Suggested readings, #137

Here it is, a rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

We can’t ignore the role mental health plays in conspiracy theory beliefs. When Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified for four hours before Congress last month, she shared a fleeting detail about who’s exposed to the most misinformation that should fundamentally shift how we tackle the spread of conspiracy theories online. Based on internal data Haugen viewed as a former product manager, she described how physically and emotionally isolated users, including people who are divorced, recently widowed, or newly relocated, consume misinformation on the platform at staggering rates. … (Mashable)

What the data say about police brutality and racial bias — and which reforms might work. For 9 minutes and 29 seconds, Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. This deadly use of force by the now-former Minneapolis police officer has reinvigorated a very public debate about police brutality and racism. As protests have spread around the globe, the pressure is on police departments and politicians, particularly in the United States, to do something — from reforming law-enforcement tactics to defunding or even abolishing police departments. … (Nature)

A third way to explain fine tuning. What do the Higgs mass and Earth’s orbit ellipticity have in common? Both have values that are orders of magnitude smaller than theoretical estimates would suggest. These quantities appear to result from an extremely fine-tuned cancellation of two much larger quantities—a fact that many physicists find implausible (Fig. 1). These and other “fine tunings,” however, might only be apparent, and their explanation may hold the key for paradigmatic changes in our understanding of nature. Particle physics features two of the most intriguing fine-tuning puzzles: the Higgs boson mass and the cosmological constant. … (Physics)

The radical promise of human history. The standard history of humanity goes something like this. Roughly 300,000 to 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens first evolved somewhere on the African continent. Over the next 100,000 to 150,000 years, this sturdy, adaptable species moved into new regions, first on its home continent and then into other parts of the globe. These early humans shaped flint and other stones into cutting blades of increasing complexity and used their tools to hunt the mega-fauna of the Pleistocene era. Sometimes, they immortalized these hunts—carved on rock faces or painted in glorious murals across the walls and ceilings of caves in places like Sulawesi, Chauvet, and Lascaux. … (Boston Review)

The power of utopia. In the public debate, the climate emergency has broadly given rise to two opposing reactions: either resignation, grief, and depression in the face of the Anthropocene’s most devastating impacts; or a self-assured, hubristic faith in the miraculous capacity of science and technology to save our species from itself. But, as Donna Haraway forcefully asserts, neither of these reactions, relatable as they are, will get us very far. What is called for instead is a sober reckoning with the existential obstacles lying ahead; a reckoning that still leaves space for the “educated hope” that our planetary future is not yet foreordained. To accomplish these twin goals, utopian thinking and acting are paramount. … (IAI News)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

3 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #137”

  1. Graeber’s book (which I have not yet read in its entirety, but have read an excerpt from the opening chapter) is almost certainly no more than three stars, given the overblown claims of the title, the fact that much of what it says that is correct is not new, the fact that it has documented willful errors in it, the fact that this is not a new thing for Graeber, and more. I consider myself a leftist of some sort, but also a skeptical one. And, yes, I think “mendacious” is a legitimate critique.

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  2. “Research suggests that people who are struggling emotionally and psychologically may be drawn to conspiracy theories because they provide certainty and security, knowledge that makes them feel unique or superior to others, and improved self-esteem as a result.”

    Needing to feel superior to others…emotionally and psychologically troubled…yes, I think that’s the crux of it, demonstrated by tweets about the conspiracy theory that Jussie Smollett was assaulted by two White male Trump-supporting MAGA folks, such as these:

    Biden’s tweet reads, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”

    Harris’ tweet reads, “.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery. This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”

    Tweets which, by the way, were never deleted by Biden or Harris, and which they have never apologized for, recanted in any way, or even tried to explain, as far as I can tell (not that the media would ask them to).

    Sowing discord based on lies to gain political benefits is straight out of Marcus, no? Something about trying not to identify with other people, never recognize that there is a piece of them in you and a piece of you in them; rather, criticize, mock, and hold them in distain. I think this is the same point that Solzhenitsyn was making.

    Now, I wonder what has a larger negative effect on society, the fact that left-leaning political leaders promote conspiracy theories like this one, leading to over a quarter of the country STILL believing it (after three years and mountains of contrary evidence),

    Or a handful of tinfoil hat-wearing divorcee basement dwellers thinking the world is flat? And, let’s not fool ourselves, if it is 1/4 of the country, then it is 1/2 of Democrats. Of course, other left-wing organizations took their lead from Biden and Harris, with this statement coming YESTERDAY:

    “National BLM organization statement on Smollett: “In our commitment to [police] abolition, we can never believe police…over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom.” ”

    And, y’now, “hands up, don’t shoot” (never happened, according to Obama’s DOJ, despite what the popular and fashionable t-shirts say), or the fact that “More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.””

    and from just this week, did you know that DeSantis is “fascisty bananas” and forming his own private army in Florida?

    and on and on and on. This is a primetime host on MSNBC for Pete’s sake, and the only person on the left to call her out appears to be Sarah Silverman.

    I assume these were the types of examples cited by the author of conspiracy theories, right?


    1. Of course, , “OF COURSE” Montana only focuses on mainstream liberals, and NOT
      1. Pizzagate etc.
      2. QAnon ….
      And, I can think of plenty more, Montana.

      Kind of becoming a caricature, aren’t you?

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