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Cognitive neuroscientist explains the 'illusory truth effect' — and how you can defend yourself from election disinformation

November 1, 2020 in Blogs

By Gleb Tsipursky

This article is excerpted from: Gleb Tsipursky and Tim Ward, Pro Truth: A Pragmatic Plan to Put Truth Back Into Politics (Changemakers Books, 2020).

Whenever you hear something repeated, it feels more true when you hear it repeated. In other words, repetition makes any statement seem more true. So anything you hear will feel more true each time you hear it again.

Do you see what I did there? Each of the three sentences above conveyed the same message. Yet each time you read the next sentence, it felt more and more true. Cognitive neuroscientists like myself call this the “illusory truth effect.”

Go back and recall your experience reading the first sentence. It probably felt strange and disconcerting, perhaps with a tone of outrage, as in “I don’t believe things more if they’re repeated!”

Reading the second sentence did not inspire such a strong reaction. Your reaction to the third sentence was tame by comparison.

Why? Because of a phenomenon called “cognitive fluency,” meaning how easily we process information. Much of our vulnerability to deception in all areas of life – including to fake news and misinformation – revolves around cognitive fluency in one way or another.

Unfortunately, such misinformation can swing major elections, such as the 2016 Presidential election. Fortunately, we can take a number of steps to address misinformation and make our public discourse and political system more truthful, in the 2020 election and beyond.

The Lazy Brain

Our brains are lazy. The more effort it takes to process information, the more uncomfortable we feel about it and the more we dislike and distrust it.

By contrast, the more we like certain data and are comfortable with it, the more we feel that it’s accurate. This intuitive feeling in our gut is what we use to judge what’s true and false.

Yet no matter how often you heard that you should trust your gut and follow your intuition, that advice is wrong. You should not trust your gut when evaluating information where you don’t have expert-level knowledge, at least when you don’t want to screw up. Structured information gathering and decision-making processes help us avoid the numerous errors we make when we follow our intuition. And even experts …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Another White House super-spreader event: Trump to 'celebrate' Election Night with 'roughly 400 people' in East Room party

November 1, 2020 in Blogs

By The New Civil Rights Movement

President Donald Trump will be celebrating Election Day evening with hundreds of supporters invited to a party at the White House East Room, in yet another display of erasing the line between politics and governing, and ignoring CDC coronavirus guidance on gatherings and masks.

The New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman on Sunday reports Trump “aides are discussing inviting roughly 400 people.”

The President had planned to watch the results from his Trump Hotel at the Old Post Office, but Washington, D.C. laws prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A study this week found 18 of Trump’s recent rallies are directly responsible for 700 coronavirus deaths and 30,000 new COVID-19 cases.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Susan Collins backed down from a fight with private equity. Now they’re underwriting her reelection

November 1, 2020 in Blogs

By Justin Elliott

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

In late November 2017, Senate Republicans were racing to secure the votes for their sweeping tax overhaul. With no Democrats supporting the bill and even some Republicans wavering, Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, found herself with enormous leverage.

The day before the vote, she offered an amendment to make the legislation, which lavished tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy, more equitable. It expanded a tax credit to make child care more affordable. To pay for it, she took aim at a tax break cherished by the private equity industry.

Then Collins backed down. The day after she introduced it, as the Senate voted on the bill, a Republican Senate aide told a Treasury Department official that Collins was “no longer offering her amendment,” according to emails obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Her retreat was a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Collins put aside her opposition and voted for the bill, which passed 51-49.

Her turnabout has been one of the mysteries surrounding the $1.5 trillion tax bill, which slashed the corporate rate. The new emails and interviews shed light on how quickly Collins climbed down from her amendment proposal and how the industry maneuvered to preserve the break in the new law, which remains President Donald Trump’s most important legislative achievement.

Nearly three years later, Collins is facing a tough reelection battle and the private equity industry has become her most reliable source of donations. She has gotten more than half a million dollars in campaign contributions from the private equity industry this cycle, more than any other senator, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations.

What’s more, Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of the private equity giant Blackstone, has given $2 million to a super PAC backing her. (Schwarzman, a major Republican donor, has also given $20 million to a super PAC supporting Collins and other Republican Senate candidates.) The failure of Collins’ amendment likely saved Schwarzman alone tens of millions of dollars in taxes, according to tax experts.

Annie Clark, a Collins campaign spokeswoman, said Collins secured other significant changes to the bill. The amendment cutting carried interest stood no chance because it would’ve required 60 votes to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The FBI is now investigating ‘Trump train’ that surrounded Biden campaign bus

November 1, 2020 in Blogs

By The Texas Tribune

Biden camp cancels multiple Texas events after a “Trump Train” surrounded a campaign bus” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into a Friday incident in which a group of Trump supporters, driving trucks and waving Trump flags, surrounded and followed a Biden campaign bus as it drove up I-35 in Hays County, a law enforcement official confirmed to The Texas Tribune Saturday.

The confrontation, captured on video, featured at least one minor collision and led to Texas Democrats canceling three scheduled campaign events on Friday. The campaign officials cited “safety concerns” for the cancellations.

The highway skirmish came as Democrats close ground in a state that is polling like a potential battleground in the race for president. Recent polls indicate the presidential race in Texas between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden is tight, with some national prognosticators calling it a “toss-up.”

“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country, Trump supporters in Texas [Friday] instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way,” said Tariq Thowfeek, Texas communications director for the Biden campaign.

On Saturday night, Trump tweeted a video of the Trump supporters following the Biden bus saying, “I LOVE TEXAS!”

When reached for comment, the Texas GOP Chairman Allen West dismissed questions regarding the incident. “It is more fake news and propaganda. Prepare to lose … stop bothering me,” West said in a statement.

The bus tour was separate from vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ visit to the state Friday.

Texas Congressional candidate and …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Stanford study links 18 Trump rallies to over 30,000 cases and 700 deaths: 'Killing Americans' to 'serve his own ego'

November 1, 2020 in Blogs

By Jessica Corbett

As the U.S. coronavirus caseload surpassed nine million on Friday, Stanford University economists published a study that connected 18 of President Donald Trump’s reelection rallies from June 20 to September 30 with more than 30,000 Covid-19 infections and over 700 deaths—tallies that don’t include the month of October, when cases nationwide surged.

“Our analysis strongly supports the warnings and recommendations of public health officials concerning the risk of Covid-19 transmission at large group gatherings, particularly when the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing is low,” wrote (pdf) Stanford’s B. Douglas Bernheim, Nina Buchmann, Zach Freitas-Groff, and Sebastián Otero. “The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death.”

The new study comes after an analysis published Tuesday by the think tank Center for American Progress which found that half of the 22 campaign rallies Trump held between June and September were followed by county-level increases in Covid-19 infections. As Common Dreams reported Friday, attendees of the president’s more recent reelection events have also been taken to the hospital with possible hypothermia and required medical attention for heat-related illnesses.

With less than a week until Election Day, the United States saw a record number of new daily Covid-19 cases on Friday—99,321, according to Johns Hopkins University’s global tracker. Meanwhile, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were on the campaign trail. The president held rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota while Pence held two events in Arizona.

As the economists explained, “Trump rallies have several distinguishing features that lend themselves to this inquiry,” including that “they involved large numbers of attendees. Though data on attendance is poor, it appears that the number of attendees was generally in the thousands and sometimes in the tens of thousands. Because the available information about the incidence of Covid-19 is at the county level, the effects of smaller meetings would be more difficult to detect using our methods.”

Additionally, “the set of major Trump campaign events is easily identified. We know …read more

Source: ALTERNET