Monday, June 12, 2023

Better the Devil you see

The sane person's reaction to transgender activism
There's a 1980s movie called Broadcast News.  It's charming in its way.  A little guilty pleasure of mine.  It's basically a romantic comedy involving a love triangle set in a 1980s Washington news bureau.   Albert Brooks steals his scenes as Aaron Altman, the smitten journalist who can't keep his mouth shut, except when it comes to confessing his love for his best friend, news producer Jane Craig, played by Holly Hunter.  Unfortunately, she is just as taken by William Hurt's character Tom Grunick, a handsome, but shallow and superficial, anchorman who represents everything Aaron and Jane despise.  

At one point, Aaron tells Jane that she can't end up with Tom.  That's because Tom is really the Devil.  She doesn't appreciate his hyperbole.  But Aaron responds that he's being semi-serious.  After all, will the Devil appear as some evil monster, some beast clawing and roaring and breathing fire?  No!  He'll "be attractive! He'll be nice and helpful. He'll get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation. He'll never do an evil thing! He'll never deliberately hurt a living thing... he will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit."

Well, sometimes that might be the case.  But sometimes, such as what we saw in Germany in the 30s, or the Soviet Union, or anywhere Communism has reared its ugly head - or now - the Devil sheds the suit and tie, dons the old pitchfork and horns, and says 'here I am!'  That seems to be when he's most effective in the short but destructive term.  

I thought of this when I saw this "fact check" of Ron DeSantis saying transgender surgeries are targeting young kids. The Fact Checker goes after DeSantis saying it isn't done on young kids, only teens.  And then it's rare!  

Which is quite a departure from 'it's a lie, nobody is performing this surgery on minors" only a year or so ago.  Now it's 'children'.  Not to mention that only a year ago, we were assured nothing would ever be done to a minor without parental consent.  Now activists are shouting from the rooftops that parents have no right to interfere with state actors helping change their children's bodies - lest those children logically commit suicide.  

Again, sometimes the Devil is slick and subtle.  Sometimes, however, he puts on his knee high leathers and goosesteps around Nuremberg, just to show the world he's here.  We're seeing that today.  And if you're like me, your jaw hangs down Wile-E-Coyote style in amazement that so many of our peers are willing to fight and destroy common sense and virtue in order to support such evil.   At least the lines between the good and the evil are clear.  Sometimes at least the Devil leaves us without excuse

If we're lucky, it will only be generations far into the future who judge us harshly. 

“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD."  Judges 2.10


  1. As with most "fact checking" articles, that one is full of intentional misdirection.

    First there is, as you have noted, the misdirection to talking about "young kids" when clearly the practice would be abhorrent even if it was just limited to "teens." But the purpose is to say that DeSantis is a liar, not to determine whether his concerns are justified.

    There is the swapping of definitions: "health professionals" say that "children" means 10 and under, so Ron DeSantis was lying! Even though people commonly call 18 year olds children (and sometimes even older.)

    Next is the focus on "existing medical guidelines." Of course, doctors will routinely ignore guidelines when they object to them. This happened for decades with abortion. And those pushing for the trans agenda are infamous for how little they use the guidelines. But even a doctor who actually provides surgeries to those 10 and younger can say "it is not within the normal guidelines to provide surgeries to children that young" and still be technically accurate.

    This is the same technique used later with people talking about "typical" age. What does "typical" mean? You could give hundreds of surgeries to 10 year olds and still say that was not a "typical" age, provided that each of those hundreds of cases involved "exceptional circumstances." The word is meaningless in this context.

    Another thing that these "fact check" articles do is bury damning information late in the article. This way they can say that they were not misrepresenting the actual policies, while simultaneously giving a different perspective to those who only read the headline, "truth-o-meter" and first paragraph (i.e. 95% of the audience.)

    For example late in the article they say that interventions should not start before puberty to attack the notion that "puberty blockers" are being used. (Note that DeSantis's statement didn't claim anything about "puberty blockers.") We are then assured that this means that intervention will only start around the ages of 10-12; which would be a "child" by any sane definition, thus confirming DeSantis's claim. But this happens so late in the article that anyone even mildly predisposed to the trans cause would not be swayed by it.

    There's a diabolic science to "fact checking." It's fascinating in a way, but the goal is simple: misrepresent your opponents as lying when they are telling the truth, and your allies as telling the truth when they are lying, by presenting a dishonest context. Then sprinkle in accurate pieces of data where no one will care about them to cover your butt just in case. And of course the REAL goal is for people to later say "Ron DeSantis was proven to be lying by Politifact! You can't take that statement seriously!" This in turn plants the idea that no young people are being mutilated by SRS, which is of course false and which not even Poltifact claims directly.

    1. Excellent takedown. You did a little more unpacking than I did. But you show just how purposefully false and dishonest the entire piece is. I've said before that 'Fact Checkers' are the snake oil salesmen of that broader traveling medicine show culture known as modern research. Of course it isn't all bad, but when are you supposed to tell the difference? Can we do what you did with the article with each and every tidbit the press jumps on and publishes? That's the bind in which we find ourselves today.

    2. Obviously we cannot do that with every article; the amount of effort needed to fisk one article is usually greater than the amount needed to write it. But there is a bigger problem: even if we did it wouldn't make much difference.

      The truth is that most of the work of a "fact checking" article is done by the headline. If Politifact simply said "Ron DeSantis is a racist liar!" more than half of their audience would believe it without the need for an explanation. A rebuttal wouldn't work on these people. They almost certainly wouldn't read it in the first place, but if they did they'd just dismiss it by saying something like "you're just a conservative lying to try to make your friends look better."

      There are three reasons that they actually need to write the article:

      1.) Window dressing. There is a class of people who wouldn't be convinced by the headline alone, but will see the article following it and say "well that's long, so they must have a good reason" without reading the article.

      2.) Legal cover. It's not defamation if we bury some honest statements later in the article!

      3.) Midwits. A midwit is basically someone of average or above average intelligence who is obsessed with looking like a genius. So a midwit won't say something without a reason given. But since a midwit isn't actually that smart, and certainly is not honest, he will be satisfied with the type of dishonest arguments given in these articles. In theory a midwit could be convinced by a rebuttal, since he actually does read things. In practice he will not, since his reasoning goes from conclusion first and finds reasons later. You can identify these people by how they angrily repeat the talking points of "fact checking" articles when challenged, even when the talking points have already been rebutted.

      There is perhaps 10% of the population who reads these articles and honestly evaluates the arguments made. These people can be convinced. But they also don't matter much in the grand scheme of things. Furthermore, they are very susceptible to second order lying, i.e. when a fact checking article cites an "expert" who lied they are liable to take the expert at face value without checking things.

    3. As an example of all of this, I ran into someone repeating that "98% of Catholic women use contraceptives!" claim today. That's from a Guttmacher Institute report from over 10 years ago. It's one of the most ridiculously fallacious studies I've ever seen and has been debunked again and again and again. There are many problems, but this one will suffice to show how bad it is: they got the 98% statistics from taking the percentage of women who used Natural Family Planning and subtracted from 100%. Even though other women in the survey explicitly said that they used no contraception whatsoever. That is, the 98% statistic contains women who explicitly said that they do not use contraception.

      And yet the statistic will not die. Most people will just repeat it, clearly never having read into it, and ignore discussions of the problems with the study. The ones who do want to discuss things will try to brush off the problems through ad hoc arguments, ex. "well maybe those women said that they weren't using contraception now, but they could have in the past!" There has been exactly one time when I got someone to stop using the study by showing its problems, and he then immediately said "well maybe this study is flawed, but come on, we don't need a study to know that practically all Catholic women use contraception."

    4. “Midwits” ... I like that. I think Fulton Sheen called them “intelligentsia “ or those educated beyond their mental capacities... not true intellectuals. Whatever you call them they are the worst because, as you said, they are trying terribly hard to look smarter than they are or at least carry the “elite” views to fit into a certain perceived social class.

    5. Rudolph, there are so many things repeated as truth when it is well known they aren't. The problem is when the media or academics either 1) repeat them as well or 2) allow them to be repeated. That becomes the big issue.


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