Random thoughts – 16th July

1. The approach to gay people in Chechnya
The comments by the President of Chechnya are straight out of the eliminationist playbook. Those of us who studied European history in high school know the pathology well. In Chechnya, gay people are officially held in about the same regard as Jews were in Germany around 1941.

2. Brexit continues to be a shambles
The Brexit negotiations continue to stumble forward. All of the evidence is that the Conservative Party is now negotiating with itself over Brexit, with “hard” vs. “soft” factions arguing it out in front of a weakened Prime Minister. In the meantime, the Labour Party sits uncomfortably in nowhere-land. They seem to be working on the assumption that if they say nothing, they will profit at the next election from the Conservative party in-fighting.
The EU Referendum last year was essentially the culmination of 30 years of internecine struggle in the Conservative Party. It was a concession offered by David Cameron to (as he saw it) settle the issue of British attitudes to the EU once and for all. Except that the result did not match the script that he had written in his head, and now the UK is trying to stagger through a process that has never been tried before, with no certainty of any upside to the country.
The electorate has to shoulder most of the blame here. Although opinion polls appear to show a majority now against Brexit, that was not how people voted in the recent General Election. They punished pro-EU parties, and voted for parties whose platforms explicitly or implicitly supported Brexit. Absent a clear signal of disapproval of Brexit, this charade and shambles will continue.

3. Conspiracy Theories
One classic argument that I have read again in the last two days is that some ideas originally dismissed as conspiracy theories turned out to be true. The implication being that conspiracy theories deserve to be taken seriously.
Er, no. For every conspiracy theory that turned out to have elements of truth (and one must be careful, an element of truth does not make an entire hypothesis correct), there are dozens and dozens of conspiracy theories that turned out to be total nonsense, and continue to be total nonsense. This classic argument is somewhat analogous to the “stopped clock is right twice a day” argument, where coincidence is passed off as causation. Or, as Carl Sagan once said, “people laughed at Galileo. But they also laughed at Bozo The Clown”.


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