[Link] Using mindkillers to promote rationality
As part of my broader project of promoting rationality to a wide audience , I published an article in Salon entitled “Get Donald Trump out of my brain: The neuroscience that explains why he’s running away with the GOP.” I’d welcome your thoughts on this article itself, and also meta-comments on the strategy of using mindkillers such as politics to raise the sanity waterline by smuggling in rationality memes into such popular and populist venues.
All the links direct me to Ohio State University email login.
I think I fixed it, but just in case, here’s the article link: http://bit.ly/1KestpA
I believe that ZeitPolizei meant the links in the actual article on salon.com. They all direct me to the Ohio State University email login as well. For example, I clicked on “expert entertainer and performer” and it took me to this.
Weird, I will talk to Salon people about this.
You must have written the article off-campus while logged into the OSU proxy server. All links are the ones provided by the OSU proxy. This allows you to read subscription-only journals while off campus, but if you copy them, they won’t work for anyone else. Salon won’t be able to help you.
It does indicate that Salon doesn’t proofread or copyedit, which is good to know.
Ah, thanks for clarifying, makes sense. Oh well, such is life.
There must be some mechanism for you to repair such errors in the article. (Imagine that you’d accidentally—or not accidentally, for that matter—written something libellous and obviously wrong. It must be possible to retract such things, no?)
I don’t know how the process for submitting things to Salon works, but is there no one you can contact and say “oops, the hyperlinks in my article are garbled; please replace the article with this new version, which differs only in having them ungarbled”?
Yup, I already sent an email to my contact there with a new version that I created after signing out of my OSU account, so it’s all clean. Hopefully they will put it up soon.
It’s not nearly as good as Scott Adams’ Trumpfest (google “trump site:blog.dilbert.com″), but does a decent job of summarizing his points. Certainly better than the usual stuff Salon says about Trump.
Your actions can at best promote rationality under the assumption that although the topic is prone to mindkilling, your analysis of the topic is not mindkilled itself. If your analysis of the topic is bad, then even though you are promoting good principles, you’re also indirectly promoting bad principles at the same time by expecting people to believe your bad analysis is good.
And I’m not convinced your analysis of the topic is good.
Also, analyzing Trump this way amounts to Bulverism, which is inherently irrational.
Not sure how you see Bulverism here.
Deciding that you need a “neuroscience” explanation as to why Trump has supporters is Bulverism. You’re assuming that Trump’s supporters don’t support him based on legitimate arguments and concerns. After all, if they did so there would be no need to provide some other explanation of why they support Trump.
My understanding of the term is that saying “X believes Y from non-rational causes Z” is properly called Bulverism only when it fulfils two extra conditions:
It’s said with the purpose of discrediting person X or belief Y.
It isn’t accompanied by actual evidence that that is why X believes Y.
Without those conditions, there is nothing particularly obnoxious or irrational going on. (Though it could still be wrong, of course.)
(C S Lewis, who coined the term, summarizes Bulverism as “to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly” and gives a fictional example of someone saying (to someone else arguing a proposition in geometry) “oh, you only say that because you are a man”.)
In this case, the point of the Salon article isn’t to convince people to disagree with, or disapprove of, Trump or his supporters (I bet at least 90% of their readers already do). It’s to convince them that they should be paying attention to their own non-rational Z-like behaviours. Trump just provides some (alleged) illustrations.
And, in fact, the article doesn’t purport (even tangentially) to explain why Trump has supporters (though the subtitle implies otherwise; I am guessing that a Salon subeditor is responsible for that). What it purports to explain via non-rational causes and “neuroscience” is why Trump is getting so much media attention. And unless your view of the media is much more optimistic than mine, we can probably agree that “legitimate arguments and concerns” don’t generally have that much to do with how much media attention a person or idea gets.
Yup, I can confirm that a Salon editor is responsible for the title, my original title was “Are We Wired for Trump”?
Phrasing the conditions that way ignores the case where instead of trying to discredit X, the speaker is speaking to an audience who already discredits X but the speaker is trying to justify discrediting X. I don’t think it’s a stretch to count that as Bulverism.
Any such evidence would have to begin with “The quality of Trump’s arguments is insufficient evidence to explain his support, because...” Of course, the article just assumes that.
The article speaks about “viewers” and “the emotional part of our brains”. And I don’t think this is meant to say that the media gives him attention because of the emotional part of their brains.
I agree that that could also reasonably be called Bulverism. But it isn’t what the OP is doing.
I quite agree. And, for the avoidance of doubt, I wasn’t claiming that the OP is not-Bulverism because of this clause; what in my view makes it not-Bulverism is that it wasn’t aiming at refuting or discrediting or attacking Trump or his supporters. (I was lamentably unclear about that, and I apologize.)
Yes, it does, but that’s because the theory it’s offering goes as follows: Trump’s pronouncements are designed to elicit strong emotional reactions. The purveyors of media know that things that elicit strong emotional reactions tend to sell well. So Trump gets a lot of media attention.
Such things are not always written with an explicit statement “and this is an attack on Trump or his supporters”. The tone and context of the article resemble an attack made using plausible deniability. Even ignoring that, the article is functionally an attack; people who believe its conclusions will come away thinking that science has proven that Trump is a bad guy, regardless of whether the author meant for it to work that way.
The article makes an explicit statement of its purpose (which is something other than attacking Trump and his supporters). So does the description of it offered in the author’s OP. The article says very little that’s actually critical of Trump and even less that’s critical of his supporters (who, please note, are the ones who should be being attacked here for it to be an example of Bulverism). The author of the article has actually stated that he didn’t intend it as an attack and confirmed that the most attack-y bit—the title and subtitle—was put in by a subeditor (though he wrote those after your comment above).
Now, for sure, it’s possible that the whole thing is a deception and that Gleb_Tsipursky is really only interested in discrediting Trump while pretending that he’s trying to spread useful ideas about cognitive science and rationality. But I don’t see much reason to think so, and the fact that to you “the tone and context of the article resemble an attack” does little to convince me, especially as you have so far not deigned to say anything specific about the article.
In any case, it doesn’t particularly matter. I will happily stipulate the following: If interpreted as an attack on Trump’s supporters, the article is an instance of Bulverism. If interpreted as an attack on Trump, it isn’t quite that but doesn’t say anything to make its case. So now suppose that I, perversely, wish to read the article as what it claims to be: an introduction to some ideas in psychology that readers might find useful or interesting for reasons that have nothing to do with Donald Trump. Why should I care that another reading, entirely contrary to the author’s stated intentions, makes it bulveristic?
(You know what else looks like Bulverism to me? Your original comment here, which suggests that the OP’s analysis is “mindkilled itself” without offering any actual analysis of the analysis to justify the suggestion.)
The article is, as I pointed out, functionally an attack regardless of the author’s intentions. Someone who reads it will come away with the impression that science proves that Trump has no good arguments.
I offered an analysis. The analysis is that the article assumes that Trump’s popularity needs to be explained away, which in turn assumes that his positions are bad, but does not offer actual arguments against them.
If you don’t like “assumes” because the author didn’t intend it that way, then replace “assumes” with “is written as though it assumes, and works like an article that assumes”.
Only if that person is largely incapable of reading an article that’s neither very long nor very complicated. I’m sure there are many such people around, and for all I know there may be a lot of them among Salon’s readership, but while I agree that “careless readers may come away with the wrong impression” is a reasonable criticism to make it seems grossly unfair to call the article irrational and bulveristic on those grounds.
No; it assumes that the level of media attention he’s getting relative to his support from the GOP establishment needs to be explained (or, if you insist, explained away).
No, not even if we suppose that (contrary to my claim above) the article is assuming that Trump’s popularity needs to be explained away; what it would then be assuming is not that his positions are bad but that they’re unpopular, or at least would be without Trump’s alleged skill in manipulating emotions.
Because assessing the quality of Trump’s positions is no part of the purpose of the article.
I don’t see that it is. I would expect an article that actually assumes that to say different things.
To be clear, I did not write the article as an attack on Trump, but used Trump as an excuse to spread rationality memes. I could have used anyone else as an example if there had been a sufficiently good example. Of course, Trump is the best example of the point I was trying to make.
Salon clearly publishes such an article with the purpose of feelig good about discrediting Trump and his supporters. Readers feel good knowing the author scores a point against Trump and his supporters.
If so, then Salon’s editors and those readers are concerned with something other than truth, and maybe Gleb_Tsipursky should feel a little icky about being associated with them. None of that, though, is any kind of justification for the original claim that GT’s article was engaging in Bulverism and therefore irrational.
There are very few people who are just concerned with truth and don’t have any other interests.
Given that Gleb speaks of mindkillers in the title of this question he’s also well aware that tribal loyalities factor into equation.
The whole point of his article is that the media isn’t full of Trump stories because of a desire to inform but because that’s a way to drive attention and have engaging stories that readers want to read.
No, the whole (explicitly stated) point of his article is that we are apt to give more attention to things with a strong emotional appeal even when by any reasonable criterion they don’t deserve it. G.T. hopes that Salon readers will find Trump a nice vivid example of this, and that this will help them grasp what he wants to say about cognitive biases.
This wouldn’t work well for a politically conservative audience that gets upset at anything that can be interpreted as hostile to Team Red. (This seems to me to be nicely illustrated by the folks on LW, including your good self, who seem to find it inconceivable that anyone would write such an article with any purpose other than to attack Team Red.)
Maybe it also doesn’t work for an audience that’s mostly playing for the other team, for an equal and opposite reason: maybe they are likely just to round it off to “yes, Trump is awful and science proves it; go Team Blue!” and be so consumed with feelings of warm fuzziness that they pay no attention to the actual content. That would be a genuine problem. (The comments on the Salon article suggest to me that this happens to some but not all Team Blue readers.)
If Gleb wanted to get Salon to publish a standard article on rationality, Salon likely wouldn’t simply publish the article. On the other hand Salon is interested in publishing an article analysing Trump with Science_TM.
I don’t believe that the article has a single purpose, so if you are talking about me you are projecting something.
There are varieties of error other than projection. Anyway: If you acknowledge that Gleb’s purpose was to publish an article about bias and rationality and psychology that would get Salon’s readers to think about those things and learn a little (I can’t tell: do you?) then I am not sure what point you’re intending to make here and why you think it needs making.
Gleb wants to publish an article about bias and rationality.
Salon’s readers like to read an article trashing Trump and Salon is happy to produce such an article for them.
Yeah, sure, very possible. So Gleb has got an article into Salon that uses mindkill-y topics as a hook to get readers thinking and learning about bias and rationality. Which, er, is what he said at the outset was the idea.
But it sounds—maybe I’m misreading your tone? -- as if you consider that there’s a problem here. What is it?
So it’s just like “Get Jeremy Corbyn out of my brain: The neuroscience that explains why he’s running away with Labour”..?
I doubt that would be as effective in hooking Salon readers, and I don’t know whether there’s a half-plausible story one can tell about the psychological underpinnings of Corbyn’s success. But if those things are true then yes, Corbyn would then work about as well for this purpose as Trump.
Your links seem to lead to university email page.