Presume good faith, but check it out

The presumption of charity is exactly that — a pre-sumption. It’s a starting point and a working theory that we should stick with for as long as that theory remains viable. But not after that. The presumption of charity in conversation is just like the presumption of innocence in a criminal trial. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty. When the evidence and the testimony allows for no reasonable doubt that the defendant is, in fact, guilty, then the presumption of innocence no longer holds force. It’s a starting point, but not a mandatory, foreordained conclusion.

The presumption of charity is the subject of a great deal of handwringing among the sort of people who talk a lot about “civility” and “civil discourse” and such. They fret that such high-minded notions are all too rare these days, and that our discourse is suffering as a result.

They’re wrong about that. The problem is not that we have abandoned this presumption of good faith, but that we have become reluctant to abandon it even in the face of clear evidence that it is untenable. Those who make a living by arguing in bad faith know this, and they’ve gotten very skilled at exploiting it. The presumption of good faith has thus been weaponized and turned against itself.

Presume good faith, but check it out

America is facing an epistemic crisis


I’ve been thinking there’s maybe a 90% chance this is going to happen. People shouldn’t put too much hope into this investigation leading to Trump’s downfall, because Republicans simply won’t belief it happened. It’s always surprising when you realize how airtight the right-wing bubble is. There are a lot of Republicans who never saw the Access Hollywood tape. They just don’t know what’s on it. They’re vaguely aware he said the word pussy, and they think Democrats are angry at him for having a potty mouth. But they often think he was on Howard Stern or something, they don’t always know it was a hot mic. The evidence against Trump can be crystal clear, and it way well end up not mattering at all.

Way too relevant, looking at some of the longer term dynamics:

Alex Jones & the kitten-burners

False Witnesses 2:

That requires more self-deception than any of us is capable of on our own. That degree of self-deception requires a group.

This is why the rumor doesn’t really need to be plausible or believable. It isn’t intended to deceive others. It’s intended to invite others to participate with you in deception.

Are you afraid you might be a coward? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel brave. Are you afraid that your life is meaningless? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend your life has purpose. Are you afraid you’re mired in mediocrity? Join us in pretending to believe this lie and you can pretend to feel exceptional. Are you worried that you won’t be able to forget that you’re just pretending and that all those good feelings will thus seem hollow and empty? Join us and we will pretend it’s true for you if you will pretend it’s true for us. We need each other.

You can’t be doing well if it seems like an improvement to base your life and your sense of self on a demonizing slander that you know is only a fantasy. To challenge that fantasy, to identify it as nothing more than that, is to threaten to send them back to whatever their lives were like before they latched onto this desperate alternative.

That suggests to me that if we are to have any hope of disabusing them of their fantasies, then we will need to recommend some third alternative, something other than the lie or the reality that had seemed even worse.

There are more links there to some other things he has written about this topic, but yeah. Exactly the same patterns apply to refusing to accept anything that contradicts the Great Leader story. (Or Brexit Is Our Only Hope, or…)

The best explanations I’ve run across for this behavior, and I’ve been having to think about it a lot. How to deal with it effectively? Still at a total loss.

America is facing an epistemic crisis



Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits! This week’s batch:

☠ Day of the Dead celebrations ended yesterday, but the dance of death goes on and on, as a Texas museum exhibition demonstrates.

A whole lot of nothing has been discovered inside Khufu’s great pyramid at Giza, mystifying archaeologists.  

How to tell if someone is possessed by the devil or mentally disturbed for some other reason, according to an exorcist.

If you’re going to summon demons, here are the 11 best demons to summon and how they can help you. 

In transit news, one Iceland town painted a trompe l’oeil crosswalk to slow down (and confuse?) drivers.

Also in transit news, a coven of paddle-boarding witches is spotted on a Portland river. 

Move over, meow memes! The annual Comedy Wildlife awards aren’t just funny, they support conservation.

Here’s a fascinating look at early-twentieth-century sexual-identity studies and queer activism in Weimar Germany.

We close with a little song from former Childlike Empress Tami Stronach .

and a dance: a glimpse at the aforementioned exhibition of works depicting the danse macabre. It’s currently on view at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas.



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