A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

September 20, 2017 | 4 Comments » | Topics: Answers, Interesting

Why is it hard for people to change thier beliefs? What causes us to grip on to things that have been proven to be false?

  1. Confirmation bias: people have a tendency not only to seek out, but to better remember information that is in line with their beliefs. It feels good being proven right, and so more often than not when debating an issue, we search up evidence that will support our point, rather than actively seeking to disprove ourselves. Even when we come across information that goes against our beliefs, we better remember information that supports our beliefs after the fact. E.g. for someone who doesn’t believe in the human-caused climate change theory, they will much more easily and readily recall the studies and things they found online that disconfirm climate change, than the studies that support. In this regard, to many people your ELI5 alludes to, the things that you would suggest disprove their beliefs must seem few and far between compared to evidence supporting their beliefs.

  2. Naive realism: is an effect whose three tenets state (1) we believe we see the world objectively (2) we expect others to come to the same conclusion so long as they’re rational and exposed to the same information (3) we assume that anyone who does not come to the same conclusion my be either biased, ignorant, or irrational. Basically, we take the huge assumption that the world is objectively how we see it (it’d be pretty hard to live life otherwise, always doubting your own perceptions of everything from temperature, to social etiquette, to valid science.) E.g. it’s alot easier for someone who doesn’t believe in the human-caused climate change theory who already takes in selective media through the websites they visit, and news they watch (as affected by the confirmation bias), to think that people who present a different point of view are ignorant or irrational, than to adopt a new belief.

  3. Rather than taking someone else’s viewpoint as a distinct viewpoint, in discussion settings, individuals with differing beliefs tend to view the other side as attacking their beliefs, while they believe they are objectively presenting their beliefs. Both sides think this, and as a result discussions like this often don’t get anywhere. This also ties in with what’s referred to as the conflict spiral. Since both people feel attacked, in a debate/discussion with differing beliefs, people tend to present their opinion more certainly and more strongly than what they actually believe. E.g. if someone who doesn’t believe in the human-caused climate change theory is feeling attacked and backed into a corner in a debate, it wouldn’t make much sense for them to express the mixed messages and merits of both sides of the issue, even if they believe there is a few good arguments on the other side and even if they’re only like 85% certain of their view. They want to “win” this argument so they portray themselves as being absolutely without doubt, and the climate change believers and having no merit in their argument whatsoever. Both sides engage in this, and rather than conversing to understand each other’s view, they try to convince each other with increasing argument extremity, and get increasingly frustrated when this doesn’t work.

– SirFriendlyFellow



What is Holocaust Denial?

As a starting point, I’m going to define what is the Holocaust and subsequently, what is Holocaust Denial.

Within the relevant scholarly literature, the term Holocaust is defined as the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews and up to half a million Roma, Sinti, and other groups persecuted as “gypsies” by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. It took place at the same time as other atrocities and crimes such as the Nazis targeting other groups on grounds of their perceived “inferiority”, like the disabled and Slavs, and on grounds of their religion, ideology or behavior among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals. During their 12-year reign, the conservative estimate of victims of Nazi oppression and murder numbers 11 million people, though newer studies put that number at somewhere between 15 and 20 million people.

Holocaust Denial is the attempt and effort to negate, distort, and/or minimize and trivialize the established facts about the Nazi genocides against Jews, Roma, and others most often with the goal to rehabilitate Nazism as an ideology.

Because of the staggering numbers given above, the fact that the Nazi regime applied the tools at the disposal of the modern state to genocidal ends, their sheer brutality, and a variety of other factors, the ideology of Nazism and the broader historical phenomenon of Fascism in which Nazism is often placed, have become – rightfully so – politically tainted. As and ideology that is at its core racist, anti-Semitic, and genocidal, Nazism and Fascism have become politically discredited throughout most of the world.

Holocaust Deniers primarily seek to remove this taint from the ideology of Nazism by distorting, ignoring, and misrepresenting historical fact and thereby make Nazism and Fascism socially acceptable again. In other words, Holocaust Denial is a form of political agitation in the service of bigotry, racism, and anti-Semitism.

In his book Lying about Hitler Richard Evans summarizes the following points as the most frequently held beliefs of Holocaust Deniers:

(a) The number of Jews killed by the Nazis was far less than 6 million; it amounted to only a few hundred thousand, and was thus similar to, or less than, the number of German civilians killed in Allied bombing raids.

(b) Gas chambers were not used to kill large numbers of Jews at any time.

(c) Neither Hitler nor the Nazi leaderhsip in general had a program of exterminating Europe’s Jews; all they wished to do was to deport them to Eastern Europe.

(d) “The Holocaust” was a myth invented by Allied propaganda during the war and sustained since then by Jews who wished to use it for political and financial support for the state of Israel or for themselves. The supposed evidence for the Nazis’ wartime mass murder of millions of Jews by gassing and other means was fabricated after the war.

[Richard Evans: Lying about Hitler. History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, New York 2001, p. 110]

A short history of Holocaust Denial and its methods in the West

Holocaust denialism has its roots in the Nazis’ own efforts to hide their crimes from the world . Especially the efforts of Sonderkommando 1005 and the destruction of records at the end of the war was intended to hide and deny these crimes and thus portray the regime in a more positive light.

This was , of course, used in Nuremberg and other various post war trials by the defendants, who either pushed a narrative of not having known, not having been involved, or all going back to Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and others who were dead or otherwise not present at Nuremberg (Eichmann e.g., who was made out by Dieter Wisliceny to be sort of a master mind of the Holocaust). Similarly, several defendants at Nuremberg engage in what has developed to become a classical tactics of deniers, e.g. minimizing the numbers, taking code language out of context with phrases such as resettlement, chalking up deaths to disease etc.

Also, surrounding Nuremberg and the revelations of the Nazi crimes, several different strands of fascist, right-wing extremist, and Nazi political agendas started to deny the Holocaust for a variety for reasons. In Germany, you — of course — have all the former Nazis who in order present a clean image of the regime and to rehabilitate themselves and the Nazi regime started to write books where they claimed the Holocaust to have either not happened or be the result of a Jewish conspiracy. For example, Otto von dem Bach-Zelewski, former head of an Einsatzgruppe, who had freely given information at the Nuremberg trials and thus saved his skin started in the 1950s to once again reverse his stand and put out a wealth of denialist literature. Similarly, a plethora of former Wehrmacht generals and officers engaged in their own form of denial by either denying the crimes of the regime outright or by presenting the Wehrmacht as not involved in such crimes. Especially the latter, the myth of the clean Wehrmacht, was one of the most successful forms of Holocaust denial and was very popular in Germany until the 80s and can still be observed today.

Another political agenda that used Holocaust denialism as its tool right after the war, was a certain strand of proto-fascist and right-wing extremist thinkers who wanted to clean fascism and their ideology from the strain of being associated with Hitler and the Holocaust. Douglas Reed is such an example. Reed, who was a prominent journalist in Great Britain, was against Hitler but not against Nationalsocialism (he favored the Otto Strasser position). In the late 40s, early 50s he started publishing books which claimed Hitler had been a Zionist agent and his policy of killing the Jews was a Jewish plot to justify the creation of Israel and which was done against the wishes of many Nazis. At some point it became increasingly hard for him to find publishers, so he moved to South Africa and became involved in supporting apartheid politics in SA and Rhodesia.

Another — and rather odd — strand of denialism comes from a pacifists. Pacifism had been very popular during the time between the World Wars because of the effects of WWI and after World War Two, a couple of people of the radical pacifist movement saw their positions threatened because the crimes of the Nazis were a major reason why the war against Nazi Germany was portrayed as a moral and necessary war. In the United States, a former mainstream historian and pacifist activist, Harry Elmer Barnes, started publishing literature that claimed the Holocaust was an Allied invention to justify their war against German, which they had started in 1939.

Another example of this is the — still cited by Holocaust deniers to this day — work of Paul Rassinier, who in many a ways is the father of modern Holocaust denial. Rassinier, also a staunch pacifist, was a member of the French resistance, where he — unsuccessfully — tried to get the Resistance to engage the Nazi occupation peacefully rather than with violence. Arrested by the Nazis in 1943 and deported to the Buchenwald and later Dora-Mittelbau Concentration Camps, Rassinier did write several books and pamphlets after the war in which he denied the existence of gas chambers and of mass extermination – ostensibly because he had never experienced it.

Rassinier was an odd fellow, whose work could be engaged in its own journal article. He, for example, did not deny the brutality of the camps but instead of holding the SS responsible, he blamed his fellow prisoners. Something, which could and has been engaged in modern scholarship as the result of the perfidious Nazi camp system.

But aside from the reason of Rassinier denying the Holocaust because he never experienced it, he also started to engage in Holocaust denial because he was an anti-Semite and a lot of his writing is informed by his hatred for Jews and the state of Israel, which he saw as based on a Jewish lie and as a threat to peace. The fact that Rassinier was a survivor, an academically trained historian, and a Holocaust denying anti-Semite makes his works favorites in denialist circles to this day.

Holocaust denialism the way we know it today started in the 1960s/70s with the rise of neo-fascist and neo-extreme rightits political movements and causes. Not directly referencing Nazism and old-school fascism as their sources of inspiration but still viewing themselves in the same historical lineage, a lot of these people saw themselves as the right counter-movement to the New Left of 1968 and so on. From Arthur Butz to David Irving, it was this generation who had not themselves taken part in the war and in the Anglosphere rejected the narratives of their elders as the Second World War being just, which formed the most tropes, arguments and methods used by Holocaust deniers to this day. This ranges from the supposedly “scientific” denialism of Leuchter and Zündel to the more subtle relativism of Irving and Nolte to the outright denial of everything like Faurisson’s.





People say big corporations don’t pay their share in taxes by using tax loopholes. What exactly are these loopholes?

Lets say I own a large company in the US called XYZ Records America which records and sells music albums online.

You buy an album from me online for $10 (+state taxes which come out of your pocket, not mine). Lets assume that on average it costs me $0.50/album to record and produce the album, $0.50/album to maintain the servers and site, and $1/album in royalties to the artist. For each album, I get $10 in revenue, and have $2 of expenses, for $8 of profit.

Corporate income tax is only paid on the profit my company makes, so I pay the tax rate on $8. Lets assume it’s 25%, which means I’ll have to pay $2 in tax. Now my net profit is only $6.

As a corporation, my primary goal is to increase profits. More profits = more money for me, more expansion for the company, more jobs or better pay for my employees, more charitable donations, etc. No matter what my philosophy is, it’s almost always driven by more profits.

It’s obvious in this example that the most effective way to increase profits is to pay less tax.

So what do I do? I send my accountants on a quest to find an answer, and they come back to me with the information that Ireland’s corporate tax is only 10% instead of the 25% I pay here. So what do I do? Well I could move the company there, but there’s a lot of assets in the US. I don’t want to relocate the studios, servers, etc. I’ll lose business if I do that.

Instead, lets just found XYZ Records Ireland. I’ll structure my brand so that they’re the “Parent Company” of XYZ Records America. All of the licenses XYZ Records America owns, I’ll “sell” to them for $0.01 each. When I record a new album in the U.S. I can immediately sell the rights to XYZ Ireland for $0.01.

Now I still want to sell the albums in the US to the same customers. So when you go to my online store and buy a record from XYZ America, I’ll sell it to you for $10 just the same. You won’t see a difference.

When I do that though, XYZ America will account for:

My revenue was $10, my total expenses were $10, “damn, the company didn’t make any money”. No profits to report, and 25% tax on $0 is $0 to pay in tax. I end up paying no tax in America.

I still have to report my income in Ireland though. So per album sold in America, XYZ Ireland’s books look like this:

XYZ Records Ireland reports $7.95 of profits per album. The tax on that is 10% of $7.95, so I’ll pay $0.795 = $0.80. Net profit is $7.15 per album.

By opening a parent company in Ireland, I can now earn $1.15 extra per album. I pay $0 to the US government in taxes, and I pay less tax overall.

If I sell 1,000,000 albums every year, that’s $2,000,000 that the US Government no longer receives from me, and it’s $1,150,000 of extra profits for the company.




What’s it like to have a bad mushroom trip?

We were in Vang Vieng a few years back, which is a town in Laos where backpackers go to do drugs. There was this strip of restaurants where if you go in and say the secret phrase which is like, “I want to do drugs,” they will bring you a menu that is all illegal, mind-altering substances. They had cocaine, hashish, and bags of heroin. We decided to do a mushroom pizza, which seemed innocuous compared to what was on offer. My approach was to eat one slice and discover that it didn’t do anything and keep eating slices until reality completely melted away.

I had eaten a lot of the mushroom pizza by the time we realized that this was going on, and I was like, “We gotta get outside.” We moved outside the restaurant. I started losing touch with reality very quickly; I was convinced I was back home on a street in Vancouver. I could not understand why there was a half-man half-chicken statue outside, which does really exist and seems like poor planning at a place that sells hallucinogens. We went back to his hut that we had rented, and I spent the next six hours screaming, nonstop as loud as I could. I got locked in this weird psychological loop where I thought I was dead. I’d become convinced I was a dead body lying in a clearing in the forest and that these crickets I was hearing were surrounding my body. I was in the afterlife, and more than that, I was in hell and hell was an eternal loop where you’re forced to believe you’re alive just so you can go through the hell of realizing you’re dead again.

I was so removed from reality at that point that I no longer knew I had done mushrooms. I had no idea I’d done drugs. It was so intense that there was no discernible difference for me between being awake and being asleep. I was still in the room, the walls were still melting, I was still alive, and dead and in hell. The only thing that made me realize later on that I’d been asleep was when I woke up and got onto my knees and started screaming, the person I was with rolled her eyes and said, “I thought we were through with this.” Eventually, it kind of wore off and I came back to reality. The trip started at around 7 PM, and I woke up at 8 AM, and it was finally over. It had never occurred to me that it would stop. As you can imagine, when you’ve been told you’ve been damned for all eternity, it’s surprising when you wake up, and you’re OK. I was shaken for the rest of the trip and for six months after. I was having panic attacks and waking up in the night and leaving crowded places. It diminished my enthusiasm for mushrooms.

– Ted