Kitty S. Jones on Cambridge Analytica’s Datamining of Facebook

Aside from the Skripal poisoning, one of the major issues this week has been Cambridge Analytica and their datamining of Facebook to get the personal particulars of something like 50 million people, so that they could be targeted for political manipulation. Kitty’s article is a long one, but she makes some very good points. Not least is that GCHQ and the other western intelligence services discussed ways of using the internet to target particular individuals to manipulate them or disrupt groups that posed a threat to national security. She also connects this to ‘behavioural economics’ and the infamous Nudge Unit, which uses subtle psychological techniques to manipulate people into making decisions the government wants. With those two, we are well into the kind of dystopian future, where a totalitarian government manipulates the minds of its subjects portrayed in the Beeb’s classic SF series, Blake’s 7. Some of this datamining appears to have been done to benefit Russian oil interests. Michelle, one of the great commenters here, posted this to her piece, commenting on the immense value of personal information on the Net:

“The Wiley disclosure certainly had quite a media make over, he sits in a trendy bare room with a big photo shoot light for the Guardian and in a graffiti tunnel for ITV news, yet with all his intellectual prowess his deductive reasoning interestingly falls short on his employer making a link with Russian oil: “It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”


The spotlight on this company must be just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2010 I had blogged about the EU intending to make it clear how internet users would have their digital data exploited and the New York Times had a comment re the intended EU overhaul of privacy regulations. I had written that the publishers value was not based on content or brand but on the information that can be collected about each digital visitor, as we click away our preferences and online patterns are being delivered up to the advertising market because the ability to sell this information about us is the true value a publisher holds. Here is the comment in the New York Times (20 Nov 2010) about the E.U´s intention to overhaul the online privacy rules to protect personal data which would hamper the “development of services” – a great euphemism for snooping:

“Rules requiring Internet companies to secure users’ consent upfront could hamper the development of services that align online advertising with Web users’ personal interests, as reflected in the Web sites they visit or the preferences they express in social networks and other online forums. From a marketer’s perspective, this could dilute one of the big advantages of the Web over traditional media.”


Evidently the misuse of data has been understood for many years, (as you have pointed out Sue), I also noted in 2010 a New Scientist article: “EVERY move you make, every twitter feed you update, somebody is watching you. You may not think twice about it, but if you use a social networking site, a cellphone or the internet regularly, you are leaving behind a clear digital trail that describes your behaviour, travel patterns, likes and dislikes, divulges who your friends are and reveals your mood and your opinions. In short, it tells the world an awful lot about you.”


So how did the ‘security services’ miss Cambridge Analytica’s flagrant misuse of data when it has been clearly understood even in the public realm for almost a decade? These supposed revelations at this juncture come at a time when the hype to cold war status is already far too high…”

Kitty’s article is at:

And the Americans are not alone in using Cambridge Analytica, it seems. I found this report by RT about our government also using them and their parent company, SCL, to gather data on us. RT’s presenter, Polly Boiko, states that the two were hired by the Ministry of Defence, and paid for providing staff with training and for keeping government secrets on their computer, amongst other services. Yvette Cooper has demanded a wider investigation into their activities. They have also been hired by some very dodgy governments around the world. Like Kenya, where Cambridge Analytica was hired by the ruling party to gather data on its opponents, and create a psychological strategy that would allow them to hold on to power. The company has been accused of stirring up ethnic tensions as part of this. They were also hired by Ukraine to undermine the breakaway Donetsk Republic. This ended in failure, but the company’s report not only went to the Ukrainians who commissioned it, but was also shared with the British government. She concludes that the next stage of the scandal will probably be the company’s connections to the world’s governments.

This has been touched on today in the I newspaper, which reported that Israel had also hired the company to swing elections Nigeria and St. Kitts and Nevis.

This is a real threat to democracy, but I doubt that many people are paying attention, because of the way May and her team are ramping up tensions with Russia to distract everyone from just how terrible they are. And if the MOD have been using them to gather data on British citizens, then the immediate comparison that comes to my mind is with the Stasi and the other totalitarian secret police. It ain’t Corbyn who’s a threat to democracy, but Cambridge Analytica and their Tory government paymasters.

Books on God and Religion

On Thursday, Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, asked my a couple of questions on the nature of the Almighty, which I tried to answer as best I could. I offered to put up here a few books, which might help people trying to explore for themselves the theological and philosophical ideas and debates about the nature of God, faith, religion and so on. I set up this blog about a decade and a half ago to defend Christianity against attacks by the New Atheists. I don’t really want to get sidetracked back there, because some of these issues will just go on forever if you let them. And I’m far more concerned to bring people of different religions and none together to combat the attacks by the Tories and the Blairites on the remains of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the impoverishment and murder of the British public, particularly the disabled, in order to further enrich the corporate elite. Especially as the Tories seem to want to provoke war with Russia.

But here are some books, which are written for ordinary people, which cover these issues, which have helped me and which I hope others reading about these topics for themselves will also find helpful.

The Thinker’s Guide to God, Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss (Alresford: John Hunt Publishing 2003)

This book is written by two academics from a Christian viewpoint, and discusses the Western religious tradition from Plato and Aristotle. It has the following chapters

1. Thinking About God – Plato and Aristotle
2.The God of the Philosophers
3. The God of Sacred Scripture
4. Religious Language
5. The Challenge of Anti-Realism
6. Arguments for the Existence of God
7. The Attributes of God
8. Life After Death
9. Miracles and Prayer
10. Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian Theology
11. Faith and Reason
12 Attacks on God, Darwin, Marx and Freud
13 God and Science
14 Quantum Science, Multi-Dimensions and God

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, (Oxford: OneWorld 2003)

1. A Feeling for the Gods
God, literalism and poetry, A world full of Gods, Descartes and the cosmic machine, Wordsworth and Blake, the gods and poetic imagination, Conflict among the gods, Friedrich Schleiermacher: a Romantic account of the gods; Rudolf Otto: the sense of the numinous; Martin Buber: life as meeting, Epilogue: the testimony of a secularist.

2. Beyond the gods
Prophets and seers; The prophets of Israel and monotheism; Basil, Gregory Palamas and Maimonides: the apophatic way; Thomas Aquinas: the simplicity of God; The five ways of demonstrating God; Pseudo-Dyonysius the Areopagite; The doctrine of analogy; Three mystics.

3. The Love that moves the sun
The 613 commandments; Pigs and other animals; the two great commandments; The Ten Commandments; Jesus and the Law; Calvin and the Commandments, Faith and works; Theistic morality as fulfilling God’s purpose; Kant, the categorical imperative and faith, God as creative freedom, affective knowledge and illimitable love.

4. The God of the Philosophers

God and Job; Plato and the gods; the vision of the Good; Appearance and Reality; Augustine and creation ex nihilo, Aristotle and the Perfect Being; Augustine and Platonism; Anselm and Necessary Being; Evil, necessity and the Free Will defence; Creation as a timeless act; Faith and understanding.

5. The Poet of the World

The timeless and immutable God; The rejection of Platonism; Hegel and the philosophy of Absolute Spirit; Marx and the dialectic of history; Pantheism and panentheism; Time and creativity, The redemption of suffering; History and the purposive cosmos; Process philosophy; The collapse of the metaphysical vision.

6. The darkness between stars

Pascal: faith and scepticism; A.J. Ayer; the death of metaphysics; Scientific hypotheses and existential questions; Kierkegaard: truth as subjectivity; Sartre; freedom from a repressive God; Heidegger and Kierkegaard: the absolute
paradox; Tillich: religious symbols; Wittgenstein: pictures of human life; Religious language and forms of life; Religion and ‘seeing-as’; Spirituality without belief; Non-realism and God; The silence of the heart.

7. The personal ground of being

God as omnipotent person; The problem of evil; Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: beyond good and evil; Omniscience and creative freedom; God: person or personal; Persons as relational; The idea of the Trinity; The revelatory roots of religion; Conclusion: Seven ways of thinking about God.


Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion, by Mel Thompson, (London: HodderHeadline 1997)

What is the philosophy of Religion?
Why study religion in this way?
What is involved?
The structure of this book
What this book aims to do.

1. Religious Experiences
Starting with experience
What happens when you experience something?
What is religious experience?
Induced religious experiences
Charismatic experiences
Some features of religious experience
What can we know?
Authority and response

2.Religious Language
A private language?
Knowledge and description
Faith, reason and beliefs
The rational and the non-rational
Interpreting language
Cognitive and non-cognitive
Language games
The limitations of language

3. God: the concepts
God as creator
Transcendence and immanence
Theism, pantheism and panentheism
Atheism, agnosticism and secularism
Nietzsche: God is dead
Secular interpretations of God
A postmodernist interpretation
The Christian concept of God: the Trinity
Beliefs, language and religion
Religious alternatives to theism
Basic beliefs

4. God: the arguments
The ontological argument
The cosmological argument
the teleological argument
the moral argument
the argument from religious experience

5. The Self
Bodies, minds and souls
Knowing our minds
Joining souls to bodies?
Identity and freedom
Life beyond death
Some conclusions

6. Causes, providence and miracles

7. Suffering and evil
The challenge and the response
the problem
God as moral agent
Suffering and the major religions
Coming to terms with suffering
The devil and hell
Religion and terrorism

8. Religion and Science
The problem science poses for religion
the key issues
the changing world view
the methods of science and religion
the origin of the universe
evolution and humankind
Some conclusions

9. Religion and ethics
Natural law
absolute ethics
Morality and facts
How are religion and morality treated?
Values and choices

Postcript, Glossary, Taking it Further

God and Evolution: A Reader, ed. by Mary Kathleen Cunningham (London: Routledge 2007)

Part One

1. Charles Hodge ‘The Protestant Rule of Faith’
2. Sallie McFague ‘Metaphor’
3. Mary Midgley ‘How Myths work’
4. Ian G. Barbour ‘The Structures of Science and Religion’.

Part Two
Evolutionary Theory

5. Charles Darwin, ‘On the origin of species
6. Francisco J. Ayala ‘The Evolution of life as overview
7. Michael Ruse ‘Is there are limit to our knowledge of evolution?

Part Three

6. Genesis 1-2
7. Ronald J. Numbers ‘The Creationists’.

Part Four
Intelligent Design

10. William Paley ‘Natural Theology’
11. Michael J. Behe ‘Irreducible complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution’
12. Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Answering the biochemical argument from Design

Part Five

13. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker’
14. Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s utility function’
15. Daniel C. Dennett, ‘God’s dangerous idea’
16. Mary Midgley, ‘The quest for a universal acid’
17. Michael Ruse, ‘Methodological naturalism under attack’.

Part Six
Evolutionary Theism

18. Howard J. Van Till, ‘The creation: intelligently designed or optimally equipped?’
19. Arthur Peacock, ‘Biological evolution-a positive theological appraisal’
20. Jurgen Moltmann, ‘God’s kenosis in the creation and consummation of the world’.
21 Elizabeth A. Johnson, ‘Does God play dice? Divine providence and chance’.

Part Seven:
Reformulations of Tradition

22. John F. Haught, ‘Evolution, tragedy, and cosmic paradox’
23. Sallie McFague, ‘God and the world’
24. Ruth Page, ‘Panentheism and pansyntheism: God is relation’
25. Gordon D. Kaufman, ‘On thinking of God as serendipitous creativity’.

Dangerous Crops

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/03/2018 - 4:39am in

(To begin the embiggenation process, click the gimme cap in the cartoon below.)

Bizarro is brought to you today Trump Voodoo Doll.

There was a time when people were romantic about America’s “heartland,” as though it was where good, wholesome, moral, honest folks came from, as opposed to “big city folk”.  But to my mind these days, it seems to represent people who voted for and continue to support a racist White House that openly promises to take benefits away from poor children, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged-in-general, while arresting innocent children who were born in the U.S. and throwing them out of the country because their parents came here out of desperation to make a better life for themselves and their children. (Don’t even try to tell me the immigrant issue is about jobs because there are no facts to back that bullshit up. And if you think it’s not about racism or jobs, it’s about the “rule of law,” let’s audit your taxes for the last ten years and see how law-abiding you are.)

If all of that isn’t enough to dissuade you from visiting The Heartland, consider that not one newspaper in Nebraska carries Bizarro, but all of them carry Marmaduke and Family Circus. There’s a reason they call these places “Flyover States.” Innumerable reasons, actually.

Disclaimer: If you are a decent, compassionate, open-minded person in The Heartland who thinks racism and bigotry have no place in our government, I’m not talking about you.

Disclaimer disclaimer: If you are a decent, compassionate, open-minded person in The Heartland who enjoys Bizarro but also really enjoys Marmaduke and Family Circus, and not in an ironic way, I might still be talking about you.

Hey! What’s my buddy, Wayno been cartooning about this week?…

The thing I like most about The Bible is that you can interpret it to mean anything you want. (Unless you’re what the rest of us call a “religious nut.”)  In this case, Wayno interprets the “serpent” to be a representative of Kellogg’s who is attempting to entice some friendly naked people into losing their souls while also promoting poor spelling.

All these years I’ve been avoiding snakes and it turns out toucans are the devil. And I guess that lump in the front of my throat is an “Adam’s Loop.”

Wayno writes about our week in cartoons every weekend, too, and you’ll find a link to that post at the end of this one. BUT… here’s a short, older post in which he describes the clever name he has given to the specific mechanism behind the Froot Loop joke above.

I hope he carries a really big towel to the gym to wipe off the machines when he’s done melting all over them. When he’s had a really good workout, he rewards himself with a slice of nose cake.

If you’ve not been to my mostly-new shop lately, please have a look. We sell products to help support our cartooning habits as newspapers continue to get smaller and fewer. Below is a poster I designed and illustrated specifically for your home, office, clubhouse, or bunker.

As a kid, I wasn’t particularly afraid of monsters under my bed but as an adult, I always check under my analyst’s couch before I lie down.

Lately, I’ve been indulging myself in what the Interwebs call, “Throwback Thursday.” Surprisingly, it does not involve pictures of fish that people have caught that are too small to eat––that’s called “Here’s a Picture of Me Torturing a Helpless Water Dweller Thursday”. Throwback Thursday is actually about stuff from the past, so below is a cartoon I did in 2003.

This is one of those comics that was based on my own experience during which I was trapped inside a small store in Kansas for 45 minutes while I tried to convince the other customers that the town was not closed, this was simply the back of a sign meant to be read from outside. “Then why ain’t it red?” was the reply.

This is what happens when entire states don’t carry Bizarro. I make mean jokes about them. Sometimes as I fly over them.

It took an embarrassingly long time but we are now finding out that women can do anything that men can do. Unfortunately, they still have to do it at a fraction of what men are paid to do the same job. (Especially white men.)

No, this does not mean we hate men or are ashamed to be men or white or want all white people, especially the men, to be rounded up and shot into outer space. We just support fairness no matter what color you are or what kind of plumbing you have. And no, America does NOT already have that kind of fairness.

In honor of women, Wayno and I are supporting a swell non-profit organization that helps educate girls and young women in technological fields, which are currently overwhelmingly dominated by men.  We recommend checking them out and possibly tossing a buck or two their way. Girls Who Code.

I prefer to participate in happy hour at home where the drinks are even cheaper and the atmosphere makes me a lot happier.  And yes, after the initial hour, I become all of those other things listed on the sign. Just don’t drop by my house unannounced after a certain time, that’s all I’m saying.

“Watson! We’ve invented something that will one day be used to take pictures of every plate of food we eat.” 

“Hmm. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to do that, but okay. Whatever.”

Even so, here we are a hundred-and-some years later with phones that take pictures, answer questions, promote fake news, rig elections in favor of our enemies and a thousand other things. And yet, most of the time, the reception on actual phone calls isn’t any better than Bell’s prototype. (sigh)

Until next week, my precious Jazz Pickles––be happy, be smart, be nice, and resist ignorance and fascism. And while we’re at it, our official Bizarro Jazz Pickle enamel pin is BACK IN STOCK after the initial batch sold out! Grab one now before it sells out again!

Wayno: Weekly blogTwitterInstagramWaynoVision

Piraro: Bizarro shop (enamel pins, a Hello Shitty shirt and more!) … Bizarro tip jar Signed, numbered, limited edition prints and original cartoon art …Piraro Instagram  Piraro Twitter Piraro coloring book


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/03/2018 - 4:06am in

(Just as with actual therapy, you can embiggenate this scene by clicking the shrink’s pipe.)

Bizarro is brought to you today by The Glamour of Hollywood.

Tonight is the 90th Acadamy Awards and this seems an appropriate cartoon for the occasion. Batman has been played by many actors over the years but here we are finally given a glimpse of the toll that how being inhabited by so many personalities has taken on him.

But at least his personalities behave more-or-less the same and are therefore more predictable. Most people with multiple personality disorder have to deal with vastly different types of personalities that pull them in drastically different directions: male, female, adult, child, honest, criminal, peaceful, violent, mensch, hell raiser, etc.  I learned all of this from a TV series that used to be on Showtime called United States of Tara, and TV wouldn’t lie.

Before we check out what Wayno was up to this week, here are a couple bits of hate mail I received this week that I thought you might find entertaining.

I posted the following cartoon on FB and Instagram on “Throwback Thursday,” which is one of those meaningless hashtags that gives people an excuse to spend more time on the Internet instead of living their actual lives.

It was a popular post by Bizarro standards and the vast majority of people understood what I was getting at and left positive responses. I got a quite a few comments like this one, however:

“You know depression is an actual mental disorder that doesn’t fucking show up from technology and doesn’t go away if you go back to nature or some shit but yeah just say this garbage. Antidepressants can be abused but for some people they’re the best method of treatment.”

My response: “I have been chronically depressed since I was 18 years old and spent over 19 years on antidepressants. Humor is one of the things that keeps people like me from jumping off a bridge. I’ve found that laughing at yourself is much more beneficial than crying victim.”

Not the perfect response, granted, but my point is that having a sense of humor about your problems goes a lot further than screaming that you’re a victim every time someone says or does something that doesn’t perfectly validate your worldview. Plus, the cartoon is not saying “technology” per se is the problem. It’s the unnatural mess we’ve made of the modern world that these explorers are exposing the jungle inhabitant to and that’s enough to depress anyone.

On a side note, researchers are finding that excessive time spent with electronic devices at the expense of human interaction decrease one’s sense of happiness. Researchers have also found that time spent in nature increases one’s serotonin. I have personally found these things to be true for me. So, yes, technology is part of the problem after all.

Another bit of hate mail came in from an old FB post of the following cartoon.

The comment I refer to was this: “By all means, let’s let them rape and behead us, and then make sure to thank them. Because we wouldn’t want to hassle them. For fucksake ”   (lack of punctuation is his)

My response: “You make a lot of sense. If you’ll let me know your ethnicity and your religious beliefs, I’ll be happy to persecute you based on crimes committed by people of a similar background. ‘For fucksake,’ of course.”

I don’t need to explain this to people capable of understanding it. As long as there are fear-based bigots in the world and folks like the Russians and Fox News Channel to feed them fake news about how we need big guns and authoritarian daddy figures to protect us, this problem will not go away.

Now let’s see what Wayno was up to this week…

Russians who are engaged in activities other than swaying American elections to favor the Kremlin are always funny.

By the way, Wayno assured me that this parking attendant is wearing woolen tights and a flannel dance belt because the weather in Moscow can turn a ballerino into a ballerina alarmingly quickly. On his blog post this week, he includes a rough sketch of this cartoon and some info about where he originally wanted to go with it but didn’t and why. A link to his blog is at the bottom of this post.

This is one of the very few situations in which you can pay a relative stranger to insert their finger into your rectum without breaking any laws. “He told me he was an internist, officer. Honest!”

Here’s a sketch for a prostate exam cartoon of mine that was too racy for newspapers so it was rejected for print. This is the first time it has ever been seen by the public!!

We submitted this cartoon many weeks ago, long before the latest school massacre in Florida, but it became an accidentally timely comic considering the heroic protests that teenagers all over America have been engaged in against the irrational and fearful proponents of nearly unregulated gun sales. Let’s call the cowards in the NRA what they are: scaredy cats with masculinity issues. And let’s call the politicians in their pockets what they are: greedy assholes who care more about power and money than keeping their countrymen safe. (Of course, that also perfectly describes the Cheeto in Chief so I don’t expect meaningful changes anytime soon.)

More importantly, why is the U.S. the only country where this routinely happens? Until we answer this question, even gun control won’t stop it.

I carry my own blood everywhere I go in my handy, portable, temperature-controlled blood bag. I call it my body.

If flies played teeny-tiny tennis on my food preparation surfaces, I might let them stay. But since they don’t, I just kill them. I don’t kill everything that touches my food preparation surfaces, but it’s better to ask first just to be on the safe side.

This is the second time in ten days that Waldo has appeared in Bizarro and on Wayno’s blog post this week he discusses the behind-the-scenes-professional-cartoonist insider info that explains how that happened. The link to his blog post for this week is below.

Thanks so much for joining us this week, Jazz Pickles! Please check out a few of the links below that help support our cartooning efforts. We at Rancho Bizarro will toast you with one of our hourly, ceremonial tequila shots.

Until next week––be happy, be smart, be nice, and resist ignorance and fascism.

Wayno: Weekly blogTwitterInstagramWaynoVision

Piraro: Bizarro shop (enamel pins, a Hello Shitty shirt and more!) … Bizarro tip jar Signed, numbered, limited edition prints and original cartoon art …Piraro Instagram  Piraro Twitter Piraro coloring book

Eugenics in Japan: Records of Forced Sterilisation Programme Discovered

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 5:49am in

This is another excellent piece of reporting from RT, which shows once again why it’s miles better than the Beeb and other establishment news services. This is a report from their Ann Vuger on the recent discovery of documents pertaining to the programme of forced sterilisation of the congenitally mentally handicapped in Japan. This was pure eugenics, as was made very clear in the title of this vile piece of legislation. It declared that it was ‘to protect the purity of the Japanese race’. It did not occur during the wartime Fascist regime, but ran from 1948 to 1996.

I think the operation was supposed to be consensual, but 16,500 people were sterilised without their consent.

The video contains testimony from one of the victims of the programme. This is a woman, who was falling behind at school. So her teacher and a government official forced her father to sign the papers for her sterilisation. The only thing the woman herself knew about it was when she woke up after the operation.

The sister of another victim also describes what happened to her. She states that her sister was forcibly sterilised as a congenital mental defective. In fact, the girl had been left brain-damaged by another medical procedure when she was aged two. And this was just one, of many false diagnoses.

Both these people had their identities changed and faces obscured for the cameras to protect them.

The programme also features Katsumi Yamamoto, Chief Executive and psychologist of the Tokyo Board of Public Health, who strongly condemns the programme and speculates about the existence of further files.

After the end of the programme, the records on it were destroyed, but as this shows, some have survived. It is hoped that the discover of these papers will help the victims in their campaign to sue the government for compensation.

This should delight the Tories’ Ben Bradley. After all, it was he, who wanted the unemployed to be forcibly given vasectomies to stop them breeding, along with a number of other highly offensive views. And Toby Young, a Tory journo who also delights in writing offensive articles, also attended a eugenics convention.

The eugenicists aren’t just in Japan. They’re right here in Theresa May’s Tory party. And they want to kill the poor and disabled.

Mental Health and Philosophy of Mind

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 1:55am in

A philosopher has recently collaborated with a mental health organization to deliver a series of philosophy of mind workshops for people with an interest in mental health (including those with lived experience, mental health advocates, and service providers). 

The philosopher, Sophie Stammers, is currently a research fellow working on Project PERFECT (Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts), an interdisciplinary research project led by philosopher Lisa Bortolottti (University of Birmingham) which “aims to establish whether cognitions that are inaccurate in some important respect can ever be good from a pragmatic or an epistemic point of view.”

Dr. Stammers teamed up with Mind in Camden, a charitable organization that supports people who are struggling with mental health issues, to offer workshops that use themes from PERFECT’s research to explore and critique various theories of mental health that participants had come into contact with through their personal and professional lives.

Why do this? Dr. Stammers writes:

The research we’re doing at PERFECT challenges the perceived discontinuity between so-called normal and abnormal cognition, and the workshop series provides a philosophical framework for participants to critically question the “us” and “them” model of mental health that is entrenched in our discourse, and some of our mental health practices. The workshops are discussion driven, and encourage participants to reconstruct models of mental health that are philosophically founded, and that better support and include insights from lived experience. We had some very positive feedback from the original course participants, and I hope the resources will be of interest to many more people.

She has made the resources used during the workshop free to download from this site, including a facilitator pack, which offers guidance on how to present the material, and how to set up group discussion and participation. She adds:

The materials are designed so that they can be used by people who do not have any formal training in philosophy. There are also presentation slides and printable handouts for each session. The first session introduces some philosophical techniques and ideas, and the other five sessions explore the topics of Experiences, Beliefs, Rationality, Models of mental health, and Evaluating experiences and beliefs. For those looking to run a more stripped-down group, without focusing on the models and examples referenced in the slides and handouts, there is also a pack that explores the core questions and ideas of the workshop series.

I asked Dr. Stammers to elaborate on the relevance of Project PERFECT’s work to issues in the experience and treatment of those with mental health issues:

The idea was to use themes from PERFECT’s research to explore and critique various theories of mental health that participants had come into contact with through their personal and professional lives. Psychiatric theory and practice in a range of settings (and much philosophy inspired by it) often proceeds on the idea that there is a particular kind of irrationality that is associated with mental illness, the presence of which plays a significant role in determining a psychiatric diagnosis. Proceeding from an investigation into all kinds of epistemically faulty cognition, PERFECT demonstrates that irrationality is a common feature of cognition in both clinical and non-clinical contexts, and thereby argues that a demarcation between normal and pathological cognition cannot be meaningfully based on epistemic features.

PERFECT also challenges current accounts of epistemically faulty cognitions in the psychiatric literature, with a view to promoting accounts which are sensitive to the potential epistemic benefits of such cognitions, and to their role in supporting a unified and coherent sense of agency. Introducing this research to workshop participants provided a framework for challenging categorical accounts of illness that are dominant in psychiatric practice, and implicit in everyday language about mental health. The workshops provided the opportunity to reconstruct notions of illness and wellness instead as occupying space on a continuum, and furnished a philosophical foundation for outlining the potential benefits of factually erroneous cognitions that are underexplored in psychiatric practice, but which can constitute a deeply meaningful aspect of the lived-experience of mental distress.

It is an interesting project and, as far as I know, unique in its bringing together academics in philosophy and psychology together with mental health service providers, mental health patients, and the public.

Albrecht Durer, “Melancholia”

The post Mental Health and Philosophy of Mind appeared first on Daily Nous.

Alex Jones: People Are Having Sex with their Cars

More madness from the ever fertile imagination of Alex Jones. In this clip from The Majority Report, host Sam Seder and friends comment on a clip from Jones’ InfoWars show, in which the conspiracy theorist rants about how there is a movement encouraging people to have sex with cars.

He starts off by talking about sex robots, before going on to claim that people are having sex and marrying their dogs and cats, and are having sex with cars. He then claims that if you identify as blind, and pour ‘Draino’ into your eyes to blind yourself, the governments of the US, Britain and Canada will pay you money to support yourself as you were mentally ill. He then goes on to say that he fancies buying one of these sex robots just to torch it. We need, he says, to form a human union and defy the elites, who are controlling us. They want to make normal sex biologically impossible, in order to absorb us into the Matrix. People have been brainwashed into this by Hollywood.

Seder and his crew make the point that they have no doubt that some men will insert their penises into whatever they can find. His female co-host states that when she was working on Death and Taxes there was indeed a man arrested for having sex with his car. She was part of a jailhouse protest to get him released. There’s a lot of joking about what the chants were ‘Ha-ha, ho-ho, let the carf***er go!’ But there’s hardly a movement for people to have sex with their vehicles.

They also speculate that Jones himself has personally bought one of these sex robots, and this whole segment is him trying to explain it away in case anybody else has seen it and come to the conclusion that Jones is a pervert.

Okay, there are people out there building sex robots. One of these appeared a little while ago on Philip Schofield’s show on ITV. There was even a Spanish brothel stocked exclusively with robots, which closed down after three works. One of the sentient robots on the Channel 4 SF series, Humans, which was based on the Swedish TV series, ‘Real Humans’, was one of the machines in an all robot brothel. Which incidentally escapes and goes on the run after killing one of the customers. I think Ray Kurzweil has also predicted that in a very few years people will be having sex with robots. One of the underground comics in America is Wet Satin, whose female creator writes stories based on women’s sexual fantasies. One of illustrations from the comic, at least as it appears in Dez Skinn’s survey of comics across the world, has a woman in the tender embrace of C-3PO. This surprised me, as I’d assumed that R2D2’s best mate was a little too camp to be an object of sexual desire for women. But obviously not. And Tanith Lee wrote an SF story about a woman, who has a romance with a robot, The Silver Metal Lover, way back in the 1970s.

But sex robots are just a progression from blow-up dolls, and while they are being developed, there’s no movement for people to marry them or outlaw normal human reproduction in favour of everyone having sex with machines. At the moment, the sex robots are pretty crude. They’re not really sentient machines, like all the other robots being developed at the moment. The type of mechanical people, with whom you could have a proper relationship, like C-3PO are a very long way off. Most people, I guess, won’t find them attractive, and will regard anyone with the money to buy them with the same contempt they regard those men, who buy inflatable women.

And yes, there are people, who have sex with their cars. Jones waxes somewhat graphic about this, talking about ‘fully lubed-up tailpipes’ and claiming that normal peeps, who won’t have sex with robots or cars, will be attacked as prejudiced or homophobic. Way back in the 1990s Channel 4 screened a documentary late one evening about people, who were sexually attracted to cars. I stayed up to watch part of it, as I’ve got a strong tolerance for weirdness. But this was too weird and creepy even for me, and I turned it off and went to bed, feeling somewhat soiled. I have a feeling it comes from a peculiar mental disorder, in which people attribute human features and characteristics onto inanimate objects. This goes much further than simply giving your car a name, or referring to it as ‘he’ or ‘she’. This is more like the mad German woman, who married the Berlin Wall a few years ago. This story got a few laughs on Have I Got News For You. And then there was J.G. Ballard’s infamous novel, Crash, filmed by David Cronenberg, which is all about a secret society of perverts, who get off on car crashes. The film was highly praised by the British small press SF magazine, The Edge, but sent the Daily Mail into a frothing rage, and they organised a campaign against it. It flopped massively over here, taking only a few tens of thousands of pounds before it was banned.

So while there are mentally ill perverts and transgressive writers, like Ballard, who explore cars and sexuality, like the sex robots there is absolutely no movement to normalise this. I can’t imagine a time when anyone, who has sex with an automobile or similar inanimate object won’t be regarded as a pervert, or simply a person with severe mental health problems. No-one’s going to accuse anyone of being unfairly prejudiced or ‘homophobic’ towards people with this kind of prejudice. And incidentally, that comment from Jones shows his prejudice against gay rights by equating homophobia and homosexuality with what are actually forms of mental illness.

As for people pouring drain cleaner into their eyes deliberately to blind themselves, this shows Jones’ anti-welfare outlook. He clearly thinks that such people should not receive state aid after damaging themselves. But these people do need help, most pressingly before they actually decide to harm themselves. I’ve known people, who suffered from very severe depression and were prone to self-harm. It’s not something they’d voluntarily do, if they could avoid, but brought about by a mental condition that they’d far rather not have. Jones is therefore severely misrepresenting them if he thinks that those, who do suffer self-harm, willingly and cheerfully go about it. Again, it also shows Jones’ own prejudices. He thinks someone, who blinds themselves with drain cleaner, would do it for the same reasons some people identify with the opposite biological gender. Er, no, Alex. There’s a difference between self-harm, and transgenderism, regardless what some of the Republicans say about male to female transpeople being ‘castration fetishists’.

Jones is clearly wrong in just about everything he says here about there being a secret conspiracy to normalise and promote these sexual practices. He doesn’t have anything really profound to say about the prospect of robot prostitution or sex robots. But it is clear that he has a very vivid, lurid imagination.

Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Defends the Size of Trump’s Penis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/01/2018 - 6:43am in

Okay, I apologise for the crude nature of this post, but it’s weirdly fascinating and gives a bizarre insight into the mindset, not just of Alex Jones, but of much of the Republican party in America.

In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about a compilation video one of his viewers sent in, of the various times Alex Jones, the mad conspiracy theorist behind the Infowars internet show, defends Trump from the accusation that his manhood is of less than impressive size.

As Kryten said of Rimmer in Red Dwarf, ‘Oh for a world class psychiatrist!’

This all started with Ted Cruz telling the crowd during the campaigning for the Republican nomination that Trump had tiny hands, and that this meant that certain other areas of his anatomy were also correspondingly small. Mind you, Trump had just claimed that Cruz’s father was responsible for the assassination of J.F.K., which is actually a far worse accusation. My guess is that most people watching Cruz make the accusation probably took it for what it was – a particular low, ad hominem attack, and nothing more. But it’s clearly got under Jones’ skin. Hence the ranting in the video about how well-endowed Trump is, against the lies put out by the media.

Kulinski goes on to discuss how Jones has turned from a critic of the establishment, to its most fervent propagandist through his support of Trump. He likes Trump. It’s as if Trump has cast a voodoo spell over him, as Kulinski describes it. When Obama was president, Jones declared that he was responsible for all manner of conspiracies. Now Trump’s in the Oval Office, the president isn’t responsible for any of those. It’s always the people around him.

He points out just how much of an establishment shill Trump is. He’s doing exactly what his backers in Wall Street and big business want, and is impoverishing ordinary Americans for their corporate profit. He’s the enemy of the middle Class. But to Jones Trump can do no wrong.

Kulinski also discusses some of the other lunatic statements that Jones has made. Jones went on the Joe Rogan Show, where he raved about interdimensional demons and aliens, and claimed that there was a war going on in the political elite between paedophiles and real men, ‘who eat steaks, drink whisky and like women’. Kulinski makes the point of how ridiculous this is as the standard for judging who’s one of the good guys. It means that various truly repulsive Republicans, who have backed every war launched by the presidents, are good guys, merely because they’re heterosexual and have those tastes in food and drink. He also goes on to point out how Jones’ conspiracy theories are demonstrably wrong. Like Jones’ claim that Obama was going to declare a state of emergency, and have everyone rounded up and imprisoned in FEMA camps. Well, Obama’s been and gone, and it never happened. Even worse was Jones’ statement that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged at the pretext for taking Americans’ guns away. He doesn’t mention it here, but this did result in grieving parents being accused by Jones’ viewers of being ‘crisis actors’, and that their children weren’t really shot and killed. Kulinski points out that the legislation that was proposed in the aftermath of the massacre to prevent further outrages like it were a ban on certain types of automatic weapons, magazines of a particular size, and uniform background checks. But the ban on automatic weapons and magazines never got through, because the Republicans blocked it. As for the background checks, this was passed, but was watered down to the point where there are a million loopholes in it. So if Sandy Hook was staged as a ploy to deprive Americans of their firearms, it hasn’t worked.

In fact, Jones’ rants say something about the psychology of part of the Republican base, and the visceral fear of castration that some of them seem to have, associated with socialism, liberalism and feminism. The Republican party stands for a very traditional conception of the sex roles, in which men are expected to be aggressively masculine. The gun culture is part of this. Much of the rhetoric by the Alt Right is about how alpha male they are, compared to all the beta male cucks in mainstream society and the left. When Trump was campaigning for the presidency, Jones did a broadcast about how ‘alpha’ Trump was, and how he’d been having ‘transcendent’ conversations with him. Which, in addition to these comments defending the size of Trump’s genitals, add a kind of homoerotic undercurrent to his attitude to Trump.

Several of Jones’ rants are about the threat to masculinity and biological gender posed by feminism, the UN, and the gay rights movement. In one rant, he declared that the gay rights movement was ‘a transhumanist space cult’ dedicated to removing biological gender and turning us all into genderless cyborgs. Which I’ve no doubt surprised an awful lot of gay people. He also claimed that UN doctors were going to come to cut men’s testicles off. One of the internet news commenters sent up this raging paranoia in one of their vlogs, stating that no, Obama was not going to have them castrated and put in FEMA camps, where they would be forced to carry around greased up lesbians.

Jones’ rants about the size of Trump’s manhood are ridiculous, but they do show the real insecurities about masculinity in the Republican party and the Alt Right. Jones and others like him really do see liberalism and feminism as emasculating movements, which can only be combated by powerful, aggressive alpha males. Hence their support for Trump, and the bitter anti-feminism within the Republican party itself. And not all of those, who hold such views are men. One of those, who has vociferously attacked feminism, and denied that women should have the right to vote is Anne Coulter. And Kulinski makes the point that these genital obsessions have also been played out in the theatre of international relations. Like when he told Kim Jong Un that his nuclear button was bigger. Trump’s concern, and those of his supporters, to show how ‘alpha male’ he is, aren’t just ridiculous, they’re an active danger to the safety of the entire world. As are the stupid conspiracy theories about aliens, paedophiles and FEMA camps promoted by Jones and his Infowars team.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/12/2017 - 10:51pm in

Tom Stafford reports on an interesting review of the psychology of conspiracy theories – the persistent belief that ‘they’ are working secretly to conceal the truth about the assassination of JFK or the moon landings, for example. The review suggests current research is better at explaining the forces that drive conspiracy theories than at examining their psychological consequences. It seems the theories are motivated by three needs; for understanding, for safety/control, and for a positive image of yourself and the groups you belong to. But in point of fact, they are not very good at meeting these needs and may even make the people who subscribe to them feel worse.

Stafford suggests we could see this as maladaptive coping. He criticises some aspects of the review, in particular the way it defines conspiracy theories rather loosely, so that it seems to include reasonable conspiracy beliefs. You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you, after all.

Perhaps the most remarkable example of a genuine conspiracy is the way that around this time of year we all go to enormous lengths to convince our children that a fat old man is going to come down the chimney into their bedroom one night (a idea that terrifies a few of them, possibly the more rational ones). Kids who subscribed to the theory that parents, teachers and media were involved in a massive con would not be wrong, but would they be displaying early signs of a tendency to conspiracy theories? Is it rational, at a certain age, to believe in Santa?

So far as I recall, my own attitude back in the middle of the last century was neither exactly belief nor disbelief. I was well aware that people in department store grottos were proxies, merely dressed up as Father Christmas. I got as far as noting that the logistics of delivering presents to every child in the world in a single night were challenging, and vaguely hypothesised that the job was done by similar proxies, maybe one for each street. But I didn’t worry about it much. There were lots of things I didn’t fully understand at the time. I didn’t really know how department stores came to be full of stuff anyway – why worry about Santa’s grotto particularly? You could well say that my attitude to Santa back then was pretty much what my attitude to quantum physics is now. I don’t really understand it, and parts of it don’t seem to make any sense. But people I basically trust have got this for me, so I’m happy to take their word (just to be quite clear here, I am not suggesting that quantum physics is a massive conspiracy).

The matter of who you trust is, I think, at the root of the conspiracy theory thing generally. We all have to take a lot of things on trust from appropriate authorities. An essential and probably under-examined part of the education system is about teaching people which authorities to trust, and much of the academic system of peer review and publication, unsatisfactory as it is*, is about keeping authoritative sources identifiable and reliable. People who believe in conspiracy theories have flaws in their judgement about which authorities to accept.

Not that this is simple. Trusting authority is a tricky business which needs to be balanced with an ability to evaluate and critique even reliable authorities. People who have been thoroughly educated may be weak on this side, inclined to believe what they read and pay more attention to the manifesto and the statement of principles than what is actually happening. Uneducated people may be more inclined to use their own observation and reason on the basis of perceived personality. Sometimes this works better, an excellent reason why everyone should have the vote. They say that cab driver off the ‘seven up’ observed around the turn of the century that the folks in the City were having a big party; in ten or fifteen years, he said, we’ll be told it’s all gone wrong and the bill is down to us. You can’t say that’s a detailed prediction of the crash, and it sounds a little conspiracyish, but it’s a good deal better than the financial experts of the day managed.

Perhaps the Father Christmas Conspiracy is the way we help our children sharpen up their understanding of the need to balance proper acknowledgement of reliable authority with prudent, independent use of common sense.

Merry Christmas!

*I think we ought to set up a Universal Academy which publishes free access papers and a great Summa Scientia, citation in which would be the gold standard of sound and important research. It wouldn’t be cheap, but maybe if we could get some kind of EU/USA rivalry going we could get two Academies?

Sam Seder on Disney’s Animatronic Donald Trump

Well, as Freddie Mercury once sang in Queen’s epic track, ‘Machines’, ‘The machines take over’, and this time there really ‘ain’t no rock ‘n’ roll’. Or as the blurb for this video puts it instead, the Trump animatronic is so horrifying it’ll haunt your dreams.

Disney have created a robot version of America’s most unpopular fascistic president for their Hall of Presidents. The Trumpdroid stands in front of the other animatronic US presidents, and recites a speech, with appropriate gestures and body movements, about his august predecessors were responsible for crafting the American constitution and political structure, and so creating the freedom that Americans enjoy today.

And Seder and his co-hosts are right: it is very creepy. The robotics technology used to animate the machine is really impressive, but it does bear out the observation of one Japanese robotics scientist. I forgotten the fellow’s name, unfortunately, but he shrewdly observed that people are uncomfortable with things that resemble them closely, but are still very different. Hence the human discomfort with robots when they become a little too accurate. Something similar was also said by Red Dwarf’s Kryten way back in the 1990s. Lister, or one of the other members of the ship’s highly dysfunctional crew, ask him why his manufacturers have made him look very much less than a perfect replica of a human. He replies by stating that it’s because this would make people feel uncomfortable around him, for exactly the same reasons the Japanese scientist suggested. And way back in the mid-1970s, an irrational fear of robots – ‘robophobia’, or ‘Grimwade’s Syndrome’, was one of the plot elements in the Tom Baker Dr. Who serial ‘The Robots of Death’. This particular serial was set on a sandminer, a vast mining vehicle, operated by a small human crew under which was a much larger labour force of robots. And the robots start shaking off their servitude. It’s explained in the show that some people have an irrational fear of robots, because although they look like humans, they don’t employ any body language. And so to them they appear as ‘the walking dead’.

Rather more humorously, Seder and his friends joke that the other mechanical presidents are looking at the Trumpdroid wondering how on Earth it got there. And that the President Lincoln android is just about to tell the rest of them that there’s no choice for it now: they have to put the pistols to their heads and blow their little robot brains out. They also joke that it’s rather like the bit on the SF series Westworld, when the robots look down at themselves and finally realise what they are.

Rather more seriously, the clip begins with a discussion between Seder and a caller about the GOP’s tax bill, and why people join the Republican party. He states some join, because they hate the Environmental Protection Agency, and what to use highly toxic pesticides on their land, like Tom Delaye. Others really hate trade unions, and what to destroy them to keep ordinary people poor. But the majority do it to enrich themselves through corporate sponsorship. Such is the state of American politics. And the same comments also apply to the corporate Dems of Hillary Clinton, and to the Conservatives and Blairite Labour over this side of the Pond.

If these characters remain in power, perhaps the world would be much better if the machines really took over. Or the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. After all, as Ripley says in the 2nd film, Aliens, when she discovers the way she and the space marines have been betrayed by the Corporation, the aliens ‘don’t f**k each other over for a percentage’.