Saturday, September 24, 2011

Popular Delusion

Callers: Roy In Michigan, John In Tennessee

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome. This is Lark In Texas with you… on a Saturday afternoon - September 24, 2011 - for the next hour.
Talking points… as well as… today’s program notes with related links and contact information… may be found online… at
If you’re anything like me… and you’re an inveterate note-taker when listening to RBN… rest assured… that at this new web log… detailed notes of what you’ll hear today – along with all previous broadcasts  - will be preserved for you. So… if you wish… save yourself the trouble… and let’s make this hour count.
 RBN exists… to bring forth real news and information… you’d be hard-pressed to find… anywhere else.
 An apt analogy… for these times… could be found in the former U.S.S.R. The propaganda organ of the Soviet government… had the word-name, Izvestia (delivered messages; news; reports)… while the Central Committee of the Communist Party… had the word-name, Pravda (“Truth”).
RBN is akin to the Russian samizdat we are the antidote you need… when poisonous Newspeak has cast its noxious fumes… onto the airwaves… and a fresh airing of straightforward honesty… was all you ever wanted… to feel, see, read, or hear… in the first place.
Like you, I’m Justa Numerican… as I’m concerned about the same things you’re concerned about… the separating of facts… from fiction… and the best investment value… for our time… spent together.
This is why YOU too… are as reliable… a news medium – of what’s left of America – without a doubt.
And besides all else, you’ve turned… to the Republic Broadcasting Network… because you can handle the truth!

As of 2005, the circulation of [the print publication] Izvestia (The officially sanitized and politically-corrected Soviet News Reports of the Day, similar to the centrally-planned and –controlled mainsteam press in this country) was 240,967. Until October 1, 2008, the chief artist was Boris Yefimov, the 107 year-old illustrator who worked as Joseph Stalin's political cartoonist.
In 2008, Gazprom Media sold Izvestia. The newspaper is currently owned by National Media Group.

National Media Group


Pravda (Russian: "Truth"), was a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union, and an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991.
 The Pravda newspaper was started in 1912 in St. Petersburg. It was converted from a weekly Zvezda. It did not arrive in Moscow until 1918. During the Cold War, Pravda was well known in the West for its pronouncements as the official voice of Soviet Communism. (Similarly Izvestia was the official voice of the Soviet government.)

After the paper was closed down in 1991 by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin, many of the staff founded a new paper with the same name, which is now a tabloid-style Russian news source. There is an unaffiliated Internet-based newspaper, Pravda Online, run by former Pravda newspaper employees. A number of other newspapers have also been called Pravda, one of which is currently the best-selling tabloid in Russia.

Nowadaysthe online publication, Russia Today… continues in this same tradition. Why? Because they actively promote the divide-and-conquer strategy of a nation’s people… through clever use… of the Hegelian dialectic

Samizdat – Notes from the Underground Press

Samizdat (Russian pronunciation: [səmᵻˈzdat]) was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader. This grassroots practice to evade officially imposed censorship was fraught with danger as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials.
 Vladimir Bukovsky defined it as follows:
 "(...) I myself create it,
 edit it,
 censor it,
 publish it,
 distribute it, and...
 get imprisoned for it. (...)"
 Essentially, the samizdat copies of text, such as Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita or Václav Havel's writing The Power of the Powerless, were passed among friends. The techniques to reproduce the forbidden literature and periodicals varied from making several copies of the content using carbon paper, either by hand or on a typewriter, to printing on mainframe printers during night shifts, to printing the books on semi-professional printing presses in larger quantities. Before glasnost, the practice was dangerous, because copy machines, printing presses and even typewriters in offices were under control of the First Departments (KGB outposts): reference printouts for all of them were stored for identification purposes.
 Terminology and related concepts
 Etymologically, the word samizdat is made out of sam (Russian: “self, by oneself”) and izdat (Russian: “publishing house”), thus “self-published.”
 The term was coined as a pun by Russian poet Nikolai Glazkov in the 1940s, who typed copies of his poems indicating Samsebyaizdat (“Myself by Myself Publishers”) on the front page by analogy with the typical names of publishing houses in the Soviet Union, such as Politizdat.
Tamizdat refers to literature published abroad (tam, “there”), often from smuggled manuscripts.
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If you’re from my neck-o-the-woods here in north central Texas – and you’ve tuned-in to KHFX – that’s 1140 on your AM radio dial – we’d especially like to hear from you!
With your indulgence… I want to hazard an Observation…
… On Thursday night... I had occasion to witness the most astonishing [and revolting] spectacle… on the online FOX News media channel – grown-ups acting as if they were children – as if they were the exemplars we would want our children to emulate. The co-producers – Google and FOX – [in addition to most of its participants], ladies and gentlemen, were caught up in an organized crime wave… of longstanding… and epic proportion!
Traced from mythos… as an early form of obscurantism… thus extending from… monarchism… fascism… liberalism… corporatism… progressivism… conservatism…syndicalism… socialism… communism… libertarianism… neo-conservatism… until now… is [neo-feudal] communitarianism.  But these wrong-headed modes of thinking… can only lead us further afield… falling into scientism… futilitarianism… totalitarianism… synarchism… still more depravity… until one is bereft to imagine… the final enslavement… of even our future generations.
 Is this not tantamount to national suicide? Didn’t it remind you of the bread and circuses proffered by the Romans?
So, is this what we want? Darkness? Or is there a need… to shed new light… on why this classic example of arrested development… in another glaring moment… must repeatedly recur?
Putting aside the ~isms – the schools of thought which colored my observation – as you know already – I’m prone to foolishness myself – I have to say… there must’ve been a zillion pathways to the serious errors… informed by… communists, fascists, socialists, communitarians… and the socio-economic thinking… behind it all.
Socio-economics is a socialist’s dream word coined by American communitarian guru Amitai Etzioni… and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – a devoted Marxist-Leninist… still to this day. How is that we as a people… as Americans… have come to embrace such men? To embrace their nonsense?
Was Jon Meacham, the former editor-in-chief of Newsweek magazine, correct… when… on its ignominious February 7th, 2009 cover… he confidently declared:
Newsweek: We Are All Socialists Now
Read what your fellow Americans had to say about this grand pronouncement… at Sweetness & Light… Sweetness [hyphen] Light [dot] com [forward slash] archive [forward slash] newsweek
But I digress… please think back to our inaugural broadcast: Socialism = Gangsterism
Further leavings… set aside for the time being… might include [in passing]… such random words… as onomatopoeia… allegory… figure of speech idiom… maxim… axiom proverb… parable… beyond the pale… palliative… beyond expectation of current…currency truisms… flights of fancy… aphorisms rules of thumb… and the new rules[for your government’s hired gunslingers patrolling the streets]… of encroachment the new rules [on the battlefields of our soldiers]… of engagement: Arrest first, taze first, shoot first… but don’t ask questions… until later – then let God sort ‘em out. After all’s said and done, the end justified the means?
By George…Or-well… how ‘bout this one? 
Another play… on words… is the Paraprosdokian saying
How J Say [dot] com

A figure of speech… Paraprosdokian is the use of words at the end of a phrase or sentence that changes the apparent initial meaning. From the Greek… it is contrary tobeyond… or despite expectation.
It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.
Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but they also play on the double meaning of a particular word, creating a form of syllepsis.


I am most disgusted that you were not rewarded for your wonderful work.
Take my hand, I don't want it.
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
"A modest man, who has much to be modest about." — Winston Churchill (of Clement Atlee)

He lost his coat and his temper. 
•"If you are going through hell, keep going." — Winston Churchill
•"I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long." — Mitch Hedberg
•"Take my wife—please." — Henny Youngman
•"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." Winston Churchill
•"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." Winston Churchill
 This also includes the “humourous triple”, where two or more leading things in a sequence establish a pattern, with the last item being something unexpected.
Garden Path Sentence
A garden path sentence is a grammatically correct sentence that starts in such a way that the readers' most likely interpretation will be incorrect; they are lured into an improper parse that turns out to be a dead end. Garden path sentences are used in psycholinguistics to illustrate the fact that when they read, human beings process language one word at a time. "Garden path" refers to the saying "to be led down the garden path", meaning "to be misled". According to current psycholinguistic theory, as a person reads a garden path sentence, the reader builds up a structure of meaning one word at a time.
 At some point, it becomes clear to the reader that the next word or phrase cannot be incorporated into the structure built up thus far: it is inconsistent with the path they have been led down. Garden path sentences are less common in spoken communication because the prosodic qualities of speech (such as the stress and the tone of voice) often serve to resolve [these] ambiguities in the written text.
 This phenomenon is discussed at length by Stanley Fish in his book Surprised by Sin. He argues that the incremental parsing of sentences one is reading needs to be addressed by literary theorists. He also covers this topic in several essays from his book, Is there a text in this Class?
When we listen to what someone is saying, we constantly predict ahead, trying to work out what they are going to say. It is thus relatively easy to set up expectation and then dash it. This causes confusion and hence… makes the poor man… review and re-think… what it is… you are really saying.
Doesn’t this call to mind… that scriptwriters’ word… slide? As a mnemonic device… why not remember… this con-man’s, this funnyman’s, or this trickster’s device: SLIDE… into confusion… slide… unto privation… ascends… to oblivion… descent… unto hell
Or why not read the article: Sliding Down the Communitarian Slope, by Berit Kjos, of Crossroad Ministries in Norway? She knows…
Henry Hazlitt (Author of Economics in One Lesson): Thinking as a Science

“Participatory” Communitarianism
[Capitalism + Communism = Communitarianism]

Kurt Vonnegut: Slapstick – A Novel (1976)

Kurt Vonnegut: Slapstick (Or Lonesome No More!) A Novel (1999)

Read Henry Hazlitt, the author of Economics in One Lesson, and his Thinking as a Science. I would guess he knew…
Or read the book, Slapstick, by the late Kurt Vonnegut – an eyewitness… to the horrors of Dresden… during WWII. In Slaughterhouse Five… if he didn’t understand it all then… later on… well, he knew too…
… As Slapstick was his homage to vaudeville – on Broadway, in the Catskills, of Hollywood… but especially to those Jewish comics – Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy – who kept America laughing… while its sons and daughters… were rushed to slaughter… into another war.
By his own admission… was this novel the closest he ever came to actually penning an autobiography.
As you now know, the confusion and subsequent realization of paraprosdokian made it a popular formula with comics and other humorists.
Informal Logical Fallacies: A Brief Guide, by Jacob van Fleet (2010)

What Other Items Did Amazon Customers Buy After Viewing This Book?
 Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language, by Robert J. Gula  
How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic, by Madsen Pirie

With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies, by S. Morris Engel

A Rulebook for Arguments, by Anthony Weston


What is a logical fallacy?

A "fallacy" is a mistake, and a "logical" fallacy is a mistake in reasoning. There are, of course, other types of mistake than mistakes in reasoning. For instance, factual mistakes are sometimes referred to as "fallacies". However, the Fallacy Files is specifically concerned, not with factual errors, but with logical ones.
 In logic, the term "fallacy" is used in two related, but distinct ways. For example:
 1."Argumentum ad Hominem is a fallacy."
2."Your argument is a fallacy."
In 1, what is called a "fallacy" is a type of argument, so that a "fallacy" in this sense is a type of mistaken reasoning. In 2, it is a specific argument that is said to be a "fallacy", so that in this sense a "fallacy" is an argument which uses bad reasoning.
Clearly, these two senses are related: in 2, the argument may be called a "fallacy" because it is an instance of Argumentum ad Hominem, or some other type of fallacy. In order to keep these two senses distinct, I restrict the term "fallacy" to the first sense. For me, a fallacy is always a kind of argument.
For the second sense, I will say that a specific argument "commits" a fallacy, or is "fallacious". So, in my terminology, 2 above commits a category mistake, for there is no way that your specific argument could be a fallacy. I would say, instead:
3. "Your argument commits a fallacy. It's fallacious."
However, not just any type of mistake in reasoning counts as a logical fallacy. To be a fallacy, a type of reasoning must be potentially deceptive, it must be likely to fool at least some of the people some of the time. Moreover, in order for a fallacy to be worth identifying and naming, it must be a common type of logical error.
Why study fallacies?
 Why study how to reason incorrectly; why not just study how to reason correctly?

There are two reasons:
 1. Even if you could count on reasoning correctly 100% of the time, you cannot count on others doing so. In logical self-defense, you need to be able to spot poor reasoning, and—more importantly—to understand it. To be able to correct others' mistakes, or to refute them convincingly, you need to understand why they are wrong.
 2. Studying formal logic and the rules of correct reasoning is like having a road map that shows how to get from point A to point B. However, even the best navigators sometimes get lost, and it helps if the roads that go nowhere are clearly labeled "DEAD END", "WRONG WAY", or "DO NOT ENTER".
That is what fallacy studies is all about: marking the wrong turns that reasoners are likely to take. Thus, studying fallacies is no substitute for studying the positive principles of good reasoning—learning to navigate through logical space, so to speak. You would not set out on a trip without a road map, hoping to rely upon the "DEAD END" signs to get to your destination. Similarly, the Fallacy Files are no replacement for the study of formal and informal logic, only a supplement.
The Bandwagon [or Lemming] Effect

Fallacy Files: Bandwagon Fallacy
The name "bandwagon fallacy" comes from the phrase "jump on the bandwagon" or "climb on the bandwagon", a bandwagon being a wagon big enough to hold a band of musicians. In past political campaigns, candidates would ride a bandwagon through town, and people would show support for the candidate by climbing aboard the wagon. The phrase has come to refer to joining a cause because of its popularity.
•Appeal to Popularity
•Argument by Consensus
Argumentum ad Populum
•Authority of the Many
Idea I is popular. Therefore, I is correct.
Everyone is selfish; everyone is doing what he believes will make himself happier. The recognition of that can take most of the sting out of accusations that you're being "selfish." Why should you feel guilty for seeking your own happiness when that's what everyone else is doing, too?
Source: Harry Browne, "The Unselfishness Trap", from How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World (1973).
The Bandwagon Fallacy is committed whenever one argues for an idea based upon an irrelevant appeal to its popularity.
Advertising is a rich source of Bandwagon arguments, with many products claiming to be "number 1" or "most popular", even though this is irrelevant to the product's merits.
 I have recently been thinking about the possibility of the system of democracy being based on the Appeal to Popularity fallacy:

Idea X is popular.
Therefore, X is correct.
Idea of a specific politician being president is popular.
Therefore, the specific politician is the more competent leader.

However, I am unable to verify that this is the case. It also conflicts with the possibility that the election of a leader based on his/her popularity is not to determine whether the selection is right or wrong, but rather to fulfill the desires of the people. I hope to hear your opinion on this issue.―M.F.
 A: Your latter suggestion is on the right track. Keep in mind that a logical fallacy is a type of argument, that is, a set of propositions consisting of premises and a conclusion. An election is not an argument with the conclusion that, say, a certain candidate will make the best president; rather, an election is a way of selecting a candidate for a position. Since an election isn't an argument, a fortiori, it isn't a fallacious argument. So, to criticize democracy as a bandwagon appeal would be to commit a category mistake, because a political system is not the sort of thing to be fallacious.
A genuine instance of the bandwagon fallacy is the argument that you should vote for a certain candidate because the majority of people support that candidate, or the candidate is popular. This is the origin of the phrase "to jump on the bandwagon".
Of course, none of this is to say whether democracy is the best, or even a good, way of choosing candidates for office. However, it is to say that evaluating democracy is not a purely logical question, but an ethical, philosophical, and even empirical question.

S. Morris Engel, With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies (Fifth Edition) (St. Martin's, 1994), pp. 223-225.
James B. Freeman, "The Appeal to Popularity and Presumption by Common Knowledge", in Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings, edited by Hans V. Hanson and Robert C. Pinto (Penn State Press, 1995), pp. 265-273.

Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, (1848)

by Charles Mackay
 (b 1814 - d 1889)

Now, I have to ask…
1.       Have you advanced the Hegelian dialectic today? Could that have been in ways that promoted the common good? Bear this in mind: You’ve heard this thought process… thesis-antithesis-synthesis… or… problem-reaction-solution… but another aspect of this process… is often more easily grasped… as proposal-counter-proposal-consensus [or compromise].
2.       Are you articulating the message you actually intend? Well enough to be trusted… and fully understood by those… with whom you communicate? Never presuppose… that the way you normally define… a symbol or a sign… a word… or propagate a meme – a unit of particular cultural expression – is truly comprehensible. At least in the precise… nuanced way… in which you meant… and intended it. 
3.       Whose interests are you most keen on securing? And whose interests are you most keen on serving? Do you think yourself belonging to some moooove-ment, perhaps?

It’s For Your Own “Social” Good
Social Good Summit in New York is just one more example of the nonstop networking between technology, radical environmental, government and foundation groups towards a communitarian-style global government
      (Michelle Horstman*, Canada Free Press**, Judi McLeod, Editor)
Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh, author of the book entitled Echoes of Communism, has been a guest on RBN.
Michelle Horstman is a small business owner, artist and mother of three in Texas. Michelle also writes for NewsRealBlog and her personal blog can be found at
**Mantra: Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (1596): “Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son may, but in the end truth will out.”
Mantra: I’m not what I think. I’m not what I say. But I am what I do.
*Ben Franklin Slept Here (Blog)
“Arrival at truth is many-layered… because it requires… the lifting of veils. It requires quietude and introspection. Today men speak of evolution… revolution… even devolution. Yet too few speak of involution – looking inside one’s self, or turning inward – that they may look before they leap.”
~Lark In Texas
The Confusion Principle
A drowning person will clutch at a straw. So push them under water then offer a straw.
How it works
Breaking patterns
Repeating patterns of events help us predict and feel a good sense of control about the world. When patterns are disrupted, then we become uncertain.
Losing control
One of the deep needs we have is to be able to understand the world around us. If we understand, then we can predict what will happen and hence control our environment and stay safe. When we cannot make sense of our experiences, we feel confused and scared and seek a way of getting out of the cognitive deep water in which we find ourselves.
Unexpected surprise
When we predict, we set up expectation. When the expectation does not meet what was predicted, we are surprised and confused and have to stop to figure out what is going on.
Sends you inside
What is the sound of one hand clapping? What is the sound of a tree falling in the forest when nobody is there? What is the point of such meaningless Zen sayings? The clue is in the deeper intent of Zen, where a major goal is to find enlightenment. The confusing koans are designed specifically to send you inside, making you think so hard about what they mean that you forget yourself, and consequently find nirvana.
Confusion can send you so far inside and so deep that it puts you into a trance. As you struggle to find a meaning where none exists, the assumption that an answer must exist sends you on an ever-deepening spiral. Confusion is a method that is, perhaps unsurprisingly, used by hypnotists as a method of hypnotic induction.
Clutching at straws
Increasing stress leads to a point when we go from seeking the best solution to the problem at hand to seeking a solution just to reduce the stress. Herbert Simon called this 'Satisficing'.
Confusion is used in many persuasion techniques as a way of destabilizing the other person. Just as a drowning man will clutch at a straw, so also will a confused person grab at any idea you offer them in the hope that it will help them crawl out the sea of confusion in which they are wallowing.
So what?
The most common way of confusing someone is simply to overload them. Just keep giving them things until they crack. It is especially effective if what you are saying is of interest and makes them think and want to respond.
Overload is multiplied when what is being communicated is complex or difficult to understand. This effectively shortens the time to the point where the other person becomes overloaded and needs to stop and process the information given to them.
There are many written and unwritten rules of conversation and interpersonal communication. People expect you to follow those rules. If you break them, they will quickly become confused.
See also
Need for a sense of control, Need for completion, Satisficing, Lewin's freeze phases
Motivation theories, Bounded Rationality