Tag Archives: truth

Being Right Vs. Winning An Argument Vs. Ben Shapiro

There’s an old saying that I just made up a few seconds ago, old being a relative term.

“You can either win the argument by merit or be right in principle, but only one matters in the long run.”

It sounds cynical, but it’s something I think most people realize at some point in our lives. The truth is a harsh mistress and it’s rarely the sexy kind. Truth is the kind of mistress that has no safe word, never offers any lube, and rarely gives overt warnings. When she wants to whip us in our most sensitive areas, she’ll do so without asking for permission or a second thought.

I’ll ease up on the BDSM terminology because I’m trying to make a serious point, one that’s a lot more relative in the era of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” More and more, we’re learning the hard way that our caveman brains aren’t equipped to seek truth. Survival and reproduction are our primary imperatives. Truth is optional, at best, and an afterthought at worst.

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It’s for that very reason that public debates or major speaking present a false sense of perspective that exploits our caveman brains. It gives the impression that the truth can be presented in a slick, concise, and easy-to-digest message that helps us make sense of the world. That kind of certainty in an world of cheap knock-offs and practical jokes is more valuable to our psyche than gold, diamonds, and good Wi-Fi.

I say that as someone who finds a lot of entertainment value in debates. For a time, one of my favorite things to do was to look up debates between scientists and creationists, which always seems to bring out the best and worst of our caveman brains. They nicely highlight how real, functioning human beings can hold such radically different viewpoints, as well as the excuses they’ll make to cling to those viewpoints.

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I won’t get into all the absurdities behind creationist debates. That’s not what prompted this post. The primary inspiration for this topic came from the recent news surrounding Ben Shapiro’s recent speaking gig at UC Berkeley. By every measure, this incident highlights all the problems with such debates better than any creationist ever could.

For those of you who don’t know who Ben Shapiro is, it’s not too hard to know what he’s about. He’s a fast-talking, quick-witted talking head in a media landscape that’s full of them. He specializes in espousing staunch conservative principles and you could make the case he does it better than almost any other conservative, at this point.

Personally, I like Mr. Shaprio’s style and I agree with some of the points he makes and not just because he makes them well. Many of them are points I’ve come to embrace on my own accord in trying to make sense of this crazy world. However, as much as I respect the man and his principles, he does embody a dangerous phenomenon that is becoming more prevalent in the digital age.

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It’s one born from that not-so-old saying I mentioned earlier about being right versus winning an argument. They are not the same thing, but they’re easy to confuse, thanks largely to our caveman brains.

Think back to the Simpson Filter in appealing to large swaths of people. For the Homer and Marge Simpsons of the world, winning the argument is enough to win them over. They leave the truth for the sad, lonely, and miserable Lisa Simpsons of the world that nobody listens to.

Ben Shaprio, and others like him, are highly skilled at using the Simpson Filter to get their message across. They’re slick, compelling, and charismatic in the sense that they check all the boxes that appeal to our tribal instincts, which I’ve noted before are a major source of conflict.

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By appealing to these instincts, they don’t have to be completely right. They don’t even have to be half-right. They just have to get people thinking and feeling that it’s right, so much so that they won’t bother checking the facts, doing some research of their own, or even giving it a second thought. Why would they? Ben Shaprio comes off as so smart and so knowledgable that he’s done the thinking for us.

Therein lies the biggest problem, though. By focusing on the argument and not the truth, it’s easy to conflate the two. Ben Shapiro is not a scientist, an economist, a politician, a philosopher, or even a used car salesman. He’s just a commentator, who happens to be exceptionally well at commentating in an articulate manner. That’s a valuable skill, but it’s not the same as being correct.

This actually played out in another event that occurred earlier this year at Politicon 2017. At that event, Ben Shapiro debated Cenk Uygur, another professional commentator who is at the opposite end of the political spectrum. Like Shapiro, I respect Mr. Uygur and agree with some of his positions. However, he is not as skilled a debater as Mr. Shapiro.

If you watch the debate, listen to the crowd, and note the speaking styles of both men, it’s not hard to see who has more skill and experience in that field. If you read the comments and look at the reactions, most agree that Mr. Shapiro won that debate. I’m sure it’s not the first debate he’s won, nor will it be the last.

That’s just it, though. Mr. Shapiro could win a billion more debates against a billion other people much smarter than Mr. Uygur. He could go down in history as the most skilled debater in the history of the human race. It still wouldn’t change one inescapable fact.

The real world, as in the world that operates outside our caveman brains, doesn’t give two whiffs of dried wolf shit about who wins a debate or by how much. Reality still operates under the same facts, rules, and principles. People still operate in ways that are at the mercy of their caveman brains and their collective circumstances.

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Ben Shapiro could convince every person on this planet that Ronald Reagan was right about everything, that the Jewish religion that he practices is the only correct one, and that everyone whoever worked for Hillary Clinton was an alien spy. That still doesn’t change reality. At the end of the day, the truth is still that same harsh mistress that will whip all our asses without warning.

That’s why, in the long run, it doesn’t matter how many debates Ben Shapiro or others like him win. It doesn’t matter how well they craft their message. In the long run, if their ideas don’t line up with reality, then reality will eventually win out. It always does. People die, take their ideas with them, and leave reality to sort out the rest.

Now, I don’t doubt for a second that Mr. Shapiro is sincere in his beliefs. I also don’t doubt that his opponents, like Cenk Uygur are just as sincere. That’s why I wouldn’t classify them as professional trolls, such as the Ann Coulters and Lena Dunhams of the world.

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They don’t say what they say, just to provoke our caveman brains and draw attention to themselves. They aren’t outright con-artists either, like certain televangelists. They’re just good at conveying their ideas and making them feel legitimate. Unfortunately, that’s as far as they can take it.

Ben Shapiro, Cenk Uygur, and everyone like them may think they have the answers. They may even believe that their way will make the world a better place, as a whole. They’re not entirely malicious in attempting to convey their points, but they are misguided.

There’s also a danger to their approach, conflating debates with truth. They present the false impression that an issue like politics, evolution, and economics can be resolved through simple debate through a series of talking points. As anyone who has worked with a tax attorney knows, that’s just not how the real world operates.

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The world is complicated, complex, and chaotic. No human brain, or collection of human brains, is equipped to make sense of it. Some of these issues aren’t just complex, either. They’re impossible to resolve because there just aren’t enough resources for everyone.

A skilled debater, like Ben Shapiro, is good at convincing people there are quick fixes. The world can be improved simply by adopting the policies of his favorite ideology. He may convince you, me, and everyone around you that he’s right.

The truth, however, can never be swayed by fast talking, fancy rhetoric, or skilled arguments. At the end of the day, it will stay on the side of the harsh mistress that is reality. In the short term, the Ben Shapiro’s of the world will be able to bask in many victorious debates. In the long term, however, the truth knows whose asses will be stinging in the end.

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Fake News, AI, And The (Potentially Horrifying) Future Of Media

In one of the most iconic scenes in the famous movie/mindfuck that is “The Matrix,” Morpheus asked Neo a question that has perplexed philosophers, scientists, and stoners for centuries.

“What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

To this day, the answer to that question is incomplete. It’s just as much a mental marathon to Keanu Reeves as it was to Plato in the days of Ancient Greece. Plato had his famous allegory of the cave.  Neo had his existential breakdown after taking the red pill. Everyone else is just waiting for someone to resolve the debate over what is real so they can get back to playing fantasy sports.

The philosophical conflict over what is means to be real is an old, philosophical question with some pretty mind-bending implications. I’ve talked a lot about the frustrating limitations of the human brain, but I’ve tried to avoid some of the more metaphysical questions, if only because I favor stimulating genitals more than minds.

Avoiding these questions has actually been fairly easy for most of human history. That’s because, even in the era of mass media, we can usually trust our senses to tell us whether something is sufficiently real. Even in the era of Photoshop, we can usually figure out when someone is trying to polish reality to an extreme. Sometimes it’s painfully obvious.

Well, now find ourselves entering unknown territory beyond the so-called uncanny valley. We’re just starting to become more aware of the flaws in our brain wiring. Concepts like “alternative facts” and “fake news” are buzzwords that might as well have come from a George Orwell fever dream.

We may not be living in the world of “1984” yet, but we are experiencing the concepts behind it, such as doublethink and newspeak. It’s all too easy these days to find instances of politicians being hypocrites or debates over proper pronouns. These are all elements that undermine our ability to make sense of what’s real.

As hard as it is to understand reality in an era where people get into arguments over the color of a dress, it’s actually about to get even harder. In fact, it’s about to get so distressingly difficult that our caveman brains will be even less reliable than they already are. Those brains already convince us that we have a chance to win the lottery or date Megan Fox. It’s not equipped to handle greater challenges.

It may not have a choice because at the same time we’re adapting to this era of alternative facts and fake news, the pace of technological advancement is accelerating and giving us the finger as it passes us by. The growth of artificial intelligence is already accelerating, so much so that even brilliant people like Stephen Hawking are calling it an existential threat.

Even before we face the prospect of fighting real life terminator robots, though, there’s another issue we’ll have to deal with. Anyone who owns PlayStation 4 or X-box One already has a vague idea of what I mean. Long before computers become smart enough to enslave us, they’ll become powerful enough to fool our senses.

Recently, researchers at the University of Washington accomplished an amazing/terrifying milestone in computer science. They were able to use an artificial intelligence technology to create a completely artificial rendering of former President Barack Obama. Watch this video and you might have a better understanding of how Neo felt after he took that red pill.

It shouldn’t take a dirty imagination that spends a lot of time contemplating sexy stories to realize the implications. It’s hard enough figuring out what’s real, if anything, about a rant by Sean Hannity or a documentary by Michael Moore. How the hell are we going to trust any video image we see if there’s technology that can render images so perfectly that our brains can’t tell the difference?

The short answer is we can’t. The long answer is even more distressing. Picture a world where realistic videos depicting Justin Beiber waving his dick in the face of starving orphans in Uganda surfaces. Picture a world where a realistic video of Kim Kardashian choking a bald eagle to death. With this technology, it won’t just be possible. It might be unavoidable.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. People have agendas and they’ll go to absurd lengths to further that agenda. It’s easy to ignore someone standing on a street corner, wearing a faded Pink Floyd shirt and shouting from a soap box that the CIA is slipping crack into milk. It’s a bit harder when that same person can use a computer to create realistic video showing CIA agents working with washed up rappers on a secret farm in Montana.

We’re already seeing this technology in movies where long-dead actors are coming back to life for iconic roles. There’s no way it’ll stop there. There’s just too much potential for someone to further their agenda. In the era of fake news and alternative facts, we can expect plenty of that potential to be realized.

What does this mean for the future of media? Well, that’s actually pretty damn scary when you think about it. While the technology is still being developed, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes refined. Add this to growing improvements in computer graphics technology and suddenly, you can’t trust any video you see.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s something as simple as a speech by the President or Teddy Roosevelt fighting a grizzly bear. Who’s to say which is real and which is simulated? With enough computing power, both look equally real to our brains.

If you think you might be able uncover the truth through sound, then I’ve got bad news for you. There’s another AI in development that can simulate anyone’s voice, including those of politicians and celebrities. You want to hear Sean Spicer go on an anti-sematic tirade that would make Mel Gibson blush? With this technology, that’s entirely possible.

There may very well come a time in the near future when anything we see and hear from the media is potentially fake. We already have cases of the news media deceptively editing stories to spin the story a particular way. Can you imagine what they’ll do when they can just use a computer to create imagery out of nothing? It might end up giving Alex Jones a heart attack.

These advancements in computer technology couldn’t come at a worse time. Trust in the media is already at an all-time low. Trust in government has been in decline for a half-century. Once the media has tools with which to forge their own reality out of nothing, then people will have even less reason to trust them.

This goes way beyond fake news and propaganda. This technology will allow those in positions of power to literally mold reality in accord with their message. That’s a terrifying thought, especially to anyone who sees the kind of dishonesty that major outlets like Fox News and CNN have exercised.

Now, that’s not to say these false stories will be accepted by anyone with a functioning brain. However, and it’s worth belaboring, our limited human brains will still struggle. We can barely get through a season of “Lost” without getting a headache. What hope do we have in a future when it’s possible to forge a false reality on demand?

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Why You Should NOT Take Documentaries Too Seriously

Throughout my life, I’ve gone through various phases where I become immersed in certain genres of movies. For a time, I was really into slasher movies. Then, I picked up on the distinct sex-negative themes of those movies and lost interest.

At another time, I became immersed in documentaries. Not surprisingly, that interest also coincided with me getting a subscription for Netflix, a service that puts you in immediate contact with documentaries of all kinds. From government conspiracies involving aliens to stories about porn stars after their career in porn ends. There’s something for everyone is what I’m saying.

On top of that, I also went through a phase where I was pretty big into government conspiracies. It wasn’t just that I believed them to some extent. It was the story around them that fascinated me. Given my love of telling stories, which has since manifested in some sexy novels, it checked all the right boxes for me.

It’s true. There was a time when I actually believed that the government was covering up evidence of an alien presence on this planet. There was also a time when I genuinely believed that the government colluded to manufacture wars from Vietnam to Iraq. I actually believed the government, and people in general, were capable of such confidence. I’ve since learned to temper my expectations.

While I’m no longer a fan of documentaries, I do watch them from time to time. However, I watch them with an overly critical eye. With every documentary I see, even if it has a message I agree with, I still assume that it only offers a tiny part of the story. Chances are a good chunk of this message is a result of cherry picking, clever cinematic, and outright lies.

Now, that’s not to say that the people making these documentaries are total frauds. I don’t doubt for a second that Michael Moore and Morgan Sporlock genuinely believe in the work they’re doing. They wouldn’t sink so much time and money into it if they didn’t. However, these men have agendas. That’s the flaw in every documentary.

This leads me to what specifically inspired this post. Last week, I couldn’t sleep so I decided to fire up Netflix and find some random show. Usually, certain documentaries help make me sleepy, usually the ones that narrated by soft British voices from the BBC. For some reason, I ended up watching a new documentary that came recommended on my list. It was called “What The Health.”

The premise of the documentary was simple. Pretty much all the food you enjoy eating, from fast food to candy to beef jerky to fried eggs, is terrible for you. It’s not just bad for you health-wise. It will give you cancer. I swear on Pamela Anderson’s tits that’s the actual message.

Kip Andersen, the director of this documentary, has a simple message. If your food has any animal products, then you might as well be sprinkling plutonium on your food. It’s also worth mentioning that Kip Andersen is an ardent vegan with a very pro-vegan agenda. He is to health conspiracy theories what Alex Jones is to government conspiracy theories.

That’s not to say that “What The Health” is completely devoid of facts, but it is very much an extended slate of pro-vegan, anti-meat, anti-corporate, pro-hippie propaganda. Even by liberal standards, this documentary is pretty slanted. It would be like a anti-gun control documentary that claims not having a gun makes your penis small, your tits shrink, and your asshole itch. It’s that bias.

Again, I don’t doubt for a second that Kip Andersen believes in what he’s saying. He comes off as the kind of guy who just obsesses so much over his health. That’s what gets him up in the morning. That’s what makes his dick hard at night. What sexy novels are to me, health is to Kip Andersen.

The problem with that, which also happens to be the problem with every documentary, is that it’s produced with an agenda in mind. The size and scope of that agenda varies. There are some documentaries that try to be objective. Most of those produced by PBS tend to be fairly balanced, but even they can fall into the same Alex Jones trap every now and then.

What bothers me about documentaries like “What The Health” is that it’s produced in a way that really preys on our caveman brain’s biggest flaws. There’s just no way to shrug off something like cancer. Pretty much everyone, myself included, knows someone who has suffered from cancer. According to the CDC, cancer killed nearly 600,000 people in 2014 alone. The suffering these people endured cannot be understated.

The problem is that cancer is such a complex disease. There are all sorts of genetic, environmental, lifestyle, disease, and chemical factors that go into it. There’s no one single virus, one single gene, or one single food group that causes it. The human body is too complex, as anyone who has ever studied the female orgasm can attest.

The message “What The Health” sends is not only horribly skewed to the hippie end of the political spectrum, but it’s downright misleading. It gives the impression that cancer and disease have a singular cause. All anyone needs to do to avoid is to just shun animal products, become a vegan, and eat cardboard for the rest of their lives. The fact that this is the same lifestyle as the director is just a hell of a coincidence.

I won’t deny it. “What The Health” does a damn good job of painting itself as credible. However, every documentary does that to some extent. They parade out all these doctors and experts in the field, making bold claims that they can legitimize with their PhDs and titles. However, it’s worth remembering that, as smart as these people are, they’re still human.

It’s also worth remembering that doctors do get things wrong more than we care to admit. There’s also a distressingly large amount of medical research that turns out to be wrong. Like I said, the human body is extremely complex and our caveman brains aren’t wired for that kind of complexity.

On some levels, Kip Andersen and Michael Moore exploit those flaws in our brains. They know how to craft a message that seems credible. They craft a slick, polished narrative that appeals to certain fears and misgivings that everybody has to some degree. They create a false or half-true narrative that preys on our desire to understand the world.

What often happens is that they’re very selective about the information they present. In a sense, they’re taking advantage of the same paradox I pointed out with health care. It’s not just very difficult to offer all the facts in a simple, two-hour documentary. It’s physically impossible. There isn’t enough film on a reel or enough seconds in two hours to convey all that information.

As a result, the message in every documentary is incomplete. In some cases, they’re so incomplete that someone else will try to verify those messages, only to find out how wrong they were.

This actually happened with Morgan Sporlock after his hit film, “Super Size Me.” That movie, much like Kip Andersen, had a very clear agenda. It was anti-corporate, anti-fast food, pro-nutrition. Sporlock even put himself in the line of fire, eating nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days. The proof seemed so clear and apparent.

Then, another documentary called “Fat Head” by Tom Naughton tried to replicate Sporlock’s experiment. There was just one glaring problem, though. The math didn’t add up. He literally could not eat as many calories as Sporlock claimed in “Super Size Me.” You can push an agenda all you want, but if the math doesn’t add up, you’ve got a problem.

On top of that, other people have done similar experiments and come up with different results. A science teacher armed with none of Sporlock’s movie-making resources was able to eat nothing but McDonald’s and actually lost weight. When there’s this kind of inconsistency on all sides, chances are there’s something missing from the story.

Again, I don’t believe that these people do what they do entirely out of malice and greed. Some might, but I choose to have a higher opinion of people in that respect. I think Andersen and Moore sincerely believe the messages in their documentaries, just as creationists ardently believe in their message, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Now, you can choose to side with men like Moore, Sporlock, and Andersen on various issues. That doesn’t make you a bad or foolish person. However, it’s important to understand that documentaries are not the same as verified, scientific research. They are movies, made for the purpose of telling a story and gaining an audience. They may contain some elements of truth, but they will never tell the whole story.

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Hard Truths: Justice, Injustice, And O.J. Simpson

I understand that not everything I say on this blog is going to be popular, sexy, or funny. I don’t doubt that there are opinions I’ve shared and jokes I’ve told that haven’t gone over well. There may be even a few people out there who have read them and felt the urge to punch me in the face through their computer screen.

I understand that. It’s just part of the internet. You’re going to say things people hate and meet people who hate your guts. I’m sure there are people who still haven’t forgiven me for my post on the mind of misogynistic men. I won’t apologize for saying what I say, but please understand that I don’t say it with the intention of hurting or upsetting people.

I say all this as a preface, of sorts, because I know some of the things I’ll say in this post are going to upset some people. If not on this post, I’m sure there will be other posts that draw anger, disgust, and disagreement. Some of these issues are not as innocent as sex robots, Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins, or the sexiness of chest hair. They’re real, serious issues.

The issue, in this case, has to do with something that’s fairly timely in the sense that it often comes up this time of year. Just this past week was the 23rd anniversary of the infamous O.J. Simpson Bronco chase. It happened on June 17th, 1994. It was one of those days where everyone remembers where they were. It’s also one of those days where everyone formed an ardent opinion that still divides people to this day.

At the time, I was fairly young and didn’t really understand the gravity of what was going on. I kept hearing the name O.J. Simpson in the news. I kept seeing people watch the trial on TV, talk about it, and obsess over it. Being so young, I thought it was annoying. All that talk about O.J. Simpson cut into time I’d rather be using to read comics, watch cartoons, and play video games.

I guess you can say I’m part of a generation that only ever knew O.J. Simpson as the alleged murderer who got away with it. Pretty much anyone born before 1982 only knows this side of O.J. Simpson. When they hear his name, they usually think of the Bronco chase, the trial, and the bloody glove. They don’t think of the larger context.

There are members of my own family, as well as major news figures like Keith Olbermann, who’ve tried to explain to me just how big a deal this was. It’s hard for them to convey to people of my generation just how beloved O.J. Simpson once was. Between his Hall of Fame football career, his acting career, and his iconic Hertz commercials, it’s impossible to overstate just how popular this man was.

There was actually a time when the name O.J. Simpson had many positive connotations. He was a celebrity sports icon whose popularity transcended race, class, and everything in between. For someone like him to be accused of a ghastly double-murder was akin to Captain America becoming a Nazi. Actually, that’s a bad example.

It’s because of that other side of O.J. Simpson, namely the one that people of my generation never saw, that his trial became the “Trial of the Century.” That trial, and the controversial verdict that followed, still divides America to this day, often among racial lines.

If you want to have an uncomfortable conversation about race, justice, injustice, and the legal system, pretty much every distressing element you can think of is highlighted by the O.J. Simpson case. It involves spousal abuse, police corruption, racism, media spectacles, and the Kardashian family. Even today, this kind of spectacle would check all the right boxes to become a total media shit storm.

There are so many aspects of the murder trial, the aftermath, the media circus, and the tenuous relationship O.J. Simpson had with his ex-wife, Nichole, that I could highlight. In every case, there are elements to that story that are both unsexy and controversial, dividing and enraging people of every opinion.

However, there’s only one part I want to single out for this particular post. It’s probably going to upset more people than most. I might even get some hate for it. That said, it’s one of those hard truths that needs to be said, even if it’s uncomfortable. Brace yourself because here it is.

The jury in the O.J. Simpson trial got it RIGHT.

Now, it’s my turn to brace myself. I know that opinion isn’t very popular. I also know most of the people in my own family disagree with it. I’ve talked to close relatives about it. They’re all convinced that O.J. Simpson is guilty. They all believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that O.J. brutally murdered his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman. There’s nothing anyone can say or do that can convince them otherwise.

Therein lies the problem, though. It’s one that I’ve pointed out before when I’ve talked about reasons, excuses, and the idea of excuse banking. We all like to think of ourselves as rational, logical human beings that Spock from Star Trek would get along with. In reality, we’re nothing of the sort.

Our brains don’t work through logic. Our brains can use it, but it’s only every a secondary function. Our default caveman setting is to form an irrational opinion first and then look for ways to justify it. It doesn’t matter if it’s racist, sexist, or wholly irrational. That’s how our brains work. That’s how most people look at the O.J. Simpson case.

The problem is, from a legal point of view, that our justice system does everything it can to circumvent those flaws and it’s not always good at it. There’s a reason why criminal justice reform is a major topic these days. The justice system is woefully inefficient at dealing with all crime fairly, especially those committed by minorities.

That’s part of what makes the O.J. Simpson case such an important case, but not for the reason you might think. The reason why it matters so much and why it’s such a harsh truth to digest is because the O.J. Simpson trial highlighted how the justice system is supposed to work. In a perfect world, every criminal would get the kind of legal defense that O.J. Simpson got. The fact that O.J. is black only makes the truth that much harder.

Like it or not, the O.J. Simpson trial got right one of the most important elements of our criminal justice system, at least with respect on how it’s supposed to work. It is built around the idea that a defendant is presumed innocent and must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

It can’t just be probable that someone is guilty. It can’t just be likely either. To convict someone of a serious felony, like a double murder, it has to be beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s a very lofty standard and for good reason.

Legal systems in modern western societies emphasize ensuring guilt and not punishing the innocent. There’s a callous practical reason for that too. In a society built around a modern economy, we can’t have the state throwing innocent people in prisons who could otherwise be working and contributing. That’s why if someone is accused of a crime, the system has to make damn sure that they’re guilty.

In O.J. Simpson’s case, and I know this is going to make a lot of people gnash their teeth on a cinder-block, there was reasonable doubt. Pretty much all the evidence against O.J. was either circumstantial or hearsay. On top of that, the LAPD had a sordid history of corruption and racial bias. Police do frame suspects and innocent people do get charged with crimes they didn’t commit.

Unlike most of those innocent people, though, O.J. Simpson had access to the best legal help that money could buy. Those men might be despised now for defending O.J. However, there’s no getting around it. They did their jobs. They did exactly what a lawyer is supposed to do.

They revealed the reasonable doubt surrounding the case and, as upsetting as it might have been, there was reasonable doubt. The blood evidence was immense, but so was the evidence of improper handling and corruption from the officers involved. There are a great many theories as to what actually happened, but that doesn’t matter in the end.

The mere presence of that doubt meant that the jury did the right thing in acquitting O.J. Simpson. It’s a painful truth, especially to the families of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Their story will always be the biggest tragedy of the O.J. Simpson case. However, as hard as it is to accept, the justice system was right in this case.

There’s so much more to the O.J. Simpson story that I could talk about. I’m going to avoid it because any discussion about this case is bound to trigger all sorts of anger and outrage. If you want to hear more about this topic, including O.J. Simpson, check out the Unpopular Opinion podcast. They’re usually pretty balanced and pretty funny as well.

Short of a confession, complete with photographs and a bloody knife, we’ll never know what happened in the O.J. Simpson case. It’s that inability to truly know that’s the hardest to accept. Our caveman brains just can’t deal with that kind of uncertainty so we cling to our opinions and excuses.

Personally, I think it’s likely that O.J. did murder his ex-wife and Ron Goldman. At the very least, I think he had something to do with it. However, I don’t know all the facts. Nobody knows all the facts. That’s why, in the context of justice, his acquittal was the right thing to do.

It’s for that very reason, though, that we need a justice system that works around that. We, as a people, are at the mercy of our caveman brains and its inability to use logic properly. That’s the biggest challenge of our justice system, having to deal with all these shortcomings. It’s not perfect. For the O.J. Simpson case, at least, we see first-hand how it’s supposed to work, even if we don’t like the outcome.

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How To Make Sense Of The World In One Easy Step

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When it comes to politics, the news, or general advice, I try to avoid it as best I can on this blog. I want this blog to be a refuge and reprieve from the vast, stinky ass crack that is the real world and the parts of the internet that amplify the smell. That’s why I prefer talking about less dire subjects like sex robots and sex-positive comic book characters.

If I do talk about something that’s in the news or controversial, I usually try to put a humorous and/or sexy spin on it. I don’t want to push an agenda, start a movement, or leader a rally. That’s just too much time and effort that could be better spent talking about hot teachers and bionic penises.

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I know that I sometimes give the impression that I have an agenda beyond selling my novels. I try to minimize that, but sometimes it’ll slip through. I try to avoid it, but I’m not going to apologize either. I’m only human. Every now and then, something I write or say will have some sort of connotation to real world news, events, etc. At the end of the day, I want to make this blog as sexy and fun as my novels.

That being said, I’d like to do something a little different today. No, I’m not going on some sort of political rant. I’m not going to get on a soap box, hold up a sign, and start talking about shape-shifting lizard people. I’ll leave that sort of thing to Alex Jones or the character/troll he allegedly plays.

Instead, I’d like to offer a bit of insight to those still struggling to make sense of the world, the news, and the people claiming that fluoride is an elaborate mind control scheme. It’s not necessarily advice. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I’m as qualified to give advice as I am to build a star ship.

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What I’m offering here is perspective, a precious commodity in a world where everyone has the means of muting messages they don’t want to hear. Anyone who watches the news for more than ten minutes or spends more than five searching for it on their Facebook feed is sure to be overwhelmed, upset, and confused.

It’s just too easy to filter out the news and facts you don’t like. It’s too easy to mold your own agenda into a neat little package that makes you feel content to some extent. Sometimes we do too good a job. Sometimes our agenda is so nice and neat that it does everything other than give us oral sex.

That’s why we need perspective. That’s why we need to step back, see the bigger picture, and understand that we all embrace our own particular brand of fake news, alternative facts, and elaborate excuses. It’s the only way to truly make sense of the world, at least as much as our caveman brains will allow us.

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So here’s how you do it. There’s only one step. It’s free. It’s simple. There’s no complicated instruction manual. It can all be boiled down into three simple words. Brace yourself because this is going to either rock your world, break your heart, or make you yawn. Take a moment if you need to. If not, read along because here it is. Here is the secret to making sense of a chaotic world full of crazy people.

Nobody Knows ANYTHING

Go on. Roll your eyes and laugh. Start calling me names in the comments.  Call me a cuck, a troll, or an agent of the Illuminati. I don’t expect this to blow anyone’s mind or soak anyone’s panties beyond a certain extent. It is, however, as true and honest insight as you’ll ever find in the era of fake news.

Now, I can’t claim to have come up with this on my own. This little bit of insight is actually something one of my old college professors told me on the first day of his class. Before you roll your eyes again, know that this professor could easily have been mistaken for a hobo who just robbed a fancy clothing store. Imagine every pipe-smoking professor you’ve ever had. Now imagine the exact opposite. That’s this guy.

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He dropped this incredible truth bomb on us the first day because he wanted to make clear that he would not be giving us the politically correct version of his class. He was going to be honest in as brutal a way he could without getting fired. The fact he was tenured and admitted to working drunk in the past kind of added to his credibility.

So what exactly did he mean when he said those words? How do they relate to what I mean by it? In the grand scheme of things, it has to do with the certainty we all seek. Our caveman brains, for better and for worse, crave certainty and abhor stress. When we have a gap in our knowledge and understanding, we naturally jump at anything to fill it.

Sometimes it’s a certain news source. Sometimes it’s a certain religion. Sometimes it’s a particular political ideology, social club, or even a TV show. Talk to anyone who was a big fan of “Lost.” They’ll put any charismatic preacher to shame.

Since our brains are so crude and aren’t equipped with a google connection (yet), it doesn’t matter whether or not the source we seek is true. It doesn’t even matter of it’s debunked. Our brains still cling to it because changing our minds causes too much stress and we’ll make any excuse to avoid that stress.

That creates an unavoidable paradox of sorts and I’m not talking about the ones Doc Brown worried about in “Back To The Future.” Our caveman brains are so limited, but they’re wired to seek certainty. However, because of those limits, our ability to achieve certainty on complex issues is next to impossible. In most cases, it is impossible.

Nobody knows for sure what the economy will do today, tomorrow, or even two hours from now.

Nobody knows for sure whether a new product will sell or be a flop.

Nobody knows for sure whether a rookie athlete will be a bust or a hall of famer.

Nobody knows for sure whether a particular movie will be a big box office success like “Deadpool” or an unmitigated disaster like “John Carter.”

Nobody knows for sure whether a law, court decision, or executive order will do more harm than good.

Nobody knows for sure how a new piece of technology will affect society.

Nobody knows for sure whether their theories about life, the universe, and everything in between are accurate.

In the end, nobody knows anything. It’s just that simple.

That’s not to say that we should be inherently doubtful of everything. At most, those who make bold proclamations can only make best guesses. It’s not always accurate, but sometimes it’s fairly close. Other times, it’s just dumb luck. Ask the guy who predicted the Chicago Cubs world series victory in 1993.

We can surmise, speculate, and reason all we want. In the end, nobody really knows anything. Nobody can really be certain. Nobody can have all the facts. That’s why people gravitate towards others who express such certainty. It’s akin to having a superpower. In our minds, having that kind of certainty is right up there with Superman, the X-men, or the Avengers.

Unlike superheroes, though, that certainty is self-delusion at best and a scam at worst. Those who at least try to be reasonable, offering facts and best guesses in extrapolating those facts, deserve a chance and some credibility. If they’re honest, they’ll admit they don’t know everything with absolute certainty. They can be fairly confident, but they can never be completely certain.

Keep this in mind the next time you see a news story, an article, a book, a self-help guru, or a religious zealot. They can only claim certainty, but they don’t know any more than you do. They don’t know anything for certain. That doesn’t make them inherently bad. It just makes them misguided.

I hope this perspective helps. I hope the world makes a bit more sense now. I can only do so much as an aspiring erotica/romance writer. Like everyone else, I don’t know anything with certainty. I know only that I want this blog to be both helpful and sexy. This is just another part of that effort.

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Truth, Lies, And Why “Daria” Is More Relevant Now Than Ever Before

For the past couple of days, I’ve been talking about the best and worst when it comes to fictional female characters. Since I deal in fictional characters as an aspiring writer, it’s a relevant topic of discussion. I want to create great female characters for my novels. I think I’ve made some strides with novels like “The Final Communion” and “Holiday Heat,” but I always feel there’s room for improvement.

That brings me back to Daria Morgendorffer from the classic MTV show, “Daria.” In both my lists discussing the best and worst female characters of fiction, “Daria” found a way to the top of the list. There’s a damn good reason for that too. Daria, as a character, represents something that is more relevant now than it ever was in the late 90s.

As I said in my past posts, Daria is one of those characters who was just ahead of their time, but not in a Nikola Tesla or Elon Musk sort of way. She came during an era when dial-up internet was still popular, boy bands were still relevant, and pagers were still in use. It was a strange and different time.

It was also a time when concepts like “alternative facts” and “fake news” were more associated with skits on “Saturday Night Live” than actual concepts that the general public has come to dread. In that sense, Daria is downright prophetic in the sense that she highlights a concept that become increasingly obscure over the past decade.

Throughout the five seasons of “Daria,” as well as two movie specials, one Daria’s most defining traits is her ability to point out the harsh truth that nobody wants to acknowledge. She doesn’t shy away from it. She doesn’t celebrate it either. She just points it out and lets the harsh truth do its thing.

For the overall narrative of this series, this is kind of necessary because Daria is often surrounded by those who constantly avoid the harder truths of life. Sometimes, as with air-headed dumb-asses like Kevin Thompson and Brittney Taylor, it’s out of ignorance. Other times, as with her sister Quinn and her eccentric teachers, it’s out of hopeless self-delusion.

Daria, being an outcast who isn’t afraid to think for herself, sees all of this from a distance and isn’t afraid to point it out. She doesn’t care that it alienates others. Even her sister, Quinn, refused to publicly acknowledge that they were even related until the final season.

Her parents constantly think something is wrong with her. Her teachers and peers constantly think she’s weird. Everyone thinks there’s something wrong with her. Daria even acknowledges that. However, as crass and callous as she may be, Daria may actually be the most sane person in her world.

This is best shown in Season 4, Episode 47 entitled, “Psycho Therapy.” In this episode, Daria’s family undergo a psych evaluation as part of a screening process for her mother’s promotion. It makes for some odd and entertaining escapades, but the most revealing moment comes when he doctors reach a remarkable, albeit unsurprising conclusion.

Daria, despite being so emotionally withdrawn and overtly sarcastic about everything around her, is by far the most well-adjusted person in her family. She understands and acknowledges all of her family’s quirks, but she doesn’t obsess over them or lament over them. She just accepts them and moves on with her life. I’m not a psychologist, but that’s way more healthy than we can expect of most teenagers these days.

In fact, Daria might as well be a unicorn dipped in gold with diamond-encrusted hoofs. She isn’t just accepting, understanding, and well-adjusted to her surroundings. She actively thinks for herself and no one else. She doesn’t shy away from the facts, nor does she avoid their implications. She is, by all accounts, the very antithesis of this current era of buzzwords, fake news, and alternative facts.

That’s what makes her so much more relevant now than she was back in the early 90s. She came at a time when people who said the cold, hard truth didn’t get it twisted through internet memes, social media feeds, and hashtags. Daria doesn’t do beat around the bush or try to twist the story. If something is true, honest, and blunt, then that’s the end of the conversation.

In an era where everyone, from our politicians to our gym teachers, has to have some kind of personality, Daria Morgendorffer is a breath of fresh air and from 1999 no less. What’s that say about our current state of affairs? I could spend the next 38 blog posts discussing it, but that wouldn’t be very sexy for a blog run by an aspiring erotica/romance writer.

I will say, though, that the attitude Daria embodies is something that’s a lot more critical now than it was in 1999. We live in an era where everyone seems intent on joining a trend, becoming part of a movement, or denigrating those who oppose your movement. Daria, being the consummate realist and independent thinker, would roll her eyes at both.

The idea of someone who just thinks for themselves shouldn’t be such a radical concept, especially when it was the core of a successful animated show that ran for five seasons on a network best known for documentaries about teenage mothers. However, that idea couldn’t be more important in 2017.

We current live in an unpleasant convergence, of sorts, where truth and brutal honesty are easily circumvented by fake news, alternative facts, and online trends. It’s too easy for someone to insulate themselves from the harsh realities of life. We all need a Daria Morgendorrfer in our lives to keep us anchored and too many don’t have one.

Being the optimist I am, I believe Daria’s words of wisdom will one day pierce the many veils of bullshit that permeate our culture at the moment. It may take a while. It may be painful, arduous, and distressing in the process. However, that’s exactly why it’s worth doing.

Thankfully, Daria herself gives us some memorable words of wisdom to make the process easier. In the spirit of celebrating everything Daria represents, here it is.

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Sex, Lies, And The Future Of Truth

Admit it. You’ve lied before. Maybe it involved drinking in high school. Maybe it involved  strippers at a bachelor party. Maybe it involved a promise to pull out. Whatever the case may be, regardless of whether you got caught or ended up paying child support, you’ve lied at one point in your life. As the great Dr. House once said, “Everybody lies.”

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with lying. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re lying to tell a story, which is basically what I do as a writer, then it’s not wrong. If done right, it can actually be pretty damn sexy. If you’re lying to deceive a lover, cheat on your taxes, or prevent your children from knowing about condoms, then that’s pushing it.

I bring up lies because, in watching my share of both superhero movies and romantic comedies, there is one common theme that binds many of these conflicts. No, it’s not Robert Downy Jr. or Hugh Jackman’s sex appeal. It’s that a lot of these plots are built on someone lying and working way harder than they need to in order to keep up the lie.

Take “The Proposal” with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock for example. In addition to being one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past several years, it’s entire plot was built around a lie that Bullock’s character crafted and Reynolds had to help preserve. Sure, it made for a hilariously entertaining story, complete with awkward nude scenes and moments with Betty White, but it was all built on the foundation of a lie.

Why do I bring up lies? Well, to answer that, I’ll have to get a little personal again and this time, it has nothing to do with me sleeping naked.

I’ve gotten a lot of romantic advice over the years from friends and family. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it just plain crazy and involves some rather improper uses of food. However, within the good advice I’ve gotten, there was one common theme and it amounted to this.

DON’T KEEP SECRETS.

I write that in all caps and bold because they didn’t just tell me this as a casual aside. They made it a point to really emphasize the importance of being honest with those you love. No relationship can really function in the long run when both sides are keeping secrets. Say what you will about the Bundys or the Simpsons, but they are honest with each other, often brutally so.

Beyond the advice, there are a lot of romantic stories that involve secrets, lies, and deception. It’s not always in the smooth, sophisticated ways of James Bond either. Stories about lies, affairs, and elaborate deceptions are basically the bread and butter of these stories.

I’ve certainly used those themes. In “Skin Deep” and “The Escort and the Gigolo,” a big chunk of the plot is built around certain lies and deception. Not all of them are intentional either. Sometimes, the characters just don’t have a reason to believe someone is telling the truth.

This brings me to another thought experiment of sorts. Granted, it’s not exactly the sexy kind, but it has the potential to be. It involves the ways in which we expose lies. At the moment, we really can’t be 100 percent sure if anyone is telling the truth. We can’t even be 80 percent sure. People who lie, cheat, and manipulate others still operate and thrive in this world. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Our entire justice system is built on the understanding that we can’t exactly know for sure whether someone is guilty or innocent. We can put them under oath all we want. People can and will still lie. That’s why we have principles that presume innocence and require that we prove guilt, and the lies by default, beyond all reasonable doubt.

As good as our justice system has served us, to a point, it still struggles to uncover lies. It can interrogate and intimidate all it wants. It won’t always be able to get out the truth. In fact, it can even create even more lies in the process.

This is where the thought experiment comes in. What if we had a device that could, with nearly 100 percent accuracy, tell whether someone was lying? What would that do to our justice system? What would that do to our relationships with others? Would it effectively force us to be more honest with our friends, family, and intimate lovers?

This is another one of those thought experiments that isn’t overly fanciful. Creating devices to detect lies is not a new idea. In fact, it’s been in development for over a century.

Contrary to popular belief, however, there is no functioning “lie detector” yet. Those who claim there is are probably referring to a polygraph. A polygraph is not a lie detector. If anything, it’s a stress detector. It doesn’t detect lies. It detects the stresses on your body. I’m sorry if this completely changes how you see “Meet The Parents,” but that’s the hard truth.

For that reason, the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that the vast majority of research on the use of a polygraph for lie detection is unreliable, bias, and unscientific. It’s also why polygraph tests aren’t considered a reliable form of evidence in a court of law.

This is because it is possible to fool a polygraph. It’s been done before. There are even entire YouTube videos dedicated to helping people beat a polygraph. As a lie detector, it’s not much better than flipping a coin.

Beyond the polygraph, which only measures physiological responses, there is another emerging technology called fMRI, or Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This technology is more functional in principle because it measures the very source of all lies, namely the human brain. However, our limited understanding of how the brain forms lies prevents it from being a full-fledged lie detector.

Even so, the use of fMRI has been shown to be an effective way at detecting lies. It’s still not perfect. In an episode of Mythbusters, one of the hosts was able to beat an fMRI. If it can be done on a TV show, then what hope does it have in a court of law with people who lie for a living?

Despite this flaw, research has shown that an fMRI was able to detect lies with 24 percent more accuracy than a polygraph. Overall, it’s accuracy is about 78 percent. That’s pretty good. If it were a winning percentage in baseball, it would be a playoff team. However, when you’re dealing with law and relationships, 78 percent just isn’t enough.

At the very least, the technology is improving. As the science of brain imaging continues to improve, it will eventually be possible to detect lies within someone’s brain with a degree of accuracy that would make every court drama much more boring.

There may even come a day where detecting lies is as easy as talking into a smartphone. Remember that smart blood I mentioned a while back? Well if someone had that in their system, then their brains could be scanned in real time. That means people could know whether they’re lying in an instant. That would basically destroy the entire pick-up artist community.

Now that kind of lie detection is a long way off. However, and I know I say this a lot, there may come a day within our life time when this technology is functional. Given the ongoing development into fMRIs, it may only be a matter of time before someone creates a system that can detect lies with 99 percent accuracy.

What will this mean for criminal justice? What will this mean for divorce proceedings? What will this mean for relationships in general when people know there’s a way for their lies to be exposed? It’s a strange and ominous idea to imagine, but the cold hard truth is that we may have to deal with sooner than we think.

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