troll

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

(more…)

Advertisements

The Trouble With Trolling

Photo of Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, via My Strange Family, September, 2009..There are always ethical questions involved with this sort of research, but we might assuage those by pointing out (A) nobody was killed or physically harmed in order to get these results, (B) sometimes we simply need this data, and (C) we get headlines like, “Scientists Tried Trolling Conspiracy Theorists”, and, “Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study”.

Yes, the results are about what you might imagine.

Ben Richmond of Motherboard explains:

What they found is that the people who you see trolling with conspiracy theories on non-conspiracy sites are the outliers. An astounding 91.53 percent of people who like posts on conspiracy theory pages pretty much only engage with conspiracy theory pages.

Not only that, compared to the science pages, conspiracy theory page posts are a lot more likely to be liked and shared. They call this a commitment to diffusion.

This focus on liking and sharing only from conspiracy theory pages also keeps conspiracy theorists posting and sharing amongst themselves, and rarely venture to comment or like things on the science pages.

Travis Gettys of Raw Story picked up the story and tried simplifying:

The researchers then tested the strength of these users’ biases by posting “troll information” – or sarcastic comments parodying anti-science views – on Facebook.

“These posts are clearly unsubstantiated claims, like the undisclosed news that infinite energy has been finally discovered, or that a new lamp made of actinides (e.g. plutonium and uranium) might solve problems of energy gathering with less impact on the environment, or that the chemical analysis revealed that chemtrails contains sildenafil citratum (the active ingredient of Viagra),” the researchers said.

They found that 78 percent of those who “liked” these 4,709 troll posts interacted primarily with conspiracy theory pages, as were 81 percent of those who commented on them.

The researchers also noted that anti-conspiracy theorists often wasted “cognitive resources” pushing back against these unscientific “troll” claims, even when they were “satirical imitation of false claims.”

Right. Pretty much what you would have expected.

____________________

Image note: Photo of Fremont Troll in Seattle, Washington, via My Strange Family, September, 2013.

Richmond, Ben. “Scientists Tried Trolling Conspiracy Theorists”. Motherboard. 24 February 2015.

Gettys, Travis. “Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study”. RawStory. 24 February 2015.

A Bug That Bugs Many

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 9 February 2015.Some bugs are irresistible. With apologies, of course, to Adam Huber, as I have altered the image to remove a speechtrail. But the thing is … well … right, we all know the type.

____________________

Huber, Adam. “The Sixty-Forum Thousand Dollar Question”. Bug Martini. 9 February 2015.