You still need the human aspect

I used to feel inexplicably uneasy every time I watched videos by Wendover Productions. It is one of the channels which topics genuinely intrigue me. But, something always felt off.

Thanks to Alan Fisher, now I know why.

Fisher is another Youtuber whose content shares thematic similarities with Wendover, albeit his is more niche. He criticises Wendover’s videos for being hollow shells. Lots of technical information on the surface, no humanness underneath. That critique explains my uneasiness.

While there aren’t that many, I found comments critical of Fisher’s take, saying they would love science and tech videos free from personal opinions.

I do understand their frustration; they are coming only for the technical information. But, we should not forget one thing about STEM: they were created to benefit mankind. Sooner or later, we have to have discussions about how they affect us.

(Note: the following topics are not something Wendover has discussed in its videos. They are just something I have talked about with other people)

You can explain the differences between metric and imperial measurement systems. But, you also have to acknowledge that a system which conversion simply requires moving the decimal point is significantly more dependable and less likely to cause accidents than a system which requires one conversion formula for every pair of unit. Not to mention that metric is much easier to people who suck in math.

You can explain the technical details of man-made physical environments (e.g. buildings and urban planning) and machinery of different modes of transportation. But, you should also talk about how they affect our physical, financial, social and psychological well-being, both on collective and individual levels.

You can explain the technical details of information technology. But, you should also talk about how to ethically and cautiously utilising it, making sure it improves interconnectivity instead of stoking divisions, spreading misinformation and violating privacy.

You can explain the technical details of GMOs, pharmaceutical products and nuclear energy. But, you should also mention their political and/or corporate misuse, which distract the masses from seeing the actual benefits.

You can elaborate on the latest technological breakthroughs. But, you should discuss whether they are actually beneficial and sustainable in the long run or they are just symptoms of fake futurism which may or may not exacerbate humanity’s existing problems.

You can elaborate on evolution theory. But, you should also talk about the taboo attached to it. Is it because of literal interpretations of the scriptures? Is it because of anthropocentrism? Is it both? Is it because of a reason I have never thought of before?

If we want to know which technical knowledge is the most beneficial, we must take a look at the data. If it is clear, then we must take a stance by choosing the empirically-proven approaches and ditching the ones that aren’t. If the data isn’t clear, then we must have discussions, which inevitably involve lots and lots opinions.

If we want to know how theoretical knowledge affects us, we must observe people’s responses to it. Do they embrace it to widen their horizon? Do they reject it for contradicting their personal beliefs? Do they believe certain knowledge is useless if it does not bring immediate practical benefits?

Why do humans have such varying responses? How can we spread science appreciation to the wider society? How can we convince people to change their beliefs when faced with refuting evidences? How can we convince them that expansing one’s horizon is also an actual benefit?

If you think science communication must convey nothing but technical information, why bother?

Why bother with science communication – which is meant to make the masses appreciate STEM even more – when you disregard its significance in our human lives? Why bother when you could have just written and read textbooks and scientific papers?

It sounds like I absolutely hate Wendover. While I do think most of his videos aren’t that great, there are two which I truly love: The World’s Most Useful Airport and The Final Years of Majuro.

The former is about an airport in an extremely isolated island called St. Helena. It covers the airport’s arduous technical aspects and its impacts on the islanders’ lives. He interviewed the locals, including a couple whose baby received urgent life-saving treatment thanks to the airport.

The latter is about how climate change is threatening to swallow the entirety of Marshall Islands, which means the Marshallese people will lose their ancestral homeland soon. He interviewed them as well, even ones who lived abroad.

They tackle issues which can be solved using STEM and warn us about the consequences of our refusal to solve them. Unless you are a robot or one of those Ayn Rand-esque selfish bastards, hearing the human side of the stories would make you more appreciative of STEM’s existence and more concerned about its use.

The thing is Wendover does not need to travel to a far flung place and interview its residents. If he compliments his STEM content with some dashes of social sciences and humanities and he acknowledges that it is okay to add personal opinions as long as they are well-reasoned and respectful of facts, his other videos would have been much more profound.

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“Cancel culture stops people from growing”

… is something what people argue against cancel culture. They believe even the worst of the worst should not be cancelled; if they are cancelled, they would never learn to be better people.

I disagree because it insinuates that every mistake humans make is equally bad. We know damn well that is not true. Making tasteless jokes is certainly not on par with inciting violence, being sexually predatory and filming a dead body and showing it your young viewers. You won’t grow up if you don’t taste the bitter consequences for your actions.

Obviously, the severity must be proportionate. Ruining someone’s a career just for a tactless joke – especially the one made in the past – is needlessly cruel. Stern but constructive criticism is more than enough; you would learn that likeability requires reading the goddamn room.

But, incitement of violence? Sexual abuse? Filming a corpse and showing it to children as entertainment? Do I need to explain how harmful they are?

If you committed either one and the only punishments you get are mere criticism and temporary income decrease, it sends a message that your atrocious acts are trivial stuffs which people overreact to. Why should you learn from your mistakes when you can repeat them over and over again and always left relatively unscathed?

Take Youtubers Logan and Jake Paul as examples. They were never cancelled. As severe as the criticism was, they were never on the brink of losing their careers. In fact, not only they are still thriving, they are still sleazy.

As far as I am concerned, neither of them continue targeting mature content to children (and Logan only filmed a dead body once). But now, they are peddling cryptocurrency scams.

They never stop being bad guys; they simply changed their modus operandi. Logan also created a well-received podcast which, intentionally or not, gives a false impression of personal growth.

If not getting cancelled fosters personal growth, why are the Paul brothers still the cunts that they are?

If influential and problematic Youtubers like them were cancelled, they would be powerless to cause widespread harm. Not only they wouldn’t continue mistreat lots of other people, they also wouldn’t normalise toxicity, to the point where we have extremely low bar of human decency on Youtube, making them look virtuous compared to other problematic individuals.

Would they grow as human beings? I don’t know and I don’t give a fuck.

Seriously, between stopping a disease from spreading and giving it a chance (which is not 100%) to cure itself, why the fuck should we prioritise the latter?

Why the fuck should we risk letting it spreading just for the sake of your pathetic, deluded sensibility?

Why the fuck should we responsible for their redemption arcs?

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We should hand it to warmongers

No, I am not being facetious.

A war is a conflict which not only results in destructions of human properties, but also the brutal, violent deaths of innocent human beings, physical and psychological trauma of the survivors and the possibility of long-term geo-political instability, which may lead to even more violence.

To describe it as hell on earth is an understatement.

And yet, despite what we know about wars, warmongers have successfully convinced the world that killing innocent human lives, physically and/or psychologically scarring the survivors and destabilising the entire region are a must. Why? Because the hypothetical liberation promised by the so-called freedom-loving invaders.

What I just described does not make any fucking sense. And yet, warmongers have successfully convinced people to embrace that nonsensical belief.

One may argue I am giving them too much credit. Some people are so gullible, it does not take much to persuade them. In some cases, that is definitely the case: all you need to do is to say things, no techniques needed. But, the more I interact with people, the more I see the complexity.

Not all of the people who fall for the warmongering are stupid. In fact, I have seen some whose intelligence is above average, who are capable to process complex thoughts with great ease.

It is infuriating how warmongers can convince even the most intelligent people to believe nonsensical bullshit, while war-opponents are unable to persuade even the most gullible people.

This is just another reminder that simply knowing the truths and having the morality isn’t enough. If we want to spread our values, we must have the skills to do so and we must be great at them.

Obviously, this judgement of mine has been clouded by cynicism. But, I cannot help noticing how the more immoral and/or reactionary people are, the more likely they are to be accomplished in organisational and communication skills.

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Believe it or not, fake news is not the media’s biggest problem

Contrary to popular belief, fake news is mostly confined to fringe and alternative media outlets, which are ironically trusted by those who love screaming “fake news!”.

For people with basic media literacy, fake news can be easy to detect. Unprofessional languages , excessive or absolute reliance on stock footage and photos, absolute reliance on hearsay, anything which compensates for the absence of corroboration.

Most of the time, the news in mainstream media outlets are not… you know…. fake. Even though it does employ questionable languages at times, it also uses actual footages and photos of the stories in question and the journalists interview people on the ground, things which alternative and fringe media often forgoes.

The reports are technically factual. But, that does not mean they are trustworthy.

For one, they can present the facts using dishonest angles, which they often do.

You can report on problems caused by marginalised minorities. But, hyper-fixation on them means you depict those politically powerless people as the biggest trouble-makers and ignoring the system which puts them in their current situations.

You can grill individuals who hate the establishments. But, let’s not depict the powerful establishments as some kind of powerless and angelic underdogs who deserve our sympathy.

You can interview bigots, extremists and snake oil salesmen. But, let’s not pretend all opinions are scientifically, factually and morally equal.

You can report religious extremism. But, if you focus only on the extremists and detractors of the associated religion while ignoring the peaceful believers, you will inevitably depict an entire religious group with the same brush.

You can report problematic behaviours of some activists. But, don’t use their SJW-esque behaviours to ignore the sincere grievances other activists have.

They are technically factual. But, there are false balance, biases and omission of certain details which can provide us the full contexts.

They compel us to lionise, demonise and be dismissive towards undeserving individuals and groups. They compel us to perceive certain situations as more complicated or simplistic than they really are.

The title of this blog seems to insinuate that dishonesty is a bigger threat than fake news. Well, that’s because it is.

It is not to say fake news in fringe media and the people who consume it are not dangerous. They certainly are; from time to time, we have witnessed extremists – like it or not, fake news embracers often have extreme views – inflicting widespread harm upon their respective societies.

But, as I have said before, fake news is – more of than not – brazen; for anyone who possess the most basic media literacy, it is extremely easy to detect it.

Extremists are also easy to spot, as long as you dissect their beliefs and acknowledge there are such things as bad opinions. You don’t even need to wait for the violence.

But, dishonesty of mainstream media is trickier. Not only refuting deceitful viewpoints is significantly a lot more difficult than debunking on-the-nose misinformation, you also have to convince the average media consumers that statements of facts can still misguide them and there is something to read between the lines.

I personally can attest how difficult it is to persuade people – even the smarter than average ones – into acknowledging the abstract. For them, people like me are nothing but conspiracy “theorist” who see non-existing patterns and should learn to take anything at face value.

Do I have a solution for this?

As someone whose university major is media and communication, I do believe the answer is a yes… a reluctant yes.

While the practical skilled I learned (e.g. creating PR plans and writing press releases) did drastically decrease my gullibility, they never gave me different lenses to observe media content with; they were given to me in social science and humanities classes.

I also have this observation about other people: the less they are educated in social sciences and humanities, the more likely they take media content (or anything, really) at face value. Either they are not used to thinking abstractly (thanks, education systems!) or they hate questioning the conventional narratives because it feels like questioning their normal reality.

In fact, I am certain the latter is the reason why many people hate liberal arts. They want to learn what and how things work, they don’t want to question whether we should do them or not.

I know this sounds anecdotal. But, surely, we can agree that recognising subtle deceit like the one of mainstream media requires the ability to read between the line, grasp the intangible and even question our own perceptions of reality.

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How you – a member of the privileged majority – should treat the minorities

*puts on a mask*

First thing first, simply refuting extreme claims about bigotry in your country is not enough. You should completely deny that it ever exists!

Why? Because, if you want something to come true, all you have to do is to believe! The more you believe your country is bigotry-free, the more likely it will be so! It is the secret!

A country is full of bigotry because we don’t enough have positive thinking!

Second, you should listen to everything what minorities have to say. But, that does not mean you should consider all of their experiences valid.

You should pick them apart, categorise them by how much they appease you. If they dare to say anything negative about your beloved country, they are the bad ones.

You can also test them and there are two ways of doing it. You can do it “nicely” by asking mean-spirited questions; they can be questions that frame them as perpetual foreigners (e.g. “where are you really from?”) or questions that perpetuate guilty by association (e.g. “why don’t you condemn Islamic extremism/Chinese Communist Party/etc.?”).

If sounding polite is too much work for you, you can test them aggressively by explicitly hurl slurs and violent threats at them.

If they react negatively towards the former, accuse them of being snowflakes who cannot handle legitimately curious questions (even though the questions are clearly made out of ill intent). With the latter, accuse them of trying to taking away your freedom of speech (even though their responses is them practicing their freedom of speech).

If they rebuke you calmly, rebuke them back for being too emotional. If they give you witty comebacks, rebuke them for being mean-spirited and even bigoted against you.

Overall, gaslight the hell out of them. Make them feel like they are the aggressors simply because they demand to be treated like human beings.

If you haven’t guessed, good minorities are those who willingly become our lap dogs, who willingly accept their fate as second-class citizens. They are willing to endure any abuse we hurl at them because they know deserve it.

It is their fault for choosing the wrong religions, ethnicities, sexualities, genders and races. It is their fault for not choosing the right ones.

You – the privileged majority – are the ones with the right labels. Therefore, not only you should feel good about your identities, you must actively tout them as the only morally upright ones.

If you have self-respect, you must behave like a supremacist.

*takes off the mask*

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“Everything is political!”

I first encountered that remark in a video by Extra Credit, a Youtube channel partially dedicated to video games.

At first, I found it off-putting. I thought it was pretentious and sanctimonious. I thought they were trying too hard to sound socially-conscious. I remember that people in the comment section also shared my discontent.

But then, years later, I changed my mind. Admittedly, as off-putting as it sounds, that remark has some truths. But, I prefer to phrase it differently: everything -literally everything – is affected by politics.

What kinds of entertainment we consume and enjoy are affected by politics. The governments set rules about which works are allowed and prohibited, which require age restrictions, which require “alteration”; in some cases, there may be endorsement of certain works and/or styles.

And yes, even the foods we eat are affected by politics. The openness and closeness of trades affect the variety. Political stances, especially of the ruling classes, may also affect what styles of foods considered acceptable to eat; cultural cringe compels people to look down on their ancestral/local cuisines while pride compels them to be proud of the ancestral/local ones.

In more extreme cases, ultra-nationalists want everyone to eat ONLY ancestral/local foods and some revolutionaries (e.g. Italian Futurists) want everyone to break up with the past by stop eating ancestral foods.

My problem with that Extra Credit quote is the phrasing. It sounds like we have to make be political every second of our lives! I don’t think so and I would be disappointed if that was what they meant.

We have the choice to be tactful and tactless about our political opinions. We have the choice to take heed or be dismissive of politics. But, we don’t have the choice to be free from politics because it is very much interested in you (I am sure some of you have heard of this before).

One can also the same thing about cultures, religions and the economies. On one way or another, our lives are affected by all of them and they are unavoidable.

This is a reminder that humans don’t live in vacuums. We live in a world where everything is inevitably interconnected. In fact, I can also argue not only politics influences entertainment and foods, it can also be the other way around!

But, I am not going there now. I am not into the mood of plunging myself into the rabbit hole.

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What Dave Chappelle’s defenders reveal about so-called comedy fans

They don’t get what freedom of speech is

They think they can dictate what others can feel offended by, dictate how others feel anything.

While you should definitely criticise their lack of level-headedness, you should also remember they are your fellow human beings, NOT your toy robots. It is unreasonable of you to demand them to stop behaving like human beings.

While you have the right to defend any jokes, it is just sensical that the butts of the jokes – whose lives are definitely being affected – are entitled to the biggest megaphones.

And when the jokes target the likes of you and you are fine with it, just remember that you are just one person. As worthy as your opinions are, your fellows’ are just as important.

They care too much about your feelings

If they really don’t, why would they think negative opinions ruin their fun? Why can’t they just enjoy the things enjoy and ignore the haters?

I was able to enjoy Harry Potter despite knowing that religious puritans hated the series and they even made the books banned from school libraries. Considering we live in a digital age, we can still access banned works, anyway.

Maybe they are those annoying fans who demand the rest of the world to love what they love. Maybe they think their taste comedy is objectively the best and it is an atrocity against reason to think otherwise.

Those are fair assumptions. Don’t deny it.

They don’t know comedy that well

They believe jokes are meant to be jokes, nothing more. Well, history of comedy says otherwise.

In America, some of its most legendary comedians are ones who insert serious messages into their jokes. Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Smothers Brothers, Mort Sahl are just a few examples.

If you want to go more contemporary, The Daily Show correspondents and veterans are arguably the most well-known examples. Heck, even Chappelle himself has inserted commentaries about racism into his jokes. In fact, isn’t that a reason why he became a legend in the first place?

Regardless whether Chappelle is a transphobe or just a preteen edgelord stuck in an adult’s body, how can anyone who claims to be comedy fans thinks every joke should never be taken seriously?

If jokes can have underlying serious commentaries, why can’t they accept that jokes can also harbour genuine bigotry?

Pay attention to the jokers when they are not performing. The more they talk sincerely, the more likely they reveal their true selves. Then, we can tell whether their jokes are just edgy OR genuinely hateful.

Wait, who am I kidding? I am expecting too much from my fellow human beings.

Too many of them are blind to what is in front of them…. and yet, I am expecting them to read between the lines.

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How to build a civilisation?

Obviously, this requires complex answers. But, if I have to answer it simplistically, I would say civilisation requires good education and discipline.

Maybe it is just me. But, I doubt one can build great things by being disorganised airheads. I mean, it makes perfect sense. I state the obvious because it seems some people have other thoughts about this.

In the west, there are people with strong far-right inclinations who genuinely believe patriarchy, racial and cultural homogeneity, Christianity, cisheteronormativity and machismo built ancient civilisations.

In the Muslim world, there are people who credited Islamic theocracy and highly devoted populace for the Islamic Golden Age. While I encounter them way less, it is hard to ignore them.

If I try hard enough, I am sure I would find even more absurd shits people claim as civilisation builders.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend their notions about ancient societies are accurate (very likely not)*. It still does not make any sense.

Those ancient western civilisations might by misogynistic, homogenous and devotedly Christian. But then, the same things can be said about the least developed parts of the western world.

Take America, for example. Admittedly, the blue states and cities are far from perfect; they certainly have their share of problems. But, you cannot expect me to believe their red counterparts are doing any better.

Those red states have less diverse economic sectors, higher teenage pregnancy rates, higher obesity rates, higher dependence on federal welfare and higher high school dropout rates. Not to mention they are less likely to possess America’s major economic, scientific and cultural centres.

That’s the same with other western countries. London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, they tend to be less religious and more liberal-minded than most other places in their respective countries.

While correlation certainly does not equal causation, it also reminds us that misogyny, homogeneity and Christian devotion do not guarantee civilisation-building.

The Muslim world also has something similar. If Islamic theocracy builds civilisation, then explain why Saudi Arabia, Taliban-ruled territories and ISIS-ruled territories are not the most developed parts of the Muslim world. From all theocratic** Muslim-majority countries, Iran is the only one with high rate of research papers publication and thriving film industry.

In Indonesia specifically, the Sharia-practicing province of Aceh is also far from the most developed.

Of course, I have to give another ‘correlation does not equal causation’ disclaimer. There are more religiously pluralistic provinces which are equally underdeveloped or even more. Not to mention that places outside Java are relatively more neglected.

But, it also proves enforced Islamic devotion does not guarantee progress.

My point is even if ancient civilisations were as religiously devoted, misogynistic and homogenous as they want to believe, it still does not prove anything.

It only shows how societies grow despite of those traits, NOT because of.

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*Let’s face it: the average people often have wrong facts about the past. They love exaggerating and whitewash the past lives. Hence, why I am sceptical about their claims. Heck, I already know that they get some facts wrong.

What we consider as western civilisation already started long before Christianity took over. Ancient Rome only became Christian in its later years and Ancient Greece was never Christian.

The territories which experienced the Islamic Golden Age also had thriving Christian and Jewish communities. In fact, Al-Ma’arri – a highly anti-religious philosopher and poet – was a highly-regarded figure. While I cannot say whether irreligiosity was common or not, it is obvious that being anti-religious did not stop others from admiring you.

**Having a state religion is not the same as being a theocracy. Having one means the state subsidises its rituals, without necessarily deriving its governmental policies from the religion’s teachings. England is a good example of that.

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As an introvert, the pandemic has finally affected me… in a bad way

No, I don’t miss large social situations.

I know some extroverts insist that, deep down, introverts prefer large social situations over solitude. Of course, they are stupid because that’s the exact opposite of what introversion is. They still believe “true introverts” are damaged, even though some extroverts’ willingness to risk public health for the sake of partying shows they are not immune from damage.

In fact, many introverts (who are free from financial problems) use the opportunity to be free from burdensome social “duties”. If it wasn’t for the adversities, I would have used a more celebratory tone.

I don’t miss the crowds. But, I do have to admit: I have developed a new anxiety.

Before the pandemic, I only had one reason to hate social gatherings: just like any introverts, I found them mentally grueling. Speaking for myself specifically, the less I was familiar with the people, the more exhausted I would end up.

And now, not only I still find them hectic, I also perceive them as potential disease incubator; considering a pandemic can last for years and there is always a potentiality for another one, I doubt my fear would dissipate soon.

Never mind encountering actual crowds. Even the sight of one in a goddamn video makes me anxious. They have become doubly stressful.

No, this does not prove extroverts’ inherent superiority. Let me remind you that some of them help spreading the disease. It shows extroversion’s liability in crises like this.

My point is I was a bit too assured about mentally surviving the pandemic, thinking introversion immunised me. Fortunately, like the one I have been having for years, this new anxiety is not crippling; I can live my daily life with ease.

But, it is a problem nonetheless.

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Freedom “warriors” and how they unwittingly kick themselves in the nuts

They take freedom of speech to a new level. They believe consequences are tyrannical. Literally all of them, even constructive criticism.

From what I see, these special people are split into two: 1. those who believe humans live in vacuums; 2. those who believe in their innate right to live consequence-free lives. An important similarity to point out: they are extremely fearful of censorship.

I hate myself for taking so long to notice the contradictions.

The former believe so because they want to believe our actions never affect others. In other words, they want an excuse to be irresponsible. But then, their fear of censorship becomes irrational.

If your actions don’t affect others, shouldn’t you be spared from other people’s as well? I mean, if you believe in the vacuums, I don’t see why you should be fearful of any censorship attempts.

The latter are obviously a bunch of people who touch themselves to their mirror reflections. It took me a long time to notice the contradiction:

If you have the right to do literally anything you want, shouldn’t you support other people’ right to be tyrannical? I mean, doing everything they want without facing consequences. That sure sounds like tyranny.

Okay, it is not entirely fair. Tyrants have lawful grasp over their respective societies, unbound by limits. They are certainly incomparable to those Ayn Rand-loving commoners.

But, I still bring this argument anyway. Why? Because I do know some of those freedom “warriors” (emphasise on the word “some”) also believe in Might Is Right.

For them, if other people’s actions hurt you, you are weak and, if you are weak, you deserve to be trampled on. There is no morality, only power.

If that’s how you live life, then embrace your weakling status and bow down to the powerful tyrants. If you believe what you believe, then you should accept it when you are on the receiving end.

Limitless freedom is such a bullshit belief. Besides being the favourite excuse of mindless egomaniacs, it is also paradoxically a slippery slope towards oppression.

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