Politics essentially is collective information-processing, or collective cognition and behaviour. This article is about how to more consciously choose and improve how you receive input information, which is the earliest point in the process, so it’s the most efficient point to intervene at if you want to make better decisions with the same or less time and effort.

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  1. Look at the URL before you react to the headline or the image or read it.

This is the simplest possible check, but it makes a big difference. Often when people believe nonsense, they haven’t even noticed the source.

Do you recognize the source? What do you know about it? Why do you trust this source, and how much? Is there an individual named author? If not, is there a good reason for that? Is the individual named author actually a real person? (If in doubt, for a start, you could reverse image search their profile photo.) What else do they publish, especially on topics which you know more about so you can judge better whether they’re trustworthy? …


Christmas presents weren’t originally for family and friends, but were for those who really need them, however unfamiliar or far away they are.

I have made small donations (25€) to each of these, and I recommend you do too. …


Just a little reminder, again, that what’s at stake here isn’t just the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, but also the whole culture of human rights as foundational for law and for legitimate state authority and institutions.

The whole of current refugee law (at least the primary law, not all of the case law is so consistent) is premised on the belief in inherent human dignity, universally, as a natural fact, which logically and ethically implies social duties to one another, which are called ‘human rights’.

If the government succeeds in abrogating the universality of human rights for the non-citizens in our state and non-producers in our markets, they implicitly also will succeed in undermining UK society’s cultural acceptance of human rights as foundational moral and legal philosophical beliefs. …


We will all, almost certainly, encounter some manipulative disinformation or propaganda today, and every day. We most probably won’t recognise all of it as what it really is. Foreign authoritarian regimes using manipulative online tactics have smartened up their game since 2016, so to not be gullible now is even harder. Even I can’t guess every troll account correctly.

Test yourself. What you should get from this is a sense of wow it’s hard!, and that this sort of method of checking whether a social media account has an authentic individual human being behind it is inevitably unreliable — they could only determine that most of these accounts belonged to trolls using social network analysis techniques, not by relying on content level analysis. …


Dear colleague refugee rights advocates, I think you are mistaken in assuming that there’s a common enough basis of ethical beliefs in European societies now so that we only need to do fact-checking and explaining the law again and again. That could be worse than useless.

The anti-refugees discourse exists because populist-nationalists and fascists instrumentalize the issue to propagate their alternative system of moral values and epistemological practices. They would be probably be secretly disappointed if refugees stopped arriving irregularly on mass, because then what would they use as materials for making propaganda?

They keep repeating the same false claims regardless of how many times we’ve explained that they’re not true because they don’t value the objective reality of the human subjects or their issues, but they’re interested in them only to instrumentalize them for normalizing their radically divergent set of values and assumptions through repetition and social entrainment. Or why else do you suppose they just repeat the same half a dozen points for years? …


Gerald Knaus, the author of the ideas in the EU-Turkey Deal, is proposing a Deal 2. The Deal presumes Turkey is a Safe Third Country, which has proven untrue. So the returns mechanism does not work, which causes overcrowding on the islands, which provides more material basis for populist-nationalist agitation against refugees and propaganda against the EU, rather than reducing it. Refugees do not cause EU destabilization; poor leadership does.

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Gerard Knaus, pictured in his own tweet: https://twitter.com/rumeliobserver/status/1223403891045404672

Intro — context and central thesis

Analysis of Deal 1

Analysis of Knaus’ proposal for Deal 2

How Turkey is not a…


Refugees arriving irregularly en masse do not cause EU destabilisation, but, when that happens, lack of political leadership according to EU values does.

Gerald Knaus, the author of the ideas in the EU-Turkey Deal, is proposing Deal 2. The Deal presumes Turkey is a Safe Third Country, which has been proven untrue. So the returns mechanism does not work, which causes overcrowding on the islands, which provides more material basis for populist-nationalist agitation against refugees and propaganda against the EU. Refugees do not cause EU destabilization; poor leadership does.

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Gerard Knaus, pictured in his own tweet: https://twitter.com/rumeliobserver/status/1223403891045404672

EU political leaders have repeated endlessly that the refugee mass influx of 2015 onwards caused destabilization by the populist-nationalist movement, but the fact that it also caused the Refugees Welcome volunteers movement and mobilization of European civil society networks transnationally and persistently (despite EU political leadership mostly going the other way), shows that there were other intermediate factors in both movements, and it is not necessary or always the case that refugee mass influxes cause increasing populist-nationalism or destabilization of the EU.[i]


Law is not a pick and mix sweeties shop for politicians to use as and when they please and leave the rest — apply the whole law properly or else Greece and Turkey should drop their procedural law treaty commitments to the EU.

As I’ve pointed out many times before, with more references: (https://www.facebook.com/kester.ratcliff/posts/10154710026256238, https://www.facebook.com/kester.ratcliff/posts/10156733026516238, https://www.facebook.com/kester.ratcliff/posts/10154401376316238, )

The Greek state has the legal trigger to OBLIGE the rest of the EU to share responsibility in case of a Mass Influx of people likely to be in need of international protection, which has been the case since 2015 and is likely to peak again soon because of the Turkish decision to release refugees again, but has so far chosen not to use it and acted as if they don’t have that power. …


‘Dominance theory’ stands for the theory which assumes that everything in dog behaviour and training can be explained in terms of ‘dominance’, and therefore assumes the way to train your dog is basically to over-dominate it.

Scientifically this ranks as antiquated bullshit, as much bullshit as the geocentric universe model, but it’s still believed at least partially by most dog owners, and TV companies still hire charlatans to make TV shows based on it.

It is indeed a traditional majority opinion, but so was the geocentric universe model. Most people in his lifetime believed that Galileo was wrong. …


comparing & evaluating different definitions of ‘propaganda’

The meaning of the term ‘propaganda’ is itself subject to propagandising. Some would like it to mean any State-funded public communications, which is convenient definition for use in whataboutism or false equivalency tactics, or even take it to mean any sort of persuasive communication, and some imply a much narrower definition, but few ever posit an explicit definition. My aim here is to explain the options first, then recommend one.

To save you the suspense: I end up recommending a Lasswell x Aristotle x Aquinas and spiked with a bit of Arendt sort of definition of ‘propaganda’.

My current working definition, which gets updated quite frequently…

About

Kester Ratcliff

Lapsed biologist retraining as a social data scientist, often writing about refugee rights advocacy and political philosophy.

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