August 3, 2018 in 2,873 words

Denialism: what drives people to reject the truth

From vaccines to climate change to genocide, a new age of denialism is upon us. Why have we failed to understand it?

We are all in denial, some of the time at least. Part of being human, and living in a society with other humans, is finding clever ways to express – and conceal – our feelings. From the most sophisticated diplomatic language to the baldest lie, humans find ways to deceive. Deceptions are not necessarily malign; at some level they are vital if humans are to live together with civility. As Richard Sennett has argued: “In practising social civility, you keep silent about things you know clearly but which you should not and do not say.”

Just as we can suppress some aspects of ourselves in our self-presentation to others, so we can do the same to ourselves in acknowledging or not acknowledging what we desire. Most of the time, we spare ourselves from the torture of recognising our baser yearnings. But when does this necessary private self-deception become harmful? When it becomes public dogma. In other words: when it becomes denialism.

Denialism is an expansion, an intensification, of denial. At root, denial and denialism are simply a subset of the many ways humans have developed to use language to deceive others and themselves. Denial can be as simple as refusing to accept that someone else is speaking truthfully. Denial can be as unfathomable as the multiple ways we avoid acknowledging our weaknesses and secret desires.

Denialism is more than just another manifestation of the humdrum intricacies of our deceptions and self-deceptions. It represents the transformation of the everyday practice of denial into a whole new way of seeing the world and – most important – a collective accomplishment. Denial is furtive and routine; denialism is combative and extraordinary. Denial hides from the truth, denialism builds a new and better truth.

In recent years, the term has been used to describe a number of fields of “scholarship”, whose scholars engage in audacious projects to hold back, against seemingly insurmountable odds, the findings of an avalanche of research. They argue that the Holocaust (and other genocides) never happened, that anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is a myth, that Aids either does not exist or is unrelated to HIV, that evolution is a scientific impossibility, and that all manner of other scientific and historical orthodoxies must be rejected.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Prepare to spend a while; it’s The Long Read.

If Trump really wanted to save US jobs, he’d rescue newspapers, not steel


f Donald Trump really wanted to preserve the most jobs possible in one of the US’s many struggling industries, he might consider local newspapers instead of steel manufacturing.

Restoring the US newspaper industry (meaning text news, not broadcast or radio) to its 2001 employment levels would create nearly 240,000 jobs. Restoring the steel industry to the same year’s employment would create only 44,000.

The decimation of American’s newsrooms was highlighted recently by Pew Research Center, which reported July 30 that newspaper employment had dropped by 23% between 2008 and 2017. Between 2001 and 2016, employment plummeted from 412,000 to 174,000 employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Steel and iron mill employment peaked at 650,000 in 1953, and by the late 1970s was below the level of newspaper industry employment in 2001. A severe drop in demand in the 1970s and 1980s forced many companies out of business, while China began to supply cheaper steel and automation increased. By 2001, US steel and iron mills employed just 127,000 people.

Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel imports could create another 23,400 jobs, economists estimate, but would cost far more jobs (400,000) in other industries.

QAnon: latest Trump-linked conspiracy theory gains steam at president’s rallies

The internet-driven claims amount to far-right fan fiction, but they could have real-world consequences.

A man holds up a large ‘Q’ sign while waiting in line for a Trump rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

There’s something unusual about every Donald Trump rally, in the sense that it’s strange for a politician who won office relatively recently to keep holding campaign rallies.

But Trump’s most recent rally, in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday night, was unusual even by his standards, with a sudden proliferation of attendees wearing T-shirts and signs touting the QAnon conspiracy theory.

While “Q” adherents have been on prominent display at earlier rallies, the group achieved critical mass in Florida, triggering a slew of mainstream media coverage.

Not even really coherent enough to be called a “conspiracy theory”, QAnon is a kind of interactive fan fiction for the far right in which Trump is a heroic figure arrayed against Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the “deep state”, which includes all the recent past presidents, who are said to have hatched a criminal plot to start wars and traffic drugs and humans for money. Updates in the story happen when an anonymous figure calling itself Q leaves “crumbs” online for fans to decode.

Any reader interested in the particularities of the Q soup is directed to this concise summary. Suffice it to say that QAnon has a wide enough following to deliver millions of views on YouTube and, now, make news at a Trump rally.

5 Movies That Would Be Better Without The Lead Character

You’ve probably figured out that the people who hold the top positions in our world sometimes aren’t the ones who deserve it. But oddly enough, this extends to movies. You’d be shocked by how often a lead character only has that job because they happen to be the face on the poster. In fact, lots of times you’d get a better, clearer story if the star was reduced to a side character … or even cut entirely. For example …

5. Chris Pratt Didn’t Need To Be In Jurassic World At All

The leads in every Jurassic Park movie have been scientists whose love and curiosity for dinosaurs does not extend to cramming them in a zoo to have popcorn thrown at them by tourists. That’s how it’s supposed to work — the protagonist in a story represents the crux of the central conflict. And then we get Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady in the Jurassic World films.

He’s a bad boy Velociraptor trainer who is only crucial to the story because he is played by Chris Pratt. Make no mistake, if it was anyone but Pratt, America’s Cool Older Brother, the executives at Universal would’ve probably had his character be disemboweled in Act 2. By the logic that these films operate on, his basic character type — glib, arrogant, macho — is that of a villain. They didn’t even give the character any kind of an expert background. (“What, and make him some kind of nerd?”) They just say he was in the Navy before he trained raptors. That’s it. Not “He was in the Navy and trained a deadly squadron of throat-slitting commando dolphins.” He’s just been on a boat before.

What’s worse, all of his one-dimensional swashbuckling and wisecracking detracts from the arc of the female lead, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire. Unlike Pratt, she plays a character with actual growth, going from a heartless executive to practically starting her own dinosaur PETA within 24 hours. The Big Bad of the series has always been greedy unethical corporate executives, so why not center the movie on the development of one who learns the error of her ways?

“Yeah, that’s great, kid,” says a studio exec, chomping on a cigar. “Listen: How about instead, and stay with me here, the Dinosaur Whisperer starts a dinosaur motorcycle gang? Your thing may be good storytelling, but mine will look badass on the poster. Which means I win.”

A tiny tweak to sugar is about to make the world’s sweets a lot healthier


Creating a sugar breakthrough.

The surprising truth about cake is that it’s astonishingly inefficient.

So are lollipops, pies, sticks of gum, and cookies, each an imperfect vehicle used to deliver the sweet sensation people crave. And these foods are loaded with sugar. Lots of it. The average slice of white cake with no frosting contains about 26 grams, the recommended maximum health experts say most people should eat in one day. In reality, though, the average American eats about five times (paywall) that amount; Germans four times; and Canadians consume a little more than three times the daily recommendation.

Part of the problem can be chocked up to willpower, sure. But a lot of it is also molecular.

In order to enjoy the sensation of sweetness, sugar molecules have to land on our sweet-tasting receptors, most of which sit on the tip of the tongue. But sugar is notoriously bad at actually hitting those receptors, so bad that only 20% actually makes it, the rest washing down our gullets and into the digestive system. This is one reason why many foods contain so much sugar. It’s also why a lot of food companies, in spite of their efforts, have found it difficult—even impossible—to reduce the amount of added sugar in their products while also maintaining the tastes people expect.

But a relatively new startup headquartered near Tel Aviv, Israel has developed a super-tiny method that may have cracked what has been an impossible code. In doing so, it sits on the cusp of changing the landscape of food manufacturing by making sugar so efficient that food companies can use 40% less while keeping tastes the same.

Funeral ads banned by TfL over ‘widespread offence’

The company behind a set of funeral comparison adverts banned by Transport for London has said it was trying to break the “taboo” around death.

One proposed advert showed women shopping for a coffin in what looked like a bridal shop

The company behind a set of funeral comparison adverts banned by Transport for London has said it was trying to break the “taboo” around death.

Proposed adverts from Beyond showed beachgoers running with coffins rather than surfboards – with a pun on “roasting temperatures” and cremations.

Its co-founder Ian Strang said the campaign was designed to be “edgy”, but was not cruel or mocking.

TfL said it had a “serious responsibility” over advertising.

It told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme its advertising partner had referred the adverts to the Committee of Advertising Practice, who advised that the “original posters proposed by Beyond were likely to cause serious and widespread offence.

“Our partner then worked with the brand to come up with a more acceptable campaign, which is now running on our network,” it said.

Another advert banned by TfL showed beachgoers running with coffins instead of surfboards

Mr Strang told the Victoria Derbyshire programme there was “a long history of edgy campaigns being used to cut through difficult issues.

“It’s the same with death – there is a taboo around it.”

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

President Trump is flying around the country this week trying to convince Americans that if the want to Keep America Great, they need to vote Republican in November.

But his campaign rally in Tampa Tuesday was about more than just the mid-terms. It was the national coming out party for Q, a conspiracy theory that has been kicking around the Trumpworld internet for just about a year.

One part Pizzagate, one part X-Files, the theory posits a government agent (with supposed “Q-Level” Top Secret clearance) putting cryptic messages on Trump-friendly message boards, telling adept readers where to find clues that point to a massive government conspiracy Trump is single-handedly thwarting from the oval office in secret. Example: The Mueller probe is actually being run by Trump as a smokescreen to cover up an investigation into sex trafficking by Democrats and moviestars, according to some Q denizens.

The Tampa rally had a lot of Qers feeling like Trump acknowledged them directly, urging them to carry on. VICE News spoke with one Florida family who became Q famous after Trump seemed to give them a wave from the rally stage.

Self-described involuntary celibates, or incels, have been tied to a handful of mass shootings in the past few years. Blaming women and society in general, they feel that their sex-less lives are a direct result of social progress. Joey is 23 and lives in West Palm Beach. He’s identified as an “incel” since late high school, and, for three years, has moderated an incel chatroom tied to the 4chan board /r9k/. Elle Reeve visits him to learn more about this bizarre, and potentially dangerous, subculture.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

Mueller closes in on Manafort for suspicious spending and Trump takes to Twitter to fight obstruction.

Michael Kosta celebrates the Trump administration’s latest attempt to put more money in the pockets of the wealthiest Americans.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

The special counsel’s request to question the President about obstruction of justice sent Trump into an early morning Twitter frenzy.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth takes a closer look at Trump getting more desperate for the adoration of his crowds as the trial of his ex-campaign chairman gets under way and his former lawyer turns on him.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

お宝ゲットなるか!?Can Maru&Hana take the Lucky item?


Watch: Go Inside David Lynch’s Eerie Festival of Disruption

This might be the next best thing to getting inside David Lynch’s head.

If a new movie or television series from director David Lynch is often hailed as an event, what do we call a literal event hosted by Lynch himself? A weekend gathering that takes place annually on both coasts (New York and Los Angeles), Lynch’s Festival of Disruption is an all-out immersion into the welcoming yet cryptic, exciting yet mysterious mind of the Montana-bred auteur behind Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Dr. and many more works of art.

Featuring screenings, live music, cast reunion panels, and a push for the advancement of Transcendental Meditation (of which Lynch is a major advocate for), these completely sold out events are an amalgamation of a fan convention, concert, party, and pop-up museum in one. The next Los Angeles edition will be taking place October 13th and 14th, 2018 at the Theater at Ace Hotel, and to celebrate the occasion, the David Lynch Foundation has slightly pulled back the curtain below to show what one can expect.

Slickly produced, the video above proves that:

  1. Yes, Lynch is fully behind these events and often shows up to discuss his films and Transcendental Meditation (TM)
  2. The festival allows you to literally step inside the world of Lynch’s films (The Red Room from Twin Peaks and the stage from Eraserhead feel like photo opportunities you didn’t realize you craved)
  3. The weekend is as much about the filmmaker as it is about his widely scrutinized public persona.
  4. Mel Brooks, a producer on Lynch’s The Elephant Man, and Bill Hader, an active participant in TM, could show up at any moment.

Less a theme park attraction than a live themed performance taking place over multiple days, Festival of Disruption is always a sought-after ticket


Manny Salzman’s long, strange – and wondrous – trip

Editor’s note: Manny Salzman died on Saturday, July 28. This tribute by his son, our friend Jason Salzman of, caught our eye on Facebook. We’re posting it with Jason’s permission for more reasons than we can list here. Among them is that we wish the world were full of Manny Salzmans. We at The Indy send our condolences to Manny’s family, to the LoDo community, and to the many people Manny reminded to move through this world with wonder, purpose and soul.

Manny Salzman didn’t get to eat psychedelic mushrooms on his death bed, like he wanted to do, but that’s only because he was never really on a death bed. He was walking (and mostly riding his bike) until the end of his 99.6575 years of life.

His interest in psychedelics was scientific and whimsical, not spiritual or religious, even though his Orthodox Jewish parents first gave him the biblical name of Moses when he was born in Brooklyn in 1918.

But an uncle advised the immigrant couple from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that Moses was not a good name for a Jewish boy in America. So they switched it to the much more American-sounding name of Emanuel, or Manny for short.

He got a lot of mileage out of the name. A coffee shop in the historic part of lower downtown Denver (called LoDo), where he lived, was once called Manny’s Underground, a Wynkoop Brew Pub beer was labeled “Manny’s,” and Charlie Salzman named his dog Manny. John Hickenlooper, who opened his brewpub next door to Manny and Joanne’s place, proclaimed in 2006 that a historic LoDo railway bridge, which Manny had helped save from demolition, be called “Manny’s Bridge.”

Manny tried hard to sell the bridge’s naming rights to his LoDo neighbors. Everyone laughed off his offer, but homeless people in LoDo took Manny seriously.

Manny enjoyed telling the story about one time when he was trash-picking his way through the dumpsters in a LoDo alley in the 1990s, as was his habit.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?