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Disinformation campaigns are undermining democracy. Here’s how we can fight back

Posted on 24 November 2023 by Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Misinformation is debated everywhere and has justifiably sparked concerns. It can polarise the public, reduce health-protective behaviours such as mask wearing and vaccination, and erode trust in science. Much of misinformation is spread not by accident but as part of organised political campaigns, in which case we refer to it as disinformation.

But there is a more fundamental, subversive damage arising from misinformation and disinformation that is discussed less often.

It undermines democracy itself. In a recent paper published in Current Opinion in Psychology, we highlight two important aspects of democracy that disinformation works to erode.

Abstract

The integrity of elections

The first of the two aspects is confidence in how power is distributed – the integrity of elections in particular.

In the United States, recent polls have shown nearly 70% of Republicans question the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. This is a direct result of disinformation from Donald Trump, the loser of that election.

Democracy depends on the people knowing that power will be transferred peacefully if an incumbent loses an election. The “big lie” that the 2020 US election was stolen undermines that confidence.

Depending on reliable information

The second important aspect of democracy is this – it depends on reliable information about the evidence for various policy options.

One reason we trust democracy as a system of governance is the idea that it can deliver “better” decisions and outcomes than autocracy, because the “wisdom of crowds” outperforms any one individual. But the benefits of this wisdom vanish if people are pervasively disinformed.

Disinformation about climate change is a well-documented example. The fossil fuel industry understood the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels at least as early as the 1960s. Yet they spent decades funding organisations that denied the reality of climate change. This disinformation campaign has delayed climate mitigation by several decades – a case of public policy being thwarted by false information.

We’ve seen a similar misinformation trajectory in the COVID-19 pandemic, although it happened in just a few years rather than decades. Misinformation about COVID varied from claims that 5G towers rather than a virus caused the disease, to casting doubt on the effectiveness of lockdowns or the safety of vaccines.

The viral surge of misinformation led to the World Health Organisation introducing a new term – infodemic – to describe the abundance of low-quality information and conspiracy theories.

A common denominator of misinformation

Strikingly, some of the same political operatives involved in denying climate change have also used their rhetorical playbook to promote COVID disinformation. What do these two issues have in common?

One common denominator is suspicion of government solutions to societal problems. Whether it’s setting a price on carbon to mitigate climate change, or social distancing to slow the spread of COVID, contrarians fear the policies they consider to be an attack on personal liberties.

An ecosystem of conservative and free-market think tanks exists to deny any science that, if acted on, has the potential to infringe on “liberty” through regulations.

There is another common attribute that ties together all organised disinformation campaigns – whether about elections, climate change or vaccines. It’s the use of personal attacks to compromise people’s integrity and credibility.

Election workers in the US were falsely accused of committing fraud by those who fraudulently claimed the election had been “stolen” from Trump.

Climate scientists have been subject to harassment campaigns, ranging from hate mail to vexatious complaints and freedom-of-information requests. Public health officials such as Anthony Fauci have been prominent targets of far-right attacks.

The new frontier in attacks on scientists

It is perhaps unsurprising there is now a new frontier in the attacks on scientists and others who seek to uphold the evidence-based integrity of democracy. It involves attacks and allegations of bias against misinformation researchers.

Such attacks are largely driven by Republican politicians, in particular those who have endorsed Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 election.

The misinformers are seeking to neutralise research focused on their own conduct by borrowing from the climate denial and anti-vaccination playbook. Their campaign has had a chilling effect on research into misinformation.

How do we move on from here?

Psychological research has contributed to legislative efforts by the European Union, such as the Digital Services Act or Code of Practice, which seek to make democracies more resilient against misinformation and disinformation.

Research has also investigated how to boost the public’s resistance to misinformation. One such method is inoculation, which rests on the idea people can be protected against being misled if they learn about the rhetorical techniques used to mislead them.

In a recent inoculation campaign involving brief educational videos shown to 38 million citizens in Eastern Europe, people’s ability to recognise misleading rhetoric about Ukrainian refugees was frequently improved.

It remains to be seen whether these initiatives and research findings will be put to use in places like the US, where one side of politics appears more threatened by research into misinformation than by the risks to democracy arising from misinformation itself.


We’d like to acknowledge our colleagues Ullrich Ecker, Naomi Oreskes, Jon Roozenbeek and Sander van der Linden who coauthored the journal article on which this article is based.The Conversation

Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol and John Cook, Senior Research Fellow, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne

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Comments 1 to 18:

  1. I have a comment regarding this terrible explosion of misinformation and disinformation. So whats gone so horribly wrong recently that we have an explosion of misinformation and disinformation? IMO its largely the internet causing this upsurge. Certainly various analysis easily googled implicate the internet. There are obviously political motives as well. So here is my understanding of it all...

    Firstly we need to remember that misinformation and disinformation been around forever, and its often linked to partisan politics, but generally it seems to have been at lesser scale than presently and a fringe thing with the vast majority of people accepting basic information and facts coming from scientists and officials and mainstream media (even if they disagree with opinions, interpretations and ideologies).

    Our education system was designed to encourage respect of authorities and for scepticism to be rational scepticism. Our core information sources were mostly academia, official sources, mainstream media, etc,etc.

    Any basic text on sociology will tell you all this.

    However it appears the internet has changed everything, by giving a free or low cost platform to every individual (or group of individuals) who can thus spread their message globally and near instantly and gain a huge audience. We can effectively all now be our own media platforms at little or no cost. And the reach is amazing. This is a serious challenge to the old media and other information sources.

    And not everyone is honest, well informed, or rational and sadly the inflammatory misinformation that contradicts official sources is inherently like a maget so it attracts a large following. It gains traction.

    The end result is the proliferation of misinformation and huge and unjustified distrust of the mainstream authorities and naive trust in fringe "alternative" internet sources. While the mainstream sources of information have never been perfect, the "alternative" sources are in 99% of cases far worse.

    And society has been completely unprepared for this onslaught, because its exploded in just a decade or two at most. The misinformation and disinformation is not only suddenly prevasive it uses techniques most people were never educated to recognise. I was lucky that as a young teenager I stumbled across a book on logical fallacies which is the core of the misinformation, so I'm reasonably ok at recognising fake information and junk science (as are many other regulars on this website). But if you haven't read that sort of thing at some stage, you simply dont have the skills, and they dont appear to be taught in school. If you are really smart you will work some of the skills out for yourself, but...not everyone is really smart.

    We are effectively in catch up mode. I applaud the efforts of this website to help educate people to recognise misinformation. I feel it should also be front and centre of every schools curriculum. Sensible people on all sides of politics will benefit from this.

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  2. What NigelJ said is very valid. My own perspective on such matters as percption of climate science is that probably most 'sides' - from doomist through alarmist to 'IPCC' accepting to 'sceptic' to denier - now currently distort the science and the varied consequences of assorted policies to suit their favoured take - often very strongly influenced by their personal politics. All sides use the very same techniques of cherry picking, quote mining, over-promoted 'experts', out-dated articles etc to make their cases. The actual peer reviewed science tends to get lost in the noise

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  3. nigelj @1

    Yes, we are in catch-up mode, but there are examples which could be used as templates of how to include media literacy and crtical thinking in school curricula. Here is one from Finland:

    Finland’s ‘visionary’ fight against disinformation teaches citizens to question what they see online

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  4. he calls to suppress "disinformation" are effectively calls for censorship. In the long term, Censorship is far greater threat to democracy and the freedom of expression and scientific thought than the spreading of disinformation. Even if its called stopping disinformation, the reality is it a call for censorship.

    I agree that there was a lot of disinformation regarding covid coming from the denialists such as vaccine safety, ivermectin, Hcx. Those claims persisted in spite of good research demonstrating that those claims were crap. However, the amount of disinformation coming from the political leaders and the CDC using low quality studies overhyping the effectiveness of the lockdowns, overhyping the effectiveness of masking and overhyping the effectiveness of the vaccines was extensive. As of the end of 2022, the CDC still had listed 45+ studies showing the "positive effectiveness" of masking, yet at least eight of those studies have serious shortcomings. For example, the Kansas mask mandated counties vs non mask mandated counties for example, the study period was intentionally cut short because the infection rate was higher in the mask mandated counties post the end of the study period.

     

    here is a good article on the effectiveness of masking 

     

    www.cambridge.org/core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection/article/association-between-face-mask-use-and-risk-of-sarscov2-infection-crosssectional-study/0525AD535D10FDCDF0C52603B50E7A1E#article

     

    in summary, the health authorities pushed as much or more covid disinformation than the denialists.   While the push for stopping disinformation is reality is a push for censorship in which everyone loses

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  5. David-acct @4

    Inoculation against mis- and disinformation doesn't involve censorship but making people aware of the techniques involved with spreading it. The only people who could have anything against that are the spreaders of disinformation, everybody else should be happy about those efforts in order to no longer fall for it.

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  6. I see that David-acct has returned to inject another (likely one-off) comment on a  thread, in an attempt to discredit the science. This time, he is yelling "censorship", in spite of the fact that the blog post does not advocate for the "suppression" he claims is a "far greater threat to democracy".

    The blog post does refer to EU efforts "to make democracies more resilient against misinformation and disinformation", and about efforts "to boost the public’s resistance to misinformation". The paper on which the blog post is based gives more details: mentioning EU Codes of Practice and legislation attempting to "curtail misinformation and hate speech online". It also mentions the use of moderation policies "to remove online misinformation and hate speech under certain circumstances". In other words, "free speech" has limits.

    In David-acct's world, it seems that helping people recognize and resist misinformation is "censorship". It would seem that David-acct's desired world is one where nobody is allowed to speak against misinformation. To me, there seems to be a pattern in many of these discussions - the "advocates' screaming about free speech and censorship seem to only approve of "free speech" by people they agree with. They appear to want "my free speech, unopposed". "Free speech" is not limited when people speak against you, and "free speech" does not mean that every online discussion group must provide you with a bull-horn. When someone violates a code of conduct on a commercially-run discussion group, and is barred from further participation, it is not "censorship". They are always free to set up their own web site and discussion network.

    [Disclaimer: Skeptical Science has its own code of conduct for participants, known as the Comments Policy.]

    David-acct then wanders into a Covid discussion, and finishes with an unsubstantiated claim that "the health authorities pushed as much or more covid disinformation than the denialists." He provides a link to a paper that he claims is "a good article on the effectiveness of masking". If we actually read the paper, what we find is an article that includes things like the following, where they discuss possible bias in their study:

    The participants in the study were not randomly assigned to wear or not wear face masks, and they were not provided with or encouraged to use face masks. During the study period, official guidelines for face mask use changed, with mandatory use in certain situations. This may have affected the participants' use of face masks, with some choosing to wear them based on their own assessment of risk and effectiveness.

    Additionally, there may be other factors that could confound the relationship between face mask use and study outcomes, such as participants in high-risk professions or with risk factors for severe COVID-19. Both groups may be more or less prone to wear face masks, while also observing different social distancing practices than the average population. We also cannot rule reverse causality, in which those testing positive for COVID-19 were more prone to wear masks afterwards in order to protect others. Finally, there could be an association between the inclination to test and the propensity to wear a face mask.

    They conclude that section with the following statement:

    However, it is important to interpret the results with caution and not infer that our estimates represent the true causal relationship between face mask use and infection risk.

    So, the "good article" David-acct wants us to read is hardly the definitive source that David-acct is pretending it is. What David-acct has done is cherry-pick one study, and present it as far more conclusive than it is. If he had read even just the abstract, it finished with a general cautionary note (applicable to all studies):

    We believe the observed increased incidence of infection associated with wearing a face mask is likely due to unobservable and hence nonadjustable differences between those wearing and not wearing a mask. Observational studies reporting on the relationship between face mask use and risk of respiratory infections should be interpreted cautiously, and more randomized trials are needed.

    Also note that the paper David-acct refers to is a pre-print of an accepted paper, published online on November 13, 2023. Can anyone think of a possible reason why a study published in late 2023 was not used to guide policy decisions in early 2020? Does David-acct think that the 2020 policy decisions should have been "let's just wait, and do nothing, and see what happens, until we get moire data a few years from now"?

    When Covid hit, there were a lot of unknowns about it. Policy decisions were needed, and may have been made in times of insufficient information. That is not the same thing as misinformation.

    Sadly, this sort of comment has been typical of what David-acct tends to post here.

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  7. David-acct @4 (Note: I prepared this before seeing Bob Loblaw’s recent post)

    I agree with BaerbelW @5. And I agree with you, sort of (see my ending PS).

    Censorship, like ‘efforts to ban school books because they would increase awareness and improve understanding of how to be less harmful and more helpful to Others’, is indeed unacceptable. It is especially unacceptable to ‘censor education’ to only teach ‘reading-writing-math’ and ‘incorrect but preferred versions of history’.

    However, a rational justification can be made for improving public education, a requirement for democracy to be sustainable, by limiting the success of authoritarian attempts to popularize inaccurate information. Those limiting actions are justified even if fans of the misunderstandings, people who idolize undeserving authority figures, claim that such corrective actions are ‘censorship’ or ‘evil re-education’.

    An example in schools would be moving texts that incorrectly portray the history of what has occurred into a ‘special section’ where the inaccuracies are explained in detail for anyone interested in learning about that (regardless of the preferred beliefs of ‘winners of elections’).

    In addition, being addicted to the pursuit and promotion of harmful misunderstanding is understandable, especially when the addiction is to unjustified perceptions of status relative to Others. However, an addiction to the pursuit of increased awareness and improved understanding of what is harmful and required corrections of unjustified developments and perceptions of success and status is also understandable.

    Something like Addiction (or censorship) is not the problem. The problem is opposition to, rather than support for, ‘learning to be less harmful’. The same applies to political positions. Positions on the Left-Right spectrum are not ‘the problem’. The problem is ‘arguing and fighting against the pursuit of increased awareness and improved understanding of what is harmful and the diversity of justified corrective actions’. The corrective actions include actions that would limit the success of misinformation and disinformation efforts.

    Misleading claims about ‘censorship’ are understandably expected from easily impressed victims or wilful perpetrators of misleading disinformation campaigns in the ‘War on increased awareness and improved understanding of undeserved perceptions of superiority and status’.

    Ibram X. Kendi, in his many well researched books, provides a very robust understanding about the continued ‘progress of racist actions to defend unjustified perceptions of superiority relative to Others’. The reality that climate science also challenges unjustified perceptions of superiority makes it another front in the war efforts of people opposed to learning to be less harmful and more helpful to Others.

    There are many valid justifications for restrictions on freedom. Helpful, justified, educational actions, including restrictions, are not censorship. Limiting the ability to spread harmful misunderstandings is not censorship. Arguing for the unrestricted sharing of misinformation would be like arguing for no efforts to limit the popularity of any of the many misleading harmful ‘social media popular challenges’ (share a video of biting a laundry-pod).

    Limiting and correcting the popularity of harmful misunderstandings, especially with actions like educational inoculation, is not censorship. It would be more accurate to call such actions ‘Helpful Public Education’.

    PS. Regarding the spread of a disease like COVID-19, I would agree that limiting-restricting contact between people is more effective than ‘mask wearing’ (and the type of mask also matters).

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  8. nigelj @1,

    I agree with your observations and concerns. I would add that populist misleading political groups are not only being harmfully successful through ‘the internet’. Today’s misleading messengers are very active in:

    • Talk Radio. Talk radio is a big influence on older and non-urban voters. Even Alberta’s current populist winner of leadership of the current governing Party was a talk radio misleading populist in Alberta for the past decade. And she still does regular radio talk programs (critically evaluate the results of an internet search like “right-wing biased talk radio”).
    • Local TV. Sinclair Broadcast Group in the US is an example of a branch of populist misleading marketers. They buy local TV stations and try to dictate what the local news anchors cover and how they cover it (internet search “Sinclair media misleading news reports”).
    • TV News channels. Fox News is an obvious villain.
    • Political Rallies. An opportunity to spout unjustified claims to an eager audience who will not question what they hear ... because it comes from a person they consider to be ‘their type of authority figure’.

    Ibram X. Kendi provides what is probably a better understanding of what is happening. (I mention it in my comment @7). The root problem is people who obtain power or status by getting away with harmful actions, including misleading marketing efforts. They will do whatever they can get away with to maintain and increase their power and perceptions of status relative to Others.

    Note that the printing press initially increased awareness and improved understanding. In its early use the printing press corrected some serious undeserved perceptions of status. But eventually it was perverted by people who figured out ways to benefit from misinforming others through that mechanism.

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  9. Regarding David Acct's comments where he says some of the authorities did exaggerate the effectiveness of the masks. I agree that was the wrong thing to do, but I'm prepared to be a bit forgiving as they were simply trying to encourage use of maks to save lives, and remember we were in a quickly evolving emergency situation with some uncertainty about how effective masks were. We are now looking back with the benefit of hindsight. I agree with Bob it was not misinformation.

    David seem to be narrowly focused around whether face masks stop people catching covid. Obviously masks won't do much to stop you getting infected because they dont fit tightly enough and it only takes a very small number of cells to cause an infection. The studies seem to show that areas with high mask use had only slightly lower rates of infection. About what you would expect.

    But masks do greatly reduce the viral load on the lungs and that initial viral load is closely related to severerity of symptoms. Its no accident that places with high mask use had a much lower mortality rate (25% in one study). So on balance it appears to me mask wearing does have value.

    David does a rant about the virtues of free speech and the evils of censorship. I lean towards free speech, but I would boldly say that some censorship is required in some circumstances. It's common in times of war,and in New Zealand we have sensible laws against defamation, inciting violence and racist speech (which effectively incites violence) and as a result many websites will not publish public comments that infringe those laws. That is censorship, so lets call it what it is, but only a fool would suggest such laws and censorship is wrong.

    But how much further should we go? Because every restriction on free speech does risk shutting down discussion and debate, which is a very unhealthy outcome. I believe restrictions and "censorship" should be small in number and only be if there is a risk of comments inciting criminal law breaking or leading to serious physical harm or in other exceptional circumstances.

    For example during covid our media mostly allowed people to post comments on their websites with robust views or even crazy views on covid, but they generally wouldn't permit views undermining the use of vaccines, such as views making wild claims that vaccines dont work or that they kill people.

    This seemed like a reasonable restriction because it was narrowly focused and related to potential loss of life. The country was actively trying to get vaccination rates as high as possible and we got to 95% double vaccinated. America land of free speech only got to about 65%. A lot of people died but they preserved their precious right to spread lies about vaccines. I find this approach rather bewildering and lacking in commonsense.

    On the other hand, attempts to censor so called 'hateful' views and criticism of religion mostly seem to go too far and run into awful difficulties of defining what hate speech is.

    Yes all of this means free speech is not a simple black and white thing and difficult judgement calls have to be made. I think we are just stuck with this and have to do the best we can.

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  10. OPOF @8

    Yes talk radio and television and political rallies have  all spread misinformation at times. But at least they are mostly traditional media and are governed by industry codes of practice on accuracy and integrity (apart form a few rogue channels like Fox perhaps), but anyone can set up an 'alternative' news platform on the internet just so easily, and not subject to any codes of practice, and this is whats lead to such a toxic situation over about the last decade.

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  11. nigelj @10,

    It is undeniable that 'the current internet system' needs more effective ethical governing. More effective governing would help increase awareness and improve understanding regarding unjustified unsustainable beliefs and related harmful unjust actions (like delaying the ending of unnecessary harmful actions like the impacts of fossil fuel use, other anti-science actions and anti-diversity actions - the many fronts of improved understanding and required changes and corrections that the 'selfish status seekers and intolerant of diversity' fight on these days).

    Faith in 'legacy media industry codes of practice on accuracy and integrity' is not generally justified. It may still apply to some degree in some Nations. But ethical governing of legacy information media has eroded significantly in many nations. And, in some nations, information media being governed to 'increase awareness and improve understanding of what is harmful and how people can be less harmful and more helpful to others' was more of an impression than a reality (as an example refer to the presentation of the Propaganda Model regarding the systemic manipulation of public opinion in the book by Edward S. Herman with Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent, New York: Pantheon Books, 1988 updated 2002 - Movie of the same name made in 1992).

    The current day global coordinated and collaborating group of political game players who are 'opposed to learning to be less harmful and more helpful' needs to be understood to be the problem with the internet, not 'the freedom of action on the internet'. And that group is the root of many, likely the vast majority, of the understandably harmful and unsustainable developments that are verified by evidence Today, especially the efforts to preserve unjustified perceptions of status (superiority relative to Others and dislike of Others) and the related 'inaccurate/incorrect history stories' that have developed. And that group of people can be understood to have been the reason that the past few decades have made the current over-development of harmful actions worse than it had to be.

    It is important to understand the history of how things got to be as bad as they currently are. Without properly identifying and effectively correcting the real problem all that is likely to develop are unjustified perceptions that things will get better.

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  12. The 'fight back' against disinformation and misinformation is important.

    However, the following linked Harvest Public Media (related to NPR) report indicates that even in 'very conservative' parts of the US the majority of people want actually correctly learn about climate change. The problem is the very small percentage of 'Team Coonservative' who are willing to be 'encouraged by misinformation and disinformation' from Team Cosnservative actors to threaten or actually attack people who try to increase awareness and improve understanding.

    Midwest weather experts want to talk about climate change, but they face pushback and threats
    KCUR | By Elizabeth Rembert
    Published November 27, 2023 at 9:43 AM CST

    The story includes the following quote:

    While resistant voices can be loud, 90% of Americans are still open to learning about climate change, according to Ed Maibach with the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.

    Maibach said surveys suggest people appreciate hearing about climate change from trusted sources like meteorologists and climatologists, even in conservative communities.

    “The whole notion of ‘red and blue states’ actually creates a disservice when it comes to thinking about how to educate the public about climate change,” Maibach said. “It signals that this is difficult, if not impossible, to do in red states. But that's just not true.”

    That reality explains the actions by Team Conservative to unjustifiably encourage fear and anger rather than help increase awareness and improve understanding. Increased awareness and improved understanding is significantly biased against current day 'Team Conservative' interests.

     

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  13. It was Thanksgiving of 1993 when I caught a ride with my brother, to join him, his wife and two cats for the traditional meal. Widespread use of the internet was in its infancy and we whiled away hours of the trip excitedly chattering about all the potentials this new medium might unlock. Looking back, I think we were a bit naive about just how experimental and unpredictable this all was, and I don't mean technologically. There have been undeniable benefits (this site is proof), but given how 'social media' and the near global resurgence of authoritarianism seemingly have paralleled one another, one can't help but wonder whether what good, in the big picture, has come out of that phenomenom. 

    Perhaps I see social media too darkly. It has been pointed out, that very likely even the likes of Mark Zuckerberg did not fully grok the impacts of what they were doing as they cashed in. Too bad for democracy. 

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  14. Unfortunately, the argument against so-called misinformation fails to acknowledge that scientists and doctors from the getgo of germ theory have argued against it. The term "misinformation" implies that people who do not have the right credentials are misguided, latching onto false claims when, in fact, scientists and doctors far better credentialled than those making the argument for misinformation have put forward arguments against germ theory in general and the covid pandemic specifically.

    Essentially, the "misinformation" argument is a very big strawman argument that does not represent in any shape or form the wealth of argument against germ theory, virology and vaccinology from scientists and doctors dating from the the mid-1800s. Of course, the fact that someone has the right credentials doesn't necessarily mean anything as those with the same credentials are arguing for the pandemic but it should be at least recognised that it is not "ordinary" people who put up the argument first against the scientific methods used to isolate the virus, show contagion and devise testing, but scientists and doctors as credentialled as those arguing for "the science".

    Mike Stone, author of the site ViroLIEgy presents argument from scientists and doctors who've argued against germ theory from the getgo and has also analysed numerous documents from at least as far back as the mid-1800s and shows clearly that the scientific work done to prove the existence of various pathogens does not stand up to scrutiny. And he's only one of quite a number.
    https://viroliegy.com/

    I think that Skeptical Science does themselves no favours arguing for the reality of a covid pandemic. I was a gungho climate activist for a number of years and I cannot say I've switched to believing that AGW is not the emergency claimed, however, when I see the calibre of the argument against the so-called covid misinformation, it certainly gives me pause ... and people I know who were as gungho as I about climate change have simply dropped it and are as convinced it's a scam just like covid.

    As Kary Mullis said: "The scientist aims to prove their hypothesis wrong."

    Where is the response to the argument from the doctors and scientists dating from the mid-1800s?

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Unfortunately, the Skeptical Science Comments Policy does not allow people to create multiple accounts. Specifically:

    • You are not allowed to create a second identity to replace an identity that has had its posting rights revoked due to an inability or unwillingness to follow the Comments Policy.

    Reincarnation of a previously-banned user deactivated.

     

  15. @14...

    More evidence that the internet is dead.

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  16. Rob Honeycutt @15 :-    Yeah, I'd have to agree.

    The internet allows chain reactions of Dunning-Kruger-Dunning-Kruger-Dunning-Kruger-Dunning-Kruger.

     

    And in more bad news for this time of the year

    . . . Elon Musk announced yesterday

    . . . that he has registered the name Xmas.      

    (Sorry)

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  17. Suggested supplemental reading:

    The Climate Can't Afford Another Trump Presidency His approach to the environment: ignore it. by Zoë Schlanger, Science, The Atlantic Magazine, Dec 4, 2023

    [Note: This article is part of “If Trump Wins," a project considering what Donald Trump might do if reelected in 2024. These articles also appear in the Jan/Feb, 2024 print edition of The Atlantic Magazine.

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  18. Related to the "If Trump Wins" project John Hartz pointed to in his comment @17...

    Anyone that the likes of Trump sense is exposing the harmful unjust actions of Trump and his likes, including everyone trying to expose and correct misinformation or disinformation, including the ones fighting against misunderstanding of climate science, faces potential violent responses from the likes of Team Trump.

    This NPR report "Violent online rhetoric heats up after Colorado ballot ruling on Trump" highlights the problem that has developed.

    Unjustified Rhetoric is a 'plausible deniability' gateway mechanism for triggering violent unjustified actions, including violent intimidation actions like making threats against promoters of improved climate science understanding.

    Fuelling violent thoughts with unjustified rhetoric is very hard to legally prove directly caused violent actions. And even if proven that way, as in the Colorado case, or any environmental legal action, it can still be denied ... because ... well ... the likes of Team Trump well understand that even the laws and its judges can be unjustifiably biased by ideology.

    The senseless 'common sense' of groups like Team Trump is a Tragedy of the Commons of Sense. It is almost impossible to establish and improve global common sense understanding when non-sense is allowed to be popular and be excused. Each COP session has provided proof of that point.

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