Friends, Romans, Countrymen…Rioters?

I’ve heard a lot of words and historical analogies applied to the Capitol riots. Was it a coup, an insurrection, a putsch? Was it like Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923? Or was it much more American, an exercise in White supremacy, more like a lynch mob, perhaps? M. Davout asks us to think more deeply about the past, as the Founders did, and turn to the Roman Republic and its own issues with mobs. Read on! W.J. Astore

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…Rioters?

M. Davout

In the days since the Capitol riot on January 6, pundits, politicians, and journalists have been underlining the shocking nature of the events of that day by comparing them to the sacking and burning of the Capitol by British troops during the War of 1812.  Perhaps it is too big a stretch to compare the outcome of a military raid by a hostile foreign power to an attempt by a mob of US citizens to overturn a presidential election.  A different historical precedent was suggested by Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado (D) in the hours after the Senate reconvened to finish its work of certifying the 2020 Electoral College vote. (The entirety of his remarks can be found between time signatures 27:49 and 33:15 here.)

A visibly shaken Bennet, who at one point in his remarks notes that, “there is a tendency around this place …to always believe that we’re the first people to confront something,” starts off by suggesting that when the Founders wrote the Constitution they were thinking about “what happened to the Roman Republic when armed gangs, doing the work of politicians, prevented [Roman citizens] from casting their ballots for consuls, for praetors, for senators. These were the offices in Rome and those armed gangs ran through the streets of Rome keeping elections from being started, keeping elections from even being called, and in the end because of that the Roman Republic fell and a dictator took its place. And that was the end of the Roman Republic or any republic until this beautiful Constitution was written in the United States of America.”

Putting aside some historical inaccuracies (e.g., Roman senators were not popularly elected), Bennet’s point about the importance of Roman precedent for the drafters of the Constitution and their concern about the destabilizing effects of popular mobs is largely right.

However, the lesson that Roman mobs would teach us in our contemporary moment is more complicated than warning of the threat mobs can pose to a constitutional order.

In the late Roman Republic, mobs were indeed politically mobilized against the constitutional order but oftentimes in pursuit of opening that constitutional order to the interests of the common people. Noted ancient historian Moses Finley wrote that, “it would not be far from the truth to say that the Roman populus exercised influence not through participation in the formal machinery of government, through its voting power, but by taking to the streets, by agitation, demonstrations and riots…” It is no small irony that the most (in)famous example of mob action in the Roman Republic was arguably in defense of the constitutional order when the populist tribunes Tiberius Gracchus and then his brother, Gaius, were defeated and killed by mob violence carried out at the instigation of Roman senators who felt their economic interests threatened.

Gaius Gracchus died at the hands of the Senate and mob violence

When the histories of this time are written, will the attack on the Capitol be considered completely sui generis, unique and incomparable to other recent episodes of populist uprising? To be sure, the rioters in the Capitol were motivated by an unhinged demagogue telling a lie, unlike the BLM protesters against an unjust criminal justice system of last summer, or even the 2011-2012 Occupy Wall Street protestors against accelerating levels of politically dangerous social inequality. However wrong and pernicious the rightwing paranoia about the presidential election results was and is, it may become clear from an historical distance that the current instability of our constitutional system has as much, if not more, to do with the corruption of our political representatives by economic elites content to pile up obscene levels of wealth at the expense of the well-being of the rest of us.

Under the continuation of such a corrupted constitutional order, we can expect more popular uprisings, whether rationally motivated and aimed at reforming that order, or cynically incited and aimed at its overthrow.  Only time will tell whether such protests, uprisings, and mobs will be in service of the Republic or of elites whose interests are contrary to those of the people.

M. Davout, an at-large contributor to Bracing Views, teaches political science in the Deep South.

71 thoughts on “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…Rioters?

  1. “corruption of our political representatives by economic elites”. Amen, brother! This is the ancient curse. The same elites are singularly committed obfuscating the issue, to the point where America’s biggest problem is that we can’t agree on what the problem is.

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    1. Most Christian America, led by TV Preachers living the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous, enjoy their latest status symbol and perk of the job of luxury private jets, so they don’t have to mingle with the sheeple paying for it all.
      They never ever consider or question, why the Christ they preach is the same Today, the Bible records Jesus saying to his disciples, Verily I say to you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
      And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

      They are totally divorced from the Realities on God’s Earth, of the Pyramid System we consent to live in with the Billionaires at the top getting richer faster, and the masses at the bottom of the Earthly Pyramid System becoming poorer, faster.

      They may be heavenly minded, but they’re no earthly good.
      As much as they all agree this World is in THE LAST DAYS, they are blind and oblivious to the Realities on Earth, these are same LAST DAYS James the brother of Jesus wrote about so long ago as Biblical Prophecy,
      Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
      Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten.
      Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for THE LAST DAYS.

      Behold, the HIRE OF THE LABOURERS who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by FRAUD, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord Almighty.

      You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; you have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
      You have condemned and killed the just; and he does not resist you.

      Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
      You also be patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws close.
      Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest you be condemned: behold, the judge stands before the door.
      Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
      Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (Job these Days means Job as in Work to Do)
      But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest you fall into condemnation.

      Who is James mentioning here in his Book of the Bible, ‘behold, the judge stands before the door.’

      The Last Book in the Bible describes that Lord this way, These things say the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God; (these words came 4000 years after the Genesis of the Paradise/Heavenly Garden on Earth God Created for Humans in the OLD Testament)

      I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.
      So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. (the silent majority won’t be able to survive in these polarizing tumultuous Times. ‘Multitudes! Multitudes in the Valley of Decision. The Day of the Lord is near in the Valley of decision’ is upon us in THIS YEAR of the Lord 2021)

      Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and don’t know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
      I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

      As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
      Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
      To him that OVERCOMES will I grant to SIT WITH ME in MY throne, even as I ALSO OVERCAME, and AM set down with my Father in his throne.
      He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

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          1. But from THEIR perverse perspective, they KNOW for dead certain they’ll be dancing around in Heaven with JC in due time!!

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          2. That’s the thing, though: the type of individual we’re describing has no such delusions, not really. They’re total hypocrites when it comes to religious beliefs. Their eyes are fixed firmly on earthly prizes.

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      1. In the fresh moments of the early church
        All things were held in common…
        This is a painful description of a portion in the span of time; where heart felt sharing is a distant memory for the concocters of their self serving prosperity “gospel”.
        A wise soul once preached… Go back the way you came! A simple about face and a purposed march toward the moments when a personal storehouse was meant for a blessing to all. Back to the days when one could see with ease the purity of Christ and The Holy Spirit in the eyes and actions of those who strive to give their all to the gospel of love. Along the heroes trail one will face the shortcomings of greedy leaders that have led them astray and conned them to participate intimately…..“buying into” a separated existence where they ignore those who also were with the creator before the foundations of the universe. One can learn to come face to face with these acts of shortcomings and give up such foolishness; and begin to understand that holding all things in common is not some political ideology of “isms” and “schisms” that they scream so assuredly to protect the famously wealthy’s interests. But an opportunity to become like one’s Father; no….not some run of the mill giver! But a powerful giver who provides without measure like the maker of the Heavens and the Earth has so freely done. He set the high bar but it at a height where the rarified sensations of bliss and joy overflow into our being!
        ABOUT FACE! FORWARD MARCH!

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        1. The characteristics of mob behavior make me wonder whether, had Trump tried to cool things down BEFORE the horde of huns reached the Capitol front doors, would they even have obeyed him, their Fearless Leader?

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          1. I’ve been thinking a lot about what could have been done and might still be done to defuse the situation. Knowing it would NEVER happen, what if Chump went on TV and confessed to the Big Lie. Said he’d known all along the election was legit, but he didn’t want to leave office, so he kept insisting it was all rigged. He thought it would work, and really didn’t think it would ever go as far as it did. But after January 6th, he’d done many hours of soul searching, and had finally come to the conclusion that he had to come out with the truth, for the good of the country, versus his own desires.

            I have no way to judge whether such a mea culpa would work, but I suspect it’s the only thing that would have a chance to lower the heat.

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          2. You’ve spun sheer fantasy here, my friend. He is psychologically incapable of admitting to having blundered. He is all PERFECTION. I don’t need no stinkin’ degree in Psychology to make that diagnosis!

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          3. Oh, I agree that he’d never admit anything. It was just speculation on my part as to whether such a scenario would be effective.

            OTOH, perhaps to get him to go through with the performance, he could be made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

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  2. A wise comment on the attack. Whatever the political outcome and explanations, the present fortifications including concertina razor-wire around the Capitol seem to once more confirm Tom Engelhardt’s prophesy of national blow-back of the forever wars in other people’s countries.
    They evoke memories of the first ones around embassies, NATO HQ etc in Kabul and no doubt in countless other cities. Be prepared for seeing the concrete barriers become permanent, grow taller each year and the government area in DC becoming your own ‘Green Zone’. May I be wrong !!! and may those who feared for their lives when trapped there last week come to their senses and re-think ‘terrorism’ and the terroristic war to fight it, both the domestic variety and the international one.

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    1. Probably more than anyone else, I see what’s happening Today is unfolding along these explicit lines The Kansas City Times published over 2 Generations ago, September 13, 1976, quoting me,
      “He came to town for the Republican National Convention and will stay until the election in November TO DO GOD’S BIDDING: To tell the world, from Kansas City, this country has been found wanting and its days are numbered […] He gestured toward a gleaming church dome. “The gold dome is the symbol of BABYLON,” he said.” […] He wanted to bring to the Public’s attention an “idea being put out subtly and deceptively” by the government that we have to get prepared for a War with Russia.”

      “To tell the world, from Kansas City, this country has been found wanting and its days are numbered” are the 1st 2 parts, of the 3 part Writing on the Wall in Daniel 5 of his Book of the Bible.
      Even not knowing the Bible story, EVERYONE knows what ‘The writing’s on the Wall means and implies for the Future.

      That 1976 FUTURE is NOW with the Revelation of the details GENERALLY unfolding in the spirit of the letter.

      http://rayjc.com/2013/09/01/signs-of-the-times/

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  3. One problem with analogies with the past is that they have a hard time taking into account elements of a situation that may not have existed in the past. The elements I am thinking of are white supremacy and “Prosperity Gospel” Christianity. These two elements are fairly allied in America and I am sure they, or close analogues, did not exist in the Roman Republic. The groups that organized the riot are the American equivalent of the Taliban. Look at photos of the “Proud Boys” or other white supremacist groups posing with their guns and then look at photos of the Taliban posing with their weapons. There are striking similarities that I do not think are mere accidents.

    The white supremacist groups are very much like the Taliban. They adhere to a sick, perversion of Christianity in which they worship a god created in their own image: white, male, misogynistic, who approves of violence toward those who oppose their creed. The evangelical leaders who provide the spiritual support for these groups are not opposed to exorbitant wealth as their creed dictates that wealth is a sign of their god’s favor. So higher taxes on the rich or increased estate taxes are anathema to them. Taking care of the poor is wrong because the poor are poor because they are being punished by god for their sins.

    Here are a couple of articles from a Vatican publication on the spiritual issues.
    https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/the-prosperity-gospel-dangerous-and-different/
    https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/evangelical-fundamentalism-and-catholic-integralism-in-the-usa-a-surprising-ecumenism/

    I think that these people are not protesting about economics or health care or justice. Trump is their current messiah. They want a theocracy. That is what has to be stopped.

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    1. Thanks for the links, JPA. The articles are indeed thought provoking. As they would indicate, and you imply, what we see with the supposedly religiously motivated of Chump’s followers is circular reasoning. The outgoing incumbent was “chose” by God to be President. Ergo, everything he does is good, and everything he says is true. If he was “defeated” in an election, in the midst of doing God’s work, then by definition and by the virtue of the Prosperity Gospel, that election must have been rigged. Ai yi yi! Truly, truly scary. And a glimpse into why the followers will never stand down.

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      1. If anyone on this thread has never seen (is this possible?), or not lately re-watched, 1960’s “Inherit the Wind,” with Spencer Tracy as Clarence Darrow in “The Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, you really should seek it out! Darrow was up against the same kind of blinders-wearing “thought” process, with a horde marching thru the streets singing “Give me that old-time religion…It was good enuf for my father, and it’s good enuf for me!” Encouraged by William Jennings Bryan, who was much better qualified to bear the title of populist than Trump could ever be, they were quite convinced that teaching of evolution in the public schools was nothing less than Satanic.

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  4. Here’s an interesting article about the composition of Trump’s rioters:

    https://fusion.inquirer.com/columnists/attytood/capitol-breach-trump-insurrection-impeachment-white-privilege-20210112.html

    A selection:

    When fascism finally came to America in the form of an attempted coup to halt our presidential election, it came from lush-green suburbs all across this land, flying business class on Delta or United and staying in four-star hotels with three-martini lobby bars — the better to keep warm after a long day of taking selfies with friendly cops or pummeling the unfriendly ones, chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” and generally standing athwart democracy yelling “Halt!”

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  5. Bill, thanks for sharing M. Davout’s point of view. My comments upstream support his perception to a large degree.

    But how could I resist this header, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…Rioters?”

    I was arrested in Kansas City for deportation back to Canada as an “Alien” in December 1976. Goes to show I am a Disciple of Christ, all of whom as the Christ said, ‘are in the World, but not of the World.’

    In 1977, I moved from Montreal to Ottawa, CanaDa’s Capital, with the intention of standing up on the Sparks Street Mall to speak to the usually large lunchtime crowds.

    All night long I walked the Downtown area wrestling with my own thoughts? ‘It is you, Lord, moving me to do this? or is it my own vanity?’
    I was still wrestling with thoughts like that when the 1st workers appearing in the morning.
    By Lunchtime, the sky had threatening black-grey clouds, with such a bitter icey cold blowing wind, the People were scurrying to get off the street as fast as possible.

    Still wrestling, I was thinking, ‘God, the people won’t stop to listen with such a cold wind. Maybe another Day?

    Still wrestling, I finally came to the conclusion, it had to be done on Faith!
    There was a small dais on the Sparks Street Mall at Bank Street that is no longer there.
    These were the opening words, ‘Captives of By Town, Romans roaming around and Russians rushing around, lend me your ears. The Town Crier speaks!”
    (Ottawa was called By Town in earlier Times)
    With those words coming out of my mouth, the clouds parted, the wind died down, the Sun went rolling down the Sparks Street Mall, and a crowd stopped to listen.

    Just 1 Day in my Life since I was BORN AGAIN according to the Spirit February 1, 1975, making me 77 going on 46.

    https://rayjc.com/2011/02/27/seeds-of-democracy/

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      1. That is True. Christ leaves the 99 who are found, to find the 1 who is lost,

        But if only 1 stopped to listen, there would not have been the Historical newspaper Records as a Chronicle of the Times.

        When I got out of jail for breaching the 1 year Probation with only 1 Condition typed in at the bottom of the Probation form, “Not to attend on the Sparks Street Mall or any other street in Ottawa for the PURPOSE of SPEAKING or shouting” I phoned The Ottawa Citizen saying, ‘You projected a positive Image, but now do you want to talk about the substance?’

        Their answer was simple and direct, “You’re not news anymore.” That’s it! That’s all! They have that Power.

        I’ve laid low since then, because what The Kansas City Times published on September 13, with a follow-up on ALL SOULS DAY, November 2, 1976, is a Marker of Time, and with the benefit of the last 46 years hindsight, it can be seen this Larger World has Generally unfolded along those lines recorded in The Kansas City Times over 2 Generations ago.

        I thank God I’m still alive to point to the Historical record, the link to it posted upstream.
        According to the Stats to my Blog, only 1 has had come to it since it was posted Yesterday and that is sufficient!

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  6. I continue to resist labeling Jan. 6 an “attempted coup,” a “putsch” or an ARMED insurrection. I now agree it WAS an insurrectionary mob, but not enuf bullets flew to qualify for armed insurrection on the whole. That said, there are now reports that the worst in that mob had capture and execution of some elected officials in mind; not sure if this is based on stuff they’d posted on social media. Needless to say, this is very serious business. As for analogues to Rome, emperors who’d fallen out of favor with the elite, or just a powerful faction of the elite, were often “eliminated” by poison or being strangled as they reposed in bed. (And then there’s the model for dealing with Julius Caesar, of course!) John F. Kennedy comes to mind here, having riled up a powerful element of the elite. At one point, important decisions were made after deliberation by a body of 500 men (men only, of course). Note that I may be thinking of ancient Athens here, but when I was in Italy in 1978 I noted the currency featured representations of the “Cinque Cente” (“the 500”). Was this just in homage to Greek attempts at democracy? If we want analogues in our own history, we should look to “Shays Rebellion” and “the Whiskey Rebellion.” Those were armed revolts against the central authority. Also, John Brown’s raid on the armory in W. Virginia to try to secure more arms for his crusade against slavery. Brown professed a belief that (slight paraphrase, I don’t have the quote in front of me) “the sins of our nation will only be washed away by blood.” The Founding Fathers (well, one of them; Jefferson?) said “the Tree of Liberty needs to be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants.” The issue we have now is who is to define the tyrants? The mob at the Capitol would say it’s those evil Democrats and Liberals in general, and some even wanted Mike Pence’s blood for his perceived betrayal of Fuhrer Trump. These are very dangerous times. President-elect Biden puts on a brave public face, but I think the risk of assassination attempts on a POTUS has NEVER been at this elevated a level in my lifetime.

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    1. Not to belabor the point, but how many bullets actually have to fly before it’s an armed insurrection?? Just curious. Don’t assault rifles, handguns, crossbows, Molotov cocktails, tasers, high-capacity magazines, etc., qualify as serious armament? All of the aforementioned were found among just the handful of people who were arrested onsite at the Capitol.

      https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/67286-the-catalogue-of-deadly-weaponry-among-capitol-insurrectionists-is-astonishing

      And why not an “attempted coup”? A coup does not necessarily require the complicity of the military.

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      1. I believe that what was in the minds (?) of the great majority of the mob was to try to derail certification of Biden’s victory, and they did succeed in delaying it. I can’t parse just how many bullets have to fly, but an armed insurrection is a bona fide attempt to overthrow a gov’t, whether local (a municipality) or state or national. If assault rifles, crossbows, etc. were in fact gotten inside the Capitol, that would just underline and put in boldface type the miserable failure of law enforcement that day, and heads really need to roll!! As for a bona fide coup attempt, I can’t possibly imagine such a thing in the modern world WITHOUT the support of at least a segment of the military. With today’s technology, it is not quite so easy as the Bolsheviks knocking the Tsar on his arse in 1917. Leon Trotsky was instrumental in planning the insurrection in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), with Red units seizing the telephone/telegraph exchanges, occupying buildings housing the major banks, and controlling bridges and major thoroughfares. Sigh. Oh, for a return to the Good Old Days!!

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        1. Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one! IMHO, if a group of people carrying guns and other weapons invades Congress to try to derail the certification of an election, and possibly murder legislators, it’s a coup attempt. It matters not how far they got or if the military supported them.

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          1. What matters most over next few days is that the guy who called the rioters “very special” and reassured them of his love will be packing his belongings out of the White House. Reportedly he’ll depart the morning of Inauguration Day. With a full pardon? Ah, there’s the question! A measure of how deluded he is is that he never stood a chance, legally or extra-legally, of overturning the election result but persuaded many of his supporters that THEY could do it! With Fearless Leader a safe distance “behind the lines”!

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          2. Not on point, but until January 6th, I had managed to avoid hearing Chump speak. I’d always thought Stephen Colbert’s imitations were exaggerated, but no. Turns out the departing one does indeed have a high, whiny, breathy voice. And a totally unprepossessing demeanor, with childish gestures. How in the world does he capture people? Prior bias may account for it, but I found him revolting. When he called his followers “very special,” I immediately thought of the Church Lady. Ludicrous! Then again, der Fuhrer had a high, nasal voice as well. Perhaps one just has to be somehow attuned to it.

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          3. Actually, Hitler had a pretty gruff voice, which served him well in his speechifying. You must understand that his speeches were dramatic presentations, as he endeavored to convey the pain inflicted on the German people by the reparations after First World War. A Great Nation (“Make Germany Great Again!”) laid low by enemies foreign (UK, France, the Bolsheviks) and domestic (Communists and Jews, which were all the same anyway in Nazi ideology). Hitler made this stuff work. Trump’s presentation as a speaker may leave oodles to be desired, but his hate-mongering works for him, too.

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          4. Obviously, you’re correct, Greg. In my case, I’m very sensitive to voices, and a timbre or tonal quality I don’t like turns me off completely, regardless of content. If one wants to believe, though….

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  7. In one of his books, I think it was What’s the Matter with Kansas? Thomas Frank paints a vivid and humorous picture of a mob in the streets carrying clubs and pitchforks while holding the black flags of revolution coming up to the doors of a mansion with members of the mob screaming “We have come to lower your taxes!”

    This is what I thought of when in the essay above it was mentioned the Roman mobs were in the service of the wealthy.

    Arlie Hochschild in her Strangers in Their Own Land interviews people whose lands and waters have been devastated by big business who make it clear they don’t blame the businesses and want less regulation.

    It’s been said that every American is a frustrated millionaire, that people look at someone like Mark Zuckerburg and say to themselves, “he was just a kid in school and now he’s a billionaire, it could be me” even as they ignore all the evidence around them of the millions in this country who work hard and receive the smallest rewards that business can give them while it is investment, not hard work, that endlessly augments the wealth of the 1%.

    Willful ignorance is our problem, aided by complete fantasies such as the idea that there is a pressing need to defend oneself and protect one’s home from invasion by arming up. There is nothing factual to support this. Crime has been going down for some time and home invasions are a rarity. The proponents of arming up cannot identify anyone in their community who is a threat, rather it involves a fantastic vision of BLM proponents coming from afar to get them.

    All of this leads me to say that American education has failed. There is absolutely no evidence that a large percentage of Americans have learned anything about reasoning, evidence, or logic. They show no evidence of schooling with the exception of that received from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, whose motto should be “We Tell (actually it should be sell) You What You Want to Hear”

    We still live with strong resistance to book larnin’ that was the prototypical form of resistance to authority that says my thinking is superior to anything formal that I can learn. This was a signal idea of the small farm period in American history, but survives with vigor when only 2% of the population is working in farming and agribusiness rules.

    We fool ourselves if we believe that the founding fathers were examples of the mass of Americans. In fact, they where highly educated and of a class that in no way represented the rough and tumble population that prevailed outside of New England.

    Since the coming of high schools as part of American public education in the 19th century, we have been confronting the problem of horses that stand before the water but refuse to drink. As science and technology race further away from the kind of hands on simplicity that Ben Franklin played with, the pride of the ignorant has only become stronger as the possibility of understanding a world not tied to the soil seems ever more remote.

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    1. CLIF9710–Couldn’t agree more strongly! Today’s American yahoo is so, so proud of his/her ignorance!! Militant ignorance, we might call it. The failure of our public education system is glaring, but in terms of helping young people understand the reality of life in a class society–now ruled by genuine Plutocrats, with the rich-poor gap at unprecedented chasm–this is INTENTIONAL failure. Would that I had a magic wand to wave and correct the situation!

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      1. “Militant ignorance” is well put. Disconnected from reality, heavily invested in the fantasy of alternative facts and unhinged conspiracy theories, and heavily armed as well.

        It does not bode well.

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        1. The Blind Patriots/Christians in Trump’s Cult of Personality IDOLIZE him. They find no fault in him, or recognize he’s a Megalomaniac serial Liar. They refuse to acknowledge Trump exalted himself so high, God humbled him in accordance with Christ’s teachings.

          From being just a Reality Show TV Star to a group of Star Struck Americans, he transformed himself into a demigod. That takes chutzpah on steroids to pull that off, and Trump did it.
          They revere Trump as the re-incarnation of King Cyrus of Ancient Persia in setting the Jews free to build their 2nd Temple after the Captivity of Babylon, now called Iraq.

          They don’t think how strange it is, for King Cyrus of Ancient Persia, now called Iran, re-incarnated as king Trump wanting to destroy Persia-Iran at Israel’s request.
          That’s how disjointed the Trumpers are! They are ignorant of the Sign of these Times, the END TIMES Prophet Daniel, wrote his Book in the Bible, during The Captivity of Babylon/Iraq,

          The Fact is, that END TIMES Prophet Daniel, is NOW buried in an Islamic Mosque in IRAN.

          The Pentagon/CIA came out with WAR PLAN just 2 weeks after 9/11, to change the regimes of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, and at THE END, IRAN.

          As the consequence of that 2001 US WAR PLAN, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Lebanon are NOW FAILED STATES. Only IRAN is left and king Cyrus/Trump of Persia/Iran is still following that 2001 US WAR PLAN, leading this World to THE END, and most probably, Biden will continue with that 2001 US WAR PLAN too, if the People are not vigilant.

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    2. “All of this leads me to say that American education has failed. There is absolutely no evidence that a large percentage of Americans have learned anything about reasoning, evidence, or logic.”

      Absolutely, spot-on, 100% correct. When I was majoring in education, with the plan to teach high school English (back in prehistoric times, when there was a glut of teachers in the profession), I was told by my profs that students’ grammar and syntax could NOT be corrected, for fear of stigmatizing them. They should be allowed to express themselves in any way they felt, because it was all good. When I couldn’t go along with that concept, it was suggested that perhaps I shouldn’t pursue a teaching certificate, as, with my ideas, I’d spend my entire career trying to buck the system. In hindsight, it was good advice, because I can imagine how frustrated I would have been. And here we are, with an abysmally dumbed-down population.

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  8. What strikes me…(literally because I have been in the verbal presence of the action of that verb “striking” and figuratively because I have read about their “ striking” language) is how angry these folks have allowed themselves to become. Energy follows thought and these citizens have been trafficking in the ideologies of bitterness and hate. Thus the despicable display of such a corrupted brand of “ citizenship “!
    Since we are going back to the future in this thread of wisdom that M.Davout kicked off…Ever since the beginning…
    The founders of our American experience masked their evil eyed intentions of aggression and cloaked their acts of genocidal conquest under the garments of decency.
    Now today it’s just a continuing education of lessons from a dark past. I will bring out the final actions of an angry aggressive administration as an example of lessons never learned.
    This is from an article by Chris D’Angelo and Caitlin Harris ..It tells a brave story … Wendsler Nosie has been leading a prayerful defense against the theft of the Apache sacred holy land Oak Flats in the final days of the Trumplestiltskin administration. I copied this portion because I have seen the “respect “ that Senator McCain brings out among the Bracing Views community. It seems like a fitting act as the curtain comes down on this tragic play of misadventures…
    Final Act: The Theft of All Things Holy.

    This scene came in the middle of this typical real estate transaction stagecraft production ….
    Staring that well know name … our great actor, the fearless leader of shuck and jive,that leading thespian of land theft and deception ….

    QUIET ON THE SET… ACTION!

    Then in 2014, Arizona’s two Republican senators at the time, John McCain and Jeff Flake, manufactured a workaround, slipping a last-minute provision into the 2014 military spending bill that authorized the transfer of Oak Flat and the surrounding area to Resolution Copper, in exchange for 5,300 acres that Resolution owned scattered across Arizona.

    McCain ― who in 2014 received $7,500 in campaign contributions from Rio Tinto, more than any other member of Congress ― argued at the time the land swap was a bipartisan “compromise,” that the copper was necessary to “maintain the strength of the most technologically-advanced military in the world,” and that Apache tribal leaders “have stated the Oak Flat Campground is not a sacred site.”

    Members of the San Carlos Apache have repeatedly rebutted the latter assertion. Nosie compares Oak Flat to Mount Sinai. And John R. Welch, a professor of archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Canada and former historic preservation officer for Arizona’s White Mountain Apache Tribe, told The Washington Post the area features “the best set of Apache archaeological sites ever documented, period, full stop.”
    Chris D’Angelo & Caitlin O’Hara

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/oak-flat-land-swap-apache-trump-administration_n_5fff7cd2c5b65671988b8d75

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      1. I observed and publicly commented from the time of Trump’s campaign launch back in 2015 (“They’re [Mexicans] rapists, they’re drug dealers.”) that H-A-T-E is what fueled his march to the Presidency, and what a dismal mark his success in gaining that office has left on this nation. I’m glad I can’t travel abroad these days, carrying my US passport!

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    1. I hear the earlier “Covid relief” bill that was sent to Trump at Mar-a-Lago over Xmas holiday ran to 5000+ pages. Fat chance he actually read any of it! This has been going on ridiculously long, inserting all these little favors into “must-pass” legislation. It’s a major scandal that conveniently “can’t be” dealt with because it’s so massive. “The Patriotic Act” ran to similar length, I believe. In Michael Moore’s essential documentary, “Fahrenheit 911,” Rep. John Conyers said to the filmmaker something like: “Sit down, my son. I have news for you: very few bills in Congress actually get fully read by anyone.” What a ludicrous System rules us!

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  9. With respect to what we should call these riots, perhaps we should term it “The Trump Rebellion.” This has the virtue of placing the blame squarely on Trump, who called for the protest and incited the riot. Also, it truly was and is a rebellion against Congress and the Constitution, as Trump and his followers say they seek a reversal of the election result, meaning four more years for Trump.

    It was a rebellion against law, order, and the Constitution, instigated and incited by Trump as a lame-duck president and lifelong poor loser. The Trump Rebellion.

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    1. I’m thinking “Trump’s Rebellion” gives him too much credit: he stirred it up, yes, but he literally walked away from the moment. Had he led his minions down the street, up the stairs and through the doors into The House – as he told them he would only minutes before – it would have been a whole different ballgame. But he didn’t. No cojones. I cast my vote – early and often – for “Trump’s Folly.”

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      1. I’ll repeat from a post (or posts, even) from way back, Trump said in an interview close to 20 years ago he practically faints at sight of blood! Imagine if it was his own! Of course, it’s all too typical for a demagogue to stir up a mob and then conveniently “disappear,” eh?

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    2. I will be nothing less than STUNNED if Trump is ever successfully prosecuted for inciting the riot or any other Federal offense. Jury (ha!) is still out on whether NY Southern District can succeed in pursuing tax-related skullduggery.

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        1. This isn’t a wager. He could, conceivably, find himself indicted in some manner, but he won’t be wearing the famous orange jumpsuit. The latter aspect was my wager!

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  10. A few commenters have made remarks about how the poor state of American education has caused so many people to be misled by lies and outrageous conspiracy theories.

    My concern with that is as follows. Many people exhibit a tendency to believe what is not true, even very intelligent people. For example, the Nobel prize-winning physicist R.A. Millikan subscribed and supported debunked theories of eugenics. If belief in what is false is a tendency of the human brain then
    1) The people who are dedicated Trump supporters are not defective or more uneducated
    2) We may be in the same position, or find ourselves there

    [This is a very detailed example that is quite long-winded. You can just skip to the last two paragraphs for the main point]

    I will give an example of this in a field that I am an expert in, the clinical use of heart rate variability in treating stress-related conditions. In the mid 90’s it was thought that certain types of heart rate variability could measure sympathetic activity (fight-flight-freeze). These were LF and the LF/HF ratio. Other types of heart rate variability could measure parasympathetic activity (rest and recharge). These were HF and rMSSD. Papers were published explaining how changes in LF, LF/HF, HF and rMSSD were clear evidence for changes in sympathetic and parasympathetic activity associated with stress and how those caused stress-related health conditions.

    But, in the mid-late 90’s papers were published absolutely proving that LF and the LF/HF ratio was not an accurate measure for sympathetic activity. And, that HF and rMSSD were not measures of parasympathetic activity. Those finding have been replicated multiple times. The statements “LF and LF/HF are a measure of sympathetic activity” and “HF and rMSSD are a measure of parasympathetic activity” have been thoroughly disproved. That is, they are as false as statements such as “Democratic governmental officials are members of a ring of pedophiles who babies,” or “Bill Gates has inserted microchips into the COVID-19 vaccines.”

    BUT that hasn’t stopped hundreds of research articles from being published using the “facts” that LF and LF/HF are measures of sympathetc tone and HF and rMSSD are measures of parasympathetic tone.

    Even worse, many fitness companies now give people feedback on their “stress” based on these bogus measures.

    Even more worse, some researchers are proposing using these bogus measures to assess fitness for duty or determine who is at fault in high intensity situations.

    These people are just as deluded as the Trump supporters and they are in research centers all over the world, have Ph.D.’s and are respected scientists. So it can’t just be the American school system. A couple of researchers have commented on this phenomenon as “Zombie Science” in which hypotheses that are dead have come back to life and spread widely.

    What could be going on here? Here are my thoughts. Researchers are rewarded, with grants, money, prestige, tenure etc, for publishing papers and giving presentations. More importantly the papers they publish must be cited by other researchers. The more citations the bigger the “impact factor”. How does that influence the literature on HRV? Well, the values of LF, LF/HF, HF and rmSSD are easy to measure. So its easy to generate data and due to the way they vary its easy to find statistically significant results if you massage the data enough. So its easy to write a paper on stress using those numbers as if they are meaningful. Researchers who write using those numbers get cited a lot and have a big impact factor and thus get more prestige grants etc even though their work is bullshit. Researchers who point out the truth have a much harder time getting papers published because they don’t get statistically significant results and if their paper is published it doesn’t get cited much. So their work (the truth) is ignored and mythology becomes the dominant paradigm. The field is starting to shift as I am starting to see more research articles challenging the dominant way of thinking, but its going to be a long haul now that the commercial juggernaut of the fitness and wearable health industries has advertised these measures as valid markers for “stress”.

    Why have I seen through this BS? Is it because I have more scientific ability or integrity? I doubt it. Instead I think its because I am a clinician not an academic. I don’t get any real reward for publishing papers or being cited. I need to make sure my patients keep their jobs, maintain intact families, don’t relapse on drugs or alcohol or don’t commit suicide. So when I began following this field in the early 90’s and then started using HRV with my patients about 20 years ago, I was using a very different reward system. I focused on what was making my patients healthier and not on what could get published. So I discovered methods and techniques that made people better rather than focusing on getting a p value of <0.05 so I could publish a paper.

    The point of this long-winded story is that perhaps we and the conspiracy believers and Trump supporters are not fundamentally different in either our mental processes or our education. Rather we all tend to believe what is rewarding to us. Tor the Trump supporters belonging to a group fighting evil is rewarding and so they will tend to believe they are doing so even if their belief is delusional.

    I often have to challenge a patient's belief system in order for them to become healthy. Proving them wrong does not work. Instead we explore the question "what kind of person is this belief system turning me into?" And then "Is that the kind of person I really want to be?" There are usually some negative aspects to the answer given to the first question. The answer to the second question is therefore rarely a strong "Yes". There is at leat some doubt, and that doubt opens them to the possibility of becoming healthier and happier which then shifts their belief system.

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    1. I, too, have never worked in academe but I have read about the dire necessity to “get published and cited.” Does not a boosted profile make employment by a large corporation (Big Pharma) likelier, with the attendant benefits of handsome annual income? This is at the heart of “our” System today. Is a glass of red wine daily good for your heart, bad, or indifferent? The contradictory studies never cease! Also, the Watson (I think it was he) part of the Watson-Crick discoverers of DNA structure revealed himself in recent years to be a flaming proponent of Eugenics. What troubles me most about the pro-Trump crowd is that it’s RACIST HATRED that energizes them most effectively. And their Fearless Leader proclaims he has not a racist bone in his body! The absurdity of it all escapes my verbal abilities to describe it! Trump’s success in gaining the White House is an outstanding example of the power of Marketing! It seems if marketers hit folks over the head frequently enuf, they can get the public to clamor for most any piece of crap. (If the shoe fits, Mr. Trump, by all means wear it.) This makes Dr. Josef Goebbels one of the all-time champion Masters of Marketing, yes? I mean jawol? Among his students we might number Karl Rove, Lee Atwood, Roger Stone, Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingram, Tucker Carlson, etc.

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    2. Your comments have struck a chord with me, JPA, and are giving rise to some questions. As a clinician, how do you determine which data are accurate? If there are 10 papers which reach the same conclusion, and only one paper that differs, how do you proceed? Do you remain skeptical pending your own experience? Do you have the time and opportunity to withhold judgment until you can validate one of the hypotheses?

      Regarding beliefs maintained due to rewards (be it any form of positive reinforcement), how does one then make the case for objective truth;
      e.g., of the caliber, water is wet, gravity exists on Earth? The My Pillow CEO flatly stated yesterday that the Orange One will be inaugurated next week. Unless he knows something that no one else does, he’s patently deluded. His reward will be short-lived. What happens when Biden is sworn in? Will he somehow pivot or mentally compensate?

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      1. Your questions are ones I struggle with very much. The research literature is certainly highly influenced and even corrupted by those with motives other than reporting valid results. There are numerous documented examples of studies that were ghostwritten, i.e. a marketing writer wrote the text and the research “authors” just signed their names. The “authors” are usually high-placed in academia and institutional medicine. So it is very hard to know how much an article can be trusted. Some scientists have worked diligently to expose misinformation and it takes many hours of time, which they are not being paid for.

        My principle is to be cautious. There is a sarcastic saying “Use a new drug quickly, before it loses its efficacy,” indicating that new drugs may not really be helpful.

        I also spend time with patients and believe what they report to me about effects, even if they don’t seem plausible. So I really use the patient’s experience to guide me.

        Another principle is to read a broad swathe of the literature. By developing a broad knowledge base it is much easier to spot possible inconsistencies. But even so I have been fooled. For example, I don’t have the resources to access all data from studies that were registered and go through them. Since only positive studies get published a medication can look better than it really is. That happened with one anticonvulsant that was touted for bipolar disorder. There were a couple of studies in the literature that showed it was effective. However, it turned out that there were 10 other studies showing no benefit, but they were not published. So the drug was not really beneficial.

        There are a lot of ways to approach your question about objective truth. There is some question from experiments in quantum mechanics that challenge whether objective truth exists in the physical world. There are also experiments in perceptual theory that run simulations of organisms. Organisms that see the reality of the world are outperformed by those organisms that see a distorted view but one that helps them reproduce more effectively. The former eventually go extinct. Not a pleasant observation, but there it is. My friend Donald Hoffman works in this area and one of his papers can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4060643/
        Don also did a Ted talk https://www.ted.com/talks/donald_hoffman_do_we_see_reality_as_it_is

        Since human perceptual systems seem to be tuned to avoid seeing reality as it is, then the only way to change someone’s perception is to make it less rewarding for them. Unfortunately, if the reward driving the person is their belief that they are correct then the system is self-reinforcing. Little to nothing can be done. However, feeling right does not improve survivability if the facts state differently and so nature will eventually issue a correction which generally is not pleasant. That is what is happening with climate change. It’s a bummer that people who do see the facts have to suffer the consequences of the behaviors of those who refuse to.

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        1. It was wisely observed long, long ago that “The first casualty in war is truth.” Perhaps we need to say the same about the struggle for supremacy in the Capitalist marketplace.

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        2. I hardly dare to raise the subject as I am a firm believer in vaccinations, very many of which I received over the years when working in high risk countries. But I admit having research worries about all those miraculous Covid 19 vaccines. I realize that vaccines can be developed much faster nowadays, based on the accumulation of previous research and with computers digesting data much quicker, but I equally realize that Big Pharma cannot be trusted to be honest, especially when such gigantic contracts are at stake, and that research statistics can be easily ‘massaged’. As the readers of this blog are intelligent, I hope that I will not pass for a scare-mongering vaccine denier, I’m just a realist.

          What worries me, is that this (understandable but premature ?) vaccine euphoria will lead to even bigger spikes, as plenty of people will believe that having received even only one shot will relieve them of their own responsibility for protecting themselves and their fellow human beings. Not to mention the fact that efficacy is less than 100% and I have not even found information on how that was established. Were all trial-vaccinated persons purposefully exposed to the virus, or only their blood samples in a test tube?
          Or even less than that, were those blood samples merely tested for the presence of (what level of ?) anti-bodies ? And could receiving only one dose (as British moron Johnson is proposing and I think Biden also is considering) lead to not only reduced protection but also to resistant virus mutations?

          Your mention of zombies suggested to me the Trump Zombies Rebellion.
          Of course we should not forget about WHY those zombies are so gullible, in order to try to cure the disease rather than its symptoms. As I never lived in the US I cannot comment on that. But recent suggestions that the usual suspects Russia, Iran & China are to blame do not bode well for constructive introspection into the roots of domestic terrorism.
          And ‘reality TV’ and now ‘do-it-yourself social media’ are a potent zombie-multiplier as they suggest ‘hey, you don’t need to be a movie star to be famous, ordinary people like you are just as interesting’. A beautiful concept as such for people with (too) low self-esteem but it will have inflated countless ego’s into believing they really are extraordinary and thus provide an inexhaustible supply of dedicated followers for demagogues who confirm their exceptionality and suggest empathy: ‘I feel your pain, I hear your voice, I understand you, I’m one of you, I love you. Follow Me!’
          Of course we witness the same syndrome in Europe.

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          1. Pamela, I share your skepticism about these first vaccines. They were rushed to market–understandably so, of course–without the multiple phases of real-world trials normally demanded. Only time will tell what their real-world efficacy actually is, of course. Dr. Fauci has stated we should continue to use face masks and all other precautions previously advised post-vaccination. We really are living in a changed world. Those who have acted irresponsibly up to now will continue to do so, because it’s in their nature. As for one shot vs. two, one or more of the vaccines calls for this by design, while others are meant to act with a single injection. That’s the difference. A decision by government to forego the second shot of a vaccine that REQUIRES a second dose is totally irresponsible. I don’t know if BoJo has proposed that, based on shortages of supply of vaccine. We should hardly be surprised, given the global population, that it will take months to produce sufficient supply. To the extent that headaches have arisen due to gov’t bungling, that’s infuriating (hello, USA!). Two personal friends of mine have received their shots, with no immediate ill side effects. I may be able to get vaccinated in a timeframe of weeks in the state where I reside. Unless horror stories emerge in the interim, I intend to go get my shot(s).

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          2. Good points about the vaccines, and about the apparent…”nonchalance?” of those who are receiving them. My mother-in-law is all set to go out and mingle with her friends in restaurants as soon as she gets her first dose. A month ago or more, I read an article submitted by an epidemiologist discussing the efficacy and effects of the vaccines. The doctor stressed that there are, obviously, few data available along those lines. According to him, the vaccines don’t prevent people from getting the virus; rather, those who become infected will simply not develop symptoms, meaning that they can still transmit the virus. I have no idea whether, upon receiving their first injections, people are cautioned about the above facts (assuming the epidemiologist is correct, of course).

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  11. I appreciate your follow-up thoughts. In a very small, limited way, I’ve seen a scenario or two such as you describe. When I worked for a globally renowned hospital complex, there was a research project whose methodology was called into question. In short, it was alleged that the results were massaged or outright falsified. A doctor was appointed to investigate the study. Turned out she was the wife of the CEO of the hospital. Unsurprisingly, she found no issues with the study, and it was allowed to stand, so the institution’s reputation remained unsullied. Word was that the researcher did indeed manipulate data, but no outsider using the study as a resource would know that. A case of factors unrelated to medicine effectively handicapping someone like you.

    Fascinating about organisms’ responses to perceived realities! That situation would seem to suggest that, perhaps in the short run, anyway, perception IS reality, and an outlook that merely appears to offer advantages, in fact, does so.

    However, as the zealot who said of COVID, “Jesus is my vaccine,” discovered, viruses don’t follow religious practices. Anecdotally proving your last point. The fact that someone who has lost all touch with reality believes he can fly won’t support him when he jumps off a roof.

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    1. Thanks for your reply. I’m sorry you had to go through that at the hospital where you worked. That is the kind of corruption that leads to burnout in healthcare professionals. Seeing the lies and not being able to call them out.

      On a snarkier note, the person who jumps off the roof is technically able to fly. Its the landing that does the damage.

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      1. No worries about the hospital experience. My position was tangential ar best; the situation affected me only insofar as it confirmed my previous opinion of the operation.

        Love the snark! Sticking the landing can indeed be problematic.

        BTW, I read the linked paper almost down to the math, which is beyond me. Definitely quite a bit of material to chew on.

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  12. We do not even know what to call this incident at the Capitol. Coup, insurrection, rebellion, insurgency, or uprising, I favor Coup. You call it Sasquatch, I call it Bigfoot others call it Yeti.

    No matter the words the goal was overturn the results of an election, not via facts but with belief.

    I read an interesting and excellent article in January 8, 2021 National Geographic Science. By Jillian Kramer
    ===========================
    Why people latch on to conspiracy theories, according to science. Misinformation spurred the mob that stormed the Capitol, highlighting the disastrous effects such theories can produce.

    Experts say that the majority of people do not easily fall for falsehoods. But when misinformation offers simple, casual explanations for otherwise random events, “it helps restore a sense of agency and control for many people,” says Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge.

    The allure of conspiracies in a chaotic world
    People use cognitive shortcuts—largely unconscious rules-of-thumb to make decisions faster—to determine what they should believe.

    Side Bar :
    For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
    H. L. Mencken

    Collective narcissism
    Another psychological factor that can lead to belief in conspiracies is what experts call “collective narcissism,” or a group’s inflated belief in its own significance. Marchlewska’s research suggests that collective narcissists are apt to look for imaginary enemies and adopt conspiracy explanations that blame them.
    This urge is particularly strong when narcissistic people fail, or members of their group fail. “For some people, conspiracy beliefs are the best way to deal with the psychological threat posed by their failure,”
    ================================================
    The Trumpet without a a doubt is a narcissist. The Trump Cult IMHO has as stated above, “a group’s inflated belief in its own significance”. This seems to manifest itself in the extreme nationalism, Ramboism and the evangelical bible thumpers.

    The brazen attack on the Capitol when it is considered by other acts of gun toting Ramboism is logical. The Rambos have gotten away with various assaults, threats and intimidation in the past. The bull in the china shop is the states that have succumbed to the NRA and Ramboism to allow not only open carry but open carry of long guns with high capacity magazines.

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    1. Am I the only one who recalls that a handful of supporters of Puerto Rican independence from US domination opened fire in the US Capitol Bldg. many years ago (late 1950s?)? So, bullets have flown there before. But was that occasion an attempted coup? An armed insurrection? I have to say no, because it was a tightly bound small group of people who knew they stood no chance of overthrowing anything….Misinformation? The proper word is DISINFORMATION, concocted by operatives who know their words aren’t true but want to stir folks up. The hardcore followers of Fascist Trump believe themselves “special” by dint of color of their skin. But they also present themselves as VICTIMS, persecuted on all sides by Libs, People of Color, Evil Socialists like AOC. “They [the just-cited elements of society] want to take away everything we’ve worked so hard for all our lives!!” The Ultimate Lie!

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        1. Ah yes, TRUTH. We never get the full truth from government–if I wanted to make a wager I know I couldn’t lose, I could bet that the US gov’t will NEVER acknowledge that its crimes against the people of Vietnam were utterly unjustified by any standard imaginable–but the past four years have seen the very opposite of truth spouted continuously from the highest office in the land. The clock is running down on that regime, though.

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