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How to inoculate yourself against misinformation

Posted on 28 June 2022 by Guest Author

TiP-LogoThis is a re-post from the Thinking is Power website maintained by Melanie Trecek-King where she regularly writes about many aspects of critical thinking in an effort to provide accessible and engaging critical thinking information to the general public. Please see this overview to find links to other reposts from Thinking is Power.

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We are drowning in misinformation. From celebrities selling their favorite diets and supplements online, to fringe medical “professionals” hawking pseudoscientific treatments on social media, to conspiracy theorists enticing followers down the rabbit hole on youtube, it’s nearly impossible to avoid exposure. 

We use information to make decisions about everything from our health to how we vote, so being misled by misinformation can cause real harm. Not only is someone usually trying to sell us something, falling for fake “cures” can literally be deadly. 

While protecting ourselves from misinformation is essential, trying to debunk each and every false claim after it pops up can feel like an overwhelming and endless game of Whac-A-Mole. (Who has the time? Or the energy?)

The secret to protecting yourself from misinformation: A healthy mental immune system.

Thankfully, science has found a solution: inoculation theory. Similar to how a vaccine builds immunity to a pathogen by exposing our bodies to a weakened form of the pathogen, we can build immunity to misinformation by exposing our minds to a weakened form of misinformation. 

Effective inoculation starts with warning individuals of the threat of misinformation. Once their guard is up, expose them to misinformation that use the same strategies as the real thing but that are less persuasive, along with techniques to resist the persuasion.

Basically, instead of debunking, inoculation pre-bunks…and in the process it trains our mental immune system to identify (and therefore not fall for!) misinformation.

Inoculations can be either fact-based or logic-based. (A third, less studied, type of inoculation is source-based.) Fact-based inoculation corrects misinformation with factual explanations, and is therefore limited to the context of that particular topic. Logic-based inoculation explains the logical fallacies or rhetorical techniques that were used to mislead, providing resistance against the same techniques in different types of misinformation. One logic-based approach uses parallel argumentation, which transplants the flawed logic of a misleading argument into an analogous – and often extreme – situation. This strategy lends itself well to humorous arguments and is therefore used regularly by late-night comedians to debunk political misinformation.

Inoculation can also be either passive or active. Passive inoculation occurs when the facts or techniques used to mislead are explained to the audience, while active inoculation builds immunity by getting people to actively create the misinformation themselves. 

A great way to learn how to spot misinformation is to create it.

Imagine a young child watching a magic show for the first time. Without any prior knowledge, the tricks could really look like magic! To convince the child there was no magic involved, one could explain how the tricks were done. But the best way would be to teach them how to perform the tricks themselves. 

I’m a big fan of active inoculation, and was using it in my classes before I even knew what it was. It’s fun and engaging…and effective! But you don’t have to be an educator to reap the benefits and protect yourself from being persuaded by misinformation.

Below are examples of articles, assignments, and games that use active inoculation:

  • How to sell pseudoscience in 9 easy steps: Protect yourself against potentially harmful health pseudoscience by learning the techniques used to sell it. 
  • Learn to be a psychic with these 7 tricks: Do you want to wow your friends and family with your psychic abilities? It’s not supernatural… it’s cold reading!
  • Wake up, Sheeple!: In this fun critical thinking activity, students learn to recognize the characteristics of conspiracy theories by making their own.
  • Please don’t fail me: Looking for a fun way to teach critical thinking, argumentation and logical fallacies? Have students create misinformation using humor!
  • Cranky Uncle: The Cranky Uncle game uses cartoons and critical thinking to fight misinformation. The game was developed by Monash University scientist John Cook and is now available for free on iPhone, Android and Browser (The Teacher’s Guide is available here.)
  • Bad News: The Bad News game confers resistance against bad online information by putting players in the position of the people who create it. (Learn more about the research behind the game here.)
  • Go Viral: New online infodemic game shows how to spot coronavirus misinformation in 5 minutes. Based on Cambridge University pre-bunking research. 
  • Harmony Square: A short, free-to-play online game in which players learn how political misinformation is produced and spread. 


The above list is just the tip of the iceberg. For example, if you wanted to inoculate yourself (or your students) against shows like Ghost Hunters, you could learn how to create ghost photos or haunted houses! If it’s crop circles you’ve been wondering about, figure out how to make geometric patterns in fields. You could hold seances or learn to read minds or bend spoons… the possibilities are limitless. 

In short, to know how the Wizard performs his tricks, look behind the curtain. Then learn to do them yourself.

The Take-Home Message

Misinformation has reached epidemic proportions. It’s simply not possible to debunk every false claim that comes our way. 

A much more effective and achievable solution is to inoculate enough citizens against misinformation to achieve a kind of herd immunity. It won’t be easy – critical thinking is challenging and takes effort — but the alternative is surrendering to the infodemic. 

Instead, inoculate yourself against misinformation by learning how to create it. Just make sure you use your “powers” for good, and not for fooling people!

For More Information

Cook, J. (2015). Busting myths: a practical guide to countering science denial. The Conversation. 

Kitsch, S., Cooley, S., Hinck, R., & Cooley, A. (2020). Inoculation Theory: Quick Look. The Media Ecology and Strategic Analysis Group.

McGuire, W. J., & Papageorgis, D. (1961). The relative efficacy of various types of prior belief-defense in producing immunity against persuasion.The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 62(2), 327–337. 

Norman, A. (2021). Mental immunity: Infectious ideas, mind parasites, and the search for a better way to think. Harper Wave.

Special thanks to John Cook and Daniel Walsh for their feedback.

Note: some additional related material can be found in the blog post Resources to give facts a fighting chance against misinformation.

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Comments 51 to 95 out of 95:

  1. Petra Liverani @49

    "I looked at the USA Today fact-check and nothing in it cannot be accommodated by the fake hypothesis."

    So what? It could all also fit a hypothesis that covid was spread by space aliens. A hypothesis is nothing more than a hypothesis. You have no good quality evidence to turn your hypothesis into a proven theory. All you have is a crazy conspiracy theory.

    "So Reuters says in response to covid being put down on death certificates inappropriately:"

    Maybe it is but there is nothing in this that suggests covid is a hoax. It suggests difficulty recording things appropriately. What we do know is that Covid can be the cause of death, and it can aggrivate some other conditions causing them to progess rapidly causing premature death. You can't see the wood for the trees.

    "Mask enforcement not different for other diseases? I'm not sure what diseases you're referring to, I'm talking about surgery and similar medical situations."

    Did you not read what I already said? How would you do the same for millions and millions of the general public? Its not practical and the authorities in America would be ideologically reluctant because of the impositions on freedom. This is a typical example where you routinely fail to absorb what people say.

    "Regardless of what other possible explanations there are for Portugal and Germany's lack of excess mortality spike against neighbouring countries their lack perfectly fits the hypothesis that it's a result of no aggressive drug trials without contradicting evidence. Of course, I can't say no aggressive drug trials PROVES the lack of excess spike but I can say it offers a perfectly possible explanation in the absence of a better-evidenced one."

    The better evidenced opinion is covid mortality rates vary between countries because of varing conditions that I already expalined. That you dont appear to have absorbed.  In New Zealand not only was there no excess deaths spike for a large part of the covid period excess deaths went down , due to extensive strict lockdowns that reduced covid, car accidents, drownings etc, etc! You can look it up on NZs covid entry on wikipedia.

    "Your arguments against fake are simply offering alternative explanations. You cannot provide any clear evidence that says the pandemic is not fake, that the real pandemic hypothesis is favoured."

    I gave you three links full of clear, compelling science based evidence that the pandemic is real and not fake. You just either can't see it or don't want to see it. Some people have  psychological issues where they cant admit to themselves they got things wrong, and just move on. Maybe you are one.

    "Please give the reference that shows the set of symptoms of covid/variant that distinguishes it from cold, flu and other respiratory illnesses."

    The following references discuss how colds flu and covid have many similar symptoms but some differences and severity of specific symptoms can vary a lot between the conditions.

    www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/covid-19-cold-flu-and-allergies-differences/art-20503981

    intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2020/03/whats-the-difference-between-a-cold-the-flu-and-coronavirus/

    Its all somewhat immaterial,  because we also have tests. The combination of tests, excess deaths, evidence of hospitals under pressure, and at least some symptom differences is powerful, undeniably. Except apparently with you!

    "I shall await with interest 10 points that favour real over fake"

    Nobody has to provide ten points. This is not a situation where quantity of points proves anything. A few points is quite sufficient. Refer to the links already posted. Your ten points are weak anyway as already explained.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] If Petra continues to argue along the same lines, posts will likely be deleted in their entirety. Please think twice before responding. Much of what you are responding to has been deleted.

     

  2. Nigelj @51 :

    you are quite right about Petra's ten points.

    In the famous words of Einstein  [slightly re-phrased]

    . . . "You don't need ten points,  one would be enough."

    That one point is the PCR analysis.

    There is your sufficient diagnosis, Petra.

    Against that one single point, all the rhetoric and handwaving and Youtubey comments in the world, simply amount to nothing.

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  3. I'd suggest DNFTT on this one. Obviously, rationality is going nowhere with P.L.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Expect to see strong moderation in the future. Many of the comments made over the past day or two have now had moderation applied.

  4. Sorry BL . . . cross-posted.

    btw, I see the comments now go to 50 before turning a new page.

    Thanks for that.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] The number of comments per page seems to vary, depending on the post (25 or 50). The issue noted a while ago about getting to the correct page on posts with very long comments lists is being looked into.

  5. Philippe C @53.

    The eggshell seems far thicker than yer average troller. 

    And a high percentage of earnestness.

    Do you not find it interesting to gaze into the abyss ? 

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  6. Eclectic @52, yes, and one look at covid exploding in Italy early in the pandemic and their hospitals collapsing was pretty much enough to convince me the world had a big problem. I didn't need to over analyse the situation beyond that. And the Italians aren't organised enough or smart enough to fake all that even if they wanted to. Ha ha. 

    Obviously like with anything I'm on the alert for geninely puzzling and suspicious anamolies,  but there just aren't any with Covid or certainly none of huge significance.

    However sorry people if I rambled on about about covid. I'm in the at risk group and so covid conspiracy theorists annoy me. I did think I was making valid points, and was  reasonably polite , which required a bit of self restraint. 

    A book very relevant to the article: Post Truth, by Evan Davis.

    www.amazon.co.uk/Post-Truth-Have-Reached-Bullshit-About/dp/1408703319

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  7. Just another comment on  "A book very relevant to the article: Post Truth, by Evan Davis." The reason Im mentioning this is I've read it,  and it takes quite a scholarly approach with reference to various psychogical research, is quite insightful,  and while a little long in parts,  is still reasonably easy to read. 

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  8. To Bob

    @39
    "[Occam's Razor] has entirely to do with the simplicity of the explanation, not the evidence."

    I argue against that. It's how closely the hypothesis fits the evidence, how few questions and assumptions are raised. You can have a complicated hypothesis that fits the evidence much better than a simple hypothesis and that's where the simplicity lies, in the "fitting like a glove" aspect, not trying to push a square peg into a round hole.

    If you disagree I'm prepared to discuss further.

    @41
    10 points don't make a gish gallop of themselves - please explain how you think my points comprise a gish gallop.

    There is no "both sides", Bob, and I'm certainly not arguing for that. I know that not even one real point can be put forward favouring the real pandemic, it cannot be done because of the nature of reality. There might be points that "look like" they favour real but if we are able to look at them more closely we'll find they don't stand up. My invitation is simply a challenge to those who believe that the pandemic is real to show them that they cannot find 10 points (or even just the one) that favour real over fake. How that will affect their thinking though is a completely different matter.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Moderation complaints and repetition deleted.

  9. OK so don't bother with 10 points. I invite people to put forward however many points favouring real pandemic over fake they deem sufficient to make their case.

    No one has said anything that refutes any of my 10 points. Eclectic did a very poor job which I didn't really bother arguing with except for the first one but if anyone can come with any refutation of any of my 10 points being perfectly consistent with (if not favouring) the fake hypothesis please do so.

    So where it stands now as far as I can tell is that:
    -— I've put forward 10 points that at least support, if not favour, the fake pandemic hypothesis
    -— No one has made a case in the opposite direction

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Repetition deleted.

  10. Eclectic @52

    In the famous words of Einstein [slightly re-phrased]

    . . . "You don't need ten points, one would be enough."


    You're perfectly right, Eclectic, you don't need a specific number of points. In many cases one is indeed enough, however, in order to avoid the going round in circles with nitpicking arguments it's easiest if a reasonable number is put forward to make your case from a number of angles.

    The thing is if an hypothesis is correct, every single piece of evidence will at least support it if not favour it over any opposing hypotheses so why not put forward a number to make your case foolproof?

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Repetition deleted.

  11. Bob
    Actually, to give an example of complicated hypothesis fitting the evidence better all we have to think of is the Theory of Relativity and gravity. What better example could you think of? Gravity works most of the time but the Theory of Relativity works better in certain astronomical cases I believe ... but then I'm vaguely aware of scientists moving away from ToR to other theories. Whatever the situation, certainly simplicity of hypothesis is not what Occam's Razor is about.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Repeating a wrong understanding does not make it right.

  12. Petra, you are not being skeptical.  You are ignoring all the evidence which is showing that you are wrong, and you are scraping the barrel to find a few crumbs to support some prejudiced beliefs of yours.

    Deep down, do you not wonder why you carry on with this behaviour?

    A Greek philosopher said :-

       "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."

    How true!   And Feynman would certainly agree.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Response to deleted comments snipped (warning)

  13. Petra Liverani @63 :

    It is a tad difficult to discuss things properly with you ~ for some of your comments are rather muddled, and your understanding of "technical" terms (like Occam's Razor) seems to be based on your own special-to-yourself meaning of phrases & words.  Humpty Dumpty word meanings . . .  rather than the standard English used by scientists & logicians & writers in general.  

    Standard words are the necessary tools for thinking & communicating.  Otherwise . . . you end up like the woodworker who tries to make a chair using only his fingernails as tools.

    I could - but won't - reply in greater detail to your ten points.  For the Moderator may be itching to use his umpire's whistle, and send all players from the field.  And it is possible, Petra, that subconsciously you are being overly repetitious in order to get the umpire to stop play.

    Somehow I am reminded of the salutary tale of the guy who played a chess game against a pigeon.  A few minutes into the game, the pigeon soiled the chessboard and knocked over all the pieces and then flew off into the sky while proclaiming victory.

    The other pigeons were impressed.  The human observers weren't.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Inflammatory snipped.

    Petra's pointless "ten points" are ofiicially off topic - here or in any other thread.

    Please leave moderation to the moderators.

  14. Regarding conspiracy theories that claim certain historical events are staged or faked. Its obviously incredibly unlikely they are staged, and we can provide compelling evidence they aren't sufficient for sensible people, but it will never be 100% definitive proof something isn't staged. Because theres a remote chance it could be staged in many cases.  So this is why conspiracy theories survive. Even if somoeone in the conspiracy blows the whistle on the conspiracy, the conspiracy theorsts will claim that is staged. They rationalise the issues that way.

    You have to break the conspiracy into components. Ask is there a realistic motive for staging the alleged conspiracy, are there genuine anomalies that do not have sensible explanations, could the conspiracy be kept secret, what is the hard evidence for the conspiracy. Of course on that basis most conspiracies are shown to be nonsense, and just speculation. But that approach  is how you innoculate yourself against conspiracy theories.

    There are real conspiracies such as criminal conspiracies and commercial conspiracies like the Libor scandal, but 1) these tend to have only a few partcipants and 2) they get exposed and 3) the motives are obvious and understandable even if they are criminal.

    Just my take on it.

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  15. Conspiratory thinking is not amenable to reason. The lack of evidence for it is used by the theorist as argument for the skill of the conspirators and the extent of the conspiracy. One can always counter with "it's entirely possible that [insert whatever] is orchestrated by the conspirationists." It can go on like that to infinity. 

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  16. Inoculation not easy, though possible.  Yes, for the established conspiracy theorist, a conversion to rationality seems not possible.  Myself, I am unaware of scientific studies of the natural history of the disease, and of its treatment.  Does conspiracism ease off with advancing age?  (Schizophrenia for example, does tend to "burn out" in later life.)   Please let me know of any prime studies of treatments or of late-stage conspiracism.

    In childhood, I had an encyclopedia volume containing many black-and-white photographs taken through the window of one of those old round Bathyspheres (lowered into the inky darkness of the Marianas Trench or similar).   All sorts of creatures - usually blind monstrosities - were to be seen.  The creatures were unaware of their blindness, of course.

    These days, the best I can hope for is to encounter an abyssal creature which chooses to swim into the lights of the SkSphere.   (Almost typed abysmal creature, per Freudian slip.)  Interesting stuff, I think . . . though Nietzsche warns of the danger of too long a gaze into the abyss.

    Nigelj, thanks for linking the Evan Davis book on "Post Truth".

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  17. Just to add, so much argument tends to not recognise that the opposing hypothesis can accommodate it rendering it invalid. When I first got interested in climate change I was simply gobsmacked by arguments such as "The climate's always changed," "CO2 is plant food" ... you know the drill. Who's arguing that the climate hasn't always changed?, who's arguing that CO2 isn't plant food? The kinds of responses one gets when one puts forward an argument never ceases to amaze me.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] The comment that you say "just to add" to has been deleted.

    Your "ten points' is an amateur debating tactic that will not be allowed here.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive or off-topic posts. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.
     
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.


     

  18. Petra Liverani @68,

    I do not see any connection which would require you to begin the comment "Just to add,..." You appear to be suggesting that certain argument proves nothing yet will still be savaged by those responding.

    Simply stating "The climate's always changed," or "CO2 is plant food" does not of itself contradict the accepted fundings of climatology. I think you would need to set out the use of such statements (& the responses) to be able to judge whether "the kind of responses" were inappropriate.

    To provide such context for your "The climate's always changed" statement, the first listed SkS myth cites Dickie Lindzen who is an actual clomatologist but who has never accepted the science of AGW and has done a lot of work attempting to overturn that science. Yet despite his best efforts, he has established nothing and in his attempts to establish something has adopted many egregious arguments like "The climate's always changed." 

    Indeed, the climate has always changed but that does not prevent us understanding why it changes and thus seeing that it has not changed before like today's AGW. Even the PETM which was also driven by rising CO2 levels took tens of thousands of years when we are driving the climate in mere centuries.

    The "CO2 is plant food"  argument is listed as the SkS's 43rd myth which describes why elevated CO2 is not entirely a good thing for plants. And do note that the plants are not very hungry for CO2 as they are only eating up a quarter of the CO2 we serve up.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Note that Petra's comment #68 has now become #67, due to deletion of the previous #67 (which violated several aspects of the Comments Policy).

  19. MA Rodger @68

    I'm afraid there's a misunderstanding. Your point is also mine. "The climate's always changed" is accommodated in the man-made climate change argument. Of course, climate scientists know that the climate has always changed and what they study is why it changed when. I remember when I first mentioned man-made climate change to my mother her response was "the climate's always changed" and it really set me back on my heels in confusion - as if climate scientists don't know the climate's always changed - they know it better than anyone. But that type of response is common to all arguments, where the person arguing admits the fact presented in response but knows the fact has no value as a meaningful argument.

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  20. Bob @67

    "Your "ten points' is an amateur debating tactic that will not be allowed here."

    I had no idea that 10-point arguments was even a "thing". I just thought that 10 points is a good number to make a case and I still see nothing wrong with it. Your assertion that it is an amateur debating tactic does not offer any illumination I'm afraid.

    As I said, Bob, 10 points is an arbitrary number. No one needs to present 10 points for their argument, they simply need to present whatever points they deem required to make their case that the real pandemic hypothesis favours the fake pandemic hypothesis. I simply put my 10 points forward to do my end of the deal so to speak. We can forget my 10 points completely and move to the case the other way.

    Do you have a problem with my request for those who believe that there is real pandemic (above and beyond say normal flu season) to put forward their case in whatever form they wish to show that the real pandemic hypothesis favours the fake pandemic hypothesis? 

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [BL] You seem to be under the illusion that the portion of the comments policy that states:

    • All comments must be on topic. Comments are on topic if they draw attention to possible errors of fact or interpretation in the main article, of if they discuss the immediate implications of the facts discussed in the main article. However, general discussions of Global Warming not explicitly related to the details of the main article are always off topic. Moderation complaints are always off topic and will be deleted

    does not apply to you. I am not participating in this discussion as a commenter. Since I had to start moderating this thread, I had to step out of direct discussion. Any further comments directly towards me will be deleted. Yo have already been warned that moderation policies are not open to discussion.

  21. Just to add: it's a very different matter to make a case in reference to an opposing hypothesis than just to make a case without that context.

    Without the context of an opposing hypothesis to say: "10,000 deaths from covid were reported in Australia in 2021," can sound very convincing, however, in the context of an opposing hypothesis that recognises that fact but has an alternative explanation for those deaths it's a different matter.

    My main point, Bob, is that if the reality of a situation is A rather than B, there will be strong indicators of A. We can use the human-influenced climate change fingerprints as an example. We know climate change is human-influenced by particular indicators that distinguish the human-related cause from other causes. Similarly, if the pandemic is fake or real there will be clear indicators to show what it is. This is what I'm asking for: the indicators. What are the indicators that the pandemic is fake rather than real? And people are free to put forward the number of indicators they think makes their case strongly.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] More challenging of moderation policies deleted.

  22. Oops! I meant "What are the indicators that the pandemic is real rather than fake?" obviously. It's me who argues the other way.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] continuation of moderation challenges deleted.

  23. Nigel @64

    The thing is, Nigel, we choose our implausibilities. While one hypothesis might seem extremely implausible so - in its own way - does the one opposing it.

    Who would have thought three years ago that the world would have been turned upside down by a respiratory illness? If someone had told you in 2019, "Hey guess what? Because of a new respiratory illness, no one will be allowed to travel for months, we'll all have to stay home, we'll all have to go around in masks, we'll have to take a series of jabs if we want to visit our parents in their nursing home and won't be allowed to visit loved ones in hospital, a vastly greater number of people will work from home, etc," would you have believed it possible?

    I used to feel implausibility was a reasonable basis to discount hypotheses until I realised an event I thought had to be as was told by the authorities because the alternative was too implausible was, according to the very clear evidence, in fact not as told by the authorities ... and then the more I learnt, the more I realised how events that might seem at first sight implausible were perfectly plausible in the context of the continuum of the history of seemingly implausible events. Unfortunately, very unfortunately, to really get that explanations that seem implausible are correct means changing one's paradigm of how the world works and most people don't want to do that ... and I don't blame them. I've become alienated from friends and family since I started waking up 8 years ago - I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone ... but then the truth is important to me. I cannot say with certainty though that if I had my time again I'd wake myself up so to speak. Perhaps if I'd known what lay in store I wouldn't have clicked that fateful link in FB and had my world turned upside down.

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  24. Petra Liverani @73

    "Who would have thought three years ago that the world would have been turned upside down by a respiratory illness? If someone had told you in 2019, "Hey guess what? Because of a new respiratory illness, no one will be allowed to travel for months, we'll all have to stay home, we'll all have to go around in masks, we'll have to take a series of jabs if we want to visit our parents in their nursing home and won't be allowed to visit loved ones in hospital, a vastly greater number of people will work from home, etc," would you have believed it possible?"

    I was expecting something like Covid to come along, ever since reading about the Spanish killer flu of 2019 a few years back. I thought it was just a matter of time and that the world was a bit overdue for sometthing like covid. I thought the world would mobilise mask wearing and speed up vaccine rollout. I did not think countries would have the courage to lockdown economies, but after seeing Italy I can see why it happened.

    Basically i could take almost any historicial event and write 5 or 10 points suggesting it could have been staged. Its not hard and proves nothing. Many facts can be explained both in conventional ways and as a staged event. To prove a conspiracy you do actually need hard proof, not circumstantial evidence, and you need to show anomalies cannot possibly have simple innocent explanations. Imho you have failed in all of this regarding covid.

    The second half of your comments is typical thinking of conspiracy theorsts. Some people are very prone to conspiracy thinking:

    psychcentral.com/blog/conspiracy-theories-why-people-believe

    As I previously stated some conspiracies are real and proven, and obviously we should all have a healthy scepticim of the authorities. I certainly do. But large conspiracies are implausible because of the practical impossibilities of organising them and keeping them secret.

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  25. Ooops. I meant the Sanish Killer flu of 1919.

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  26. What is plausible and what is not. An interesting question to consider when faced with disinformation.

    Anyone who knows anything about microbiology knew that it was always a matter of when this would happen, not a matter of if. It was discussed in my microbiology class. I wrote a short paper in that context. There were large scale epidemics before, they halways had been limited by the means of transportation of people, the speed of such means, and the modes of transmission of the disease. Anyone with even vague notions of microbiology knew that, with global travel of people going at 80% of the speed of the sound throughout the World, a global pandemic of a respiratory illness was not just probable, but inevitable. There had been multiple warnings, including H1N1, H5N1, MERS, SARS CoV-1, an others. So, in summary, if "someone had told" me, back in 2019 about this coming, I would not have been the least bit surprised. But then again, it's not like I knew nothing of the subject.

    Add to that wild animal populations under ever increasing pressure from humans, with contact between humans and wild reservoirs increasing in frequency and all the ingredients are gathered. This was common knowledge and was the reason why there were plans for possible pandemics being worked out well over 20 years ago.

    Now, let's consider that it's a "fake disease" and that everyone who has been critically ill from this was, possibly, an actor. You'll need lots of them. Said actors will have to simulate shortness of breath well enough to convince EMS personnel, but also should be able to reduce their measurable pulse oximetry while breathing at or above 35 breaths per minute. These patients were routinely found struggling, with a pulse oximetry in the 70s or lower. That is a feat of acting. Then, once they got to the hospital, they had to keep up the act and be able to produce a sample of arterial blood showing severe hypoxia and often hypocarbia as well, without acidosis and even some alkalosis in many cases, because of the low CO2. Of course, they also will need to create patchy ground glass opacities on x-ray that are characteristic of the fake disease, and CT findings to match. Now, keep in mind that you'll have to train tens of thousands of people to do this. Since there is not really a way to simulate it, it has to actually be done. I'll leave to the conspiracy theorists what means could be used to achieve that goal. A drug? Poison? Some alien technology? There has to be something.

    Then, once these actors are hospitalized, they will have to continue with their act, persisting in their inability to exchange gases, but now in a much more controlled environment where whatever means was used to cause the symptoms and "simulate" disease can be more readily identified by health care personnel. Unless, of course, said personnel are in on it. I did not see any significant increase in my pay, and nobody talked to me about this, could have I missed out?

    Considering their acuity, these people will be in a unit where they will have nursing care 24 hours a day, and will be on a monitor continuously measuring their heart rate, repiratory rate, pulse oximetry, you could add end-tidal CO2, and blood pressure every 15 minutes or continuous with an arterial line. So, if the hypoxia is simulated by use of a substance, it would be much more likely to be detected.

    Of course, now these "actors" are so invested in the whole scheme, we are discussing what to do if they need to be intubated and put on a ventilator (breathing machine), how far we'll go with support, re-assessing what to do in case of cardio-respiratory arrest, etc. That is some serious acting. The better ones of them manage to also raise their D-dimer and throw clots in their pulmonary arteries, because acting is just literally in their blood. Meanwhile, we are furiously testing for every respiratory pathogen known and the only one that turns out positive is the SARS Cov2. That means inevitably that all the labs are in on it as well, whether they are part of a hospital system or independent.

    Then, they push the act to the point where they can no longer survive unless the work of breathing goes to a machine. The best ones decline and decide to die, Moliere would approve. I guess they figured with all the money they made from their "act" their families will easily be able to move out of the trailer into a real house. Except the ones who don't need money that badly, who knows their motive?

    Others go on the vent. Hypoxia persists, of course, because their lungs are essentially destroyed. They are so good at acting that they can give the appearance (and functionality) of ground glass opacity to 85% of their lung tissue. We can't maintain a p/F ration conducive to life with them unless we flip them on their stomach and paralyze them to ensure total compliance with the vent. Oscar nominations on the way. At the height of the Delta wave, our ICU is full of nothing but them, and the other critical patients not positive for the fake disease have to be bedded in a nearby unit. 

    This would mean that there would have to be even more people engaged in supporting the work of the actors than the actors themselves. Whatever they are using to cause the symptoms would have to elude highly knowledgeable and experienced EMS, physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, pathologists, lab workers, unless of course we are all in on it, and we all go along and are eager to participate. Millions of dedicated professionals eager to participate in a fraud and disregard all the principles that guided them through their lives up to that point. Some would have to be actors themselves and push it unto the lethal end. Others would have to see their relatives do that.

    Plausibility scales and Occam's Razor can certainly point in a given direction...

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  27. Petra Liverani @69,
    I'm not then sure why you should be ceaselessly amaze (as you say you are @67) by "that type of response" if such response "is common to all arguments."
    And within an interchange, if the recipient of "the fact ...knows the fact has no value as a meaningful argument," they would presumably point to it being a statement of "no value" and not let it pass unanswered as though it did have value.
    And beyond prevnting your coment @69 from passing unanswered, I am intrigued to know what this world-inverting "link in FB" would be which you mention @73.

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  28. Philippe @76 :

    Well said.  You set a very high bar for conspiracy theorists to jump over ~ but they will try to jump (and will succeed, if only in their own minds).

    Yes, an actor who agrees to die, is certainly a Method Actor.

    Please be kind enough to expand on your Moliere reference, which largely has gone over my head.  I have only heard of the titles of his works; never read them.   Probably my first encounter with Moliere was via the Scaramouche novel ~ where the trajectory of the protagonist does indeed slightly follow Moliere's earlier life.

    Were you alluding to "The Imaginary Patient" . . . or to Moliere's own death ( Tuberculosis of the lungs, I gather) . . . or to something else . . . or all of the above?   [Rather off-topic, but interesting, in this chaotic thread.]

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  29. Indeed, to Moliere's own death and collapsing on stage while playing the Imaginary Patient.

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  30. Nigel @74

    "Basically i could take almost any historicial event and write 5 or 10 points suggesting it could have been staged. Its not hard and proves nothing. Many facts can be explained both in conventional ways and as a staged event."

    What I'm talking about is points favouring one hypothesis over an opposing hypothesis and doing the same the other way. I don't think the nature of reality allows it to be done both ways, it can only be done for the correct hypothesis.

    So what I put to you, Nigel, is to put forward a case for the real pandemic hypothesis favouring fake.

    I can say that the fact that we, as individuals, would never know that there was a pandemic unless government and media told us is perfectly consistent with fake pandemic. It doesn't rule out a real pandemic perhaps but it's perfectly consistent with fake and I'd say tends to favour it but it's just the one point and not conclusive.

    Are there any facts you can put forward that simply cannot be refuted that favour real over fake? Of course, you can argue that there aren't necessarily any claims that aren't disputed that support real over fake, you need to use claims that are disputed, for example, numbers of covid cases and covid mortality statistics, but that you believe those statistics and so they're good enough for you. But if you're willing to engage, can you put forward any undisputed claims that favour real over fake?  

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  31. Petra Liverani @80 ,

    The one point, PCR test, proves uniquely the Covid pandemic.  Testing, proved by different laboratories throughout the world (except Antarctica).

    I get the shadow of a hint of a faint suspicion that your persistent ignoring of the PCR evidence . . . points to you pulling the collective leg of readers. 

    Or that perhaps you live in Antarctica, and don't get out much.

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  32. MA Rodger @77
    The link was to the 3.5 hour film, JFK to 9/11 Everything is a Rich Man's Trick. Research since has taught me the filmmaker's got a few things wrong and there's a couple of golden nuggets he misses but it's still probably still the most eye-opening document I've looked at.

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  33. Philippe @76

    "There had been multiple warnings, including H1N1, H5N1, MERS, SARS CoV-1, an others."

    Well, yes, indeed there were multiple "warnings".

    This is an article about SARS-1 (horrible background I'm afraid)
    http://www.sweetliberty.org/issues/health/sars.shtml

    I quote below. Sound familiar?

    "Health officials have developed these guidelines for suspected and probable cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

    • Respiratory illness of unknown cause since Feb. 1st, 2003.
    • Temperature greater than 100.4 degrees.
    • One or more symptoms of respiratory illness such as cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing.
    • Within 10 days of symptoms, the patient travelled to a place where SARS has spread in the community or had close contact with a suspected SARS victim.[7]

    Not one single symptom distinguishing SARS from any other flu-like illness, except international travel? Somebody tell me this is a joke. At the beginning of the SARS ‘crisis, the Hong Kong health minister was interviewed’ by the BBC News Night team. Like a single tree falling silently in the forest, he admitted there was no definitive test for SARS and that this illness is identified by a particularly vague set of symptoms. He also admitted that its description covers a multitude of existing syndromes.[8] Needless to say, the interviewer did not ask whether these SARS deaths might therefore be attributable to an existing, common illness. The World Health Organisation has also admitted that a large number of suspect SARS cases turn out, on further investigation, to have other common causes.[9]"

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL} Very early in this discussion I warned people to not turn this into a discussion of the science of Covid - and related illnesses are getting way off topic.

  34. Petra Lnerani @82,
    Seriously?
    You perhaps didn't pick up the 'tell' at 1:58 into the video where it says:

    "Every thinking person knows; this is absolute nonsense."

    And of course the "this" refers to Frank's little video.

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  35. Petra @80

    "What I'm talking about is points favouring one hypothesis over an opposing hypothesis and doing the same the other way."

    The problem is the points you put forward didn't really favour your fake covid hypothesis. They can either be argued either way, or were irrelevant or silly. This was all obvious in Eclectics respsonse. And I could take various historical events and find points that favour a faked hypothesis, eg the 911 tragedy. This doesn't make it fake of course, because you have to look widely at things.

    I'm trying to get across to you that your a line of thinking ultimately goes nowhere, and doesnt prove anything. You have to 1)provide hard proof of conspiracies and 2) hard proof that anomalies dont have innocent explanations. Its the same standard of proof we apply to anything else in life whether science, criminal cases, etc, etc, so why not conspiracies?. There is no reason not to. So you tell me why we shouldnt require hard proof of conspiracies?

    "I can say that the fact that we, as individuals, would never know that there was a pandemic unless government and media told us is perfectly consistent with fake pandemic."

    We would know precious little about the world of current events if the governmnet and media didn't keep us informed. Using your idea you could claim everything is faked. And you are ignoring that plenty of research has been written on covid, that can be googled and purchased, so not needing the media or government, and so you have to claim that is all a conspiracy as well, which becomes more and more impossible to take seriously. 

    "Are there any facts you can put forward that simply cannot be refuted that favour real over fake?"

    I gave you three links. I believe their points are largely irrefutable. Some people might dispute the claims, but I dont care about that. I'm highly educated and quite happy with my ability to determine what is credible, and other sensible, highly qualified people accept the covid data. Not interested in what the flat earthers have to say.

    "you need to use claims that are disputed, for example, numbers of covid cases and covid mortality statistics"

    There a difference between disputed claims on exacly how many people have died and the fact that a lot of people have clearly died. You seem to think the dispute suggests its all a conpiracy. The more logical conclusion is its hard to measure precisely and some countries might like to downplay the data. I've said this before, but you dont seem to understand and largely ignore most of the points people raise because they dont fit with your narrative. 

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  36. Petra,

    Nonsense. These are normal, early steps to be taken in the initial stages of a suspected outbreak of what seems to be a new disease. That is what epidemiological vigilance consists of. Further steps ensue once the pathogen has been identified and confirmed to be either a known one or something new. Trying to color this with nefarious intent by the use of the grandiloquent language you inflict on everyone simply shows a level of paranoia that prevents logical thinking entirely.

    I note that you used this to deflect and change the subject from rationalizing away the impossible tasks faced by the so-called actors hired to play out the supposedly fake disease. In fact, you did not address a single one of the points I made.

    I am still waiting for your explanations. How does one "imaginary patient" create all the diagnosis findings, including hypoxia, ground glass opacities, etc and test negative for the whole respiratory panel to the exception of SARS CoV2? You put forth the conspiracy theory, the onus is on you to make it believable. So far I see only hand waving and deflection.

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  37. Nigel @85

    "You have to 1)provide hard proof of conspiracies and 2) hard proof that anomalies dont have innocent explanations."

    I never use the word conspiracy, Nigel, as the only kind of conspiracy I'm interested in are psychological operations so the only term I ever use is psyop. It's funny how the term "conspiracy theorist" is applied to a number of people who don't necessarily speak in terms of conspiracy themselves nor concern themselves too much with the conspiracy side of things.

    I'm not concerned with the conspiracy side of things, I'm simply concerned with what the information available tells us.

    What I'd say needs to be put forward for the case for a real pandemic are undisputed facts that support it, not disputed claims, as undisputed facts can certainly be put forward that are completley consistent with and tend to favour the fake pandemic hypothesis. If only disputed claims can be put forward for the real pandemic hypothesis we do have to wonder about that. Of course, I don't suggest that just because a claim is disputed it's false but it doesn't look good, does it, if only disputed claims can be put forward for your hypothesis while for the opposing hypothesis undisputed facts can be put forward.

    Undisputable facts that are either consistent with or favour the fake pandemic hypothesis

    1. Without bombardment from government and media we would have no clue that there was a dangerous pandemic (outside normal seasonal flu and cold pandemic).

    2. The alleged covid does not have a set of symptoms that distinguishes it from cold, flu and other respiratory illnesses.

    3. The PCR test is not a diagnostic test and yet it is used to determine cases of covid with no requirement for clinical diagnosis - in fact, if someone shows no symptoms they are designated "asymptomatic". The combined "lack of diagnostic test" with "asymptomatic" is the perfect combo, no?

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Every single claim of  yours that "it can be faked" is - at a fundamental level - an acceptance of a conspiracy theory, whether  you use the word or not.

  38. This is my advice for critical thinking:

    1. Don't dismiss hypotheses on the basis of implausibility. To do so is really indulging in the logical fallacy, Argument from Incredulity or Argument from Ignorance. Things can seem implausible due to lack of contextual information.

    2. The scientist aims to prove their hypothesis wrong. If someone or something challenges your current thinking give that challenge a fair hearing. Check it out. If you hold an hypothesis to be correct ensure it stands up against any opposing hypotheses. Do your best to make sure all the evidence fits your hypothesis while not better fitting any opposing hypotheses. 

    3. Focus on the most tangible evidence first. This is an area where I think people really go wrong. What does the most tangible, the least easy to dispute evidence say?

    4. Judge by content, not source.

    I shall leave it there. It's been interesting arguing with you and it's helped clarify my thoughts. Unfortunately, if only it were a matter that people can simply agree or disagree on. It's so much more important than that.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Once again, you show that you have your own idiosyncratic definitions of words or concepts - definitions that run contrary to the ideas you are trying to present.

    Implausibilitiy is not an argument from incredulity. Implausibilty is an assessment of probability- and highly improbable "explanations" do not need to be given equal weight during an investigation as much more likely ones. We do not need to include Gremlin Theory in every search for an explanation. Every story of a problem on the International Space Station does not need to include a segment with a representative of the Flat Earth Society to argue that the space station must be fake because there is no way to "orbit" a flat earth.

    Argument from incredulity. consists of simple "I cannot believe" statements, which you have been using frequently. You have now reached argumentum ad nauseam (or WIkipedia's version, if you prefer), which is against the following part of the comments policy.

    Comments should avoid excessive repetition. Discussions which circle back on themselves and involve endless repetition of points already discussed do not help clarify relevant points. They are merely tiresome to participants and a barrier to readers. If moderators believe you are being excessively repetitive, they will advise you as such, and any further repetition will be treated as being off topic.

    Scientists don't prove things, and "challenges" that have been repeatedly debunked to not deserve examination again, and again, and again, and again, and again. See  argumentum ad nauseam again (and again, and again, until it sinks in).

     

  39. Philippe @86

    Discussion of the medical side of covid is not allowed. Just to say, if you think certain symptoms are specific to covid, please ensure you've checked that is the case. One way to do this is to do an internet search of the symptoms within date periods prior to covid.

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  40. Petra Liverani @88

    Have you actually and really tried to prove yourself wrong as explained in this other and very helpful article from Thinking is Power?

    https://thinkingispower.com/why-trying-to-prove-yourself-wrong-is-the-key-to-being-right/

    Your comments here read as if your mind is already very much made up and that you reject anything contradicting what you think is happening.

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  41. BaerbelW @90,
    You don't address the rather woolly ideas put forward by Petra Liverani @88. Thus:-
    1. "Implausibility" (which either is lacking 'reason' or is lacking 'probability') is not at all the same as "incredulousness" (which is an unwillingness to accept offered evidence) with an argument from incredulity being a logical fallacy.
    2. A "fair hearing" for an oft-repeated "challenge" may not appear "fair" to the challenger. And a hypothesis is tested against evidence, not against "opposing hypotheses" which should stand or fall on their own merits. (There can, of course, be competing hypotheses that are considered to fit the available evidence.)
    3. Non-controversial evidence (which presumably what is meant by "tangible evidence") does not of itself take precedence over inexact or disputed evidence. Precedence would be determined by the level to which a set of evidence tests a hypothesis.
    4. An ad hominem argument (which considers the source of evidence rather than the evidence itself) is well-know to a logical fallacy, although there are a few exceptions to it being a fallacy.

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  42. Petra,

    Not allowed? It is perfectly allowable when it pertains to establishing the merits of information and the disconnection of disinformation from reality, which is what this thread is about. There are in fact many similarities to the misinformation seen about climate, as the playbook of deception is shared by many. Similar also is the propensity of some to subscribe to faulty information that they find attractive, regardless of how implausible or unsupported it may be.

    You have clearly stated earlier that you subscribed to a wild theory with no basis in reality whatsoever because you have been subjected to misinformation, which you found seductive, and have resisted evaluating it against facts and quality information, which you prefer to ignore. 

    Your contention was initially that actors were posing as Covid patients. I have pointed multiple ways in which this is just not possible physiologically, but completely ridiculous on its face because of all the aspects involved in such a scheme and the scale of it. You have brought absolutely nothing in support of this wild theory.

    You are now launching another attempt to escape the corner in which you painted yourself. I note that you are not even remotely trying to defend the "theory" that all these patients were actors faking it. That one is such a ridiculous house of cards that it crumbles from just looking at it for more than a few seconds. 

    As I have previously disclosed, I am a professional, I don't really need Google to sort out symptoms and features of viral respiratory diseases, but even if I did, it would do absolutely nothing to help solidify a wild paranoid vision. Some features are, in fact, very distinctive of Covid, but that's not even the point.

    You seem to now try to move goal posts toward a different argument: that these truly very sick people were sick with something else than Covid, their symptoms being due to that other thing, possibly another virus. This does not help your position at all. It implies that there was really a pandemic of something going on, because there were literally millions of sick people. No previous event at my hospital has ever filled the entire ICU with people all sick with the same thing. Since everyone coming in with these symptoms was subjected to a respiratory panel and nothing would result positive except the SARS CoV2 PCR, the logical conclusion is obvious. 

    You are now left with the contorted hypothesis that all these sick Covid patients did not have Covid but something else, that was not identifiable in any way, and did not result positive in any of the tests for respiratory viral diseases.  However, the entire medical profession called it Covid and went as far as elaborating an immense scheme to have positive lab results for the non existent Covid disease. Makes perfect sense.

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  43. Bob,

    I posted a comment that has disappeared. I don't know whether  glitch or moderated. If moderated, can you please give grounds.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] The comment in question was removed due to being off-topic. Please construct all comments to better adhere to this venue's Comments Policy, which is not onerous and one that the vast majority of participants here have no difficulties in adhering to.  This is not optional.

  44. Bob,
    I'd argue that the comment was not off-topic but very much on point. It related to the topic of disinformation and this is what the post is about - disinformation.

    One way of inoculating oneself against disinformation is to see how it is created and managed and in my comment there is a link to a perfect illustration where the alleged disinformation agent himself tells us - through a journalist who interviewed him - how he created disinformation in relation to AIDS and how the disinformation campaign he was involved in was managed. Please explain how the comment was off-topic. Because it related to AIDS doesn't make it off-topic if - at the same time - it relates to how disinformation is created and managed.

    No one has to believe it, of course, because the alleged disinformation agent doesn't use his real name and doesn't provide any names that aren't already in the public domain but that is not reason not to publish. The fact that it cannot be authenticated is not a reason not to publish the comment because it is worthwhile considering and holding up against the information one already has to see if it matches up. Can it stand up against the information we already have about AIDS? That is up to us as individuals to decide, not the moderator. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] You are not listening. From the Comments Policy:

    • All comments must be on topic. Comments are on topic if they draw attention to possible errors of fact or interpretation in the main article, of if they discuss the immediate implications of the facts discussed in the main article. However, general discussions of Global Warming not explicitly related to the details of the main article are always off topic. Moderation complaints are always off topic and will be deleted.

    Arguing about moderation is a moderation complaint.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive, off-topic posts or intentionally misleading comments and graphics or simply make things up. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.
     
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter, as no further warnings shall be given.

  45. My apologies, DB. I didn't realise there was more than one moderator so I addressed you as Bob.

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