One responsible for mass murder or the serial rapist?

The above tweet's author is Shadi Hamid who works for the Brookings Institution specifically studying Islamist movements. (Elsewhere he describes himself as a progressive, liberal Muslim). I've posted some of his thoughts before on how people's beliefs might lead to them joining an organization like the Muslim Brotherhood and how he finds it annoying that other people often fail to account for such beliefs and instead ascribe actions exclusively to other phenomena.

Elsewhere you also find, e.g., Michael Wear who worked for the Obama campaign and later in the White House under President Obama writing about what it would take for Doug Jones to beat Roy Moore:

here’s one potentially crippling problem for Jones: his extreme position on abortion. In a recent interview, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Jones, “[W]hat are the limitations that you believe should be in the law when it comes to abortion?” Jones responded that he is a “firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her body,” and affirmed his support for contraception and for a woman’s right to “the abortion that they might need.” When Todd then asked whether that meant he would not support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, Jones replied that he was “not in favor of anything that would infringe on a woman’s right to choose.” He continued, oddly, by assuring voters that “I want to make sure that people understand that once a baby is born, I’m gonna be there for that child. That’s where I become a right-to-lifer.” Jones has also indicated he supports federal funding for abortion, a position that would overturn 40 years of bipartisan policy on the matter.

Here’s what you need to know about Alabama: Fifty-eight percent of Alabamians believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases—making it one of the top five most pro-life states in the country. Evangelical voters care deeply about abortion policy, and Jones’ position on this issue could cost him the election.

Voting for a serial rapist sounds really bad ... but if the alternative is someone you see as responsible for millions upon millions of deaths whether or not to do so at very least starts to seem like a moral dilemma.

It's a dilemma that I think that the media is likely to fail to convince people to change their minds on, in part as the media by and large seems to fail to grapple with how many in Alabama are likely to think. If you were to want to change the minds of those voters there motivated to vote for Moore based on how he'd vote on abortion an argument like the following (stated by Ross Douthat who I look at as the token conservative Catholic at the New York Times) would be a start:

Or you might wind up making a case like that made by Ramesh Ponnuru:

If you’re a voter in Alabama who can’t in good conscience vote for either of the party nominees, don’t try to overcome your conscience. One of these candidates is going to win the election, and your vote is infinitesimally likely to sway the outcome. Let that winner triumph without your endorsement, and with your opposition registered. And let politicians in both parties know that you have minimum standards that are not up for negotiation.

Somehow I doubt such a position would is likely to satisfy many but it might at least reduce Moore's vote count.

Though Muslims likely have more to fear from a Moore victory than most others in Alabama - I wonder if they might still have an easier time understanding the moral conflict that a significant subset of voters in Alabama likely feel. I've been thinking back to this:

In our study, the relationship between religion and closed-mindedness depended on the specific aspect of closed-mindedness ... The nonreligious compared to the religious seemed to be less closed minded when it came to explicitly measured certainty in one’s beliefs. However, and somewhat surprisingly, when it came to subtly measured inclination to integrate views that were diverging and contrary to one’s own perspectives, it was the religious who showed more openness.

Even though (even relatively conservative) Muslims in Alabama probably don't quite have the same attitude towards abortion as you're likely to find among the state's Christian population it seems to me that they'd be used to living in a way that they expect a subset of the claims they believe to be true based on probably quite-strongly-held Muslim beliefs to not be viewed as such by the majority of the population and thus not see it as quite so odd for a different subset of the population to have similar beliefs of such a sort. At the same point they're living in a region wherein elite culture is often agnostic or even atheist and often seems unable to accommodate the thought that people might genuinely believe in Islam. By contrast it seems to me that the more likely someone is to speak of a love for "diversity" the more likely they seem to be to fail to consider that someone might truly believe in Christianity or Islam - i.e. that not everyone thinks like you do. Here we're back once again to what I sometimes feel is the recurring theme of the site the last while. (EDIT: should add that much of the difference I expect exists here when it comes to, e.g., Muslims in America seems heavily cultural - an atheist growing up in a place like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan would likely find themselves in a similar boat when it comes to the necessity of understanding parallel ways of thinking).


As an addendum, given all the talk of Russian interference in US politics it seems worth revisiting a Russian word here: kompromat. Roughly stated both the collection and fabrication of discrediting information about politicians have been widely used in the post-Soviet states. It seems reasonable to me that Alabamans would likely be particularly suspicious of such an influence when it comes to a faceoff between candidates like Moore and Jones.

Here abortion seems to be one of the major wedge issues and it seems to me that this subject is one where people in Alabama have come to expect the media to routinely lie to them. I've talked before about how, e.g., even infrequent of fake vaccination campaigns by CIA to further other goals has significantly reduced the future immunization campaigns. Here perceived media dishonesty may have vaccinated the population against believing media particularly when it comes to the subject at hand. Just think about what the media frequently reports the desires of "women" to be compared to what women tell pollsters their interests are:

While, on the whole, there isn’t a major difference in the sexes’ attitudes toward abortion, there is one when we separate men and women by ideology. If we look at the data since 2000 (to get a more contemporary perspective), on the liberal end of the ideological spectrum men are consistently less supportive of abortion on demand than women. On the conservative end of the spectrum, it’s women who like abortion on demand less than men do.

With the US population increasingly geographically segregated by political affiliation, what the typical Alabama voter seems most likely to see is that what the media claims the interests of "women" to be is not only not supported by women they know. Instead opposition to the claimed interest of women is probably driven by women locally (with something similar I'd guess also to be the case in Saskatchewan). It's one thing to advocate for a particular position on an issue - it's another to engage in deceptive behavior along the way.

Politics is often extremely dirty - e.g. half of the recent New York Times article I Believe Juanita which seems to have caused those in media to more widely reconsider their opinion of Bill Clinton seems to be a case that, if applied to Moore, might promote skepticism toward his accusers. Or, e.g., the Democrats aren't necessarily living up particularly well today either to the standards they claim to hold on issues like sexual harassment.

Here if the claims of media contradict the evidence people see in front of them, I suspect they're more likely to perceive closely related claims to be fraudulent. Moore looks pretty guilty to me - particularly given how the Washington Post appears to be have vetted stories closely enough to pick out a fraudulent claimant - but for those who don't really pay more than a cursory glance to political analysis - i.e. most of the population - I'd be unsurprised if quite a few people perceive fraud given the circumstances.

Can Seaweed Save the World?

A documentary that ABC in Australia has made freely available online:

Random links

For elites, politics is driven by ideology. For voters, it’s not.
" Once you’re used to seeing politics through an ideological lens, it becomes easy to forget that others don’t. ... Trump was easy for political professionals to underestimate because they are ideologues who are surrounded by ideologues, and so they naturally came to see a coherent ideology as a prerequisite for a successful politician"
Income inequality and subjective well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis
"The association between income inequality and [subjective well-being] is weak, complex and moderated by the country economic development."
To Be a Genius, Think Like a 94-Year-Old
"there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that late blooming is no anomaly. A 2016 Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study found that inventors peak in their late 40s and tend to be highly productive in the last half of their careers. Similarly, professors at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Hitotsubashi University in Japan, who studied data about patent holders, found that, in the United States, the average inventor sends in his or her application to the patent office at age 47, and that the highest-value patents often come from the oldest inventors — those over the age of 55."

On banning words like "like", "love", and "hate"

Adam Grant On Interviewing to Hire Trailblazers, Nonconformists and Originals:

One of the first names noted when listing nonconformists is Nancy Lublin. ... she prompts her people to act originally by banning words such as like, love and hate, because, as a basic visceral response, they circumvent any critical thought. Saying why something is loved or hated inspires new, substantial ideas.

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