Self-deluded conservatives show how democracies are surprisingly susceptible to hate propaganda
24 Oct 2016 at 09:53 ET
This article is part of the Democracy Futures series, a joint global initiative with the Sydney Democracy Network. The project aims to stimulate fresh thinking about the many challenges facing democracies in the 21st century.
When George Orwell contemplated trends toward tyranny in 1984, he saw a world where truths were violently obliterated to leave Big Brother’s lies unchallenged. This negation of knowledge and erasure of human experience, he mused, was:
… more terrifying than mere torture or death.
But something curious has happened in the post-totalitarian world, which even Orwell’s penetrating gaze did not foresee.
Today, demagogues don’t actually need to silence or censor their opponents. It turns out their followers are quite happy to succumb to wilful blindness, believing what they want to believe even as contradictory evidence stares them in the face.
One result of this is open societies remain surprisingly susceptible to misinformation that instigates intimidation, discrimination and violence against vulnerable groups. Untruths doled out in hate campaigns find ready buyers even in a free marketplace of ideas.
The unholy appeal of outright lies has been on stunning display in Donald Trump’s rise as the Republican candidate for the US presidency. Independent fact-checking organisation PolitiFact has found 71% of his statements to be mostly false, false or in the “pants-on-fire” category.
This phenomenon is not new. More than a decade has passed since satirist Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness”, referring to stuff that some people lap up because it feels right – even though it definitely isn’t.
Right-wing conservatives on every continent have long mastered the art of weaving simple, comforting ideas into a security blanket against a complex and diverse world they perceive as threatening to their values and way of life.
Who needs to think when just feeling is enough?
This tendency toward self-delusion might be largely harmless but for the fact the untruths being circulated often vilify other communities. And the invective is not confined to idle gossip, but converted into blueprints for action: remove them; ban their places of worship; censor their viewpoints; restrict their practices; kill them.
Often this emerges as straightforward hate speech or misinformation that incites hostility, discrimination or violence against a group. Or it is expressed as righteous indignation, accusing the targeted community of behaving in a manner that causes outrage.
These twin tactics – the giving and taking of offence – meld into a potent political strategy that I call “hate spin”. Its practitioners manipulate the visceral, tribal feelings of their audience in order to mobilise supporters and defeat opponents in their quest for power.
Hate spin is distressingly common – and effective – despite its ultimate reliance on half-truths and even pants-on-fire lies.
In the US, a small network of misinformation experts have pushed extreme claims about Muslims from the loony fringe into the edges of mainstream discourse: American mosques are terrorist training centres; the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government; Barack Obama is a closet Muslim.
Although under 2% of the American population is Muslim and there is no lobby urging US courts to recognise Islamic law, several states have enacted statutes or constitutional amendments to protect against sharia. Such has been the power of Islamophobia agents to whip up paranoia about Muslims.
In India, Hindu nationalists use hate spin to consolidate the country’s religious majority into a dependable vote bank that transcends the internal divides of caste, class and language.
This group has tried to make fundamental a faith that is inherently eclectic and fluid. They have chosen to take violent offence at the killing of cows and the eating of beef, as if Hinduism ever treated such prohibitions as strictly as the Muslim injunction against pork.
The Hindu right claims Muslims – through their polygamy and a “love jihad” conspiracy to convert Hindu girls – will turn Hindus, who currently make up 80% of the population, into a minority in India. This fantastical projection has somehow seeped into the political discourse of a civilisation renowned for its mathematical prowess.
Demographic delusions seem particularly popular among hate-spin agents.
Indonesia has hardline Islamist groups that claim to have uncovered a conspiracy to Christianise the country. This would be quite an accomplishment, considering Indonesia has some 200 million Muslims – around as many as the five largest Arab states combined. They account for almost nine in ten of the country’s population.
Constitutionally, Indonesia upholds belief in God, but not exclusively Islam. Protestantism and Catholicism have explicit status alongside Islam among Indonesia’s religions.
The central government and Supreme Court have upheld the right of Christians to build churches. Yet local hardline groups have blocked church construction in some localities for years, exploiting religious frictions to extract protection money from Christian congregations.
What’s striking about these cases of hate spin is that they are occurring in established democracies with strong traditions of press freedom and intellectual debate.
The US, India and Indonesia are nowhere near the Big Brother totalitarian regime Orwell described. Each has its own vibrant, noisy marketplace of ideas. It’s just that the market does not seem to value truth as consistently as it should.
Faced with the real harm that can be inflicted by hate propaganda, it’s no wonder that many reasonable people wonder if there should be more restrictions on speech.
Prohibitions on incitement are sometimes warranted, in line with international human rights law. But censorship is not the answer in most cases. Hate spin is more prevalent and dangerous in countries with less freedom of expression, not least because such countries usually have less regard for the equal rights of vulnerable minorities.
Instead, we should begin by recognising that a free marketplace of ideas, while necessary, is not sufficient. Truth’s victory over hate propaganda is neither automatic nor preordained. It requires a commitment to equal rights and norms of tolerance that is at least as determined as the uncompromising hate of demagogues and fascists.
By Cherian George, Associate Professor of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University
on: Today at 10:11 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
on: Today at 09:50 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
No because in her past lives relative to religions she never directly mediated in any way that actually expanded her consciousness in a natural way. Instead she aligned herself with this or that religions and all the 'should be's' that come with it. It is all those assumed should be's defined by the nature of the religions itself that created the inner negative judgements about herself because of not being able to fulfill or be what the should be's said must be as reflection of the tenets of whatever religion.
And, again, we are talking about a natural process of recovering the skipped steps that starts in the ways we have been talking that will lead, at some point, to naturally desiring to practice the natural ways of meditating that DO NOT REQUIRE THAT SHE BELONGS TO ANY RELIGION OR GROUP AT ALL.
God Bless, Rad
on: Today at 08:43 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by The Otherside|
Hi Rad and Everyone,
Thank you for all the information. I'm having a hard time connecting to the last part of your explaination about meditation and the breath, the Natural Way to Know never causing fear or a reconnect with past traumas?
If the Nautral Method of the breath expands the consciousness and through that expansion a connection to the truth and if that truth as we have discussed is rooted in many past lives of deep trauma Causing her to feel not worthy of love and Her Natural God then wouldn't that expansion bring the emotional memories to the surface and in fact reconnect with the trauma?
I am asking this from personal experience.
Thank you so much,
on: Today at 07:34 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by dollydaydream|
Rad, thanks for all the clarification. Particularly for pointing out the primary necessity of working on the skipped steps. I knew Pluto square the nodes was a big deal, but I did not know any other planet square the nodes was so important.
on: Today at 07:13 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Helena|
thank you for clarifying that.
I understand it better now also with your answer to DDD comments.
All the best,
on: Today at 06:56 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Priya|
Thank you for patiently pointing me back to the skipped steps, Rad! Maybe one of my skipped steps was impatience to exhaust my entire Sanchita karma whilst ignoring the specifics of my Prababdha😓😄
Will do my best to stay focused.. thanks again😊
on: Today at 06:55 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Giant animals that are almost impossible to find
Just because an animal's big doesn't mean it's easy to spot
By Ella Davies
Giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus)
You think you'd notice something the size of a large pig, covered in scales with 20cm (8") front claws like scimitar blades. But the giant armadillo does such a good job of hiding, scientists have had to install secret cameras to find out more about it.
"Very few people have seen a giant armadillo in the wild," says Arnaud Desbiez, who runs the Giant Armadillo Project in Brazil. "In our field site the owner of the ranch, who was born and raised here, had never seen a giant armadillo before we started the project."
Weighing up to 50kg (110 lb) and reaching 1.5m (5 ft) in length, it is the largest species of armadillo.
At nearly twice the size of other species, its girth makes it unable to roll into the family's distinctive ball-shape for defence. Instead, it digs underground burrows with its impressive front claws. It only ventures outside under cover of darkness.
The giant armadillo is considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and hunting, but local people are said to regard sightings of them as bad omens. The rare camera trap photographs may help to highlight its situation.
Giant squid (Architeuthis)
Possibly the most infamous of giant animals lurks beneath the waves. The giant squid earns its name from a body size of up to 5m (16.5 ft) and a pair of elongated tentacles that can bring it to an overall length of 13m (42.5 ft).
It is a predator, known for its huge flesh-ripping beak and eyes the size of footballs. But as a denizen of the deep ocean, living as far down as 1000m (3,280 ft), it is a species that very few people have seen alive.
Salty sea tales claim that monstrously large animals have destroyed ships, but documented encounters are rare. Most take place on the water's surface, when the squid is injured or dying.
The first footage of a giant squid in its natural deep-water environment was filmed in 2012.
The project was organised by a team of international scientists who launched a submersible vehicle off the coast of Japan. With a bit of bait and a lot of luck, an animal appeared in front of their cameras.
Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
While it lacks elephants, tropical South America is still a land of giant animals. The continent is home to the biggest members of the armadillo and anteater families, as well as the capybara, the world's largest rodent.
In the rivers east of the Andes lives the giant otter. Twice the size of the next biggest member of its family, the giant otter can reach 2m (6.5 ft) in length.
It lives in open habitats in large family groups, and is consequently quite easy to spot.
While giant otters can deal with natural predators such as caiman and jaguars, they have fallen victim to man. They are described as sociable and curious, and this gregarious character has made them a target for hunters.
The thick pelt was once highly sought after, with devastating consequences. The trade was banned in 1975 but now the remaining animals are threatened by increasing human settlement in their Amazonian habitat.
Conflict arises with fishermen, and mismanaged tourism is also having an impact, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Populations in the protected Pantanal wetland are thought to have recovered, but it remains to be seen how the otters will cope with the rising human population.
Giant huntsman spider (Heteropoda maxima)
If you measure spider size by leg span, the largest reaches 30cm (1 ft) across and goes by the worrying name "giant huntsman spider". Fortunately, it confines its predatory activities to insects.
You're unlikely to see one scurrying across your carpet, unless you've set up home in a cave in Laos. Even there it would now be a rare sight.
Heteropoda maxima made headlines among arachnophobes and -philes alike when it was discovered in 2001 by Dr Peter Jaegar of Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany.
Jaegar says the resulting attention has been bad news for the spider, due to unregulated demand by the pet trade. He suggests that for every 100 spiders imported as pets, 1000 more may have perished when removed from their homes.
"In 2009, my PhD student and I could observe the impact in easily-accessible caves, where no adults could be found," says Jaegar. He says the spiders survive for little more than a year outside of the controlled climate of their caves.
Jaegar says their short-lived nature may ultimately reduce demand.
Giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne)
Looking very much like an enormous sea serpent, the giant oarfish is extremely flat and undulates through the water like a wide silver ribbon.
Its long pelvic fins look like oars and it has a distinctive red crest. But the most remarkable thing about the oarfish is its extreme length. Measured at up to 17m (56 ft), it is the world's longest bony fish.
Despite its massive size, the giant oarfish remains quite mysterious. It lives in the deep ocean alongside other giant species. It's not clear why deep-dwelling species are often so big: low temperatures, high pressure, a lack of currents or a scarcity of food have all been put forward as explanations.
Because of its deep-dwelling habits, the giant oarfish is a rare sight. In recent years, unmanned submersibles have managed to film it in its natural environment, but very few people have seen a healthy one in the flesh.
Giant oarfish only appear at the surface when dead or injured. Where one washes in to shore, it is usually photographed being held aloft by large groups of people to show its relative size.
In June 2015, Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California hosted its third giant oarfish in as many years when a 5.2m (17 ft) specimen washed ashore.
Goliath frog (Conraua goliath)
The world's largest frog can weigh as much as a newborn baby, tipping the scales at 3.2kg (7lbs).
The goliath frog might be huge, but like many of its amphibian cousins it does its best to conceal itself. Mottled green camouflage helps it to hide among the moss-covered rocks.
It lives in or near fast-flowing rivers in the coastal rainforests of west Africa.
You might think it would have an impressive croak to match its bulk, but you'd be wrong. Unlike most other frogs, the goliath frog does not possess a vocal sac, so it whistles to attract mates instead.
Despite its stealthy adaptations, the goliath frog is an endangered species.
Its population has reportedly declined by 50% in the last three generations. The frogs are widely hunted as a delicacy and for the international pet trade, notably for frog-jumping competitions in the US.
While some frogs have been exported for captive breeding programmes, these have so far proven unsuccessful. Instead conservationists are concentrating on local communities, in a bid to curb unsustainable hunting.
Chan's megastick (Phobaeticus chani)
While most insects can fit in the palm of your hand, there are a few giants out there. The longest in the world is a stick insect that lives in Borneo. It was named after its discoverer as Chan's megastick in 2008.
The largest known example is over 0.5m (22") long with legs outstretched and is kept at the Natural History Museum in London, UK.
Very little is known about the insect because in the wild it is exceptionally difficult to see. Males are brown and females mottled green, and both are long and spindly, so they are perfectly camouflaged in their rainforest home.
To further mimic the plants around them, the eggs of the insect resemble seeds and have wing-like extensions, which are thought to help them to disperse on the wind.
Experts believe Chan's megastick lives in the forest canopy, making it even more challenging to find. Only a handful of specimens are currently known to science.
Queen Alexandra's birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)
In Papua New Guinea, there is a butterfly so large it earns comparison with a bird.
The Queen Alexandra's birdwing lives in a small area of rainforest near the north coast.
Males are spectacular, with blue-green iridescent streaks on velvet black wings and a bright yellow abdomen, while the females are slightly more reserved with cream accents. However females are a third larger than males, with a record-breaking wingspan of up to 30cm (1 ft).
Following its initial discovery in 1906, the insect was highly prized by collectors and as a result it was severely over-harvested. It flies fast through the rainforest canopy and proved difficult to capture, so hunters used shotguns loaded with salt to bring it down.
A law was introduced in 1966 to protect the butterfly, but continued illegal collection and habitat destruction for logging and palm oil has dramatically decreased its population.
Few outside of Oro province have seen the endangered Queen Alexandra's birdwing in flight and even there sightings are dwindling. Local tribes and conservationists are now fighting for its future.
Giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus)
Imagine a woodlouse that can grow longer than a cat, 76cm (2.5 ft) long – and weigh 1.7kg (3.75 lb). Well, it exists and it's called the giant isopod.
It is a crustacean, distantly related to shrimp and crabs. It lives far beneath the waves where growing to relatively giant proportions is not uncommon.
This oversized roly-poly shares its terrestrial cousins' rigid exoskeleton and ability to roll into a ball for defence. It has seven pairs of legs, two sets of sensitive antennae and large compound eyes. It is a pale lilac colour.
In cold waters off the US coast it inhabits the sea bed, feasting on the corpses of whales, fish and squid. Food is a rare resource when you live as far down as 2000m (6560 ft) below sea level so when this scavenger finds a meal it attacks.
Its targets can include fishermen's trawl nets, and most encounters with the creature occur when it is dragged to the surface as bycatch. In 2010, a huge specimen was found latched onto a remotely-operated vehicle being used in sea surveys.
Such wild encounters with the animal are rare, but several are held in aquarium collections around the world, and they are particular favourites in Japan.
There is some debate over which owl gets to lift the title of world's largest, but the Blakiston's fish owl is a heavyweight contender. It reaches up to 4.6kg (10 lb) in weight with a wingspan nearing 2m (6.5 ft).
It was discovered by naturalist Thomas Blakiston in 1883. As its name suggests, the massive owl feeds primarily on fish.
Living in riverside forest in Siberia, northeast China, North Korea and northern Japan, it cuts a bulky figure among the tree tops.
But this is now a rare sight. Under increasing pressure from logging, overfishing and persecution by hunters, Blakiston's fish owl is now officially considered an endangered species.
In Hokkaido, Japan, the owl was traditionally considered a spirit that protected the villages of the indigenous Ainu people. Now, roles are reversed and conservationists watch over the owls with the help of nest box cameras.
Thanks to these huge artificial homes, the decline of owls has been halted. But without the mature forests they depend on, their future is unclear.
on: Today at 06:47 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
These small birds are common in London but nobody knows why
Ring-necked parakeets have become a common sight in south-east England, but it remains a mystery how they got there
By Chris Baraniuk
24 October 2016
Ring-necked parakeets may originate in Africa and south-east Asia. But on numbers alone, they are more British than you would expect. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) estimates there are more than 8,500 breeding pairs in the wild in the UK, particularly in south-east England.
While bird-watchers are often thrilled to spot the parakeets in their gardens or even London parks, they are not popular with everyone. For example, several articles in the Telegraph newspaper have bemoaned the parakeets and highlighted research into their potentially negative effect on native species.
It is not just the parakeet. Other non-native species also tend to be divisive: we either love them or we hate them. But what determines whether a species will be gleefully adopted by British nature-lovers? And when do protectionist controls become necessary?
One key factor seems to be how the species got here. The RSPB classifies a species as "non-native" if it has been introduced by human activity and "invasive" if it also has a clear negative effect on native species. If a plant or animal arrives by "natural" means or even as the result of climate change, then it may be classed as native – no matter how recently it arrived.
One of the stories claims the birds were introduced deliberately by guitar hero Jimi Hendrix
This creates some interesting tensions. One such cause for concern among conservationists was the discovery in September 2016 of an Asian hornet in Gloucestershire.
The hornets are considered invasive because they can have a devastating impact on local pollinating insects such as honeybees. But it is possible that they arrived here from France after crossing the English Channel by themselves. However, because the hornet is considered a non-native species in Europe, it would still be labelled non-native – indeed, invasive – if it independently expanded its range to Britain.
As for the parakeets, it is not known how they first arrived in the UK, though there are some rather extraordinary legends associated with them.
One of the stories claims the birds were introduced deliberately by guitar hero Jimi Hendrix, while another suggests that they bred after escaping from Shepperton Film Studios during the making of the 1951 movie The African Queen. It is more likely, though, that the parakeets are simply the descendants of unwanted pets.
Sometimes, species relatively new to Britain are welcomed with open arms
Another factor that shapes whether a non-native species will be embraced is how it affects Britain's most beloved creatures.
A handful of recognisable and reasonably common species are considered to be British icons: these include the red squirrel, hedgehog, water vole and badger. Any invaders that have a negative impact on these much-loved animals are even more likely to face scrutiny from the public and authorities. The government's Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) incorporates a non-native species secretariat, which, for example, highlights the detrimental impact that American minks have had on native water voles.
The red squirrel also faces a challenge in the form of an American export – its grey-furred cousin, which was released into the wild in Britain during the 19th Century. The red squirrel is now the subject of several conservation efforts.
But sometimes, species relatively new to Britain are welcomed with open arms.
Little egrets first appeared in large numbers in 1989, according to the RSPB. Previously, they had stayed within continental Europe, Africa and Asia.
"They bred first in Dorset and have spread around the southern coast of the UK," says Stephen Trotter, director of England at the Wildlife Trusts. "I've seen them in Northumberland and everybody loves them."
Thomas says there is no direct evidence that any species has become extinct as a result of an invader
Still, little egrets came here by their own means. Little owls, by contrast, were deliberately introduced during the 19th Century (although they had visited Britain in preceding years). Even so, little owls are popular today and not considered problematic for local wildlife.
Another example is Oxford ragwort: a hybrid of two plant species, which are both native to Mount Etna, Sicily. It was introduced accidentally in the 18th Century after being cultivated in Oxford's botanic gardens. Soon it was found all over the city.
"It started hybridising with local ragworts and creating new species," says Trotter. "We should celebrate that, that's nature and evolution in action."
But these attempts to link a given species to a particular habitat only serve to underscore one of the stickier points of natural history, says Chris Thomas of the University of York. Species do not necessarily belong in the places where humans first observed them.
"The idea that stuff stays exactly where it always was has never had any place in biology," says Thomas. "Darwin would have rolled over laughing at such a suggestion."
Rhododendrons used to grow in the British Isles – 400,000 years ago
He worries that we are "criminalising" certain species because of their origins. Thomas says there is no direct evidence that any species has become extinct as a result of an invader. He also notes that competition and changes in abundance – the grey squirrels' impact on reds, for instance – is common in nature, regardless of mankind's role in the equation. Some species are simply more dominant than others.
Take the rhododendron. A spectacular flowering plant, rhododendrons are very popular with British gardeners and are even featured at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. But they are considered invasive.
Introduced to Britain in the late 18th Century, in the wild, rhododendrons are accused of taking over. Their height and thick canopies can block out light for other plants, and the Forestry Commission notes that they seem to reduce numbers of earthworms and birds.
But Thomas points out a curious fact. Rhododendrons used to grow in the British Isles – 400,000 years ago. Wiped out by a previous ice age, they only returned to these shores after being reintroduced by humans. Plus, some research has suggested they can actually be beneficial for some local species, such as wood mice.
What, then, makes a species truly native – and truly British?
If a plant or animal arrives by "natural" means or even as the result of climate change, then it may be classed as native
RSPB nature policy officer Jess Chappell emphasises that RSPB opinions are based on evidence for any negative effect on the locals. In other words, how well does the new arrival integrate?
But Thomas argues it is largely a social decision, too: people decide what they like and do not like. That bias is then reflected in conservation strategies.
Either way, perhaps the lines demarcating what belongs where might not be so thickly drawn in the future. Nature, after all, does not have border controls.
on: Today at 06:41 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Is it possible that disillusionment came about partially as a result of the mistaken feeling that God had abandoned her?
"Heather mentioned that past life traumas may be preventing her from spiritualizing. I was thinking along those same lines. I cannot imagine anyone being able to face those past traumas without help. On a practical level, maybe she needs to talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist in order to help her uncover, recover and resolve the emotions beneath the surface, someone she really trusts, someone with a lot of patience who can really listen to her and who she can listen to in return. (Pluto 2nd in Libra, PPP 8th)."
Yes, this would be an excellent thing for her to do: talking therapy with someone who actually knows her for who she is, and could always bring the talking back and through that prism.
Rad mentioned the breath. In looking at Jupiter in the 8th in Pisces, I am thinking that she could seek help in resolving trauma through direct, internal connection to a true spiritual master, someone like Yogananda or Jesus. Through that kind of meditation and concentration , the breath would naturally slow (eventually stop) and she could access her inner, intuitive wisdom. I think the skipped step could start to be resolved by Ganika trusting that intuitive wisdom. This would mean a shifting into the right side of her brain. Is it possible that the skipped step is at least partially due to her swinging back and forth between left and right brain relative to her desire to know and understand God? Not fully developing the trust in her intuition?
Her intuition is in fact highly developed in her via the symbols of the skipped steps. The actual skipped step in not trusting, consistently, that intuition: that which she actually knows, all the time.
"Finally, Kristin talked about the celibacy issue in past lives. With Pluto in the 2nd House, Ganika has a strong sexual impulse. She will be taking care of those needs herself through masturbation. The potential for spiritualization of her sexual energy is indicated here, (Virgo/Pisces axis 2nd/8th houses). She could learn how to direct her sexual energy in specific ways and techniques through the body so she could merge that energy with God. There is the potential here for a natural healing of her sado-masochic psychology and related traumas."
Yes, this is really correct.
God Bless, Rad
on: Today at 06:31 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Yes, you have summarized it in your own way. The only exception I would make is that the sexual dynamic within her does not require 'tantric sex' with another. She only needs emotionally and sexually another, at some point in her journey, who loves her for exactly who she is without any conditions at all. Honest, pure, and direct emotional bonding manifesting sexually would be all that she would actually need.
God Bless, Rad