Be Very Suspicious

I find it really fun showing where widely believed “facts” are, in reality, total BS, especially when the “facts” are being spread by politicians and celebrities. Recently I wrote a post about the Australian fires which showed how common beliefs about those were grossly exaggerated versions of the truth, but now I want to extend this to an even more egregious example of how almost everything, reported in both conventional and social media, about a politically trendy subject, is actually completely untrue.

The subject is actually a very similar one to the Australian fires: it is the fires in the Amazon, mainly from the middle of 2019. These were widely seen as an environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions, a major reason to call for climate action, and a reason to criticise the right-wing government of Brazil. In reality, all of these claims are doubtful.

I initially became interested in this after listening to a skeptical podcast, called the “Reality Check”. Skepticism often involves examining the truth of claims which many people just regard as true without a lot of thought, and this is a classic example of that phenomenon.

So let’s see what the claims are regarding the fires and how they compare with the reality…

Claim 1: The Amazon fires are worse this year than they have been in the past.

Response: Most people find the idea of the Amazon burning like this to be deeply worrying, but the evidence shows the fires during 2019 were no worse than similar fires in many of the previous 15 years. In fact, NASA says the year 2010 was worse. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned, but saying it is worse than usual is misleading at best.

Claim 2: The fires have been allowed to get this bad because of the policies of the right-wing government.

Response: It is true that the current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, doesn’t seem to rate environmental protection as a high priority, but as I said above, the fires aren’t really any worse than they have been in the past, so if there is any negligence in protecting the environment, it doesn’t only apply to him. Also, the Amazon soil is not productive and after a few years of planting crops the farmers tend to abandon their current land and clear more by burning the forest. This is obviously an unsustainable practice, but not one instigated by the current government.

Claim 3: The Amazon is the “lungs of the planet” providing over 20% of our oxygen. Any damage to it will affect the Earth badly.

Response: While the destruction of all that forest will almost certainly have negative consequences on the environment, this claim is untrue. According to an expert on this subject, tropical forests are responsible for 34% of the photosynthesis on the land. So the Amazon potentially produces 26% of the oxygen produced on the land, or 9% if production from the ocean is included. Another climate scientist estimates the true number is 6% or less.

But trees also use oxygen in respiration as well as producing it through photosynthesis, so that number should be cut in half, leaving about 4%. But it’s even worse than that, because soil bacteria use any oxygen left over. So the Amazon produces no extra oxygen at all, and the oxygen in our atmosphere comes almost entirely from the oceans.

Note that many “trusted” sources, such as ABC, CNN, and Business Insider, as well as celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cristiano Ronaldo, and politicians such as Emmanuel Macron have quoted the 20% number, but it simply isn’t true.

Claim 4: Photos on various sources show massive, out of control fires in the Amazon during 2019.

Response: Many of the photos are “fake”. They show fires from other locations on Earth, or fires from the Amazon, but from previous years. The fact that people are showing these photos with the intention of emphasising how bad the fires are at this time and place, yet they come from other times and places, shows how misleading this material is.

Many examples of this fakery exist, such as one titled “pray for Amazonia” which is actually a photo of a fire in Montana from 2000. Kendall Jenner posted two images, one from a 2014 fire in Sweden, and the other a fire in Siberia. Another post showing 4 images were from a fire in California in 2013, the Amazon in 1989, the Amazon in 2018 at the latest, and a digital map showing fires from the year 2000 to 2014.

It’s unlikely that these celebrities, news sources, and others are deliberately posting false images and information. More likely they are just ignorant and careless. Because the information they are sharing fits in with their political beliefs – particularly against the president of Brazil – they just distribute it without checking.

Claim 5: Environmental disasters like these will result in the loss of all life on the planet, or at least a massive reduction in biodiversity.

Response: An expert has calculated that if every living thing on the land of this planet was burned the atmospheric oxygen would reduce from 20.9% of the total atmospheric gases to 20.4%. That doesn’t seem like a change which is likely to result in mass extinction (apart from the fact that all life on land was burned – but remember this is just a thought experiment).

So it seems like this is just another hysterical overreaction to an event which is definitely problematic, but completely different from what is being seen in mainstream and social media. If we are going to debate, and try to fix, these issues we should start with the facts, not fantasy.

Conclusion: There is a very good chance that everything you see in both the “official” mainstream media and in social media today is untrue. By the way, I did fact check all of the counter-claims I made here, and confirmed them from sources such as NASA, Factcheck.org, etc.

Sadly, this lack of accuracy literally applies to everything, not just material concentrating on environmentalism, politics, or social trends (see numerous blog posts I have done on this, especially “Gell-Mann Amnesia” from 2019-06-18). At best what you see will be inaccurate, one-sided, out of date, or misleading. At worst it will be simple lies and propaganda. Don’t ignore it completely, but be suspicious… be very suspicious.

I Can Lead Myself

In recent years I have noticed increasing resentment to the draconian rules implemented by our “leaders”. I put that last word in quotes because I really don’t think these people are leaders at all. Before I discuss this, I should say who I am talking about. I am referring to authority figures at all levels: government, city councils, law enforcement, and management… especially management.

I was sitting in a cafe recently, and heard some fellow coffee drinkers talking about their job. There were two comments about their managers which particularly resonated with me. The first was something like “they’re not living in the real world; they live in a cocoon”, and the second was “there was a horrible little man walking around the site taking photos”.

And I heard a staff member of a large organisation saying that she had “lost the will to live” after spending all morning and still “getting nothing done” when carrying out meaningless, and excessively bureaucratic procedures for a task which was simpler before a new regime was implemented by management.

Finally, I have encountered numerous instances of staff just not caring at all about the organisation they work for, because the managers make doing a good job almost impossible, and they have reached the stage where there is no point in even trying any longer.

In fact, with all my dealings with various larger organisations I have found almost no one who has any respect for their “leaders”. They are seen as a nuisance who have no ideas what they are doing, and are viewed with attitudes which vary from mild amusement to outright hate and disgust.

Of course, the leaders seem to view themselves in a quite different way. Unbelievably, they actually think they are virtuous, well-informed, tireless campaigners for a better world. They think that their staff admire them, and in the rare cases where they feel the lack of admiration just they dismiss it as the result of the people at the lesser levels being incapable of seeing “the big picture” or being unwilling to “accept change”.

In fact, there is a complete area of management dedicated to change management, which effectively reduces down to three actions: produce plenty of propaganda pointing out the alleged advantages of the new system, threaten anyone who doesn’t comply, and finally rid the organisation of anyone who doesn’t accept the new regime by firing them or implementing various dirty tricks to force them to leave.

So clearly “management of change” is an intensely dishonest and immoral activity, not that there would be any surprises there.

I should say here that change isn’t always bad. Sometimes change is necessary for the efficient running of an organisation, especially if the conditions the organisation operates in have changed, such as the appearance of new technology, competition, or markets. And sometimes the necessary changes are difficult for existing staff to cope with, and maybe sometimes they really do resist necessary change.

But that doesn’t cover the vast majority of cases I am aware of. In most cases the changes involve attempts at increasing efficiency by introducing more layers of bureaucracy, reducing staffing levels while increasing the number of managers, and allegedly improving processes by implementing hopelessly poorly defined and complex new procedures.

So generally anything created by a “leader” works incredibly badly – but why? Well, the big problem, as insinuated by the comment about “cocoons” above, is that managers have no idea how the real world works, and despite their reassurances of consultation, they make changes from a position of extreme ignorance.

In most cases I know of, after a few years the organisation does start working fairly well again, and will generally return to a similar level fo efficiency it had before the change. So the assurances the “leaders” provide that the new system will eventually start working properly are generally true.

But not for the reasons they think.

I guess the leaders thing the new system starts working properly because people get used to it, and start using it as was intended. But what actually happens is that the state of complete chaos which everyone finds themselves in by following the new rules gradually improves as people find work-arounds and short-cuts which bypass the system. After a while most of the staff will be working in ways which have little to do with the new system and more closely resemble what was happening before the change.

I always imagine it like this: it’s World War I and the general is courageously standing well back from the front lines giving out orders to advance on the enemy. He gives the orders and sees his soldiers advancing on the enemy machine-gunners. His job is done so he quickly retreats to his office to start his next great plan. The soldiers advance on the enemy but realise the orders are suicidal, so as soon as the general’s back is turned they take cover, plan an attack on the unprotected flank of the enemy, and generally ignore their orders in favour of action which has a chance of being successful. The general hears about the success of the operation and congratulates himself on being a great leader. The soldiers think he’s a dangerous idiot.

Is the general a leader? He might think so, but no one else does. We don’t want or need leaders. They are just a nuisance we need to find a way to bypass. But they can do a lot of harm before that happens. I’m an intelligent adult: I can lead myself.

That Ricky Gervais Rant

British comedian, Ricky Gervais, certainly made some interesting comments during his recent opening monologue for the Golden Globe awards. He has been controversial in the same role in the past, but this time he seemed to get right to the core of the problem with many parts of modern culture, including the status of celebrities, and there has been a significant amount of discussion and analysis of his speech.

So not wishing to miss out, I will present my own analysis of his speech here, first by stating what he said, then by offering my thoughts…

Gervais: You’ll be pleased to know this is the last time I’m hosting these awards, so I don’t care anymore. I’m joking. I never did. I’m joking, I never did. NBC clearly don’t care either – fifth time. I mean, Kevin Hart was fired from the Oscars for some offensive tweets – hello?

Comments: I an also surprised that the organisers of this show keep inviting him back. There has been some open hostility towards him in the past, so I do commend the person who made the decision to have him back again for taking such a risk. Gervais does make a good point though, in saying that other people have been fired for far less than what he has said. One point which might explain the phenomenon: would anyone care about this silly award show if Gervais wasn’t there? I mean, I wouldn’t have a clue who won any of the awards, but I could quote parts of his speech. Maybe that’s why he has presented at this show 5 times.

Gervais: Lucky for me, the Hollywood Foreign Press can barely speak English and they’ve no idea what Twitter is, so I got offered this gig by fax. Let’s go out with a bang, let’s have a laugh at your expense. Remember, they’re just jokes. We’re all gonna die soon and there’s no sequel, so remember that.

Comments: He makes these points in a flippant way, but the essential validity of them is still obvious. They are just jokes – although like most good humour, the jokes have an uncomfortable underlying layer of truth – and in the greater scheme of things, offensive comments aren’t that important. That, of course, is exactly what the “woke culture” most of the celebrities indulge in can’t seem to accept.

Gervais: But you all look lovely all dolled up. You came here in your limos. I came here in a limo tonight and the license plate was made by Felicity Huffman. No, shush. It’s her daughter I feel sorry for. OK? That must be the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to her. And her dad was in Wild Hogs.

Comments: Felicity Huffman is a celebrity who was found guilty of fraud, in relation to college entry for her daughter, and was sentenced to 14 days in prison. I believe license plates used to be made by prisoners in the US, so that is the joke here. It is pretty disrespectful to a previously well thought-of celebrity, really… which is great!

Gervais: Lots of big celebrities here tonight. Legends. Icons. This table alone – Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro … Baby Yoda. Oh, that’s Joe Pesci, sorry. I love you man. Don’t have me whacked. But tonight isn’t just about the people in front of the camera. In this room are some of the most important TV and film executives in the world. People from every background. They all have one thing in common: They’re all terrified of Ronan Farrow. He’s coming for ya. Talking of all you perverts, it was a big year for pedophile movies. Surviving R. Kelly, Leaving Neverland, Two Popes. Shut up. Shut up. I don’t care. I don’t care.

Comments: From what I understand (I’m no celebrity expert) Joe Pesci is short (5′ 5″) so this is just a personal insult more reminiscent of older shows. Ronan Farrow is a journalist who uncovered alleged acts of sexual abuse among Hollywood celebrities, and this is just a little reminder that the PC culture the celebrities support can also be used against them. The crack about “Two Popes” is just a reference to the constant uncovering of sexual misconduct amongst members of the Catholic Church – so another big, corrupt institution got hit, not just show business.

Gervais: Many talented people of colour were snubbed in major categories. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about that. Hollywood Foreign Press are all very racist. Fifth time. So. We were going to do an “in memoriam” this year, but when I saw the list of people who died, it wasn’t diverse enough. No, it was mostly white people and I thought, nah, not on my watch. Maybe next year. Let’s see what happens.

Comments: This is an attack on the identity politics common amongst celebrities. It seems that it is more important to get a good variety of genders and races in any group today rather than use any traditional criterion, such as competence or appropriateness. Does this even extend to who died during the previous year?

Gervais: No one cares about movies anymore. No one goes to cinema, no one really watches network TV. Everyone is watching Netflix. This show should just be me coming out, going, “Well done Netflix. You win everything. Good night.” But no, we got to drag it out for three hours. You could binge-watch the entire first season of Afterlife instead of watching this show. That’s a show about a man who wants to kill himself ’cause his wife dies of cancer, and it’s still more fun than this. Spoiler alert: season two is on the way so in the end he obviously didn’t kill himself. Just like Jeffrey Epstein. Shut up. I know he’s your friend but I don’t care.

Comments: Netflix appears to be taking over from traditional TV and movies, but it is just as vacuous, politically correct, and unimaginative as what it is displacing, a point Gervais failed to capitalise on unfortunately. I love the crack about Epstein though, the memes about him being killed – usually by either Bill or Hillary Clinton – rather than committing suicide were beginning to come up less often, so it’s good to see the conspiracy renewed here, especially since so many celebrities are also allegedly involved.

Gervais: Seriously, most films are awful. Lazy. Remakes, sequels. I’ve heard a rumour there might be a sequel to Sophie’s Choice. I mean, that would just be Meryl just going, “Well, it’s gotta be this one then.” All the best actors have jumped to Netflix, HBO. And the actors who just do Hollywood movies now do fantasy-adventure nonsense. They wear masks and capes and really tight costumes. Their job isn’t acting anymore. It’s going to the gym twice a day and taking steroids, really. Have we got an award for most ripped junky? No point, we’d know who’d win that.

Comments: I totally agree. The type of movies being made currently really are just the most terrible derivative and inane nonsense. I know people have been conditioned to make a big fuss of this stuff, but really: what level of intelligence to film-makers think the viewing audience have?

Gervais: Martin Scorsese made the news for his controversial comments about the Marvel franchise. He said they’re not real cinema and they remind him about theme parks. I agree. Although I don’t know what he’s doing hanging around theme parks. He’s not big enough to go on the rides. He’s tiny. The Irishman was amazing. It was amazing. It was great. Long, but amazing. It wasn’t the only epic movie. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, nearly three hours long. Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere and by the end his date was too old for him. Even Prince Andrew was like, “Come on, Leo, mate. You’re nearly 50-something.”

Comments: As I said above, I also think movies – especially the superhero genre – are kind of pathetic, so I would agree with Martin Scorsese here – hey they can’t be wrong all the time! I like the little dig about Prince Andrew there too. Another useless celebrity getting the criticism he deserves.

Gervais: The world got to see James Corden as a fat pussy. He was also in the movie Cats. No one saw that movie. And the reviews, shocking. I saw one that said, “This is the worst thing to happen to cats since dogs.” But Dame Judi Dench defended the film saying it was the film she was born to play because she loves nothing better than plunking herself down on the carpet, lifting her leg and licking her ass. (Coughs.) Hairball. She’s old-school.

Comments: The “Cats” movie has been severely criticised, which is unusual, so it must be really bad. I have never understood the popularity of the Cats musical. I don’t know what Andrew Lloyd Webber was on when he wrote it, but it wasn’t good! One famous (and really good) song is about all there is to it, apart from a bunch of actors leaping around pretending to be cats. Huh?

Gervais: It’s the last time, who cares? Apple roared into the TV game with The Morning Show, a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China. Well, you say you’re woke but the companies you work for in China – unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?

Comments: My readers will know I am a fan of Apple products, but I fully realise Apple is just as bad as all the other big corporations when it comes to their unethical stance on labour, payment of taxes, freedom of speech, etc. Tim Cook is a particularly politically correct leader who I find quite annoying on many occasions, so it was great to see Apple taken down this time. Whether “The Morning Show” really is superb or not, is hard to establish, but judging by the description he gave I think maybe Gervais was just trying to be sarcastic.

Gervais: So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg.

Comments: This is the core point of the whole speech, I think. These celebrities really are arguably the worst possible group to be lecturing to the public. These are the people who are amongst the most privileged in society, yet lecture a lot of us about the privilege they claim we have. These are some of the richest people in the world, who really don’t work particularly hard but still feel entitled to offer condescending advice on how to succeed. These are the people who say they want to see the poor and underprivileged succeed, and to see the country do better, yet hire the best accountants to avoid paying tax which might make those goals possible. In other words: these people (with rare exceptions) are the most ignorant, hypocritical, self-centered scum anywhere. Yet they still think they can lecture us? I would have been a lot more critical than Gervais was!

Gervais: So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God and F off, OK? It’s already three hours long. Right, let’s do the first award.

Comments: I love the phrase “little award” here. It’s very condescending, and a bit like comparing this event to one where young kids get meaningless rewards for participating in some sort of pointless competition. Most people don’t know who got the awards, and most couldn’t care less. Unfortunately I believe some of the winners did make political speeches, not that many would be listened to because, as I said above, I know plenty of people who listened to Gervais rant, but none who watched the actual awards.

So yes, I really liked that Ricky Gervais rant. He did a great job of using humour to criticise the rich and powerful, in a similar way to how the court jester used to be the only one who could criticise the king – at least that’s how I remember it from my study of Shakespeare in high school!

Australian Fires News

A few weeks back the sky here in New Zealand was coloured an ominous dull yellow by the smoke from the bush fires in Australia, two thousand kilometers away. The lack of light and general eerie feeling was almost apocalyptic, and the end of the world – brought about by climate change – seemed like a real thing.

But since then the smoke has gone from this area, although the fires are unfortunately continuing unabated back in Australia. So, if you ignore the news and some social media, you wouldn’t even be aware that anything is happening.

But even if you did follow the news, you might be somewhat mislead about the phenomenon. A younger person I talked to the other day told me “Australia is on fire”. I said, it is certainly bad, but saying Australia is on fire is a bit of an exaggeration. She told me the fires covered at least half of Australia, according to reliable maps she had seen.

I was skeptical, and said that, as far as I knew, only a few percent of the continent was directly affected. I’m not trying to minimise how serious the fires are, I just want the facts. So I did some research today to find out exactly how much of Australia is affected by the fires.

I found the area affected from the BBC. I used that because that company takes climate change very seriously and was likely to overestimate rather than minimise the problem. So this number was likely to be the worst case, and it was also at a point of time (8 January) and the fires are still burning, so it will get worse, but those caveats aside, the number is 10.7 million hectares.

Then I looked up the total land area of Australia, which is a well established and uncontroversial number, and is 7,682,300 square kilometers. A hectare is 100 x 100 meters and a square kilometer is 1000 x 1000 (you’ve got to love the metric system) so the area of Australia in hectares is 100 times the area in square kilometers, or 768,230,000.

Do the division and it turns out that about 1.4% of Australia has been affected. That’s not what is burning now, it’s what has been affected during the whole period of the fires existing this season. I’m not saying that it’s all OK, because just over 1% doesn’t sound like a lot, but I am saying that the common perception, encouraged by misleading maps, is overly dramatic.

There are other controversies associated with the fires too. The first is the connection to global warming. Many people point out that the fires started as a result of conventional events, such as lightning strikes, accidents, and arson, and that these have nothing to do with climate change. Well fair enough, that is true, but the conditions which lead to the fires being worse than usual have been exacerbated by the climate. To pretend that climate change isn’t a major factor in the magnitude of the fires is delusional.

Another controversy involves the claim that regular clearing of excess trees and undergrowth has been neglected, and that if regular controlled burning had been allowed the fires might have been able to be controlled. Additionally environmentalists, and especially the Australian Green Party, are blamed for this lack of clearing, because they see it as unnecessary destruction of native forests.

This claim is a bit more difficult to evaluate. There is still some clearing going on, but not as much as in the past. That might be because of pressure from environmentalists, or it might be due to budget cuts by the current government, or it might be because controlled burns are far more dangerous to perform now than in the past. Most likely there is some contribution from all of these factors.

Some people have partaken in a certain amount of schadenfreude at Australia’s expense, because of the contribution their coal production makes to CO2 emissions, which in turn has increased the damage from the fires. Australia does produce quite a lot of coal, of which 90% is exported. But the 481 million tonnes produced last year is only 6% of the world total of 7727 million tonnes, and only about a third of global carbon emissions come from coal. So if Australia stopped coal exports now, it would make very little difference to global warming and to the severity of fires.

Finally, I was told that New Zealand’s prime minister had been secretly sending her own money to help the victims of the fire. I could find no reference to this happening, but it might be a story confused with the NZ government sending resources to Australia to help, just like every other government has done in the past. It is possible that the PM has contributed small amounts to various appeals for help, but the majority at least seems to come from the taxes which we all pay.

So 5 minutes of research – all from reputable sites I should emphasise – has showed me the real facts, rather than the propaganda, deliberately misleading stats, conflation of real and imagined events, and outright lies prevalent from the news and social media. It’s not that hard, really. I’m not saying ignore those sources, because most of the time they are roughly correct, but a little bit of extra research from neutral sources sure can change your perspective!

Movies and TV Suck!

Movies and TV are an important part of existence for many people. When new movies are released a lot of people get quite excited about it, and TV series seem to be a highlight of some people’s lives. But when I am asked what I thought of the latest movie or TV series I usually say something like “I didn’t see it because I’m just not interested” or “I saw it and it was rubbish” or “I sort of half watched it on Netflix while surfing the web looking for some technical information, arguing with someone about politics on social media, or reading an article about World War II tanks on Quora”.

The mainstream media seem to spend more time than they should covering “news” about movies and TV, and especially celebrating the lives of the actors and directors who make them, so that might be one reason why these forms of entertainment seem to hold a more important place in society than they really should. But what am I really saying here? Basically, that I can’t be bothered with this stuff and I think a lot of people would be better off if they joined me in my dismissive and apathetic attitude.

So, why am I so negative? Well, there are several reasons. First, watching TV and movies is just so passive. Second, most of the material is very unoriginal, especially what comes from the “sausage factories” like Hollywood and Netflix. And third, the majority of the stories we see are extremely tame, predictable, and (you didn’t think I would get through a post without mentioning this, did you?) politically correct.

I particularly dislike some of the more popular genres today, such as superhero movies. The problem there is that there are generally obvious good and bad characters and the good guys almost always win. This means I know the outcome before it happens, making the whole experience rather mundane, and making me feel like the writer or director is insulting my intelligence. And in these movies, along with others in the fantasy genre, there are no laws of physics to worry about, so the plot often involves the lamest “deus ex machina” contrivances, further making me feel like I’ve been insulted.

The next questions which should be answered regarding this subject are: even if this stuff is as bad as I say, what is the harm; and what should people do instead of watching movies and TV?

To answer the first question: the harm is that people spend a lot of time watching without gaining many benefits. They are wasting time that they could spend doing something more creative or active. And they are influenced in subtle ways to acquire the beliefs and attitudes of the people who made the programs, meaning they are being assimilated into the extremely “woke” culture of the entertainment industry.

And here are my thoughts on the second question: people should do something creative or at least guided by themselves instead of by whatever societal trends might be popular at the time. The best option for me is to create, which I do through writing for this blog, recording podcasts, or building web sites. Of course, there are plenty of other possible creative endeavours too, such as writing or performing music, participating in an inventive hobby, or playing a game or sport.

In fact, computer games are a great alternative to movies, in my opinion. At least they involve some input from the player, so they aren’t completely passive. Actually, maybe I’m not the only one who thinks this way, because computer games are rapidly overtaking movies as an entertainment industry.

But games don’t suit everyone, so what other possibilities would I recommend? I believe YouTube is a better source of material than conventional TV or movies (and these include streaming). YouTube offers a huge variety of material and, while its censorship rules are far from perfect, at least a variety of opinions can be found there. The “Up next” section has some great, unexpected material, so its possible to accidentally find some excellent videos which might never be viewed otherwise. And because a lot of YouTube material comes from “amateur” sources the bias and predictability found in standard TV and movies is often absent.

So the internet offers options whatever your tastes. You can watch the mundane stuff churned out by the conventional sources (and that includes Netflix now) or you can choose something different and more participatory. Of course, you can also do both, because watching inane drivel on mainstream broadcast TV or Netflix isn’t all bad. We should just leave some time for doing more interesting and creative stuff too.

They Think They’re Right

I’d like to tell you about three aspects of human behaviour that I have particularly noticed recently. First, many people like power. They like to control others, and tell them what they can say and do. Second, people like to belong to a group of others who they agree with and who give them support. And third, people like taking on issues which they feel strongly about, and often they like to tell others what to do as a result.

I have often wondered why so many people feel so strongly about various social issues, which don’t really affect them personally, and may not even be a particularly big problem to those who are affected. For example, why do so many people of European descent care (or at least pretend to care) so deeply about the alleged disadvantages of black and indigenous people? And why do so many straight individuals want to make so much effort to support the rights of those in the LGBTQIA+ community? And why do so many men identify as feminists?

It’s possible that there are cases where the person exhibiting this behaviour is totally genuine, but I doubt whether that is very common. I have watched the way these people act, and I think there are other explanations, which maybe even the person involved might not truly be aware of.

As you might have deduced from the introductory paragraph of this post, I think the first two factors explain the third. In other words, people like to participate in social justice issues for two primary reasons: so that they can control others, and so that they can gain recognition and affirmation from their allies in the relevant cause.

There is one further factor which I need to mention at this time, which elevates these groups from annoying to dangerous. That is that they are totally convinced they are right, and that they are “doing the right thing” and that anyone with contrary opinions is inferior in some way; especially that they might be ignorant or evil.

Being convinced you are right is an almost sure way to provoke extreme behaviour. I mean “right” in two different contexts here: first, right in the sense that they think they are correct, that they have some special knowledge that others either have never discovered or refuse to accept; and second, that they are taking the moral stance and that they are right in the sense of being ethically superior.

Anyone who thinks that they are not only factually correct, but also have the proper moral position might be excused for taking a fairly strong stance in supporting their own views. But the problem really arises when we consider the initial assumptions that they are right in the first place – and even if right and wrong, or right and unjust are the proper way to think about many social issues.

We should all be able to think of examples where people might fit the description I have offered here. If you are a leftist you might think of people on the right who want to control women’s right to an abortion, for example; and if you are on the right, you might be thinking of rabid leftist mobs who shut down discussions on gay rights and who have people banned and even fired for offering an opinion on that topic.

So let’s look at the abortion example. Those who support abortion really believe they are right and that a woman should control her own body. But their opposition are equally convinced that they are right because they are protecting an unborn human from being killed. When both sides are so convinced that they understand the facts, and hold the moral high ground it’s not surprising that they find anyone with opposing views problematic, or even reprehensible.

And in this case at least, I think that both sides can make a good argument supporting their views. All other things being equal, a woman should control her own body. And in the most simple case, killing an unborn child is an immoral action. But note that I qualified both of those points, because both arguments are superficial and are only valid in their simplest form.

Because a woman can control her body, but in the case of abortion a second body is involved, which she doesn’t have the right to control completely. And terminating a pregnancy is the most moral action in many cases, such as where the mother’s life is credibly threatened by the pregnancy. So both groups, who are totally convinced they hold both the correct and the moral view, are wrong.

But, in this case, am I falling onto the same trap by saying that I know the truth and have the most moral perspective? Well, no. I am pointing out the nuance in both sides of the argument and showing how neither extreme view is correct or moral.

By doing that I am not going to exert any control over anyone. I’m not saying that abortion should be legal or illegal; I’m saying that there are situations where both views have merit, but more importantly, that neither is a good perspective to take. And I’m not going to get a lot of support from other people holding the same position as I do, because they aren’t the types to indulge in that sort of behaviour. It’s generally only people with more well-defined views who build communities around those views.

In fact, in the rare cases where I do get positive feedback for my position I feel almost embarrassed. I don’t comment on contentious issues to try to control people, or to indulge in the cordial sociability of being in the in-group. And I definitely don’t feel completely confident that I am right. It’s more fun debating subjects I am less certain about. That’s why I am constantly reviewing my thoughts on so many different subjects.

Except free speech. I’m moderately convinced that I am right about that one. Why? Because that is the basis for all other discussions. We need free speech to allow reasoned discussions on every other topic. It is a sort of meta-phenomenon: an undertaking which allows progress to be made on other subjects. So, in that context I do want to control others, I don’t mind if I get support from others with the same belief, and I think I am right. Hey, no one’s perfect!

Loony Left Losers

It has happened again. The left have failed miserably in an election that they should have at least been competitive in, and perhaps won. I’m talking about the recent UK general election, obviously, which surprised almost everyone with how conclusively Boris Johnson’s Conservatives defeated the left, represented mainly by Labour. And they didn’t just win; they obliterated the opposition.

Despite the title of this post, I’m not celebrating this win. While I have spent a lot of time criticising the left recently, I do identify as mainly leftist myself. But note that I do prefer not to think of myself as belonging to any particular camp, because I see good and bad ideas in every area of politics, and think the left and right are both necessary to keep most countries stable while still improving societal and economic elements which aren’t working well.

I have made previous posts on this same subject, where I have presented the opinion that, in most cases, the right doesn’t win, instead the left loses. And it just seems to keep happening, because they seem to have big problems in learning from their mistakes. My favourite teacher used to say that “everyone makes mistakes, but only a fool makes the same mistake twice”. Well, the left keep making the same mistakes many times, so the conclusion is obvious!

But what are these mistakes? Well, politics is like a game of chess: you must control the center. The left has gone so far to the left, especially on social issues, that they have created a huge space in the center where the right can take over, and the results are obvious.

I hate to harp on about my favourite subject for complaint in recent times, but the primary social effect the left over-indulge in is political correctness. I realised Jeremy Corbyn was going to lose the election when he announced his preferred pronouns (he and him). That might impress a loud and obnoxious minority of social justice warriors, and Corbyn might get a lot of positive feedback from that particular crowd, but I think most people would just sigh and think “not this crap again!”

Just to be clear, I don’t see a lot of harm in trans and gender diverse people wanting to tell us what pronouns they prefer, but I think many people are sick of politicians making a big deal out of something which is both rather trivial, and is often weaponised to exert socio-political control over others. They might see this as simple virtue signalling, and I think they would prefer that more important issues might be discussed instead, such as whether the UK should leave or stay in the European Union. Corbyn wasn’t so keen on sharing that!

I have to ask myself why the left insists on destroying itself with political correctness of every type. I think they genuinely believe the fantasy world they find themselves in. They really think that most people support their ridiculous ideas, like apologising for the past transgressions of western civilisation, like allowing increased immigration and protecting the immigrants even when they prove to be far from ideal citizens, like giving “disadvantaged” groups special privileges.

And this illusion seems to come primarily from two places: the mainstream media and universities. I try to source news from a wide range of places, yet I don’t see a lot of diversity of opinion. Boris Johnson was seen as an amusing buffoon for along time, when as a quite incompetent politician who wouldn’t last long, then as a sort of extreme right-winger who could never win an election. Well, none of those things really turned out to be true. He was grossly underestimated and now his party has achieved a huge win.

A similar opinion usually appears when academic “experts” are questioned on subjects related to politics. Academia is grossly biased towards the left, and they don’t seem to be capable of looking past that and giving an objective appraisal of the true state of the world. Social “science” in modern universities is often laughable.

So it’s no surprise that the left might think their more ridiculous programs are more widely supported than they really are, when the mainstream media and academia seem to be on board. Unfortunately for them, the media and academics don’t account for the majority of votes. And while there are plenty of noisy leftists encouraged by this apparent support, there are a lot more voters who can see through the illusion and never have any intention of supporting it.

The parties of the left undoubtedly do their own polling on what they could do to gain more votes, but if they are, then they are clearly getting something wrong. Maybe they are just asking the wrong questions, or not taking enough notice of the results. Whatever it is, they need to change something.

Even New Zealand’s own famous leader from the left, Jacinda Ardern, seems to be susceptible to this problem. She is the ultimate BS artist. She has gained a lot of admiration around the world for her compassion, youth, and charisma. But her government is slipping in the polls and she could easily lose the next election, despite the leader of the opposition having great difficulty in gaining much support.

Why? Because she is more interested in appearing on crappy American TV shows, of trying to suppress freedom of speech with her terrible “Christchurch Call”, and of acting like a Muslim and pretending “they are us”. It’s all superficial, politically correct nonsense, and many people have been taken in by it in the past, but clearly that is changing despite the fact that the media still mainly support her. She is a very superficial person, but the voters can only be fooled by that temporarily, and her government might be the next victim of the anti-left trend.

And that would be unfortunate, because the left do have something valuable to contribute. Without them, little progress would be made. Sure, they have some stupid ideas and often go too far, but that’s why the right comes back later on to tidy up. As I said above, the two sides work synergistically to create a fair balance.

So I really hope the left can escape their little bubble of PC fantasy and get back to the center, because we don’t need any more loony left losers!