Image for post
Image for post
A photo of now-Justice Amy Coney-Barrett’s swearing in at her first confirmation hearing. | Source, originally Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Last night’s ceremonies ushering in new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney-Barrett are drawing parallel ire and adoration from distinct sides of the partisan aisle. Fox has a slew of stories that paint Republicans as the innocent victims of Democratic hate and anger, while sites like Huffington Post condemn the decision as rushed and note the zero Senate Democrats who voted in favor of the decision. As is to be expected, opinion is severely split along partisan lines, and has been for months.

Central to arguments for now-Justice Coney-Barrett is the idea that she is a professional champion of impartial justice. The notion spans across right-wing media, and was captured in her own confirmation remarks last night. But how valid is this argument? The question has implications far beyond one justice’s nomination, and answers should arguably reshape how many think of judicial systems entirely. …


Image for post
Image for post
Our realities are fractured, and we are unwilling to even give an audience to the other side. | Source

For the almost six months past, the world has been living through the nightmare of the coronavirus pandemic. This is news to nobody. Around the world, in so-called free democracies, authoritarian countries, in small towns, big cities, and likely in isolated communities we don’t know about, everybody knows that COVID-19 is a problem.

However, there is intense disagreement about what comes next: why the pandemic arose, what we are to do, who is to blame, or even if it is over yet. Now more than ever, some of us are being alerted to the enormous slew of misinformation surrounding the virus that the WHO thought was important enough to classify as an “infodemic” on par with the actual virus. I can speak to the U.S. side of the equation because it is the one I’m most acquainted with. Some think that the virus is a Chinese or Democrat hoax designed to make Trump look bad. Others think that it was caused by 5G cell towers. Some say we shouldn’t wear masks because they make it easier to catch the virus, or keep more of it on your face. People who were forced to accept its existence now say it’s over. …


Image for post
Image for post
A visualization of political social networks from research by Bakshy, Messing, and Adamic. | Source

In Chris Wylie’s tell-all book, Mindf*ck, detailing his work at Cambridge Analytica, he gives a frank account of how the company used psychographic manipulation to sway portions of the U.S. voting public. Particularly, when seeding discord in vulnerable populations, they preyed on the psychology of identity to build their angry army. Wylie explains that Steve Bannon — then Vice President of Cambridge Analytica — wanted to target racial bias in vulnerable voters, and used the tools to push narratives of “racial realism,” opposed to political correctness, in a way that inoculated the victims against rational critique.

This framing effect of political correctness as an identity threat catalyzed a “boomerang” effect in people where counternarratives would actually strengthen, not weaken, the prior bias or belief… In this way, if you could frame racialized views through the lens of identity prior to exposure to a counternarrative, that counternarrative would be interpreted as an attack on identity instead. (pp. …


Image for post
Image for post
Information technology and its interactions with our psychology have dramatically changed the underlying processes of democracy. Will we be able to adapt? | Source

We don’t often think about it, but our brains are all very different from one another. At the end of the day, sure, we mostly have the same brain regions, there are statistical correlations that show commonality of the interconnections between regions, and people can be grouped similarly by personality. But if we’re really honest about people’s psychology, it becomes apparent that we all have different strange things that trigger us: I have a personality that sees some authority as threatening; I know friends who love order and organization to the point of driving their behavior. Our differing brains lead us to interpret the world in different ways. …


Image for post
Image for post
Apparently, a landscape in Provence, France. When in doubt, use a random landscape photo. | Source

We live in times where truth is not a given. The age of information ushered in such a deluge of opinions, reports, and supposed-facts that we are no longer able to keep up. Perhaps some of the most diligent can stay on top of the infinitely-expending pile of things we’re supposed to know about in our daily lives, but most of us are simply humbled by its enormity. Amidst so much information that is supposedly all equally crucial, it is no surprise that truth has become a rare commodity. Some of the best methods that humanity has developed to systematically discover truths — namely, science and its methods — require time, discipline, and training. …


Image for post
Image for post
We may someday be able to be like this gray penguin, but if we are a brown penguin, the odds are not in our favor. | Source

In times that we feel a distinct lack of confidence — that we may as well simply sit and wallow away because there is no way that we would be the subject of something bold or great — we are apt to put all of the blame on ourselves. We are lazy, stupid, undeserving, weird, and the list likely gets more creative from there. …


Image for post
Image for post
My palms are already sweating. | Source

Many of us (myself included) may be feeling in these times of crisis that we have retreated from our usual bolder selves, and become, to a degree, less confident. After all, how can someone be taking bold steps when so much is on the line? The usual confidence that accompanies job changes, undertaking new projects, asking out a crush, speaking your mind, can now seem silly, frivolous, or too costly given the circumstances.

Though, is this the right way to think about it? Could there be any arguments for the idea that these are the times in which we should be having the most confidence? For all we know, this could nearly be the end of organized human civilization. There is a global pandemic, creeping authoritarianism from the hegemonic ruler of the Western empire, genocidal neglect worldwide in the wake of a killer virus, an ever impending climate crisis, civil unrest in Lebanon, typical authoritarianism from the main competitor for hegemonic rule from the East, among other things. If it were foretold that these were our last months of life, would we not be more bold and systematically tackle our bucket lists? …


Image for post
Image for post
From Shutterstock

It’s been a while since I’ve published any posts on Medium. These days, I have a habit of starting a piece, pretty much writing the whole thing — or at least making an entire outline — and then letting it perpetually languish in my archives. It’s a habit that I’m not very proud of, because I remember not too long ago when I was feeling a great deal of fulfillment and growth coming from the pieces I was writing and publishing. That feeling lingers in my mind, almost haunting me like a specter of my past confidence.

Confidence is a fascinating subject for me because, for the majority of my life, I’ve had a strange mix of it. From an early age, I have had trouble pushing myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. When life threw things at me that forced me out of comfort, I had learned to respond with resilience. When I conjured up my internal image of myself, it was one where I knew I could do difficult things and reach noteworthy peaks of achievement. However, the disconnect came when push came to shove; when I had to make myself put my imagination into action and feel legitimate in doing so. …


Image for post
Image for post
The similarities are striking, and we should use lessons learned from COVID-19 to mobilize for a Green New Deal.

As the world reels from the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus and its associated disease, COVID-19, daily life is being altered for many people. While government-imposed measures continue to escalate, I cannot help but notice many similarities between the mobilization to mitigate COVID-19 and those proposed to mitigate the climate crisis. Some have been saying that COVID-19 might stall momentum for climate organizing, but I argue that the COVID-19 mitigation effort presents an unexpected blueprint for what rapid change in the face of a climate crisis might look like. …


Image for post
Image for post
A photo from WBUR of the Boston Youth Climate Strike — Sept. 20th, 2019 | Source

The world is slowly waking up. After decades of disinformation lulled us into a dream-filled sleepwalk through life, we finally say, “no more.” As young people lead the charge, shaking us all from our stupor and rightfully demanding a livable future, I will rise with them. I say, “no more.”

For too long, the powerful and wealthy have hidden the truth from the world about the then impending climate crisis that is now gripping us all. Those who had the ability to speak up, to use their power responsibly for the good of people, instead chose to be silent, ignorant, or shamelessly deceitful. What a world we live in; that the incentives and mechanisms that turn the gears of society produce such greed and shortsightedness as to condemn the powerless, the poor, the oppressed, the young, and generations yet unborn to a future plagued by strife, and a present rife with anxiety. …

About

Nick Rabb

PhD student in Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Tufts University, organizer with Sunrise Movement and MA Peace Action. Philosophy nerd.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store