Bullshit kills

The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 was one of the most important events in modern Chinese history. The rebellion pitted a secret organization known as the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists against Western and Japanese colonists who had been gradually forcing more and more concessions out of the ruling Manchu Qing dynasty. As the name of the secret society implies, members practiced traditional martial arts and thus Western observers labeled them the “boxers.”

One naturally wonders why so many young men would be attracted to a movement which planned to take on the most advanced arms of the day with traditional, often hand-to-hand modes of combat. The answer, as it so happens, lies in belief. The boxers were told that once they rebelled against the foreign devils, they would be joined by millions of spirit warriors from heaven. Yeah, just like in LOTR: Return of the King. More than that, they were taught that through diet, rituals, and martial arts practice, they would be invincible to the modern weapons of the Westerners and Japanese. One reported recruitment method involved a boxer teacher firing a musket loaded with a blank at one of his pupils. The audience of ignorant peasants would be awed by the pupil’s miraculous ability to withstand bullets. Sadly for those who bought into that little demo, the Germans, Austrians, Russians, Americans, Italians, French, British, and Japanese all elected to use live ammunition as opposed to blanks, and the results were predictable.

The moral of the story? Bullshit kills. Yeah sure, sometimes it’s just harmless wishful thinking, but there are times when the failure to think critically has real, concrete, and sometimes lethal consequences. Take the various conspiracy theories and misconceptions related to the HIV virus and AIDS. AIDS has ravaged many populations in Africa, for example, largely due to a lack of education and understanding about the disease. Determined not to be shown up by Africa, Russian “experts” have concocted their own way to exacerbate Russia’s long-standing problem with HIV.

A group of Kremlin-backed think tank wonks have recently declared that the HIV epidemic in Russia is part of…get ready for it…the information war against Russia! Yup, everything is an information attack nowadays, even the indisputable fact that Russia has had and still has a serious problem with HIV. Oh yes, let me deliver you the highlights…

“She defined the Western method of fighting HIV as made of “neoliberal ideological content, insensitivity towards national sensitivities and over-focus of certain at-risk groups such as drug addicts and LGBT people,” Kommersant reported.”

Does this moron even know what the word “neoliberal” is supposed to mean? How is medical knowledge based on years of study “insensitive” towards national sensitivities? Sounds like political correctness to me! And what kind of utter cretin would state that the best way to fight a disease is to ignore the most at-risk groups? It’s not like Russians deny these groups are at risk for HIV.

“The Russian model “takes into account the cultural, historical, and psychological characteristics of the Russian population, and is based on a conservative ideology and traditional values,” Guzenkova said.”

Gee, thanks for admitting from the get-go that your approach has an ideological basis and isn’t rooted in objective science.

“Study co-author Igor Beloborodov claimed that condoms were one of the factors causing the spread of the disease.

“The contraceptive industry is interested in selling their products and encouraging under-aged people to engage in sex,” he said.”

There it is, folks- the killing bullshit. The same kind of nonsense the Catholic church preaches to Africa and Latin America with disastrous results. Condoms don’t encourage under-age people, or anyone for that matter, to engage in sex. People engage in sex; it’s what they do. They’ve been doing it for a while now, and chances are in that time period when you think everyone was so prudish and upright they were actually engaged in acts dirtier than you can imagine. Condoms encourage responsibility.

This might be a good time to have a look at the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world. Russia has steadily refused to teach sex education on the grounds that it will encourage teenagers to have sex (because there’s absolutely no way to find out about sex in a country where many people live in small quarters with thin walls). Naturally this plus Russia’s “strong traditional values” must surely mean that teen pregnancy in Russia is pretty low. Oh…waaaaait…noooo. In fact, as of 2014, 40% of girls in Russia lose their virginity by 15, one year before the age of consent. Must be another information attack!

So what is the secret of the conservative, national, patriotic, spiritual, Russian soul-filled solution to the HIV epidemic?

“Beloborodov said that the best form of protection against HIV was to “be in a heterosexual family where both partners are loyal to each other.”

Well let’s see, the first part of that solution might be problematic for people who are say, gay, or perhaps people who live in locales where there is an obvious lack of quality mates. As for the part about loyalty I’m sorry, what country do you live in? There’s a reason why Russian women have to specify “no married men” on their dating site profiles. And I can also tell you that plenty of ladies in this country are getting side action as well. I strongly suspect that Russia isn’t far removed from many other European countries in this respect, but the point is that it’s hardly the land of marital bliss and unshakable monogamy.

Just once I’d like to see Mr. Beloborodov have the balls to go on Russian TV and try to convince Russians, both male and female, to abstain from all sex until marriage. See that shit will play in the US where you have fundamentalist Christians who believe that faith entails a little more than wearing a cross around your neck, but it’s not going to fly here. Heterosexual family? No condoms? How will the Russian ruling class maintain their sanity if they don’t have their mistresses and call girls?

All joking aside, this kind of shit drives me up the wall because these hypocrites and dilettantes claim to represent Russia, to speak for Russia, and of course they are always “patriots.” Meanwhile they are engaging in activities which literally harm and in this case, potentially kill Russian citizens. Sex, underage or otherwise, will not increase in Russia just because schools start teaching kids about the risks and how to protect themselves. We have plenty of data from the US and various European countries to prove this. By contrast, the promotion of pseudoscience and the unwillingness to talk about the problem openly literally kills people. How do you call yourself a patriot while you not only lie to your own people, but your lies actually physically harm them, and what is more you get funding from wealth that ought to belong to them? Hell, the outrage doesn’t even stop there, because if any Russians get upset about these dipshits killing their fellow citizens, they’ll be branded traitors and agents of the State Department.

This particular story took place in Russia, but don’t think for a second that your country is safe from bullshit. The anti-vaccine movement in the US has led to a reemergence of diseases that had been all but eradicated decades ago. Pseudo-history helps sustain and legitimize far right movements not only in Russia or Ukraine, but also Croatia, Serbia, Poland, and many other countries. Donald Trump is now a serious contender, if not a favorite, for the White House, largely because of the boundless proliferation of paranoid, conspiratorial bullshit.

In many cases our hardwired mental biases, the product of millions of years of evolution, no longer serve us in the modern world and in many cases work against us. Now we can suggest a new evolutionary imperative- learn to think critically or die. In the modern world, bullshit kills, and if we don’t adapt it could one day end up killing off our entire species.

 

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4 thoughts on “Bullshit kills

  1. AndyT

    Yes, we can see this kind of thinking gaining ground all over the World.

    However, while in some Countries the media is more reliant on governmental control, in others people have more access to a wider range of sources: in the latter case, I cannot help but wonder: why are such conspirational, often irrational narratives so popular? What has gone wrong?

    Are our ancestral biases too strong?

    Has the establishment got so unpopular that people are now willing to accept any “alternative” point of view, no matter how groundless?

    Reply
  2. Asehpe

    The really frustrating thing with the “information attack” claims is that there is nothing you can do to dispel them if someone really believes them. As with all conspiracy theories, anything you say against it only shows the extent to which those responsible for the information attack are willing to go to protect themselves…

    There is a regressive wind blowing through the world. Maybe it’s part of thie Tea-Party, Fox-News “conservative 60’s” that we’re going through… My advice? Like everything else, it won’t last forever. Wait, and it will go. A more reasonable era will begin after it.

    Reply
  3. gbd_crwx

    On the subject of copying less admirable things of American culture, I read in an article online about a show called ”Pust govorjat” that seems to be copying those american talkshows (eg Jerry Springer, Ricki lake). Is this any truth in this?

    Reply

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