ideology

The concept of a “confirmation loop” in psychology is a critical element to understand in the contexts of media literacy, disinformation, and political ideologies. It operates on the basic human tendency to seek out, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, known as confirmation bias. This bias is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning that affects the decisions and judgments that people make.

Understanding the confirmation loop

A confirmation loop occurs when confirmation bias is reinforced in a cyclical manner, often exacerbated by the selective exposure to information that aligns with one’s existing beliefs. In the digital age, this is particularly prevalent due to the echo chambers created by online social networks and personalized content algorithms.

These technologies tend to present us with information that aligns with our existing views, thus creating a loop where our beliefs are constantly confirmed, and alternative viewpoints are rarely encountered. This can solidify and deepen convictions, making individuals more susceptible to disinformation and conspiracy theories, and less tolerant of opposing viewpoints.

Media literacy and disinformation

Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. It’s crucial in breaking the confirmation loop as it involves critically evaluating sources of information, their purposes, and their impacts on our thoughts and beliefs.

With the rise of digital media, individuals are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information, making it challenging to distinguish between credible information and disinformation. It is paramount to find your own set of credible sources, and verify the ethics and integrity of new sources you come across.

Disinformation, or false information deliberately spread to deceive people, thrives in an environment where confirmation loops are strong. Individuals trapped in confirmation loops are more likely to accept information that aligns with their preexisting beliefs without scrutinizing its credibility. This makes disinformation a powerful tool in manipulating public opinion, especially in politically charged environments.

Political ideologies

The impact of confirmation loops on political ideologies cannot be overstated. Political beliefs are deeply held and can significantly influence how information is perceived and processed.

When individuals only consume media that aligns with their political beliefs, they’re in a confirmation loop that can reinforce partisan views and deepen divides. This is particularly concerning in democratic societies where informed and diverse opinions are essential for healthy political discourse.

Operation of the confirmation loop

The operation of the confirmation loop can be seen in various everyday situations. For instance, a person might exclusively watch news channels that reflect their political leanings, follow like-minded individuals on social media, and participate in online forums that share their viewpoints.

Algorithms on many platforms like Facebook and Twitter (X) detect these preferences and continue to feed similar content, thus reinforcing the loop. Over time, this can result in a narrowed perspective, where alternative viewpoints are not just ignored but may also be actively discredited or mocked.

Becoming more aware and breaking the loop

Becoming more aware of confirmation loops and working to break them is essential for fostering open-mindedness and reducing susceptibility to disinformation. Here are several strategies to achieve this:

  1. Diversify Information Sources: Actively seek out and engage with credible sources of information that offer differing viewpoints. This can help broaden your perspective and challenge your preconceived notions.
  2. Critical Thinking: Develop critical thinking skills to analyze and question the information you encounter. Look for evidence, check sources, and consider the purpose and potential biases behind the information.
  3. Media Literacy Education: Invest time in learning about media literacy. Understanding how media is created, its various forms, and its impact can help you navigate information more effectively.
  4. Reflect on Biases: Regularly reflect on your own biases and consider how they might be affecting your interpretation of information. Self-awareness is a crucial step in mitigating the impact of confirmation loops.
  5. Engage in Constructive Dialogue: Engage in respectful and constructive dialogues with individuals who hold different viewpoints. This can expose you to new perspectives and reduce the polarization exacerbated by confirmation loops.

The confirmation loop is a powerful psychological phenomenon that plays a significant role in shaping our beliefs and perceptions, especially in the context of media literacy, disinformation, and political ideologies. By understanding how it operates and actively working to mitigate its effects, individuals can become more informed, open-minded, and resilient against disinformation.

The path toward breaking the confirmation loop involves a conscious effort to engage with diverse information sources, practice critical thinking, and foster an environment of open and respectful discourse.

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cult warning signs

Cults, in general, refer to organizations or groups that often manipulate and exploit members, typically by using unorthodox beliefs and practices. Recognizing cult warning signs can be vital in identifying and understanding the risk before getting involved with a high demand group that may not have your best interests in mind.

  1. Excessive Devotion to a Leader: Cults usually revolve around charismatic leaders who demand absolute loyalty and obedience. A disproportionate reverence for these figures may serve as a red flag.
  2. Us vs. Them Mentality: Cults often draw clear lines between insiders and outsiders, emphasizing that only they possess the truth. This divisive mindset encourages isolation from family, friends, and society, leading to further control over the members.
  3. Coercive Persuasion and Manipulation: High-pressure tactics are common in recruiting and retaining members. This may include controlling information, employing guilt or fear, manipulating emotions to maintain allegiance, and other tactics of emotional predators.
  4. Excessive Financial Demands: Many cults require significant financial contributions, sometimes even requiring members to relinquish personal assets. This financial control reinforces dependence on the group.
  5. Rigidity of Beliefs and Practices: A cult’s ideology is often absolute, with no room for questioning or dissent. Those who challenge the beliefs are typically met with hostility, punishment, or expulsion. This fundamentalist mentality permeates the entire group’s thinking and behavior.
  6. Unrealistic Promises: Cults may lure individuals with promises of spiritual enlightenment, exclusive knowledge, or personal success, often unrealistic or unattainable. These promises can entice individuals seeking meaning or connection in their lives.
  7. Control Over Personal Lives: Intense control over members’ personal lives, including relationships, employment, and living arrangements, can be a clear warning sign. Such control can erode personal autonomy and self-identity.
  8. Emotional Abuse and Fear Tactics: Cults frequently use fear, shame, and guilt to control members, creating an environment where members feel constant anxiety about meeting the group’s standards or displeasing the leader.
  9. A Focus on Recruitment: Many cults prioritize recruitment above all else, viewing every interaction as an opportunity to bring others into the fold. The pressure to recruit can be relentless and is often a central component of the group’s activities.
  10. Impacts on Health and Wellbeing: The demanding nature of cult involvement can lead to negative effects on mental, emotional, and physical health. This can manifest as anxiety, depression, exhaustion, or other health issues, often ignored or downplayed by the group.
  11. Use of hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) techniques

Recognizing these warning signs is crucial for individuals, families, and communities to understand the potential dangers and take appropriate steps to protect themselves. The subject of cults is sensitive, often tied to deeply personal and societal fears, and it requires careful consideration and empathy.

Resources on cults

  1. Cult Education Institute (CEI)Website
    • Overview: Operated by Rick Alan Ross, an internationally known expert on cults, CEI offers extensive resources, including a database of information on specific groups, techniques for intervention, and guidelines to recognize coercive persuasion.
    • Target Audience: Anyone looking to educate themselves about cults, from concerned family members to academic researchers.
  2. International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)Website
    • Overview: ICSA is a global network of people concerned about psychological manipulation and abuse in cultic or high-demand groups. They offer conferences, publications, and support networks.
    • Target Audience: Researchers, professionals, former cult members, and concerned family and friends.
  3. Freedom of Mind Resource CenterWebsite
    • Overview: Created by Steven Hassan, a mental health counselor and former cult member, this site offers resources on combating mind control in various settings, including cults, terrorism, and human trafficking.
    • Target Audience: General public, mental health professionals, and individuals directly affected by cults.
  4. Cult Information Centre (CIC)Website
    • Overview: Based in the UK, the CIC provides information, advice, and support to those concerned about cults. They offer educational programs and direct help to those affected.
    • Target Audience: UK residents, though the information is applicable globally.
  5. Reddit’s Cults CommunitySubreddit
    • Overview: This online community allows individuals to discuss personal experiences, share research, and ask questions related to cults. Moderated for respectful dialogue, it offers a more informal but still informative perspective.
    • Target Audience: Those looking for community interaction, shared experiences, and casual information on the subject.
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Blood libel is a very old anti-Semitic myth that has stubbornly persisted for centuries, one of several conspiracy theories that have scapegoating the Jewish people for all of society’s ills at their core. The heart of the false claim is that Jews murder non-Jewish (or Gentile) children to use their blood for apocryphal religious rituals, during Passover and other prominent Jewish holidays.

Originating from a series of stereotypes about Jews amassed through the ages, blood libel is also intimately related to the global cabal conspiracy theory and was heavily used in Nazi ideology to justify the horrors of the Holocaust. Somewhat ironically, the Nazis claimed that the Jewish people were inherently violent and murderous — and used this baseless claim as justification of their own systematic program of violence and murder of over 6 million Jewish people in Germany during the 1930s and 40s.

The outlandish claims of blood libel have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked by scholars, historians, anthropologists, psychologists, and an armada of dedicated truth-tellers — yet the stickiness of the myth persists, even after the consequences of this toxic belief system of antisemitism became apparent during World War II. Today, the blood libel myth has been given new life in the modern revision known as the QAnon conspiracy theory — a movement which contains elements of blood libel, global cabal theory, and a hodge podge of other fantastical and fanatical belief systems that have hooked gullible populations throughout history.

It’s important to remain skeptical of those who make these claims, and to ask who benefits from the deep virulent divisions and bitter partisanship created by the widespread belief in these toxic conspiracy theories.

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Longtermism is an extreme ideology that has gained traction in Silicon Valley and the technosphere: both Elon Musk and Peter Thiel are acolytes. In this worldview, the far future of humanity will have colonized the stars and number in the trillions — therefore making all the puny little humans alive today essentially worthless and expendable in their eyes (except themselves, of course). As long as climate change doesn’t kill *absolutely all* 7 billion of us, we’ll manage to soldier on — therefore we should focus on AI instead, they say.

Their breezy tossing aside of morality on anything with effects less than 100 years is also chilling. By use of the frame-shifting device of the far far future, longtermism is able to render basically anything a rounding error of no importance, from the Holocaust to the dropping of atomic bombs to the famines of Stalin and Mao. That is just not going to sit well with most people who have empathy — which is most people.

Related terms:

  • existential risk
  • effective altruism
  • non-linear climate change
  • “vast and glorious potential”
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When using the Broken Record method, think K.I.S.S. for quick and dirty media strategy: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Then, repeat those short phrases or sentences frequently.

Themes to Broken Record for 2022 (and beyond):

Fascism / Authoritarianism warnings

Optimism > Pessimism

Buddhism and Stoicism were hopefully about humanity — these were philosophies that placed humans squarely at the center of an ever-expanding self-awareness journey that we could all commit to as a matter of personal growth. The locus of control was inside the individual.

Christianity changed all that. Now the locus of control was outside of a person — it resided with Jesus and, in turn, God. Considering their pernicious absence on the face of the planet however, numerous human beings claimed to have the bat phone to God, by which to issue allegedly celestial orders to others. The game of telephone always seemed to conspicuously privilege the claimant — God always coincidentally seemed to have great things in mind for the interlocutor, and not much concern for the rest of His creation.

The religious philosophies of Luther and Calvin would debase the popular conception of humanity even further, teaching that no amount of self-humiliation could get us low enough to match our undeservedness — and yet we ought to exhaust ourselves trying to prove it to be the case nonetheless. Under the edicts of the Protestant work ethic, one needs always to be consumed by frantic activity in order to appear worthy of God’s salvation — despite the fact that the core precept of predestination means that none of your obsessive ablutions can actually move the needle. Do it anyway — drop and give Calvin a Moral 20!

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