“Alternative Facts,” “Fake News,” and the Rhetoric of the Emotional and Close-minded

I expected Donald Trump’s presidency to be… eventful, and in his short time in office, this has proven true.  I was pretty swamped with things the past couple of weeks, but it was impossible not to notice the social media meltdowns over Trump’s executive orders and policy decisions concerning the wall, the refugee crisis, and global warming.  My Facebook feed exploded this past week with all sorts of hashtags, drawings, pictures, and articles which shouted particular positions especially on the so called “Muslim ban.”  Trying to find nuanced and sober analysis within that sea of nonsense was close to impossible.

In this jolly environment, accusations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” are getting thrown around to go along with personal attacks that the opposing side is full of idiots and/or immoral monsters.  Basically, if someone cites or links an article that disputes one’s position, a quick way to dismiss that article or point is to mock it as “fake news” or an “alternative fact.”  It is this rhetoric that I want to address right now more than specific issues because such memes threaten to make an already toxic political environment even worse.  Essentially, while we should of course not want news out there that says straight up falsehoods, this kind of rhetoric fails to realize that evidence selection is a very important part of any discussion, and it is the foolish, the immature, and the close-minded who refuse to consider facts that may not fit their preferred narrative.

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Review of Sherlock S4: Interesting Characters Surrounded by Plot Holes

SPOILERS AHEAD

The fourth season of Sherlock ended this past Sunday, marking the 10th and potentially last episode of the series if they so choose not to make more (three seasons, three episodes each, plus one special).  It was good to see Sherlock, Watson, and Mycroft again after a couple of years, and this season introduced a pretty interesting character.  Still, the show continued to struggle to write sensible material that was actually smart and reasonable and instead gave plotlines that were borderline ridiculous and full of holes.

In many ways, this is an understandable struggle because the writers and creators have to try to portray super-geniuses with outlandish and unrealistic intellectual powers solving incredible problems and living life, while they are… well, not super-geniuses like that (who is?).  Because of this, some amount of leeway should be given for “deductions” that really cannot be made.  After all, we have to believe the premise that Sherlock, Mycroft, and maybe some others possess fantastic deductive abilities by observing things no other human can.  However, there is a limit to this; when they start solving and predicting things that are positively absurd (while at the same time missing obvious things that they should easily see), it comes off as a lazy writing.  Throw in massive plot holes and storylines that seemingly have nothing to do with solving cases, and you have some legitimate gripes that the show has lost its way a bit.  Yes, I know Moffat and Gattis have repeatedly tried to say that it’s not a detective show but a drama about a detective, but that still kinda makes it a detective show, and it doesn’t excuse plot contrivances.

A good example of this failure is from last season.  Charles Augustus Magnussen was far from a good villain; we were supposed to believe that he was just as smart as Sherlock and outwitted him at the end before Sherlock blew his brains out.  However, he ended up giving the game away by telling Watson and Sherlock he had no hard proof for his blackmails (even bragging that he can just print stuff anyway in the news) but relied on his “mind palace” to recall incriminating facts, a concession that made his whole enterprise a joke and Sherlock’s struggle nonsensical.  All Sherlock had to do was tell Mycroft or Magnussen’s enemies and someone else would have shot him.  Not to mention the fact that it is somewhat deceptive to show Magnussen actually walking down to the Appledore vaults that turned out to not exist.

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Common Pro-Choice Arguments That Wildly Miss the Point

The Republicans in Congress are seemingly trying to remove federal funds from Planned Parenthood, which is reigniting arguing and anger over the abortion issue.  Once again, we’re hearing the nonsense 3% statistic being thrown around to go along with a host of other common arguments to defend abortion and Planned Parenthood.  Much of these arguments miss the central point of this debate, being red herrings that distract from the key issue: Do we have good reason to believe that the baby is or is not a human life?  Does the mother have the “right” to end that life for any reason of her choosing?  Even if we aren’t sure, is the chance that the baby is human great enough to make elective abortion morally wrong?  It is frankly frustrating how many people, unfortunately including many confused Christians, use the following arguments when they are all simply irrelevant.

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Russell Moore, the SBC, and Donald Trump: A Nuanced Look

Like many, I did not take Donald Trump’s candidacy all that seriously in the beginning, and I was never a fan.  I’ve been forthright with my criticism of Trump and have long said that I don’t believe he’s a constitutional conservative or a conservative Christian and that he will not conduct his presidency like one.  Due to that, I never really cared that Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist organization The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), criticized Donald Trump or Trump supporters.  I also never paid attention to it; I would glance at headlines but never bothered to really read what he said.  However, in the last couple of months since Trump won, I’ve learned that people have been irked at Moore by his comments, with many leaders and churches in the SBC calling for him to be removed from his position or else they will stop financially supporting the ERLC.

Younger evangelicals (Moore is only 45) are rushing to his defense and decrying that the old geezers of the SBC are mistreating him for being bold enough to speak unpopular truth and calling them out on their support of a bad candidate (I’m paraphrasing slightly 😉 ).  Perhaps this may be correct regarding some people, but I think this controversy highlights other issues too, issues that actually might be legitimate to question.

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