The reason why Alex Jones will never be on the dole...

Discussion in 'The Universe' started by Utuna, Feb 16, 2013.

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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    Once upon a time, there was

    1)

     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    2) And now, a new "chef-d'oeuvre" is born...

     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    Have you ever read that book ? : Foucault's Pendulum written by Umberto Eco. What I liked in that book is that it gives a good example of how works what I usually call the "fleshly faith"... I mean, even a faith can be just an intellectual construct based on religious reasonings, but also something secular (politics) or scientific (evolution).

    "After reading too many manuscripts about occult conspiracy theories, three vanity publisher employees (Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon) invent their own conspiracy for fun. They call this satirical intellectual game "The Plan". The three become increasingly obsessed with The Plan, and sometimes forget that it's just a game. Worse still, other conspiracy theorists learn about The Plan, and take it seriously. Belbo finds himself the target of a real secret society that believes he possesses the key to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar."

    When people want to believe, anything that makes sense or that has a seeming logical thread can hit the target, but in that case, that's not true faith, but a psychological issue... When I use the word "psychological", I don't necessarily use it having in mind the word "madness" or someone being a "nutbar". Falling deep in love with someone is also a psychological issue... ;)
     
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    Poetry of Providence

    Poetry of Providence Active Member

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    Occupation:
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    Alex Jones provides a not so rare comedic relief , but he's just enough
    radical to keep the fans in view and I mosey over to see what he's up
    to occasionally ...all of it can't be false ..

    as for me I have a whole compendium of psychological issues , I
    find I'm blind to many of them "pause" I think .Four years ago
    when I finally realized what repentance was the view got pretty
    ugly , I think there are some lurkers in my closet that need some
    serious scouring ...in the meantime I'm going to have to find
    some closure with the rest that was made so plainly visible .
    What I found was that altho I had been learning and studying
    behavior and "sin" I had never really repented , was just working
    on affecting "changes for the positive" .."WORKS" will not affect
    your walk in the truth if you've never "repented" also I don't think
    one can reach repentance if they don't have a clear view of what
    sin is/does ...the jews were raised on the law , they should have
    had a clear idea of what kind of behavior God requested/required
    of those who would be called "his" ...(dead set against child baptism
    among witnesses) how can one repent if he has no clear idea of
    what the standards are ...

    yep , Alex will continue to have conspiracists as a major audience..
    perhaps why I like him ...
    by the way the 1st video is "private" won't let me view ..
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    Dear POP,

    Well, personally, I don't have anything against Alex Jones. Frankly, I don't care about him. I just use him as a tool in order to develop my reasoning, which is that people should use their wits, should be careful when putting faith on what they find on Internet or elsewhere and above all should do their utmost in order to determine what really is the truth, what Jehovah wants from his servants, no matter what are their respective hopes... There's no point in bolting out of the organization under the pretext that the GB is a mere bunch of liars and heartless dictators if X-JWs and dissidents spit figuratively speaking at the faces of the JWs through their spiteful speeches online... Where is the love ? In the same vein, what's the point in distancing oneself from the teachings of the GB if one becomes hateful and later on puts faith in Xfiles-like stories that are even duller than what the GB teaches...

    As for repentance, I agree with you. The same regarding child baptism... You said : How can people really repent if they don't have a clear view of what sin is ? Yes, you're right here too. That's why I try to explain that as long as we all don't have a clear understanding of prophetical interpretations (despite what some might pretend), we should focus our efforts on what is the most spiritually obvious and important according to the Scriptures, that is on what Jehovah and our Master Jesus really ask from us... It reminds me of the Jews around the time when they were about to get out of Babylon :

    "And the word of Jehovah of armies continued to occur to me, saying: "Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, "When YOU fasted and there was a wailing in the fifth [month] and in the seventh [month], and this for seventy years, did YOU really fast to me, even me? And when YOU would eat and when YOU would drink, were not YOU the ones doing the eating, and were not YOU the ones doing the drinking? [Should YOU] not [obey] the words that Jehovah called out by means of the former prophets, while Jerusalem happened to be inhabited, and at ease, with her cities all around her, and [while] the Neg′eb and the She·phe′lah were inhabited?" "And the word of Jehovah continued to occur to Zech'·a'·ri′ah, saying: "This is what Jehovah of armies has said, "With true justice do YOUR judging; and carry on with one another loving-kindness and mercies; and defraud no widow or fatherless boy, no alien resident or afflicted one, and scheme out nothing bad against one another in YOUR hearts." But they kept refusing to pay attention, and they kept giving a stubborn shoulder, and their ears they made too unresponsive to hear. And their heart they set as an emery stone to keep from obeying the law and the words that Jehovah of armies sent by his spirit, by means of the former prophets; so that there occurred great indignation on the part of Jehovah of armies. "" - Zech 7:4-12

    Were the Jews really repentent ? No, they weren't mourning because they truly had understood the reasons for which they had been punished. They didn't want to change their ways. They were mourning because they had lost their wealth, lost their special status, lost their houses, fields and crops. They weren't repentant, they were just missing what they had lost... The same reasoning is pertinent nowadays once we learn the truth about the truth. How will our decisions improve the form and the content of the way we worship Jehovah ? Disregarding briefly the knowledge aspect, how many people can say that knowing the truth about the truth has incited them to be more loving towards their b/s, more compassionate, more attentive to their problems, etc ? As you said pertinently regarding "WORKS", how will Jehovah consider the way we worship him if we haven't made efforts to define and sharpen our understanding of :

    "If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man's form of worship is futile. The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world." - James 1:26-27

    Well, Jehovah knows our respective situations and takes lovingly into account our current limitations, regardless of what caused them. It took Moses 40 years to be ready and fully trained, didn't it ? :p

    Here is, my dear sister, a working copy of the first video :

     
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    Poetry of Providence

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    Well there are so many fine articles in the magazines to promote thought
    on all kinds of issues . Frankly I would never have voluntarily left that
    was out of my hands so to speak . My life is my own with regard to how
    I handle it , but subjected to the ones whom I love because they so
    patiently waited for me to reach the point where I could see . Then it was
    like a tearing away and striping any notions I had of it being "not so bad".
    And the fullness of the criminality of attitudes that are so destructive .
    Even if much of the youthful portion was fully ignorant of the depth of
    destructiveness of commonly held attitudes and ideas ..
    I recently drug out my bound volumes from the seventies , and started
    rereading some of them . I would love to have just a book/volume on the
    60 traits of Jesus . In depth looks at these characteristics and study of their
    application in daily life with examples . Basically we see that displayed in
    the history/story's of the Patriarch's prophets and kings (and women)
    and the cause/effect of the behavior and their results ..A WHOLE BOOK
    on just this stuff .

    http://seekthisjesus.com/?p=3

    and now that I know university in France is "nearly" free , I'm seriously
    "jealous" (it was on a documentary I just watched , Noam Chomsky)
    I was offered a four year pell grant when I took my Ged , to the collage
    or university of my choice , but was on DSHS for two years after my
    divorce and when I told DSHS that I was offered university they said
    they would take nearly half the allotment and the food stamps ..So much
    for college ended up in technical school for three months instead. (darn)
    I could be happily be a perpetual student (not that life isn't).
    Since the GB doesn't actually write the articles (yes they are mostly written
    by non anointed its even in WIKI) but only approve them . Hatred is so easily
    acquired , with nearly no effort on anyone's part , and the inclination to
    justify one's behavior is rampant among human's ..For the most part
    my personal feeling is that when caught in the deepest throws of injustice
    and the trauma that one's are caught in emotionally and having no safe
    place to go since those had thought where they were was safe, just leads
    a double impact on the helplessness and landing among those with who
    are targeting and looking for error. Those who have suffered parental
    sexual assault among witnesses have no place to go for safety , of the
    seven in one Hall I had attended , not one has returned only two have
    turned to other church's and the double impact of having family "hate"
    them tho they are the victim's . I find this an almost incomprehensible
    attitude ..with so little effort to give a cognitive investigation
    among family members , no interviewing etc .. to determine if true ..
    If there are siblings especially , as generally the others know or have
    also been violated ..the very fact that 23,720 reported cases in only
    two continents (US and Europe) give rise to why haven't they developed
    a task force that can completely investigate the instances as this has
    been going on for years ..the seven in the one hall was 30 years ago ..
    how is it someone hasn't collected a team to directly do the investigation
    if they don't want the outside involved ...and train them ..Why should
    the people of God be any less able than the world . The WT has effectively
    trained lawyers to take on cases with the world , where is their concern
    for the protection of the precious sprouts that belong to Jehovah and Jesus.
    Why are adult religious "rights" more important than precious little children.
    OK , stumbled into this one . The diversity of the problems among witnesses
    are exacerbated by lack of education and the "star chamber" handling and
    the idea that if its not seen it won't affect others ...which is astoundingly
    ignorant handling of many cases including the secret disfellowshipping .
    I was trying to folo a discussion that was going on , on the old forum about
    the proceeding/handling cases ..outside of the few instances in the Oracles
    where Holy Spirit or angels were directly involved in the judgments currant
    methods leave a lot to be desired ..with so many infections currently active
    among the congregations ..There's little one can do on the outside except
    maybe lend reason to a board such as this where problems as well as solutions
    can be addressed without the bitter/victim/blaming since as a whole the
    world is in pretty bad way and its up to those who have some influence to
    shape the minds and hearts in the local arena ..sooooooo ...another nutshell

    and yes one episode of that show and why would one return to watch another...
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    From here. Scientific American 4/30/2013

    Moon Landing Faked!!! Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories

    New psychological research helps explain why some see intricate government conspiracies behind events like 9/11 or the Boston bombing.

    By Sander van der Linden

    Did NASA fake the moon landing? Is the government hiding Martians in Area 51? Is global warming a hoax? And what about the Boston Marathon bombing : an "inside job" perhaps?

    In the book "The Empire of Conspiracy," Timothy Melley explains that conspiracy theories have traditionally been regarded by many social scientists as "the implausible visions of a lunatic fringe" often inspired by what the late historian Richard Hofstadter described as "the paranoid style of American politics." Influenced by this view, many scholars have come to think of conspiracy theories as paranoid and delusional, and for a long time psychologists have had little to contribute other than to affirm the psychopathological nature of conspiracy thinking, given that conspiricist delusions are commonly associated with (schizotype) paranoia.

    Yet, such pathological explanations have proven to be widely insufficient because conspiracy theories are not just the implausible visions of a paranoid minority. For example, a national poll released just this month reports that 37 percent of Americans believe that global warming is a hoax, 21 percent think that the US government is covering up evidence of alien existence and 28 percent believe a secret elite power with a globalist agenda is conspiring to rule the world. Only hours after the recent Boston marathon bombing, numerous conspiracy theories were floated ranging from a possible "inside job" to YouTube videos claiming that the entire event was a hoax.

    So why is it that so many people come to believe in conspiracy theories? They can't all be paranoid schizophrenics. New studies are providing some eye-opening insights and potential explanations. For example, while it has been known for some time that people who believe in one conspiracy theory are also likely to believe in other conspiracy theories, we would expect contradictory conspiracy theories to be negatively correlated. Yet, this is not what psychologists Micheal Wood, Karen Douglas and Robbie Suton found in a recent study. Instead, the research team, based at the University of Kent in England, found that many participants believed in contradictory conspiracy theories. For example, the conspiracy-belief that Osama Bin Laden is still alive was positively correlated with the conspiracy-belief that he was already dead before the military raid took place. This makes little sense, logically: Bin Laden cannot be both dead and alive at the same time. An important conclusion that the authors draw from their analysis is that people don't tend to believe in a conspiracy theory because of the specifics, but rather because of higher-order beliefs that support conspiracy-like thinking more generally. A popular example of such higher-order beliefs is a severe “distrust of authority.†The authors go on to suggest that conspiracism is therefore not just about belief in an individual theory, but rather an ideological lens through which we view the world. A good case in point is Alex Jones's recent commentary on the Boston bombings. Jones, (one of the country's preeminent conspiracy theorists) reminded his audience that two of the hijacked planes on 9/11 flew out of Boston (relating one conspiracy theory to another) and moreover, that the Boston Marathon bombing could be a response to the sudden drop in the price of gold or part of a secret government plot to expand the Transportation Security Administration's reach to sporting events. Others have pointed their fingers to a "mystery man" spotted on a nearby roof shortly after the explosions. While it remains unsure whether or not credence is given to only some or all of these (note: contradicting) conspiracy theories, there clearly is a larger underlying preference to support conspiracy-type explanations more generally.

    Interestingly, belief in conspiracy theories has recently been linked to the rejection of science. In a paper published in Psychological Science, Stephen Lewandowsky and colleagues investigated the relation between acceptance of science and conspiricist thinking patterns. While the authors' survey was not representative of the general population, results suggest that (controlling for other important factors) belief in multiple conspiracy theories significantly predicted the rejection of important scientific conclusions, such as climate science or the fact that smoking causes lung cancer. Yet, rejection of scientific principles is not the only possible consequence of widespread belief in conspiracy theories. Another recent study indicates that receiving positive information about or even being merely exposed to conspiracy theories can lead people to become disengaged from important political and societal topics. For example, in their study, Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas clearly show that participants who received information that supported the idea that global warming is a hoax were less willing to engage politically and also less willing to implement individual behavioral changes such as reducing their carbon footprint.

    These findings are alarming because they show that conspiracy theories sow public mistrust and undermine democratic debate by diverting attention away from important scientific, political and societal issues.There is no question as to whether the public should actively demand truthful and transparent information from their governments and proposed explanations should be met with a healthy amount of scepticism, yet, this is not what conspiracy theories offer. A conspiracy theory is usually defined as an attempt to explain the ultimate cause of an important societal event as part of some sinister plot conjured up by a secret alliance of powerful individuals and organizations. The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as 'intentional' and 'planned' thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions. In fact, Popper was describing a cognitive bias that psychologists now commonly refer to as the "fundamental attribution error" : the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being intentional rather than the product of (random) situational circumstances.

    Since a number of studies have shown that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty and a general lack of agency and control, a likely purpose of this bias is to help people "make sense of the world" by providing simple explanations for complex societal events : restoring a sense of control and predictability. A good example is that of climate change: while the most recent international scientific assessment report (receiving input from over 2500 independent scientists from more than a 100 countries) concluded with 90 percent certainty that human-induced global warming is occurring, the severe consequences and implications of climate change are often too distressing and overwhelming for people to deal with, both cognitively as well as emotionally. Resorting to easier explanations that simply discount global warming as a hoax is then of course much more comforting and convenient psychologically. Yet, as Al Gore famously pointed out, unfortunately, the truth is not always convenient.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Besides the funny aspect of the conspiracy theories, there really are links with faith and how religions (in general) are considered.

    "Another recent study indicates that receiving positive information about or even being merely exposed to conspiracy theories can lead people to become disengaged from important political and societal topics. For example, in their study, Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas clearly show that participants who received information that supported the idea that global warming is a hoax were less willing to engage politically and also less willing to implement individual behavioral changes such as reducing their carbon footprint."

    The same reactions exist regarding religion in general and the WT in particular. I'm not saying whether the WT is great or evil here. Just that the same pattern can be noticed among the JWs. When JWs know the truth about the truth, most disengage, become lukewarm or even lose faith.

    I liked that sentence too :

    "The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as 'intentional' and 'planned' thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions. In fact, Popper was describing a cognitive bias that psychologists now commonly refer to as the "fundamental attribution error" : the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being intentional rather than the product of (random) situational circumstances."

    Nowadays in the world, everything is so much controlled with computers, cameras and whatnot that we have a hard time being convinced that some events may merely be "the product of (random) situational circumstances". Regardless of the scale, that kind of judgmental attitude is everywhere, that is from the spouse that gives bad motives to the citizen who'll think that the government is behind every major event in his country. Unfortunately, reality has proven that being suspicious has saved just as many lives as it has destroyed as many others when the doubts were baseless...
     
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    Poetry of Providence

    Poetry of Providence Active Member

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    I'm off to Seattle for a week or so , but having read CIA and the cult of intelligence many years ago,
    realizing that mindscience and perception management have been alive and well in the intelligence
    community . I'd love to address this further since this is something relevant to much of my own
    study of human manipulation through the various means from corp's to gov'ts and religion but time
    constraints limit my time here today ....this documentary pretty well spells out the history of
    perception management in the US and is well documented in several others like it ..enjoy this as
    its just the tip of the iceberg as they say ...My father was into "Birchism" (John Birch Society) and
    deeply political so discussions of this nature were common when visiting with him in later years .
    At any rate do watch the film ..it is free ..and have they deported Julian Assaunge yet ..miss his site

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/psywar/

    cointelpro 101

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1753602/
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    Thanks POP for the links ! Have a nice stay at Seattle !

    Yes, I'm aware of that kind of stories. Among other things, there was a radio program lately here telling how both Google and Facebook respectively work in order to get information about and from users in order to use and/or sell it for commercial and business purposes.

    Although I do think that there is some kind of propaganda and mental manipulation from the part of the governments, institutions, religions, firms and so on, the truth isn't in the pervasive Xfiles-like stories that we can find online. Moreover, enlightenment about a given subject comes from the friendly confrontation of alternative or even conflicting opinions, not from the unanimous agreement over it.
     
  11. Hi Utuna:

    I really beg to differ.

    frank
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    I'm glad you do !
     
  13. Hi Utuna:

    That's so funny. I wasn't sure you would get my attempt at humor.

    frank
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    I wasn't sure of what to make of your answer, in fact... lol I'm so used to us agreeing to disagree. :p
     
  15. Hi Utuna:

    I guess that was part of my attempt at humor, coupled with your last comment in your previous post about the truth coming out more when people discuss and even disagree, than when they always agree with each other. Anyway, it just struck me funny, that's all. And you seem to have a good sense of humor, I thought you would see I was joshing a bit.

    frank
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    I like that humor very much !!!! Please, keep the jokes coming ! It's so frustrating at times for me not to have a level in English that would allow me to be more playful and maybe to sound less staid/stilted. :mad: ;)
     
  17. Hi Utuna:

    Yes, will do!, I mean, no I won't, I can't.

    Instead of agreeing to disagree, we will disagree to agree.

    frank
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    Here is an interesting blog I read a fortnight ago about the recent facetiae of the NSA and whatnot...

    -----------------------------------------------------

    How Secret Spying Programs Affect the Clinically Paranoid

    So, the government is spying on you.

    They're lingering on your landlines, ogling your Googling, and eavesdropping on your emails. You're no terrorist, but who knows? Some innocuous correspondence may have tripped the government's imperfect terrorist-finding algorithm”after all, you've been awfully active on Homeland discussion boards lately. Might your unceasing adoration of Mandy Patinkin be mistaken for a violent agenda?

    Recent news about the expansive reach of the NSA is enough to make anyone a little paranoid. For those with paranoia in the clinical sense, however, the overwhelming suspicion that "someone is watching" is old news. Individuals with paranoid schizophrenia often report feeling like someone is spying on or following them. Such "persecutory delusions" which occur in about 50 percent of people with schizophrenia, can be extremely troubling to the sufferer, who often feels threatened by imagined antagonists.

    Though paranoid delusions are not easily stereotyped, they tend to share a number features that can help us distinguish them from the nonclinical sort of paranoia. "The more a belief is implausible, unfounded, strongly held, not shared by others, distressing and preoccupying then the more likely it is to be considered a delusion" wrote psychologist Daniel Freeman in the journal Clinical Psychology Review.

    However, in the last few weeks, beliefs that were once "implausible" have taken a turn for the plausible. We really are living in a surveillance state. So what happens to the clinically paranoid when the headlines suddenly justify their delusions ? Do they now feel calmly validated in a bittersweet "I told ya so" sort of way? Or, does the actualization of hitherto unconfirmed theories exacerbate their paranoia, triggering psychosis? That all depends on an individual's delusional narrative.

    "There are many different flavors of delusion" says Dr. David Kimhy, Director of the Experimental Psychopathology Lab in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. He explains that, though revelations about the NSA could increase general anxiety in the individual with schizophrenia, the scandal should only significantly affect those whose delusions mirror the news.

    "If you think the American government is spying on you, that's one thing" says Kimhy. "If you think it's Russian intelligence, that wouldn't have the same impact." Still, he clarifies that in cases of individuals whose delusional narratives involve something resembling the NSA's PRISM program, certainly, real-life manifestations of imagined threats could interact with symptoms of psychosis.

    "Another piece of information added to other information, real or imagined, naturally would add some stress" says Kimhy. However, he speculates that current events could alternatively offer a therapeutic benefit in such cases.

    "The thought that the government is following everyone, in a paradoxical way, may take away from the delusion" says Kimhy. Individuals with persecutory delusions usually feel that they are unique targets; thus, the broad net of surveillance that is so troubling to the NSA's critics might reduce feeling of persecution in an individual who previously believed the government was only after him. Indeed, the therapist might use this broadness as a context in which to discuss the patient's delusions. "You could ask, "˜What's so unique to you? What special powers do you have ? And by the way, why don't we talk about those special powers" " says Kimhy.

    This therapeutic strategy applies to the individual with a very a particular paranoid delusion. Yet in this moment perhaps more of us could use a reminder of our lack of special powers. The life of the average citizen is simply too trite, too safe, too superbly boring to ever attract a glance from authorities. Certainly, you reserve the right to be ideologically ruffled by recent events, but there's no reason to believe the authorities would ever give you the time of day (no offense). Barring psychiatric illness, you should be able to use this logic to feel comforted that, no, the government is not out to get you.

    Unless you're Edward Snowden, in which case, yes, the government is definitely out to get you.

    ------------------------------------------------

    Source : click here.
     
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    Utuna

    Utuna Administrator

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    Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?

    Who believes in conspiracy theories—and why

    Nov 18, 2014 |By Michael Shermer


    President Barack Obama has been a busy man while in office: he concocted a fake birth certificate to hide his true identity as a foreigner, created "death panels" to determine who would live and who would die under his health care plan, conspired to destroy religious liberty by mandating contraceptives for religious institutions, blew up the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig to garner support for his environmental agenda, masterminded Syrian gas attacks as a pretext to war, orchestrated the shooting of a tsa agent to strengthen that agency's powers, ordered the Sandy Hook school massacre to push through gun-control legislation, and built concentration camps in which to place Americans who resist.

    Do people really believe such conspiracy theories? They do, and in disturbingly high numbers, according to recent empirical research collected by University of Miami political scientists Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent and presented in their 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories (Oxford University Press). About a third of Americans, for example, believe the "birther" conspiracy theory that Obama is a foreigner. About as many believe that 9/11 was an "inside job" by the Bush administration.

    The idea that such beliefs are held only by a bunch of nerdy white guys living in their parents' basements is a myth. Surveys by Uscinski and Parent show that believers in conspiracies "cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level, and occupational status." People on both the political left and right, for example, believe in conspiracies roughly equally, although each finds different cabals. Liberals are more likely to suspect that media sources and political parties are pawns of rich capitalists and corporations, whereas conservatives tend to believe that academics and liberal elites control these same institutions. GMO conspiracy theories are embraced primarily by those on the left (who accuse, for example, Monsanto of conspiring to destroy small farmers), whereas climate change conspiracy theories are endorsed primarily by those on the right (who inculpate, for example, academic climate scientists for manipulating data to destroy the American economy).

    Group identity is also a factor. African-Americans are more likely to believe that the CIA planted crack cocaine in inner-city neighborhoods. White Americans are more likely to believe that the government is conspiring to tax the rich to support welfare queens and turn the country into a socialist utopia.

    Encouragingly, Uscinski and Parent found that education makes a difference in reducing conspiratorial thinking: 42 percent of those without a high school diploma are high in conspiratorial predispositions, compared with 23 percent with postgraduate degrees. Even so, that means more than one in five Americans with postgraduate degrees show a high predisposition for conspiratorial belief. As an educator, I find this disturbing.

    Other factors are at work in creating a conspiratorial mind. Uscinski and Parent note that in laboratory experiments "researchers have found that inducing anxiety or loss of control triggers respondents to see nonexistent patterns and evoke conspiratorial explanations" and that in the real world "there is evidence that disasters (e.g., earthquakes) and other high-stress situations (e.g., job uncertainty) prompt people to concoct, embrace, and repeat conspiracy theories."

    A conspiracy theory, Uscinski and Parent explain, is defined by four characteristics: "(1) a group (2) acting in secret (3) to alter institutions, usurp power, hide truth, or gain utility (4) at the expense of the common good." A content analysis of more than 100,000 letters to the New York Times in 121 years turned up three pages' worth of such conspirators, from Adolf Hitler and the African National Congress to the World Health Organization and Zionist villagers, catalogued into eight types: Left, Right, Communist, Capitalist, Government, Media, Foreign and Other (Freemasons, the AMA and even scientists). The common theme throughout is power, who has it and who wants it and so the authors conclude their inquiry with an observation translated by Parent from Niccol' Machiavelli's The Prince (a conspiracy manual of sorts), for "the strong desire to rule, and the weak desire not to be ruled."

    To those who so conspire, recall the motto of revolutionaries everywhere: sic semper tyrannis, thus always to tyrants.

    This article was originally published with the title "Conspiracy Central."

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    Who Won The Civil War? Tough Question

    November 18, 201411:11 AM ET


    The old joke used to be: Who is buried in Grant's tomb?

    Now it's not so funny anymore.

    Recently PoliTech, a group of politically engaged students on the campus of Texas Tech University, posted a video titled "Politically Challenged” Texas Tech Edition" in which they quiz contemporary students about history and politics.

    On-screen reporter Courtney Plunk tosses the simplest of questions at random passersby "to see just how much our fellow students know about their country."

    Question: Who won the Civil War? Answers: "The South?" and "The Confederates?"

    Question: Who is our vice president? Answers: "I have no idea" and "Is that a trick question?"

    Question: Who did we gain our independence from? Answer: "I couldn't tell you."

    To be fair, the questions come out of the blue in the middle of what appears to be a warm, gorgeous day.

    Civic Cluelessness

    The truism that we Americans don't know our history has been plumbed time and time again. Civic cluelessness is certainly not confined to college campuses.

    In 1998, the Los Angeles Times reported, Maritz AmeriPoll asked 1,000 or so randomly chosen Americans five questions about American history. Some 38 percent of respondents did not know that our national anthem is "The Star-Spangled Banner." And 40 percent could not name 1776 as the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.

    In 2009, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute popped a tougher civics quiz. More than 2,500 folks took the 33-question test. Results showed that only half of adults in the country can name all three branches of government executive, legislative and judicial. PoliTech's questions are much simpler. And, as evidenced by the group's Facebook page, some collegians were not thrilled about being portrayed as politically and historically unaware.

    "Y'all single-handedly made Texas Tech the biggest joke in the country," one person posted. "Your video does not represent the talent or intelligence that is on the Tech campus. You owe your school an apology."

    Writing on the campus news site, columnist Kyle Jacobson observed: "PoliTech was not out to embarrass people or tarnish the reputation of our university. It did a mighty fine job of pointing out something that should be addressed seriously rather than treated as taboo, our generation is politically clueless and places an emphasis on frivolous awareness at the expense of useful awareness."

    Not Ready For Pop Quiz

    We asked Courtney, a Texas Tech sophomore journalism major from Rowlett, Texas, how she felt about the reporting assignment.

    Overall, she says, the experience "has been very positive. Our main goal was to raise awareness that the media plays a huge part of what college students put in the forefront of their minds. From what we have been hearing, we accomplished that!"

    The video, Courtney says, "gets students asking questions and realizing they don't put political matters in the front of their everyday thoughts."

    Texas Tech senior Raul Cevallos, a management informations systems major from Flower Mound, Texas, is the president of PoliTech. "At first," Raul says, "some students felt that the video was a criticism of Texas Tech and its academics. They were angry because they believed this video was a deliberate attempt to insult the university."

    Eventually, he says, people began seeing the video from another angle. "We are confident that these students could answer these questions correctly if they were on a written exam," Raul says. "But this video shows that political matters are not on students' priority lists. There will always be those who feel offended when a group exposes a certain problem within society, but we stand behind our video 100 percent and will continue to work on projects that will bring politics to the forefront of young people's minds."

    Answer Sheet

    The answers to PoliTech's questions, by the way, are: 1) the North, 2) Joe Biden and 3) Great Britain.

    As for who is buried in Grant's tomb, the answer depends on which tomb you are asking about. The most famous one in American history is the country's largest mausoleum in New York, which, according to the National Park Service, is "the final resting place of President Ulysses Simpson Grant and his wife, Julia. It testifies to a people's gratitude for the man who ended the bloodiest conflict in American history as Commanding General of the Union Army and then, as President of the United States, strove to heal a nation after a civil war and make rights for all citizens a reality."

    In case somebody asks.



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