias into the measuring process. Perhaps somebody can link to some of the evidence for this supposed bias?

  82. RCon 17 Feb 2016 at 12:24 pm

    BBBLue – why are you clumping Independants and Democrats?

  83. Steve Crosson 17 Feb 2016 at 1:38 pm

    steve12:

    No the mainstream media worships MONEY. And therefore does not want to offend the people they need access to or the viewers watching.

    EXACTLY … I’m pretty sure it’s not coincidence that the MOST informed viewers in the study I mentioned watched non-profit PBS (http://www.businessinsider.com/study-watching-fox-news-makes-you-less-informed-than-watching-no-news-at-all-2012-5?op=1).

  84. Steve Crosson 17 Feb 2016 at 2:04 pm

    BBBlue:

    Claims of liberal bias are often supported by data like these that indicate a strong majority of journalists are registered Independents or Democrates (78%) versus few registered Republicans (7%).

    WTF … speaking of obvious bias — Your own “evidence” shows that 50% of journalists identified as Independent in the most recent year cited. Granted, 28% Democrat is still more than 7% Republican, but characterizing the ratio as 78/7 is a blatant misrepresentation more typical of Faux News. Which is probably exactly the reason that their viewers are LESS WELL INFORMED.

    Besides, as even you admit, unless there is evidence that a journalist’s personal views affect their reporting, it is a meaningless statistic. And, as others have pointed out, there is no good evidence to support the liberal bias myth.

    Actually, it shouldn’t be surprising that a higher percentage of well educated professionals tend to be more liberal. This is pretty well known. It also explains the problem that many of us see with the mainstream media. Liberals tend to be more “open-minded” and “politically correct” and thus more likely to try to present both sides of any issue — often to the point of false equivalence.

  85. RCon 17 Feb 2016 at 2:22 pm

    “Besides, as even you admit, unless there is evidence that a journalist’s personal views affect their reporting, it is a meaningless statistic. And, as others have pointed out, there is no good evidence to support the liberal bias myth.”

    Its even worse than this though – the top complaint by journalists in the study is that the don’t have very much control on what, or how they report things – that stories and presentation methodologies usually come from above.

  86. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 3:55 pm

    @ mummadad,

    ‘I get pretty all my regular news from BBC, and I have read that have a liberal bias. I just can’t spot the bias though’.

    Often the bias is in the stories they omit from publication rather than the manner in which they report the stories they cover. This bias is not obvious unless you read multiple news sources.

    For example, Breibart (right wing news aggregator) were one of the first online news outlets to cover the new years sexual assaults in cologne. The guardian (left wing newspaper/website) only covered it a week later and gave it minimal coverage and almost apologetic opinion pieces on it.

  87. mumadaddon 17 Feb 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Robney,

    Good point — hadn’t thought of that angle. That was a pretty shocking omission on their part.

  88. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I don’t want anyone to interpret my previous comment as an endorsement of Breibart. It’s anti-immigrant agenda and disproportionate coverage of anti-immigrant stories odious. It might not be overtly racist but one only needs to read the comments to see it is very popular amongst racists.

    But I’m equally appalled when the Guardian publishes favourable interviews with radical Islamists and demonises moderate Muslim reformists such as Majid Nwaas.

  89. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 4:38 pm

    @ Morgan

    I read you book, I particularly liked these bits:

    “Nature is not just “stuff
    smashed for industry”. “Science” is best defined as a body of
    “reliable knowledge”, but it ignores the “knowledge” and uses repetitive “reliable” smashing to make human stuff, from cars
    to computers”…

    “Natural Selection is not ”scientific” by being predictive, which is
    an extreme weakness. In it, mutations are random, and
    novelties that survive have novelty, even if we have a record
    of past survivors. It does not have a handle on mutations or
    the environment for prediction”

    “In physics, the universe is in uniform expansion and evolves
    by basic capacities of mass prescribed and reconciled by
    the Design. Particles and their fields reconcile their capacities
    by making a gravitationally “neutralized” universe, in which they
    evolve cosmological structures to the extent of solar systems
    and Earth-type planetary surfaces for human-type evolution.
    Evolution of the entire universe, from a state of compression
    before a Big Bang event of decompression, is led by the
    Design to evolve Earth-type planetary surfaces. In evolution of
    forces, the synthesis of the range of atoms on Earth is
    essential. Then anatomies evolve by biology in environmental
    landscapes of chemicals under an epicycle of Earth orbiting
    the Sun, and the Moon orbiting Earth, to shape landscapes.”

    I have to respect your honesty with this bit;

    “I note that in emails, blogs, and letters over ten years to media,
    academics, and government, my work has not been read.
    Most are emails that get automated replies, but hundreds reply
    in person, and none refer to any facts or logic at all. It is a sad
    joke. Many personal replies call me a “crank”, and give no
    facts or logic at all. Most recently, a prominent pharmacologist
    said, “I did have a quick look. I’m shocked and disappointed. I
    fear your book is in the long tradition of crank attempts to
    explain the world with half-understood sciencey-sounding
    words.” That is all he wrote.”

    Are you really a practising lawyer?

  90. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Raises an interesting question. Are ‘novelties that survive have novelty’ similar to clockwork clocks?

  91. CKavaon 17 Feb 2016 at 7:11 pm

    “For example, Breibart (right wing news aggregator) were one of the first online news outlets to cover the new years sexual assaults in cologne. The guardian (left wing newspaper/website) only covered it a week later and gave it minimal coverage and almost apologetic opinion pieces on it.”

    I sympathise with the frustration over Guardian opinion pieces but after a quick check this account seems a little inaccurate.

    Breibart first covered the Cologne attacks on the 4th Jan and the Guardian and the BBC both had articles by the 5th Jan. Neither piece reads as particularly apologetic although the BBC one does avoid emphasising the ethnicity of those involved instead stating “there was no official confirmation that asylum seekers had been involved in the violence” but in another article on the same day mentions “The attacks were said to involve groups of drunk and aggressive young men which witnesses and police said were of Arab or North African appearance”.

    There are less articles overall on the BBC and the Guardian about the event than on Breibart but that seems unremarkable given that an anti-immigration agenda is an overriding preoccupation for Breibart.

    My point here is not that there is no liberal bias but that it may be worse in people’s minds/memories than in reality.

  92. BBBlueon 17 Feb 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Link to aforementioned comments from Sam Harris.

    https://soundcloud.com/samharrisorg/ask-me-anything-3#t=37:27

  93. BBBlueon 17 Feb 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Steve Cross,

    I clearly stated that the 78% number included both Independents and Democrats and that the context was a Republican point of view. I think most of those who self-identify as Republican would not consider an Independent to be a fellow Conservative. If you are a Republican and only 7% of journalists share that moniker, or are willing to admit that they do, it is perfectly natural to to think that the media deck is stacked against you. How is that observation biased? A Democrat may make the same case in the other direction claiming Independents aren’t real liberals. However, Independent leaners do tend to favor the D side of the ledger. http://pewrsr.ch/1orGqNZ

  94. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 8:18 pm

    CKava

    Way to go spoiling my narrative with facts. Thanks for the correction.

    I stand by my comments on the Guardian’s apologetics though. Very few articles allowed open comments sections until about a week after the attacks. There were several opinion pieces which expressed more concern over at the time non-existent reprisal attacks on immigrants than the victims themselves. Several articles also repeated the claim that there was no evidence the attackers were immigrants long after it had been established that they were and one article referred to the attacks as ‘alleged’ long after their occurrence was in any doubt. I remember two opinion pieces that admitted they were reluctant to discuss the attacks because it might fuel Islamophobia. And one article sticks in my mind because it verged on ‘victim blaming’ by claiming young women walking around freely with expensive iphones might have been a motivating factor. The same article also dismissed there was any sexual element to the attacks because some victims were also robbed and therefore that was the true motive.

    There Guardian’s reporting definitely seemed to be skewed because the events didn’t fit its narrative. All of a sudden there was flood of opinion pieces on why immigration was a net benefit to European society. This is something I happen to agree with but I couldn’t deny the biased way in which the Guardian covered those events.

  95. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 8:31 pm

    “There are less articles overall on the BBC and the Guardian about the event than on Breibart but that seems unremarkable given that an anti-immigration agenda is an overriding preoccupation for Breibart.”

    Could it be that Breitbart’s disproportionate reporting of the event reflected its anti-immigrant bias and left-leaning publications’ general under-reporting of the event reflected their bias in favour of immigration?

  96. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 8:39 pm

    And how do we determine the appropriate level of reporting by which we measure biased levels of reporting.

    One person might think the BBC disproportionate over-reports immigrant crime and another person might think the BBC disproportionately under-reports immigrant crime.

    It’s very subjective. Our own measure of media biased is skewed by our own biases.

  97. RickKon 17 Feb 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Robney, in addition to BBC, Reuters and the NY Times I also keep Alex Jones’s Infowars in my news feed to see what “the other side” is saying. Jones flogged the anti-refugee narrative very heavily. By comparison, “normal” coverage of the Cologne attacks seemed light. But then when I compared the sheer number of topics being covered by real news sources compared to the narrow set of constantly repeated topics on Infowars, it became clear where the overwhelming bias was.

    Reality, compassion, and “the better angels” of human nature have a liberal bias, particularly when compared to Breitbart or Alex Jones.

  98. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 8:55 pm

    In the grand scheme of things it was a relatively small story. A cluster of mostly low level street crime (and some serious assaults). But it was also an important story because it represents a much wider issue.

    It was buried in the German news initially where it should have ranked much higher in the public interest.

    It concerns me because the unwillingness of the left to discuss these issues lets the far right control the conversation.

  99. BBBlueon 17 Feb 2016 at 9:35 pm

    RC,

    Sorry, missed your comment. See my reply to Steve Cross above. The short answer is because the kind of Republican perspective I was talking about, the dyed-in-the-wool Conservative who complains the most about media bias, doesn’t think Independents are real Conservatives.

  100. rezistnzisfutlon 17 Feb 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Well, it’s not even just that the left’s unwillingness to discuss the issues lets the far right control it, which may indeed occur, but the subject has reached a near taboo status where any discussion at all about it, no matter the subject, impetus, or rationale, is greeted with charges of racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant. What I think the grievance here is that reasonable and rational discussion or debate isn’t being allowed to formulate because more extreme elements from perhaps both sides are clouding the issue.

    So, people are turning to places like Infowars and Breitbart because they’re the only places that are willing to talk about it. But that also highlights the greater issue of journalism is that the mainstream, which I charge does have a left leaning bias, by and large is unwilling to breach the subject unless it has a politically correct narrative to it, which is why we had such scant coverage of Cologne, because that didn’t fit a narrative.

    News these days is mostly hijacked by commentary more than actual fact reporting, perhaps in large part due to the 24 hour news stations and the internet streaming it, it has to try to keep it flowing and readers tuned in.

  101. ccbowerson 17 Feb 2016 at 10:08 pm

    “So, people are turning to places like Infowars and Breitbart because they’re the only places that are willing to talk about it.”

    Or maybe they are actually motivated by conspiracy thinking, racism, xenophobia, etc, and those outlets cater to those interest. I think it is pretty obvious that that is the case. I am willing to discuss any topic, in the proper forum, yet I don’t want ideologically motivated propaganda, so I don’t go to those websites (other than occasionally, to see what content they are providing). To say that people have to go to those types of sources, because a more balanced treatment of those issues are hard to find, is not convincing. The people who go to those websites for information do not want a balanced treatment of the issue, that is why they gravitate towards them.

  102. Robneyon 17 Feb 2016 at 10:41 pm

    “Or maybe they are actually motivated by conspiracy thinking, racism, xenophobia, etc, and those outlets cater to those interest.”

    That probably describes most readers of those sites. But there are many reasonable people who have legitimate concerns about the creep of Islamism and they are immediately dismissed as racist or bigoted by the mainstream media and politicians. Apart from devaluing these words, by not discussing their concerns without accusing them of bigotry we are pushing them towards ideologically driven groups and news sources (the only groups who acknowledge their concerns). This just further entrenches their views – some of which are based on prejudice. We are already seeing a shift to the right in Europe.

    We would be better served by discussing the issues openly, challenging peoples’ prejudices and acknowledging legitimate concerns rather than shouting everyone down as racists.

  103. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2016 at 1:08 am

    In days past, I would have agreed with you, cc, about the primary readership of places like Infowars. But as Robney pointed out, much of the time anymore if anyone brings up any concern, criticism, or opposition to certain topics, they are immediately labeled as racist, sexist, and/or homophobe and any hope for any meaningful conversation ends there.

    I’m also in agreement with Robney regarding the topics of the conversations. Burying them and silencing opposition doesn’t make the issues go away. Shaming and calling people names does little to sway hearts and minds and often serves to alienate potential allies, especially when those labels are untrue.

    Issues won’t be solved by ignoring them, or worse, giving them no platform and not daring to breach subjects. Yes that is exactly what’s happening and why people are turning to those alternate news sources, and why they’re thriving these days compared to even just a couple years ago when they were mostly relegated to fringe loonies and conspiracy theorists.

    Even then, those sites don’t hold a candle in regards to audience numbers, reach, and even state funding of outlets like the BBC, CBC, and NPR. BBC is huge compared to Infowars, and has a global presence that dwarfs it into near insignificance. This is a big reason why we are talking about the bias to the left, because the major mainstream outlets are pretty much all left, with Fox News being the one standout.

    That’s why I’m dismayed to see especially state funded outlets have a bias outside of editorials and opinion programs. Those places should have the highest in journalistic integrity, yet that is clearly not happening.

    Keeping in mind that hopefully people realize that my arguing that there is a left-leaning bias doesn’t mean I endorse right-leaning bias. Outside of programs that clearly advertise their affiliation as opinion and commentary, I advocate neutrality, lack of bias, due diligence, fact checking, and objectivity, things that are supposedly taught in journalism schools and something journalists are supposed to be keenly aware of.

  104. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Feb 2016 at 1:15 am

    The people who have been gravitating to those outlets you say are catering to racists, xenophobes, and conspiracy theories, which is arguable for at least some of them, are equally as frustrated by what they see as ideologically motivated propaganda coming from mainstream sources, and seeing that any attempt to discuss it at all, much less disagree with any of it no matter how innocuous, is met with those same charges of racism, xenophobia, and conspiracy theoriizing. Perhaps the perception that those sites cater to the racists, xenophobes, and conspiracy theorists are in large part due to propaganda by their opposition that that’s what they are. Personally, I tend not to take peoples’ word for it but check things out for myself and decide on my own then. A LOT of my previous assumptions have been proven wrong by doing that.

    We would challenge and deride a creationist for getting their information about evolution from the Discovery Institute, yet I see people who are challenging them doing the exact same thing when it comes to their own beliefs. In fact, some self-labeled skeptics often deny outright that they have ideologies and biases of their own, or just give them lip service. If we can’t apply that standard to ourselves, then we aren’t much in the way of skeptics.

  105. CKavaon 18 Feb 2016 at 3:13 am

    @Robney

    I’m not disagreeing with you about apologist think pieces and the Guardian’s liberal bias.

    I’m just saying that people, including me, tend to fall prey to presenting simplified narratives and focusing on a few ‘extreme’ articles as being representative.

    From some of the descriptions above you would think it is very hard to find critical articles or information on the BBC or the Guardian about the Cologne attack but a quick search shows that isn’t the case.

    For example:

    BBC
    Jan 6th- “Cologne Mayor’s ‘code of conduct’ to prevent sexual assault angers many”
    http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-35243482
    Jan 7th- New Year’s Eve Cologne attack ‘left me scarred for life’
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35250903
    Jan 11- “Cologne attacks’ profound impact on Europe”
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35261988

    The Guardian
    Jan 8th- Let’s not shy away from asking hard questions about the Cologne attacks
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/08/cologne-attacks-hard-questions-new-years-eve
    Jan 9th- The left must admit the truth about the assaults on women in Cologne
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/09/the-left-must-admit-the-truth-about-the-assaults-on-women-in-cologne
    Jan 11th- Cologne attacks: we must avoid the risk of ‘sexual jihad’
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2016/jan/12/cologne-attacks-we-must-avoid-the-risk-of-sexual-jihad

    These are just the results of about 5 minutes googling and they seem to contradict the notion that coverage was unilaterally apologetic in the left leaning UK media.

  106. Steve Crosson 18 Feb 2016 at 9:22 am

    BBBlue:

    Sorry, missed your comment. See my reply to Steve Cross above. The short answer is because the kind of Republican perspective I was talking about, the dyed-in-the-wool Conservative who complains the most about media bias, doesn’t think Independents are real Conservatives.

    I apologize if my first response was overzealous. I think your point is valid, but I think it is wrong to let them get away with it. GW Bush actually used the “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us” trope to help get us into the Iraq War. If we simply accept that type of “us vs. them” thinking without pushback, then it legitimizes that narrow point of view.

    Framing any issue as either black or white seems to encourage extremism on both sides, and it makes cooperation and compromise almost impossible. Unfortunately, almost every issue of any kind seems to become polarized in this world of sound bites and Twitter.

    I believe strongly that the philosophy and core tenants of Islam (and Christianity) SHOULD be challenged at every opportunity. But I also believe that it is unfair and counterproductive to assume that all Muslims (or Christians) share exactly the same point of view. Unfortunately, anyone trying to make that distinction is all too often labeled “Politically Correct” and then ignored.

    This false dichotomy is prevalent in almost every current “controversy”. And, as many have pointed out, the media thrives on controversy and thus have little incentive to present a more balanced viewpoint.

    I think the job for skeptics goes well beyond simply encouraging the use of reason and evidence to reach conclusions. We must educate people to realize that most issues are complex and that people with different perspectives are likely to have different, but equally valid opinions (at least from their own point of view). Until that happens, reason and evidence will never overcome emotion.

  107. RCon 18 Feb 2016 at 9:40 am

    BBBlue

    “If you are a Republican and only 7% of journalists share that moniker, or are willing to admit that they do, it is perfectly natural to to think that the media deck is stacked against you. How is that observation biased”

    Your claim was that the media was liberal, not that the media “isn’t republican”. The observation is clearly biased.

  108. mumadaddon 18 Feb 2016 at 9:58 am

    Steve C,

    “core tenants of Islam (and Christianity) SHOULD be challenged”

    I think you mean *tenets*. 🙂

  109. Steve Crosson 18 Feb 2016 at 10:05 am

    mumadadd,

    Thanks, believe it or not, I actually know better. I’ve noticed the same mistake before. I think something is strange with my autocorrect — I use a macro program to automatically “fix” misspelled words. Guess I need to “fix” the program.

  110. mumadaddon 18 Feb 2016 at 11:38 am

    Steve C,

    If it’s like my phone, your macro probably underestimates your vocabulary.

  111. BBBlueon 18 Feb 2016 at 11:58 am

    RC: Your claim was that the media was liberal, not that the media “isn’t republican”.

    BBBlue: However, my guess would be that if all journalists have about the same propensity to allow their personal politics to seep into their reporting, then based on the numbers above, a liberal slant to reporting is more likely, at least from the Republican point of view.

  112. RCon 18 Feb 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Again BBBlue, couching nonsense with disclaimers makes it no less nonsense.

    Your claim was an argument that the media is liberal, and then you went on to “its liberal in the eyes of republicans”. That’s shifting the goalposts and just plain nonsense.

    The fact that some republicans think everyone other than them are liberals doesn’t actually make them liberals, which makes your whole argument irrelevant. The discussion was about media bias – not tinfoil hat wearing nutters thinking there’s bias.

    You’re using your own bias as evidence for bias in the opposite direction.

  113. CKavaon 19 Feb 2016 at 3:20 am

    @Robney
    I’m not disagreeing with you about apologist think pieces and the Guardian’s liberal bias.
    I’m just saying that people, including me, tend to fall prey to presenting simplified narratives and focusing on a few ‘extreme’ articles as being representative.
    From some of the descriptions above you would think it is very hard to find critical articles or information on the BBC or the Guardian about the Cologne attack but a quick search shows that isn’t the case.
    For example:
    BBC
    Jan 6th- “Cologne Mayor’s ‘code of conduct’ to prevent sexual assault angers many”
    Jan 7th- New Year’s Eve Cologne attack ‘left me scarred for life’
    Jan 11- “Cologne attacks’ profound impact on Europe”

    The Guardian
    Jan 8th- Let’s not shy away from asking hard questions about the Cologne attacks
    Jan 9th- The left must admit the truth about the assaults on women in Cologne
    Jan 11th- Cologne attacks: we must avoid the risk of ‘sexual jihad’

    These are just the results of about 5 minutes googling and they seem to contradict the notion that coverage was unilaterally apologetic in the left leaning UK media.

    (Sorry had to remove the links to avoid eternal moderation)

  114. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2016 at 6:47 am

    You can avoid moderation by posting no more than three links – so just split your comment into two comments with three links each.

  115. BBBlueon 20 Feb 2016 at 1:35 am

    RC,

    Looking for a fight? I merely pointed to the evidence Republicans use to support their claims about liberal bias. I did not make a claim about liberal bias of the media in general.

    It’s real simple: Those at either end of the political spectrum are going to perceive bias. Fox News and Breitbart fans percieve the mainstream media as having a liberal bias, and I think that is justified considering their conservative perspective.

  116. rezistnzisfutlon 20 Feb 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I think a person has the ability to account at least some for their own bias and look at it objectively based on the issues being covered, what’s not being covered, and the language being used. I think much of what gets people tangled up is what they view as fact and what is actually assumption, opinion, or bias. For example, one person may believe that ethnic minorities in the US are systematically oppressed – to them it’s just self-evident. However, others may not be convinced. They may both see the same problems and agree that there are problems, but may disagree on the cause of the problems. A more left media outlet will proceed with the former, while a non-left outlet may argue the latter. A left media outlet may include much social justice commentary within their news article, while a non-left outlet may be critical of some of the rhetoric coming from left-wing sources. (I use left and non-left instead of “left and right” because there are other stances that aren’t on the left but aren’t necessarily right, either).

    I will come out and say that I think there is a left bias in the media. That doesn’t mean that I’m on the right, either. I also see that there are some outlets that are on the right as well, there simply aren’t as many of them and they don’t tend to inhabit the larger, more mainstream outlets. Like I said, for every Fox News there’s a dozen equally large left outlets, ie. CBC, BBC, MSNBC, etc., and the likes of Infowars and even Rush Limbaugh simply don’t have the size or presence of the more mainstream outlets, so it’s a rather apples and oranges comparison. More apt comparisons for those would be TYT, Vox, Salon, HuffPo, ThinkProgres, TakePart, The Guardian, and Mother Jones. I, for one, see a LOT more of them and their like than I do the likes of Infowars, Reason, or Rush.

    BBBlue is correct, simply being a republican or democrat reporting the news doesn’t necessarily make their reporting of the news biased, if we’re just talking about news. It is, however, one piece of the evidence that helps support that case.

  117. flieson 22 Feb 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I just wanted to chime in to say that, based on personal acquaintance to people in the profession, political journalists take their responsibility to report accurately very seriously and some are likely to over-correct for their own biases. Thus, a conservative/liberal journalist won’t necessarily bias their reporting towards their own views. Obviously I have no data to support this, and it may well be that this effect is negligible or that attempts to correct for bias may be ineffective, etc.

    @rezistnzisfutl
    “Like I said, for every Fox News there’s a dozen equally large left outlets, ie. CBC, BBC, MSNBC, etc.,”
    My preconception was that Fox News viewership was far greater than CNN or MSNBC, but apparently I was mistaken. http://www.journalism.org/2013/10/11/how-americans-get-tv-news-at-home/
    CNN reaches 20% of American adults, Fox 18% and MSNBC 14%.

    Does anyone know whether Brits regard BBC as showing liberal bias? Or is it merely that Britain as a whole is more liberal than Americans?

  118. mumadaddon 22 Feb 2016 at 2:23 pm

    “Does anyone know whether Brits regard BBC as showing liberal bias?”

    I’m British and live in the UK, and the BBC is my primary source of news; I never regarded it as having a bias either way — but then I wouldn’t necessarily be able to spot bias that aligns with my own — until recently I read somewhere that it has a liberal bias.

  119. mumadaddon 22 Feb 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Also, the BBC is supposed to be politically neutral (as it’s state funded), whereas other outlets are free to endorse whatever political party they choose. I’m not suggesting that this means they are always neutral, just that presumably there are some mechanisms/regulatory oversight in place that keep it in check to some extent.

  120. rezistnzisfutlon 23 Feb 2016 at 2:09 am

    That a state-funded news entity has any sort of bias is truly disturbing. It’s one thing for a private entity to have a bias, but one that takes tax-payer funds, for which not everyone agrees on how it should be spent, is truly disturbing. That’s the problem with state-funded news entities, because inevitably they end up pushing an agenda that isn’t representative of everyone. In fact, there should be no bias at all, which is the problem and what we are talking about here.

    This doesn’t mean that all reports on the BBC, for example, are biased, but if any of it is, then it’s a problem.

    How many of us have heard stories regarding, say, GMOs that have a clear bias for the anti argument for organic? To an anti, they are being objective because to them what is being said is self evident. To us, it’s highly biased. We see anti-GMO/pro-organic pieces in our own NPR quite often. So, if that exists for one subject, it’s not a great leap to suggest that it exists for other topics.

    If you agree with a topic, the inclination is that the subject is factually correct. That may or may not be the case. Considering that we already know that some state-funded reporting is biased, it follows that other subjects are also biased.

    I know that I have my own biases. A phenomenon I’ve noticed within skeptic groups is that some don’t think that they have biases or ideologies. EVERYONE does. No one is free from them. Recognizing them is the first step toward reducing them. One would think that skeptics would be the most aware of them, but it’s clear that they are not. Especially considering the left-wing bias of probably the majority of “skeptics”, especially those who belong to skeptical groups.

    There is most definitely a leftist bias in news reporting.

  121. Steve Crosson 23 Feb 2016 at 10:23 am

    rezistnzisfutl,

    Ummm … Your conclusion does NOT follow from your premises.

    Each premise/paragraph is more or less reasonable by itself, but they certainly don’t make a strong case for your assertion/opinion.

    In a nutshell, your “arguments” are that “everyone is biased” and here is ONE data point to support your own personal bias.

    To actually prove your conclusion, you need to provide sufficient quantitative and/or qualitative evidence to support it. By itself, whether or not each individual person is biased or whether that person feels that the media is biased against them is almost irrelevant. Most of us have already agreed that emotion clouds our judgment, and that opinions are NOT equal to facts.

    The only thing that is objectively measurable is whether or not the media “news” agrees with reality. When Fox news viewer are wrong about reality more often than random guessing, then it is a pretty good indication that there is a systematic bias.

    The only way someone could possibly make the claim that the mainstream media has a leftist bias is if the ONLY criteria for “leftism” is the propensity for “seeing both sides of the issues” and going overboard in giving equal time to each side of any question.

    As others have pointed out, this “false balance” actually allows the right leaning news outlets to control the narrative. That is how we were talked into the Iraq War, why so many people deny AGW and why so many people are against science and “facts” in general.

    The fact that some “liberals” are anti-vax or anti-GMO does NOT mean that mainstream media is “leftist” — it means that they are embarrassingly NEUTRAL and they don’t do a good enough job of reporting actual facts.

    This is especially true in the current political environment. None of the candidates have been held to very high standards of truthfulness. The candidates all regularly make ridiculous exaggerations and even outright lies, but the media rarely pushes back with vigor — undoubtedly because the media needs “access” to newsmakers to continue making profits.

    But once again, the net effect of this “neutrality” is to allow the Right to control the narrative. All politicians are guilty of wishful thinking and “spin” but the current crop of Republicans (in particular, presidential candidates) are particularly enamored with the BIG LIE. Trump started it, but now all of the republican candidates regularly whine about the media asking “unfair” questions — even when the media tries to point out obvious factual errors.

  122. steve12on 23 Feb 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Couldn’t disagree more Steve.

    Just look at how our unhinged Che-esque media has countered Trump’s plans to build a wall and deport all undocumented workers as financially impossible, while championing Bernie Sanders as a progressive!

    Oh, that’s right, these die-hard Liberals(!) have simply parroted that Trump says he can build a wall and deport 11M people, and told us Bernie might be a racist.

    Yay “liberal media”….

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