Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Why I stopped using Twitter

Posted in botch, business, california by commorancy on November 25, 2022

a woman in red scarf holding a megaphone

Based on my recent article, Is the Demise of Twitter imminent?, I have outlined the reasons why I believe Twitter is very close to closing down entirely. While that is a reason not to use the platform, it isn’t my primary reason for leaving Twitter. Twitter has a lot more wrong with it than potential closure. Let’s explore.

Content Moderation and Trust

Let’s jump right into the heart of the reason why Twitter is in serious jeopardy. Any social network that offers User Generated Content (UGC) is at risk if the operators of the site are unwilling to handle that UGC appropriately.

Terms of Service (TOS) agreements and Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) exist to protect the site from lawsuits. Meaning, so long as the site adheres to the terms laid out in their agreements, then the site is said to be doing its fiduciary responsibility to its users.

TOS and AUP agreements define what is considered acceptable conduct by anyone who uses the web site. Most such agreements lay out that conduct such as hate speech, harassing speech, bullying, threats of violence, death threats and any conduct which is considered illegal federally or locally is prohibited on the web site. The article I mentioned above also touches on this topic.

Whenever a site is created that publishes such user generated content on behalf of its users, a site must make sure that the speech remains within the confines of acceptable use. That means offering such mechanisms as user reporting features (allowing users to report offensive content), automated scanning of content to detect such infringing content and a team of content moderators to remove or suspend users who willfully break the rules.

Why do these agreements exist?

Trust. These agreements are in place to help users understand that Twitter is a safe and trustworthy space. As long as the agreements are upheld, then users can know that Twitter is looking out for them. Without such agreements or, more specifically, knowing the agreements aren’t being enforced, then the safety level of the site drops precipitously, along with the site’s level of trust.

Politics and AUP

Recently, too many people on Twitter are now seeing everything through the a political lens. Specifically, the right wingers are now seeing everything they say through a political lens of free speech.

Let’s understand first and foremost that First Amendment Free Speech DOES NOT apply to Twitter or any non-governmental organization operating a social network. It never has. The First Amendment only applies to Governmental organizations and staff. While your local county official cannot abridge your freedom of speech or freedom of press, Twitter can.

Further, let’s understand that terms of service (conduct) agreements are not built with politics in mind. They are built by lawyers who are paid to provide legal services to corporations. These agreements are not political leaning. These agreements apply to everyone using the services equally. Anyone who infringes the agreement is subject to disciplinary action… yes, ANYONE.

Right Wing Activists and Lying

Right wingers have been completely jumping on the bandwagon that somehow Twitter is selectively applying its rules only to right wing activists and not to left wing activists. That would be unfair application of terms of service, but it’s also a false statement. That kind of false rhetoric is now a staple with right leaning conservatives. They’re willing to lie about nearly anything and everything. Why would social media be any exception. It isn’t.

Twitter has applied its rules equally to all people who infringe, left, right or center. It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs, if you put forth infringing content, you’re suspended or banned.

Left wing activists have also been banned from the platform. Thus, this right wing falsehood is just that, a falsehood… like many others. Yet, they keep saying it with careless abandon as though saying it multiple times will somehow make it true. It doesn’t.

As of this moment, right wingers are completely out of control on Twitter… running afoul of Twitter’s rules without any disciplinary action by Twitter staff. That’s not to say left wingers aren’t out of control, because they are also. In fact, there are a lot of apolitical people on Twitter simply playing games with Twitter’s rules because Twitter isn’t enforcing them…. and here is the problem in a nutshell.

Rules, Chaos and Crowd Sourced Moderation

Rules exist to stem the chaos and enforce trust. Without enforcement of rules, a social media site is simply a cesspool without trust… and that’s exactly where Twitter sits right now.

If Twitter had been designed to allow thread creators to manage and moderate user comments within their created thread, like YouTube owners can moderate comments on videos, then Twitter would be in a much better place right now.

It would mean that I, as a Twitter user, could dump off comments from my thread that break not only Twitter’s rules, but my own personal rules of decorum. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t afford that level of content moderation to the thread creator. That means relying on Twitter’s now non-existent staff. Of course, when that staff doesn’t exist, there’s no one there to do the moderation work that’s needed.

If Twitter had moved to crowd based moderation, the platform would be in a much better place. It wouldn’t need nearly as much moderation staff as thread creators could simply remove comments from threads they own. If someone chimes in with an insensitive, inappropriate or problematic comment, then “Delete” and the comment is gone. No Twitter staff needed.

In fact, this is the way social media needs to operate now and in the future. Twitter still firmly believes that it is Twitter’s staff sole responsibility to moderate content. That’s not doable when you have perhaps billions of messages being sent daily. A company can’t grow its moderation team to scale to this number of messages. It is also an antiquated idea that should have been gone years ago. However, at the time of Twitter’s conception, crowd managed UGC wasn’t really commonplace. Partly that’s something that wasn’t being done, but partly it’s because Jack Dorsey’s team didn’t have the foresight to realize staff moderation of billions of small messages was not humanly scalable.

In recent years, crowd managed moderation has become not only more acceptable, it’s become commonplace and even important. YouTube has allowed this for quite some time. It allows the channel owner to remove any and all messages from its videos that the content creator deems problematic. It firmly puts the burden of content moderation on the creator. That’s also a completely acceptable situation.

Crowd Moderation

Wikipedia has completely proven that crowd moderation of content works. As a company, you can’t afford to hire the thousands of people needed to scout billions of messages all over the platform. Instead, it’s better to empower content creators to manage a much smaller number of messages.

Reporting inappropriate comments is still available, however. This allows staff the opportunity to jump in and manage inappropriate content if the content creator reports a comment.

However, conscientious creators should be willing to hold and moderate comments prior to allowing them to be published. With Twitter, publishing is instantaneous with no advanced moderation possible. Considering the sheer volume of messages on Twitter, it might be almost impossible to handle a single hold-queue style moderation system. With a spam filter, it may be possible to separate the wheat from the chaff into more easily manageable piles.

Trust, Quality and Moderation

Here’s something that Twitter has needed for a very, very long time. Twitter is chock full of bad actors. Any bad actors who consistently write bad comments of low or questionable quality would see their comment moved into the “junk” moderation pile for the content creator to manage and/or report.

Such a system would allow Twitter to offer up content moderation for all of its content creators. Enabling content moderation places moderation in the hands of the content creator using a hold queue. This halts many instant responses, but it ensures higher quality comments. Comments are then examined and filtered into trust and quality buckets. High quality comments from more trusted individuals get placed into the pile the creator manages first. Successively lower quality comments from lesser trusted people get moved into successively lower moderation piles.

Content creators can both move comments from one pile to another and they can mark commenters so that future comments get placed into specific piles all the way to a block which prevents the user from commenting at all.

For example, piles might be labeled as:

  • Instant Publish
  • Mostly-Trusted
  • Semi-Trusted
  • Untrusted
  • Untrusted Junk
  • Junk

These 6 piles are a good starting place. Instant publish is for your most trusted followers. You know that these followers can be completely trusted to instantly publish a high quality comment with no holds. No moderation is needed for fully trusted people. For people who are mostly trusted, these comments go into the mostly-trusted pile for moderation hold. These are people who are very close to getting instant publish, but you still need to hold their messages because you want to read the comment first.

All other piles are reviewed at the sole discretion of the content creator. If the content creator chooses not to look through the remaining piles, then the comments get purged after 7-30 days on hold.

How does a user become trusted?

Trust comes from both following and adding a new button labeled ‘trust’ along with an assigned level (1-6). Following someone only places someone into the Semi-Trusted pile. Meaning, you’ve followed them so you’re assigning them the default trust of level of 3. However, you haven’t completely trusted them. This means you’ll need to moderate comment content.

As a user gets more and more messages posted out of moderation, the user will automatically move up the ranks of trust, eventually reaching Instant Publish unless the content creator explicitly sets the user’s trust level.

User trust levels can also be managed by interactions with others. A content creator can enable “inherit trust averages” to new followers. This means that user’s trust level is calculated and inherited based on past interactions. If a user has consistent bad interactions, been reported a number of times, been blocked by many people and so on, these bad activities affect the user’s inherited trust level and the user’s trust level goes down. Instead of being assigned a default of level 3, the user might inherit a level of 5 or 6.

Note, being blocked by lower trust level users doesn’t influence a user’s inherited trust. Only people of higher trust levels who block them influence the inherited trust level. This stops bad seeds from gaming this system and attempting to lower a person’s trust level by creating hundreds of accounts and blocking someone of higher levels of trust. The only trust levels that impact a user’s inherited trust level when blocked is if the blocking user has a trust level above 2. That means bad seeds would need to work their hundreds of accounts up to level 2 before blocking people to reduce trust. Even then, any user attempting to game the trust system will automatically be banned.

Note that there are effectively two trust levels at play. There is the inherited trust level of the user themselves, which is gained by behaving correctly, producing high quality content and, in small amount, by having someone follow you. The second trust level is set by a content creator. Even if a person is inherited with a 90% trust level, if they follow someone and comment, the content creator can set that 90% trusted user down to level 6 if they choose. That moderation trust level only applies to the content creator, but doesn’t impact the follower’s inherited trust level… unless many high level trusted people all mark that user down.

Trust levels are the means by which the bad actors go to the bottom of the pile and good actors bubble to the top. To date, no social networks have instituted such a trust system. Instead, they have chosen to allow chaos to reign supreme instead of forcing users to learn behavioral norms when interacting on social networks. Enforcing behavioral norms is something social media desperately needs.

Trust Numbers

Implementing a trust numbering system would also add more control by users and content creators alike. Users who insist on being untrustworthy, to lie, to generally be toxic will see their trust numbers reduced. It doesn’t matter if it’s a celebrity or a nobody. Trust numbers are what people will judge. Like any score system, it can be used to allow users to auto-block and auto-ignore users who choose to have trust cores below a certain threshold. If a comment from a user with a trust level below 50 would appear on a timeline, a rule saying hide comments from users below trust level 50 would automatically weed out toxic comments.

More than this, if a user has a less than 50 trust score, a content creator can make a rule that prevents low score users from commenting at all. In effect, the trust score auto-blocks the user from comments. If the user wishes to make a comment, then they need to do the right things to raise their trust score. A trust scoring system is the only way for users and content creators to know that they can be safe on a platform like Twitter.

Chaos now reigns at Twitter

Because Elon Musk has decided to cut over half of Twitter’s staff, there’s really no one left to enforce much of anything on Twitter. In effect, Twitter is now overrun by untrustworthy, lying, conniving bad actors. It is these toxic people who don’t deserve to have any interactions at all. They are the absolute dregs of social media. These are toxic people you would never interact with in person, yet here they are on full display on Twitter.

Because Twitter has no moderation staff left to manage these bad seeds, the platform is overrun by people of bad intent. These are people who insist sowing seeds of chaos and doing as much damage as possible all with providing no value to the platform. Their comments are worthless, bordering on toxic and are sometimes even dangerous.

With no moderation team, there’s no one at Twitter who can review these comments for their toxicity, let alone do anything about it. Worse, Elon Musk is pushing a “new freer” Twitter, which simply doubles down on this level of toxicity all over the Twitter platform.

If Twitter were to introduce a trust and moderation system as described above, Twitter could forgo the moderation staff, instead letting content creators manage these bad seeds to push them off of the platform. Such a moderation system would also take a huge burden off of Twitter’s staff. Bad seeds would eventually disappear when they find their comments don’t get published. They also can’t claim Twitter is a fault because a content creator moderation system would mean people of all political persuasions would be kicking these bad seeds to the curb.

There’s really no other way for Twitter to manage such bad seeds other than a crowd managed moderation system like the above. Unfortunately, Twitter’s staff is dwindling at an astonishing rate, including the very software engineers needed to design and build such a system.

If Twitter wants to become a platform about trust and safety, it needs to institute a mechanism that enforces this philosphy, like the above content creator moderation system. Without such a system, Twitter remains chaos.

Toxic People

Toxic Symbol

Toxic people are everywhere, but it seems that social media like Twitter attracts them in droves. I don’t know why other than the anonymity that seems afforded. Suffice it to say that while Twitter was relatively toxic prior to Musk’s takeover, the content moderation staff took care of a lot of that toxicity through suspensions and banning.

Unfortunately, Musk seems to have reversed that stance and is now allowing (and even condoning) toxic people back into Twitter who were formerly removed. That means Twitter is now becoming even less of a safe and welcoming space than it formerly was. Toxicity now prevails. Toxicity is something no one needs in their life, least of all on Twitter. Toxic people are draining for all of the wrong reasons.

  • Toxic people waste your time — Toxic people ask you to do stuff for them while providing nothing in return. Even if you do spend the time providing what they request…
  • Toxic people always criticize you — Wasting time on someone toxic, they will turn that wasted time against you by arguing and criticizing what what you provided was not what they requested.
  • Toxic people spread negativity — Even after trying to talk to them to convince them, they will still turn it back around on you as a negative, as though you did something wrong. You didn’t.
  • Toxic people are jealous — The most likely reason they interacted with you in the first place is that they are jealous of what you have. In order to make themselves feel better, they will argue and downplay over whatever they are jealous… or they will try to make you feel jealous by claiming they have something that they don’t actually have.
  • Toxic people play the victim — Instead of accepting their own faults and failings, it’s always someone else who is to blame for them. If you happen to get in their way, you will become the victim over their having been victimized by you. That goes back to being jealous. If they are jealous over something, they will blame you for their being victimized by their own jealousy.
  • Toxic people are self-centered — This is a form of narcissism. How bad the narcissism is depends on them, not you. This means that not only are they likely to blame you for them being a victim, it all revolves around them, never around you. These people never see you as anything more than a punching bag to inflate their own ego.
  • Toxic people really don’t care — In other words, they argue with you because it inflates their ego, but honestly they don’t care about you or how you feel as long as it makes them feel better. It’s a form of manipulation.
  • Toxic people will manipulate you — This is another form of narcissism. It all ends up revolving around them. Most toxic people don’t care about your feelings at all. All they care about is getting whatever they want out of you. If that’s money or a ride or food, they’ll do or say whatever makes that a reality. On Twitter, you have to be cautious as money is really the only motivating factor. If Twitter enables money transfers, expect these toxic people to turn into scam artists.

Twitter currently enables, facilitates and now condones these toxic types of people on Twitter. Not only will they waste your time, they will attempt to play the victim game as though you caused them to be the victim. They will always claim that you are the one who is wrong and they are the one who is right. There is no middle ground, concession or compromise with toxic people. It’s always them and no one else.

If you feed into their garbage, you are likely the one to be harmed by them. Don’t allow it. As soon as you see someone like this, block them instantly. Don’t interact with them. If Twitter isn’t willing to handle toxic people, you have two choices, block and hope they don’t come back using another account or stop using Twitter.

Leaving Twitter

What Twitter currently means for sincere AUP-abiding content creators is increased effort to block toxic people, which actually does little to stop that user’s toxicity. They simply move to other victims to vomit their toxic rhetoric, with those users being forced to block them also. In other words, there’s nothing at all a standard user or content creator can do to stop toxic people from being toxic on Twitter (other than blocking that person for themselves). The best a legitimate person can do is block these toxic people for themselves alone, but that doesn’t make any impact on that toxic user’s account. Even reporting such an account today is likely to go ignored by Twitter. Musk appears to have no interest in holding rule breakers accountable.

A trust system would change this game. Meaning, users who insist on being toxic get to share in their consequences of being toxic. The more toxic they become, the more their account gets moved to the bottom. When the account gets down to a certain threshold, this allows Twitter to review these accounts for being a problem… thus requiring far less staff.

Unfortunately, Twitter has now placed this time suck burden onto each user to block, mute and dump users and to clean up the mess after. I don’t have time for that. Not only is that a complete waste of my time, I’m not being paid by Twitter to do it. It also means Twitter is not a safe or welcoming space. Spending my time managing my account only affects my account alone. It doesn’t in any way stop those toxic bad seeds from laying siege to other users on the platform. Since Twitter has no staff to manage these toxic bad seeds, Twitter is simply a chaotic cesspool of the lowest social media dregs all running amok in a quagmire of chaos. No one is safe from these toxic people.

If you’re looking for a safe and trusting space where you can feel like the social media site is looking out for you and your best interests, Twitter is not that place. Twitter has now become literally the worst, most toxic environment you could join right now, second up only to Facebook. Twitter doesn’t care about trust or safety or protecting you. They’re only interested in letting toxic social media users run roughshod all over everyone else.

For the reason of toxic users and Twitter actively choosing to be unsafe, I am off of Twitter. I simply cannot condone using a platform where the management is more interested in allowing chaos to rule over offering up appropriate safety measures for its users to use against toxic people.

Twitter’s Safety Rating

Safety: 1 out of 10
Toxicity: 10 out of 10
Recommendation: Avoid until Twitter closes or Musk figures it out

↩︎

If you’re a gun owner, you need to read this!

Posted in gun ownership, law enforcement by commorancy on June 7, 2022

red flagGun ownership comes with a whole passel of responsibility. However, on the heels of the Uvalde mass shooting and, inevitably, ever more mass shootings to come, some legal suggestions are brewing in Congress… suggestions that may impact your very freedom to live in the United States. Are these ideas good for gun ownership or indeed individual freedom? Let’s explore.

NRA as champions for gun ownership?

Many believe the NRA is a champion over gun ownership and for gun owners. Let’s explore why this may not be the case in the long term. If you’re a card carrying NRA member, you should definitely read this article to better understand how the NRA might not actually be looking out for your own welfare as a U.S. Citizen. Before we get into exactly why, we need more details on where we stand and where things are headed.

Uvalde Mass Shooting awakens Outrage

The Uvalde mass shooting, which saw a total of 21 people dead, including 19 children and 2 adults with 17 injured, has once again stirred the outrage pot. With that outrage comes many outrageous claims of how to handle the ever perpetuating gun violence clearly gripping the nation.

Some suggest repealing the 2nd Amendment. Some suggest banning only assault style weapons. Some suggest “red flag” laws. Some suggest “mental health” watches. Some suggest “Enhanced Background Checks”. Congress is now focusing on “red flag” laws and “mental health” issues. Here’s exactly where gun owners need to be concerned and outraged themselves. None of the suggestions currently on the table are actually good for gun owners. Why?

The 18 year old Uvalde shooter had purchased his rifles and ammo just 3 days prior to the incident. More than this, this shooter tagged his actions instantly as they were progressing. However, very little was tagged prior to the rampage beginning. What this meant for this shooter is that “mental health” examinations and/or “red flag” laws likely would have done little, if nothing at all to prevent this mass shooting. This shooter was, for all intents and purposes, clean of these possibilities. In other words, his purchase likely wouldn’t have triggered “mental health” concerns or “red flag” laws (if they had existed). This is why these “red flag” and “mental health” laws won’t work under these conditions.

How will “red flag” laws actually work?

Think about the movie Minority Report. If you haven’t watched this film, I highly that suggest you do so if only for research purposes. What exactly is a “red flag” law? The idea behind “red flags” is to find people of dangerous intent BEFORE a problem exists. These laws attempt to be “proactive” laws which seek to find “dangerous intentioned people” before any damage, injury or death can occur. That’s a very tall order. That also sounds a lot like clairvoyance.

As I suggested, “Doesn’t this sound like Minority Report?”. Having seen this movie, you know that its premise uses clairvoyant people known as Precogs to “see” crimes BEFORE a crime occurs. That’s exactly what “red flag” laws also attempt to do. How will “red flag” laws actually work?

We know that crystal balls and other clairvoyant techniques are not really possible in law enforcement. To a small degree, psychics may exist who can see small and limited information at specific times, but not to the degree or level of the Precogs in Minority Report. No. What will happen with these so-called “red flag” laws is that they will rely on everyday people to report suspicious activity by others to the authorities. We also know people tend to lie, cheat and steal. So there’s that.

Texas New Bounty-based Abortion Law

If “red flag” laws take the shape of the new bounty-style abortion law, then we have a serious problem. Bounty-style laws are ripe for abuse, lying and cheating against fellow citizens. It’s also ripe for use as cancel culture. If any “red flag” laws are bounty-based, it’s a guarantee that unscrupulous people will take advantage of the bounty by lies and cheating to cancel people they don’t like.

It gets worse. Because cops are masters of profiling, someone’s lie coupled with a perfect profile could lead to a “pre-arrest” over “red flags”. What exactly is a “pre-arrest”? It means the cops are authorized to take the person into custody over the possibility of an action not having yet been performed. Yes, this sounds exactly like Minority Report.

Let’s understand how such a scenario may unfold. You’re a family of four with another on the way. The typical 4.5 member household. You’re also avid gun owners. At least one of your kids is old enough to use guns for recreation purposes… and they do. Let’s also assume a bounty-based “red flag” law exists in your jurisdiction. Your neighbor sees little Billy out in the front yard playing guns with toy rifle you’ve given him, aiming it at random animals. The next day, a squirrel lay dead on that neighbor’s doorstep of what seems to be a gunshot wound.

These are all now incontrovertible facts. Coupled with a solid gun ownership profile in your family and what the neighbor witnessed, the facts line up to trigger both “mental health” evaluations and “red flag” laws. This means the cops now have the right to come take your son in for “mental health” evaluation based on “red flag” laws and those cops may also now have the right to confiscate your weapons as evidence. They might even have the right to take you, the parents, into custody.

This situation is likely “best case”. Meaning, the evidence is now fact and incontrovertible. This scenario doesn’t involve lying outright, but it does involve bad assumptions and bad conclusions. That doesn’t matter, however. The “red flag” laws take over and supersede bad assumptions. The cops have a duty to make sure the laws are enforced and that people are “safe”. Thus, off little Billy goes to be checked into a sanitarium for evaluation and held under suspicion of “red flag” violations.

14th Amendment vs 2nd Amendment

This is where we see a clear violation of the 14th Amendment. What exactly is the 14th Amendment? Let me give you a quick refresher…

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

How is this a violation? Because now, based on “red flag” laws, the child has been detained into “medical custody” (though it’s to a mental health facility, not a jail) and those guns may have been taken into evidence under that “red flag” law as evidence… without due process.

The question is, will the “red flag” laws be subject to due process as the 14th Amendment requires? Even if it does require due process, what is the person charged with? The future possibility of a mass casualty event? Are we really trying to make Minority Report a reality here? Are we truly trying to pre-arrest and pre-charge people based merely on suspicion of harm to others?

This situation is exceedingly dangerous, not for mass shooting events, but for the foundation of democracy itself. This is yet another severe erosion of the constitution. We cannot sacrifice the 14th Amendment to allow the 2nd Amendment rights to stand. We also should not erode 2nd Amendment rights to allow the 14th to stand. Both amendments must stand together or not at all.

Profiling and McCarthyism

We’re heading into dangerous territory with “red flag” laws. These types of laws won’t stop mass shootings, but they will halt democracy because of lack of due process. Minority Report is a film with a unique idea. It’s also an idea that has no place in today’s democracy.

We simply cannot create laws to “pre-arrest” people for something they might or might not do. Laws are intended to be reactive and handle situations AFTER a crime has been committed. Law was never designed to be “proactive” to stop crime before it happens. Some might say laws deter. In some cases they do, but a deterrent is not the same as proactive law. There is a difference. A deterrent shows people there’s a severe consequence and penalty for certain actions. It lets people decide whether to perform an action. If they choose to perform that criminal action, then they take the legal consequence. Proactive law seeks to empower law enforcement to arrest and detain people before they’ve done anything wrong, merely on suspicion of intent.

What “red flag” laws do isn’t a form of deterrent. Just the opposite. “Red flag” laws seek to use people to lie about others to get law enforcement to “handle” them. It’s a way to allow people make shit up, possibly plant evidence, then have people they don’t like carted away on suspicions alone.

What that means for gun owners is that after “red flag” laws pass, gun owners are on exceedingly shaky ground (and so are their guns). All it takes is an exceedingly nosy neighbor and your kid’s questionable behavior or even you may find yourself locked up in a “mental health” facility for an indefinite period of time. If law enforcement decides they believe you or your family are a “danger to yourself or to others”, the “red flag” law triggers and bye-bye 14th Amendment. No due process. No court trial. No charges even. Just locked up, possibly forced to take drugs, forced evaluation and no more liberty or 2nd Amendment rights until, well, who knows really? No due process means possible indefinite detainment.

Red Flags and Gun Ownership

As a gun owner, you should be exceedingly concerned over these “Mental Health” and “Red Flag” laws now being considered because these laws can and will be used in retaliatory ways against gun owners. Not only can these laws be used to take away your liberty on mere suspicion, they can be used to take your guns into evidence… depriving you of both 2A rights AND 14A rights simultaneously.

If you’re a gun owner and wish to remain that way, you should be vehemently against both “red flag” and “mental health” combined laws. Both will undermine your ability to continue to own guns. These “mental health” laws won’t seek to find the lying and cheating among us. No, they will seek to find those who are considered a “danger to self or others”… and those people are easy to spot being gun owners.

Why? Because the “red flag” laws are intended to target people who “might” use guns in very specific and mass damaging ways. These laws won’t and can’t target non-gun owners. These laws are, therefore, specifically intended to target any gun owner who appears intent on perpetrating gun violence upon others… which can be easily trumped up with seemingly innocent photos. Even simply owning a gun might be enough to make the leap to that suspicion.

Cancel Culture

A lot of people bring this topic up frequently, particularly on social media. Because many believe we are in the midst of a cancel culture, “red flag” laws give opportunistic “cancel culture” people the very means by which they can cancel gun owners that they don’t like. If you own a gun, be prepared for cancel culture. In fact, you might even consider these “red flag” laws as a type of law intended to be used for the purposes of cancel culture.

A neighbor doesn’t like how you think or how you act AND you own a gun? With “red flag” laws you’re at risk. You now fit the exact profile that “red flag” laws seek to find and eliminate. Nevermind that you never intend doing anything like a mass shooting. The fact that you fit the exact profile of that type of person is enough for “red flag” laws to trigger your capture. Yes, cancel culture may become very real.

Say, “No” to “Red Flag” laws. Say, “Yes” to gun licenses.

“Red Flag” laws have no place in our world. Not only do they violate the 14th Amendment to both life and liberty, but they also violate due process. I also guarantee these laws will be used to unfairly target gun owners. These laws also won’t solve our mass shooting problems.

Those intent on finding a weapon to perform a mass shooting will still manage to find them. Why? Because profiling doesn’t work. Let me say that again. Profiling doesn’t work. A small percentage of the time, background checks and intuition might aid in stopping a mass shooting. The vast majority of the time where there is no background information, there’s no red flag information and there’s no way to know the person’s intent, those people will find a way to gain access to a weapon and use it for mass casualties. These “no information” scenarios are most common (see Enhanced Background Checks below as to why) and won’t be caught by suspicions or mental health evaluations.

How do we solve the gun problem? Gun licensing.

Gun licenses solve two things at once:

1) It forces people into a specific process to obtain that license by paying a fee.
2) It forces people to learn required information about gun safety and owning a gun to obtain that license.

We’re required to have a license to drive. We’re required to have a license to practice medicine. We’re required to have a license to practice law. We’re even required to have a license to hunt and fish. Why are we not required to have a license to own a weapon?

Obtaining a license does a lot of things at once, beside those two mentioned above. It allows the license issuer to perform necessary checks prior to issuing the license. It also has the issuer inform necessary other government agencies of the license request. It also means a person cannot run out and buy a weapon without first presenting a valid license.

Applying for a license also tells the issuer that the person has passed any necessary tests to prove competency. If an eye exam is required, it tells the issuer that the person’s eye sight is enough to properly see to use the weapon. More than this, a licensee may be required to register all weapons owned under that license. Meaning, the license issuer knows which weapons the licensee owns.

Licenses may also grant other benefits, such as “concealed carry” as long as certain conditions have been met. If specific training has been learned around assault style rifles, that kind of a license may also be issued. For example, if you were in the military and trained with certain types of military grade weapons, that might grant a certain type of license.

There’s also the flip side. If the person violates the terms of the license, it can be revoked, suspended or confiscated, thus preventing the use of any weapons. If the license is revoked, all ammunition must be surrendered and all weapons that person owns must be sold within 10 days or be forfeit to authorities. This licensing, in fact, is the very definition of “well regulated” as defined in the 2nd Amendment.

Holding a valid license means you understand the value of what that license means and what those guns mean. Law abiding gun-holding citizens should have no problem obtaining a license or maintaining it.

Will licenses alone solve the mass shooting problem? No. There are those who are intent in doing what they intend to do. That means, they’re patient and willing to follow the processes. It does weed out those who are unwilling to follow the rules, which is a small percentage. In fact, it probably would have stopped the Uvalde shooter as he wouldn’t have been able to obtain a weapon without a license.

However, for those who are patient and willing to follow the rules, that won’t stop someone from performing a mass shooting while carrying a valid license. That’s why more is needed.

Minimum Liability Insurance

Like cars, gun owners need to carry liability insurance. If a gun is used to damage person or property, the owner of the weapon is responsible for that damage, in similar form to owning a car. Thus, minimum liability insurance should be required when purchasing any weapon. For every weapon you buy and own, you must inform the insurance company to add that weapon to the policy. Owning certain types of weapons or too many weapons might trigger higher insurance premiums, for example. Age might also dictate higher insurance costs, in similar form to car insurance. Some weapon types might even be considered uninsurable, preventing you from buying it.

This type of monetary cost of ownership is also a type of deterrent. Remember when I discussed various deterrents above? Well, this is a type of deterrent. By enforcing certain costs to gun ownership, it means the person is willing to take on those costs to own a weapon. Owning one (1) gun for protection is expected, thus insurance may be affordable. Owning 100 guns could be considered excessive and/or a hazard by insurance companies, thus higher rates. Owning too many guns might be cause to prevent insurance. Let the market decide what is considered socially acceptable.

Federal Taxation

The Federal government needs to heavily tax certain styles of weapons and firearms. If a gun falls into the assault style category, for example, the tax on the weapon might be as much as 50% of the cost of the weapon. If you want to own it, it will cost you. You don’t need assault style weapons to protect yourself. A small pistol is just as effective to prevent and deter bodily harm as an assault rifle. All firearms protect equally in this regard. Thus, weapons which cause overly excessive property damage or cause excessive injury should be taxed exceedingly high. Weapons which cause less injury or damage would be taxed at a much lower rate.

Taxation and insurance together won’t stop mass shootings because people will find the money to purchase the weapon regardless of its costs. Let’s talk about…

Enhanced Background Checks

Some have proposed enhanced background checks as a possible solution. Let’s examine why this one won’t work either. It’s all in the demographics. Let’s take a look at statistics of school shootings by age:Screen Shot 2022-05-25 at 2.30.57 PM

The vast majority of shooters start at age 12, peak at age 17 and taper off after age 21. That’s 836 shootings between those ages. Then, there’s a spike after age 31+ for a total of 125 shootings. The vast majority of shootings occur in that child to young adult age group demographic tapering off around age 21.

Between the ages of 12-21, there may be very little data to “red flag” or “mental health” to evaluate and likely even less for “enhanced background checks”. The one case where we absolutely need these proposed laws to affect change will, ironically, do absolutely nothing. These are mostly kids who’ve yet done anything. Most of the mass shooters are first offenders of anything. They’re not even in the system to find. Meaning, it is these shooters who end up the biggest problem, yet there’s likely almost no information to be found on them prior to their rampage. “Red Flags” require actual red flags. Meaning, you have to be able to find information on the child’s behaviors to know if any red flags exist. Without any data, attempting to apply “red flags” is meaningless.

For some, it may be possible to scour social media to find one or two of these of these children who may exhibit a behavior that could be considered suspect. However, does one or two posts sufficiently trigger “red flag” laws or even “mental health” concerns? Clearly, these kids likely won’t even have a background to review. Meaning, enhanced background checks won’t work.

This is why these “red flag” and “mental health” laws also aren’t likely find these shooters in this age group. These laws are likely to only impact only adults above the age group listed, not children in the mass shooting age group shown. Meaning, more mass shootings continue while “pre-arrests” take place against adults who likely weren’t even a threat.

Gifting Weapons

Children who want weapons are usually taught to like and want weapons by their parents. Meaning, the parents are usually gun owners themselves. Kids learn from their parents. Thus, when a child wants a gun, it’s typically because a parent already owns one. What does this mean for background checks exactly?

It means that parents know kids want to have a weapon of their own. Some parents oblige and are willing to buy their kids a weapon as a gift. Buying and gifting weapons to children means background checks are entirely subverted, as are “red flag” laws and “mental health” evaluations. Any background check performed would be on the parent, not against the child. A background check system can then be subverted by having a parent buy the weapon, then gift that weapon to their child. Even if the parent knows the child has violent tendencies, a parent might still buy and gift such a weapon to their child. Would a background check have found that child’s violent tendency? Possibly not.

Child privacy laws are fairly strict in the United States. Meaning, unless law enforcement has sent a subpoena to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for those sites to release “hidden” child data, law enforcement may not even see the child has posted questionable, but hidden content. Even then, many of these posts aren’t uncovered until long after the fact… once law enforcement gets involved. As I said above, laws are reactive.

Even now, children are learning the lesson of what to post, when to post and what not to post. Such background checks are predicated on children continuing to post “red flag” content to social media without thought. Children learn quickly and, thus, “background checks”, “mental health” evaluations and “red flag” laws would only be as good as children are smart. Those kids will smarten up quick if they know their Instagram is being watched.

Would “red flag” laws help here? Likely not. However, these same “red flag” laws might actually end up flagging the parents over a child’s behavior. In fact, some recent cases seek to hold parents accountable for their child’s actions.

Holding Parents Accountable

Such a case is now pending. If this case is successful, it may open the door to charging more and more gun owner parents with their child’s actions. James and Jennifer Crumbley are looking at potential jail time over involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from their son’s actions. The trial is still ongoing as of this article, but the outcome of this trial could lead to further gun owner parents seeing jail time over their own child’s violent actions. This is the first in what’s likely to become a commonplace situation for many parent gun owners. “Red flag” laws only seek to expand this situation.

This Crumbley case, however, is not without merit. If a parent knows their child may have mental health issues and is a danger to themselves or others, the parent shouldn’t encourage and indulge in their child’s violent fantasies by buying them a gun. This is allegedly what James and Jennifer did for their son. Ethan Crumbley then allegedly killed four classmates at school with that gun. Now, the parents are being charged for involuntary manslaughter over knowing their son could do this, yet doing nothing to stop him… and even encouraging him by buying him a gun.

Where do “Red Flag” laws end?

That’s a good question. Since these laws have not yet been written, it’s too early to tell. However, based on the Crumbley situation above, it’s easy to see “Red Flags” laws covering not only the person flagged, but also people around them who’ve enabled that person, such as the situation with the Crumbleys. If the parents are found to have enabled and indulged their own child’s violent fantasies by buying weapons for them, those “Red Flags” could end up covering parents as well.

For this reason, gun owners need to be concerned over what these “Red Flag” laws are intended to do. The first major problem is that these laws more-or-less try to rely on clairvoyance. Cops aren’t clairvoyant. Therefore, the only thing cops can rely on is suspicion, experience and intuition coupled with reports from others. What that translates into is a cop possibly seeing things that aren’t there. If the laws are written vague enough and which give carte blanche to the officer, then as a gun owner and a parent, you could be carted off to a mental health facility simply because of a Facebook post of your child brandishing a weapon.

Nothing of what was done was considered “illegal” by itself. However, these “red flags” are enough to detain a person indefinitely under psych evaluation. That’s a grey area under the law. In a mental health facility, you’re not exactly jailed. Under certain exceptions, it can’t be considered unlawful detention. It also bypasses due process. Because “red flags” laws can’t really charge someone with a crime as none yet exist, which means detention in a medical facility. And.. here’s the loophole which allows that detention:

Although nurses or patients may disagree with the wisdom of such a decision, in most situations, patients do have the right to refuse treatment. Exceptions arise for mental incompetence, patients who are a danger to self or others, or where capacity is diminished due to drug or alcohol use.

These “red flag” laws when combined with “mental health” concerns will end up falling under the “danger to self and others” exception listed above. Because a person has been “red flagged” as a “danger”, that means they have given up their rights to live in society. Meaning, the concept of “false imprisonment” is now no longer on the table because those “red flag” laws will have superseded those rights.

Let’s take this concept one step further. Because the “red flag” laws have not yet been written, there’s no way to know how easy it will be to trigger cops into “red flag” action. Assuming it’s likely to be relatively easy, this means it will also be easy to have anyone committed to a mental health facility indefinitely under “danger to self or other” watch. This also means the person loses their liberty, which is protected by the 14th Amendment over a “red flag” law.

Effectively this becomes George Orwell’s 1984 on steroids.

Overturning Laws as Unconstitutional

Laws are valid until they aren’t. What I mean by this statement is that laws remain legally enforceable until a court enjoins them from being enforced. That means going through a court of law and requesting a judge to enjoin the law from enforcement on specific grounds. Until that happens, people who’ve been detained under “red flag” laws must remain detained until the law is enjoined. Even if a law is enjoined, it may prevent future detainment, but those already detained may remain detained until the court trial concludes.

This kind of law is an exceedingly slippery slope. Once we’ve walked down this path, other laws will begin popping up under this same “predictive” model, using these same “mental health” loopholes. Having words with your neighbor, then claim that person’s actions are a “danger to self and others” and off they are carted. This silliness could be perpetuated on many different items around the household and in many different forms, not only with guns. As I said, it’s a slippery slope.

“Red Flag” Laws have no place

There is no place in our society for “predictive” law enforcement. It’s ripe for abuse from unscrupulous people who will alarm police to false flags. Yet, police must follow up and investigate. If the person fits a specific profile or appears a “danger to self or others” (for whatever reason), they can be taken into custody and held for indefinite time under “mental health” evaluation, bypassing both due process and liberty rights given us by the 14th Amendment.

Predictive law enforcement has no place because it’s easily abused. Even our current reactive law enforcement is abused at times. However, these laws are mostly not based on bounties. If these new laws being considered are enacted using this new “bounty” model, all bets are off how the situations will be handled or how many people may end up detained.

This is a dangerous time to own a gun in the United States. That danger comes not only from the weapon itself, but from the laws that are being considered to manage the people who own them. Eventually, the stigma of owning a gun might be so severe that people are forced to get rid of their weapons or face “red flag” retribution from unsuspecting non-gun owning cancel culture neighbors.

Beware. This future is dawning.

↩︎

The Rise of the Sociopaths

Posted in mental health, security by commorancy on January 10, 2021

While this title above might seem like the name of a fiction novel, it isn’t. It’s actually what is happening in the world and specifically in the United States today. Yes, mental illness is on the rise, but so is COVID. Let’s explore just how COVID is playing a part in this.

COVID-19 and Sociopaths

Let’s lead this article with the primary explanation of what is occurring in the world. It is estimated that at least 1% of the United States population is psychopathic, which includes sociopaths. Sociopaths are one subset of mental health. However, this is a subset of mental health that allow people suffering from it to do a lot of damage very quickly when placed together.

When COVID-19 arrived, those who do not suffer from mental health issues feared (and continue to fear) for their their own lives and safety and thus, retreated to their homes. These same sane people who are cautious of getting COVID, are particularly fastidious about washing their hands, are limiting their exposure to others and are only shopping when necessary. Basically, these people are staying home and not being reckless with their own health, their family’s health or of those around them. They take all precautions, wear masks, order take out only, visit stores rarely and refrain from heading off to shopping malls, crowded movie theaters or hanging out in large crowds.

Sociopaths, on the other hand, don’t care about any of that pesky ‘safety’. Not only have they been told by Trump that the virus simply isn’t that dangerous, they personally choose to believe that themselves. The sociopath believes only what benefits them or their ego and discards all else. Being constrained by wearing a mask, staying at home and not being able to socially gather isn’t of benefit to a sociopath. Sociopaths actually need others around them to do their bidding, stroke their ego and to interact. A sociopath who doesn’t have “friends” to hang out with isn’t really a sociopath. Sociopaths appear to be extroverts even though they are technically loners. Though, the word ‘extrovert’ doesn’t accurately describe how a sociopath operates. Suffice it to say, a sociopath requires people to manipulate… and manipulate them they do. We’ll come back to this aspect shortly.

Because COVID-19 has shut in so many, those who are still running around with careless abandon primarily consist of sociopaths… or rather, those people who have sociopathic tendencies. Like pretty much anything, there are degrees of sociopathic behavior… which means a person can be a little sociopathic or extremely sociopathic with added traits like narcissism. Before COVID-19, society consisted of both normal mental health individuals and those with mental health disorders. Because sociopaths can blend in and appear normal, their behaviors were mostly kept in check by those “normal” people around them. Sociopaths deeply wish to fit in with a crowd so they can have their ego stroked. To do that, they adopt behaviors that appear to be the same as those of their sane friends around them. This reinforcing behavior keeps many sociopaths in check.

Since COVID-19 and the loss of so many “normal” people being out and about, the sociopaths have lost their reinforcing behaviors… yet they still need their egos stroked, still need to be able to manipulate people and still need all of the satisfaction they had prior to COVID-19. As a result, like attracts like. Because those who are running around are primarily sociopaths, they tend to gravitate towards like minded sociopaths. This firmly leaves sociopaths, who were formerly able to keep their mental health state in check with their sane friends, with their mental state unchecked and unbounded.

Trump

Donald Trump has shown himself to be a nearly text book narcissistic sociopath. What does that mean? It means never a hair out of place, an orange complexion, always dressed in a suit or another “smart” outfit… all the way down to his trophy wife. He surrounds himself with things and people that not only stroke his ego, but support his personal agendas.

Because he’s a sociopath, he doesn’t have a conscience… which means he’s brutally honest to a fault, he doesn’t tolerate people who won’t do his bidding and he will just as easily tell you off as act like your friend. In short he will do whatever it takes to get his agenda accomplished. If a sociopath doesn’t get their way, they will throw a tantrum. Narcissistic sociopath tantrums don’t usually include self harm, but they may harm possessions, animals or people around them both verbally and/or physically.

When their tantrum is over, they will act as though nothing ever happened. They won’t talk about it and they don’t want to talk about it. Instead, they are still laser focused on getting their way using whatever means is required.

Sociopaths always seek popularity, which is why Trump was so in love with Twitter. Having over 70 million followers is a HUGE ego boost for anyone. Being able to spout a message and instantly see thousands of responses is mesmerizing and incredibly satisfying to a sociopath… which is why Trump tweeted so frequently. Unfortunately, that satisfaction is fleeting. Like a meth user needing his next fix, sociopaths need their next ego fix constantly…. why Trump tweeted so much every day. Sociopaths have an insatiable ego-boost appetite.

If that’s where Trump’s sociopathy ended, I might not even be writing this article. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here. Sociopaths are also expert at manipulating people by using lies, boasting, blackmail and fakery. There is no measure considered too extreme by a sociopath to get someone to do something for them. In fact, the more you tie yourself to a sociopath, the more they will use you for their own benefit. Unfortunately, to manipulate someone requires pathological lying. Both sociopathy and pathological lying go hand-in-hand. This type of lying means tricking someone into believing something that is untrue and then having that person act on that lie.

Conscience is non-existent by a sociopath. This means that they simply cannot feel sorry for, empathize with or in any way feel for someone else’s plight. They simply don’t have this ability. Because of this lack of empathy towards others, they will do and say anything without remorse. Just witness some of Trump’s speeches for various examples.

In short, a narcissistic sociopath like Trump, needs others to help him and stroke his ego at the same time. If they stop helping, they are summarily cut off. To invite a sociopath into your life is to invite a toxic relationship that will end badly.

Followers and Sociopaths

Trump’s goal is to not only stroke his own ego, but gain as many followers to do his bidding. In fact, he has done this. He has used lies to manipulate his followers into action. His latest action, unfortunately, went horribly awry at the Capitol Hill building. Unfortunately, when cornered, a sociopath begins making mistakes… which is exactly where Trump is. On January 6th, he was cornered. He either had to accept his loss (which is of no benefit to him) or he had to manipulate people in an attempt to change the outcome.

He attempted to manipulate Mike Pence into this, but that effort failed. He then resorted to inviting (and inciting) a crowd to Capitol Hill that turned into insurrection. Because his desperation level, as a sociopath, is increasing, so is his ability to rationalize outcomes. Typically, sociopaths are able to play out scenarios in their heads and see the outcome they desire. As long as they follow a specific set of lies and manipulation, they can usually affect that outcome. Unfortunately, these outcomes require unlimited amounts of time for the outcome to finally occur.

When tight time constraints are in place, the ability of a sociopath to see and plan for everything needed becomes clouded. They can’t manipulate and lie fast enough to get people to believe those lies and affect their goals. This then leaves the sociopath desperate and flying by the seat of their pants. Desperation only leads to instigating rash, difficult situations and mistakes… and in the case of Trump, with inciting insurrection. Because January 6th had arrived, he didn’t have enough time to plan a way to engineer a successful coup. Instead, he left it up to the crowds by requesting they do this work by “fighting”.

Trump knew very well the type of people he had invited to Capitol Hill and he was well aware of the types of paraphernalia they would bring with them. He didn’t have to explicitly tell his cabal to storm into the building as it was all subtext to be read between the lines. His mostly sociopathic cabal was well aware of exactly what he wanted done and attempted to execute it on his behalf. Unfortunately, because his cabal was a loose set of people rather than a cohesive group, no planning was initiated between those who breached into the building. Because of the lack of planning, they all did whatever they pleased as his cabal was mostly loner sociopaths themselves who can’t work together as a team. Thankfully, however, his cabal wasn’t organized enough to lay siege, occupy or hold its occupants hostage on Capitol Hill.

Election Rigging

Though, that didn’t matter. Trump has had 4 years to gather, indoctrinate and manipulate his cabal into doing his bidding through lies, lies and more lies. Remember that sociopaths are almost always pathological liars. His most blatant lie being that he won the 2020 Presidential election, when he clearly had not. Of course, his second lie was that since he didn’t win the election, the election must have been rigged. Nevermind the fact that rigging a Presidential election is basically impossible, which this fact has since been proven that no rigging was found. Trump continually cited counting irregularities, ballot counting issues and people’s anecdotes (lies from even more sociopaths) as rigging, but never actually provided any proof of that fact… to which nearly every court case Trump has created was dismissed due to lack of evidence. Nevermind that voting irregularities do occur in most every election, but are eventually found and reversed through proper vote counting and procedures long before the state certifies its counts.

Worse, he claimed that many dead people voted. Hello! The world is presently under threat of COVID-19. We’ve had 373,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States to date. As of this article’s publish day alone, we’ve had 4,112 deaths from COVID-19. On November 3rd, we lost people to COVID-19. On November 4th, we also lost people to COVID-19. That means that every day since the 2020 Presidential election, people have died to COVID-19… many people who voted. So, yes, there will have been people who are now dead who voted in the election. That’s not fraud. That’s not rigging. That’s statistics.

Further, if a candidate wished to perpetuate fraud in an election, why would he or she do so with such a narrow margin? It doesn’t make sense. If you are intent on winning an election through fraud, wouldn’t you bump the numbers up to a least 60:40 or 70:30 so that there was no question about who, in fact, won? Why would you leave the win at almost 50:50 with such narrow margins in some states that it required recounting 3, 4 and 5 times?

No, I contend that someone intent on rigging an election would do so to such a degree that there would be no question about who won and who lost… and more specifically, who won immediately. With a 60:40 split, that would mean news services could call the election within an hour or two, not days.

Is rigging even possible?

Let’s understand that rigging an election would require access to not only one state of systems, but 50 states worth of independent systems. None of the each state’s voting systems are linked together. That means that Florida’s systems do not talk to systems in California or Idaho or anywhere else. This means that if someone wanted to rig an election, they would have to physically visit the voting centers in all 50 states and in all cities in all of those 50 states.

We’re talking about thousands and thousands of people all over the country simultaneously touching thousands of voting machines and making changes. It’s simply not possible or even feasible. Biden’s team and even the Democratic party doesn’t employ that number of people. Let’s forget all about the fact that Republicans and Democrats alike operate these election centers.

Worse, if an election were rigged, that also means that every race is suspect… not just the Presidential race. But no, the Republicans weren’t having any of that nonsense. They only blamed the Presidential race, but not the other election races on that same ticket. It doesn’t work like that. If an election is being alleged as rigged, all elections held that night are suspect. No candidate can win if even one race is under investigation for having been rigged. You can’t cherry pick what you want and leave the rest out. This is a classic sociopath behavior. Choose only the things of benefit, ignoring all other things. Logically, you can’t do that when calling out election rigging. Either all election races are suspect to fraud or none are.

Yes, it gets worse

Because the sociopaths of the world are out in full force due to their lack of conscience and empathy, they don’t care if they get COVID-19… or, more importantly, if they give COVID-19 to others. For this reason alone, the primary people attending Trump’s rallies and gatherings are very likely sociopaths, just like Trump. Like minds attract and all that.

That’s not to say that everyone attending is a sociopath, but the vast majority of those people attending his rallies are almost assuredly sociopaths… because those who don’t want to get COVID-19 are not heading out to his rallies, let alone large gatherings. That’s why Trump’s attendees almost never wear masks. That’s an ego thing, too. To wear a mask hides the very thing that allows the ego to be stroked. Anyone who is a narcissistic sociopath won’t wear a mask because it hides the ability to have the ego stroked… something a narcissistic sociopath desperately needs at every moment.

Because Trump’s followers… or more specifically, his rally attendees are primarily sociopaths just like he is, they have no moral compass. That’s why so many were willing to bring weapons AND grin for the camera within Capitol Hill. That’s ego at work. A sociopath needs to be praised for sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s desk, for pulling her plaque down smiling at the camera, for stealing her lectern, for breaking windows, for taking selfies with a cop. Anyone who does not have a mental health issue doesn’t need to do any of these things. These people doing this at Capitol Hill don’t have a moral compass, which very heavily implies every one of these people are a sociopaths.

Yes, there were people who were not entering the building. Yes, there were people who may have shown up simply to stand in protest. However, there were also thousands who crowded the steps, broke down doors and windows and allowed themselves to be photographed while grinning. Perhaps not everyone in that crowd was a sociopath, but those who don’t have a moral compass, who yell out death threats and who beat up cops, these are not sane people. Sane people don’t behave like this.

Trump has rallied and goaded people who are just like he is into these actions through lies. His sociopathic followers choose to believe his lies because it benefits them to do so and helps stroke their own egos.

This is the danger and risk COVID-19 and, by extension, sociopaths poses to society. By keeping the sane people at home, it leaves those with mental health issues running amok on the nation. This is why this article is entitled, “The Rise of the Sociopaths”. Our country is now under siege by these mentally challenged people. As long as Trump still has a mouthpiece to lie to them, he can incite his sociopathic followers further into action. The problem is, with Trump’s loss of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, this is leaving him even more desperate and in need to reach out his followers to have them do even more damage. Trump will be required to take desperate measures to mobilize his cabal. The country is truly in peril by sociopaths.

We’ve only got 10 more days until the inauguration. However, Trump has 10 days to plan something big with his sociopathic cabal to not only undermine that inauguration, but perhaps damage the United States and democracy beyond repair. For this reason, it is imperative that Trump be removed from office immediately. He is a danger to not only himself, but to the United States and to the rest of the world.

Why not simply ask Donald Trump to resign? That won’t work. He’s a sociopath driven by ego. Voluntarily giving up his Presidential power isn’t something he can do. He has no moral compass or empathy. He simply can’t feel for the predicament he has placed the United States into. In fact, a sociopath cannot ever place blame for a problem on himself… even if he caused it. Donald Trump simply can’t see that he has done anything wrong by inciting insurrection. As a result of feeling like he’s done nothing wrong, he won’t give up his office. However, Trump does understand prosecution…

If I were on Capitol Hill, I’d be immediately offering Trump a deal in exchange for his resignation. While such a deal may be distasteful overall, the important national security part is that Trump is removed from office and can do no further damage. What deal is that? Offer Trump prosecutorial immunity with permanent exile outside of the United States in exchange for his immediate resignation. To negotiate with a sociopath, you must offer a deal that greatly benefits them and one that they can’t refuse. This offer greatly benefits Trump and the United States. It offers Trump a way out without any penalty of legal action and it forces Trump to leave the United States so he can’t possibly mobilize local crowds ever again. Secondarily, by enforcing permanent exile, it doubles the stakes by preventing him from ever holding public office again, without the need for impeachment.

As long as Trump remains in the United States, he remains a threat to national security in or out of office. The only way to stop that is to send him packing. I honestly don’t care if Trump ends up in jail or not. He just needs to be prevented from doing further damage to the United States of America and, sadly, prosecutorial immunity is actually a small price to pay to make that happen.

↩︎

Spotting a Liar

Posted in advice, analysis, mental health by commorancy on June 15, 2019

pinocchio-knowsRecently, I’ve come across a book by Pamela Meyer entitled Liespotting: Proven techniques to Detect Deception released in 2010. Unlike Pinocchio, determining if a human is lying is quite a bit more complicated. While this is not the only book involving the topic of lie detection, let’s review Pamela Meyer’s visitation of this topic and of the act of deception itself. Let’s explore.

Lies and Deception

Let’s open this article by talking about Pamela’s TED talk. The difficulty I have with Pamela’s TED talk, which was apparently meant to simultaneously accompany and promote her book, was her seeming lack of expertise around this subject. Oh, she’s certainly knowledgeable enough… but is ‘enough’ really enough? It seems that her corporate America stint has led her to using these techniques to ferret out suspected liars from truth tellers. While that’s a noble reason to go into writing a book, it doesn’t make you an expert on the subject. I will fully admit now that I, like Pamela, am not an expert on the subject of behavioral psychology. Only a trained professional should be considered an expert on the art of detecting lies and detecting body language clues. I leave that to the experts. And even then, this art is so nuanced that detecting a lie could mean the difference between indigestion and actual lying.

The difficulty I have with Pamela’s book is that she focuses on trying to catch people in a lie whom are unwittingly using verbal and body cues that tell a different story. Her methodology suggests and implies that you’re planning to sit in a room with that person for potentially an hour (or longer) and have a conversation. Okay, so maybe ‘conversation’ isn’t the right word. Maybe the right word is ‘interrogation’. Or really, the correct word is probably ‘grill’.

If you’re planning on sitting in a room with a suspect grilling them for a lengthy period of time and asking all sorts of pointed questions, perhaps you can eventually catch someone in a slip-up or even multiple slip-ups. Even then, you have to question whether that ‘grilling’ methodology can really uncover a definitive measure of lying. Even more than this, is ‘grilling’ a practical methodology to employ in everyday use? Perhaps it is with your children if you’re trying to get to the bottom of who broke the lamp. But, would you ‘grill’ your friends? A co-worker? Your boss? No, this methodology is not in any way practical. Practicality aside…

In her TED talk, she discusses looking for ‘clusters’ during these question ‘sessions’. Seeing many telltale behaviors in a row may indicate deception. Though, is it really deception, is it fatigue, is it simply a person’s idiosyncracy, is it indigestion or is it, indeed…

Coercion?

The longer you sit with someone in a room interrogating them, the more it becomes about coercion. There’s a fine line here. While Pamela may not have called this aspect out, it’s a line that can easily be crossed when interrogating someone at length. At some point, you have to ask if the “cluster of mistakes” the person seems to be making is attributed to lying or coercion? With enough questions and time, you can actually get someone to confess to something they didn’t do simply because they wish to end the conversation and get out of there. Fatigue and boredom easily causes people to make mistakes, particularly when you ask the same questions over and over and over. Coercion, like lying, is part of human nature. In fact, I’d consider coercion to be the flip side of lying.

If you know the person and interact with them daily, you would know how they “normally” behave. You can then tell when they do, say or act in a way that’s somewhat off. If you’re talking to someone you don’t know, you have no idea of their personal behaviors… so how can you spot clusters of anything? Even then… if you think (and the key word here is “think”) you have spotted deception, what do you do?

Spotting a Lie…

is half the battle. The other half is what you choose to do with that information. Do you leave and go grab a pizza and beer and forget all about it? Or, do you confront the person? Confrontation is not likely to get you very far.

Pamela’s book seems geared towards brokering corporate business deals. I’m not sure exactly how useful her information would be in corporate business considering that the majority of corporate executives are not only pathological themselves, but many are also sociopaths and/or narcissists. Few CEOs actually care about their underlings. Additionally, C-Level anybody is not likely to sit long enough to be ‘grilled’. Perhaps they may be willing to submit to being ‘grilled’ under certain business conditions of duress. For example, if a CEO’s company is failing and there are millions of dollars at stake needed to revitalize a failing company, then they might be willing to sit through a grilling session by investors. However, they might not. So, again, I question out how useful her information might actually be in corporate America employed at an executive level?

Certainly, at corporate meetings and outings, executives put on a good face. But, don’t kid yourselves. They didn’t get to be a CEO without being some measure of ruthless and sociopathic. No, it also follows that most of these CEOs lie through their teeth when at corporate meetings. If they’re on a stage professing the latest greatest thing the company is offering, they’re simply telling you what you want to hear (and, more specifically, what they want you to hear). Personally, I’ve worked in many businesses where CEOs say things at a corporate events that, in fact, never take place. In fact, I already knew it was a lie the moment it was said. It’s not hard to spot when a CEO is lying to the company. Perhaps I’m being a bit too cynical here, but I don’t think so.

Another example, when the CFO takes the stage and begins is talk about finances, you can bet there’s information on his/her spreadsheet that’s not accurate, or indeed is not even there. This is the lie that corporate executives tell often. They want you to think the company is “on target”, is “doing well” and is “making money” even when things aren’t nearly that rosy. You simply cannot believe all of the “rah-rah” that corporate executives tell you at events. If you do, you’re extremely gullible. Nothing is EVER that rosy… or as another idiom goes, “There’s two sides to every coin.”

That not to say that all CEOs lie all of the time. But, they certainly are masters at withholding key information from the common folks in most organizations. Withholding key information is a lie, make no mistake. If a company insists on “transparency” in its business operations, you can bet that CEOs won’t apply transparency to their own business decisions. However, this is getting off into the deep end of the psychology of corporate business America. I could write a whole article, perhaps even a book, on this subject alone. For now, let’s move on.

Being Caught

You think you’ve caught someone in a lie? The question remains… what do you do with that information? Do you confront them? Do you walk away? Do you ask them for the truth? And, these are all questions, choices and decisions you’ll have to make for yourself. Knowing that someone is lying is entirely different from acting on that information. How do you act when you think someone is deceiving you? The answer to this question depends on where the lie happens.

If the lie is in your personal life and it involves a personal relationship, then only you can work it out with your partner. If your relationship is supposed to revolve around truth and trust, then it’s probably worth bringing it out into the open to discuss it.

If the lying involves a co-worker or boss at your company, then you have to make the decision how this affects your ongoing position at that company. If it’s a small lie that really doesn’t affect you personally, walk away and forget about it. If it’s a large lie that could easily jeopardize your position at the company, then you need to take steps to both protect yourself and distance yourself from that person. In this case, it’s worth having a sit-down with your manager and explain what you have uncovered and why you believe it’s a lie… bring proof if you can find it.

If it’s a lie that involves and may materially impact a business deal, this is difficult to offer a suggestion here as there are many forms of this which would require me to go off into an extremely long tangent and could significantly impact corporate legal agreements. In fact, maybe I’ll circle around to this topic and write an individual article involving corporate lying, legal contracts and business deals.

Deceit, Deception and Lying

With that said, I’d like to get into a little about the ‘whys’ of this topic and types of lies. Why do we lie? Two reasons: 1) To protect ourselves and/or 2) To protect someone else. Yes, that’s the primary reasons that we lie. Though, there is also a third category. The third type are those who are pathological. They lie because 1) they can and 2) because they find it fun.

Basically, there are two types of liars: 1) the ordinary liar and 2) the pathological liar. The “ordinary” liar is the person you’re most likely to meet in a lie. The ordinary liar is also more easy to spot. The pathological liar is less likely to be seen or caught. Don’t kid yourself, some co-workers are pathological liars… and these are the ones you need to completely avoid. Pathological liars will basically stop at no lie to get what they want. Many pathological liars are also ruthless sociopaths and/or narcissists, so don’t get in their way.

There are many types of deception, not just verbal lies. There is also deception by lack of information… or, what they aren’t telling you. Company executives are brilliant at this strategy. Withholding vital information from folks is the way they keep what they know limited. It’s also a way that many corporations choose to do business with customers. Lies sustain corporate America. In fact, you’ve probably been told a lie by someone selling you something… simply so you’ll buy that product or service. It’s not about what they are telling you, it’s about what they aren’t telling you.

Internally, companies also lie to employees. As an example, a company where you work may have rumors of “going public”. The executive team will not officially announce any information about this until it’s considered “official” and “unstoppable”. The difficulty I have with this process is that if I’ve been given ISO stock, I’m a stockholder. I should be kept informed of when or if the company chooses to IPO. Being left in the dark is not good for shareholders. Yes, this is a form of a lie. Withholding information from someone even if they have asked you pointed questions is lying.

Credentials and Lying

Here’s yet another type of deception… and it’s extremely prevalent in the self-help industry. Many people profess to have knowledge of things they do not. Again, Pamela Meyer is from a corporate business background. She does not have a medical or science degree. She can’t claim to have medical behavioral psychology training. Yet, here she is writing a book about this topic as though she does. Yes, she does carry a Ph.D. That means she has a doctorate of philosophy. That is not a medical degree… and even then, calling someone a ‘doctor’ who carries a Ph.D is dubious at best. The word ‘doctor’ is primarily reserved for those folks who are medically trained professionals and who carry, for example, a medical degree such as M.D., D.O. or even a D.D.S. These are folks who spent significant time not only in medical school, but have served at a hospital to solidify their medical training. For doctors licensed in psychology, that would be a Phys.D degree. Psychiatry is a totally different thing and is governed by professionals holding a Ph.D.

Carrying certain Ph.D. credentials in no way, by itself, qualifies you to write about psychological related subjects with authority or impunity. Sure, you can have an opinion on the subject matter, as we all do, but carrying a Ph.D doesn’t make you an expert. That would require medical training, and specifically, psychology related medical training.

That doesn’t mean she didn’t take some measure of psychology classes as part of her Ph.D program. In fact, I’m sure that her school’s degree program required psychology as part of its foundation class load. However, these college fundamental classes are simple basic introductory classes. These basic classes introduce you to the basics of psychology… such as terms and vocabulary with general purpose, but limited information. There’s nothing specifically introduced in these “basic” classes that would qualify anyone to be an expert covering the nuances of human behavior or teach them the detail needed to identify someone in a lie. These are all techniques that would most likely be taught in advanced behavioral psychology classes, usually only attended by students intending on graduating with a degree in and intending to practice behavioral psychology. Even then, you’d have to practice these techniques for years to actually be considered an ‘expert’.

That’s not to say that her time working in corporate America didn’t give her some valuable corporate life experience in this area. But, that still doesn’t indicate expertise in this field. And this is the key point I’m trying to make here. This article is not intended call out only Pamela Meyer. She’s used as a broader example here because she’s the most obvious example to call out. There are many forms of lying. Writing psychology and medical leaning books beyond your actual expertise level is considered disingenuous… or one might even say lying.

Even were she (or any other author writing about this topic) to have a Phys.D degree, I’d still want to understand exactly how an author had come to know this information (e.g., clinical work, working with the military, working with prisons, working with the police, etc). You know, show me years of training in and practice in this area. Even publishing journal articles, theses and dissertations in this area which have been accepted by medical publications would lend legitimacy to her ‘expertise’. Simply writing a book and having a TED talk doesn’t exactly qualify you as an ‘expert’. Though, maybe it does qualify you as an expert researcher.

Behaviors and Lying

One of the things Pamela does to solidify her credentials in her TED talk is open by discussing how “we all” perform these behaviors when we’re lying. That’s the perfect opening to get the audience to “relate to” you. After all as humans, we all occasionally lie. What’s more perfect than roping the audience in than with a blanket statement designed to make the audience immediately think she “knows what she’s talking about” simply because the information is “accessible”. Accessibility of information doesn’t make someone an expert. What she is, if anything, is articulate. Yes, Pamela is actually very articulate. However, being articulate, and I’m going to reiterate this once again, doesn’t make you an expert.

Expertise comes from training, research, publications and working in this specific area as your career choice for multiple years. She’s not a behavioral psychologist. Instead, she draws upon others works to help write her book… to flesh out those pesky details. This is typical of teachers and researchers and even journalists, not practitioners. This is the problem and the difference between the teaching profession and the doing profession. She’s a teacher, not a doer… so her advice in this area may or may not be helpful.

Lying is Rampant

One thing Pamela does get right is that lying is extremely common and seems to be more and more nonchalantly used today. We lie to our boyfriends and girlfriends. We lie to our spouses. We lie to our bosses. We even lie to our friends. The question isn’t that we lie, but to what degree. If the lies consist of the insignificant or “little white” variety, then these don’t matter.

The lies that matter are those that lose relationships, that tank businesses, that lose millions of dollars or even that cause someone to be killed. These are the lies that actually matter. Putting down the wrong information on the wrong patient chart may be unintentional, but it’s a lie that could get someone killed in a hospital. These are deceptions that where saying, doing or performing the wrong thing can get someone dead. Some might consider this a ‘mistake’, but I consider it a lie. It all depends on perspective.

What Pamela got wrong is that most lies don’t matter. Let me say that again. Most lies do not matter. What I mean is that if someone tells you they like your shoes, but in reality they’re hideously ugly, that’s a lie that is meant to help someone feel better. There’s nothing wrong in that. This is the ‘little white lie’.

Lying to a Walmart employee claiming you bought something there that you didn’t actually purchase at Walmart does monetary damage. Lying to an insurance company claiming damage or injury that doesn’t exist, that also causes monetary damage. Both of these actions are also called fraud. The lie is half the problem. The other half is proof of the lie. In Walmart’s case, if their computers were actually better than they are, they could look up the person’s recent purchase information and catch them in the lie. In the case of insurance fraud, there are private investigators.

And here’s another thing Pamela got wrong. Catching a person in the lie is enough. There’s no need to spend hours interrogating them as to “why”. We don’t need to know why. We just need to catch them in the lie. Hence, the need for private investigators who follow people claiming injury to insurance companies. The proof is catching them in the act, not spending time looking at body language and listening for verbal clues. Another phrase comes to mind, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” It’s true, we don’t have the time to spend hours sitting in a room trying to get to the bottom of a liar. We need to get the proof that they’re lying and that proof lies (pun intended) outside of the liar. Proof is what matters in a lie, not a confession. A confession is great IF you can get it, but the proof is what tells you the person is lying, not their words or actions.

In law enforcement, getting a confession seems to be the “holy grail” out of a perpetrator. However, there’s no need to get a confession if you have proof that the person was there and did whatever he/she claimed not to have done. Considering that crime scenes can easily become tainted and proof dismissed due to ‘technicalities’, a confession overrides that red tape problem. Red tape is there for a reason, but many times it allows acquittal of someone who is actually guilty. Of course, red tape has nothing to do with lying and everything to do with law and policy.

If the person chooses to tell the “truth” and “confess” to whatever they had been lying about, that’s great. Obtaining proof is the key, not spending hours waiting on someone to squirm in just the right way only offering a possible 50% success rate. With computers becoming faster and more powerful and able to store more and more data about each of us (some of it voluntarily posted on social media), lying about certain things (DNA tests to determine relationship) may become impossible.

As detection technologies evolve and become faster, smaller and more portable, determining such information as paternity may become as easy as a cotton swab to the mouth and in minutes you’ll have an answer.

Lying has never been a crime

This subject heading says it all. It’s not the lie that’s the crime. It’s whatever the lie is attempting to conceal that may or may not be a problem. For this reason, you won’t find laws on any books that ban lying. If any legislation was introduced that actually attempted to enforce telling the truth, it would be met with much consternation (and, at least in the US, would be against the fifth amendment of the constitution — which this amendment says you have the right not to incriminate yourself).

Pleading the fifth, in the US, means that you do not have to talk to anyone about anything. Simply saying, “I plead the fifth” stops all questions regarding whatever matter is under investigation… at least when talking to the authorities. In some cases, pleading the fifth may, at least in the public eyes, make you seem guilty. If you aren’t willing to talk, then it is assumed you have something to hide… perhaps something that implicates you, thus making you seem guilty.

In the US, the tenet is, “Innocent until PROVEN guilty.” This only holds for official courts of law. In the court of public opinion, “Guilty until proven innocent” reigns. In the court of public opinion, there is no proof needed. Once you are seen as guilty, you are always considered guilty.

In a criminal court of law, the burden of proof is typically measured as ‘reasonable doubt’. The word ‘reasonable’ being the key word. It doesn’t take 100% proof, it simply takes ‘reasonable’ proof. ‘Reasonable’ is intentionally left subjective and vague and is up to any specific jury to ascertain what they consider as ‘reasonable doubt’. Indeed, some juries are sometimes confounded by the word ‘reasonable’ and rightly so. What is ‘reasonable’? The word itself means “to reason” or “decide” or utilize any similar thought process. But, what does it mean in a court of law or in legal circles? Juries are never comprised of legal professionals. Instead, they are comprised of people not in the legal profession and usually not professionals who might significantly impact the prosecution’s case. Instead, legal counsel typically appoints jury members who do not appear biased in either direction (toward or against the defendant) and whose profession is not considered a ‘conflict of interest’.

Civil courts offer a different legal standard. In civil trials, the burden of proof is “preponderance of evidence”. In a way, ‘preponderance’ offers nearly the same vagueness as ‘reasonable’. Both are vague terms meant to be interpreted by the jury at hand. In both criminal and civil trials, these terms are intentionally so vague as to allow juries to effectively make up their own rules under “reasonable” and “preponderance” when deliberating. This allows juries the leeway to consider some evidence and dismiss other evidence. It also means that, for example, a jury has 25 pieces of evidence, but only 8 pieces are solid enough to consider. Simply doing the math, 8 solid pieces of evidence is well less than 50% of the evidence presented. Is eight really enough? If those 8 pieces basically put the person at the scene and also shows that the person’s DNA was found at the crime scene and also that they were there at the time in question, then ‘lack of reasonable doubt’ and sufficient ‘preponderance of evidence’ has been established. From here, the jury should convict on whatever counts are listed for that evidence.

Note that ‘preponderance of evidence’ is tantamount to a phrase that more or less means, ‘overwhelming’ or more simply ‘enough’. The ‘preponderance of evidence’ phrase implies looking for ‘more than enough’. With ‘reasonable doubt’, it implies the opposite. The jury should be looking for ‘reasonable doubt’ or ‘not enough evidence’ to convict. In civil cases, juries (or a judge) would need to look for ‘preponderance’ (or more than enough) evidence to convict. Both result in the same outcome, conviction or acquittal. It’s just that the way the jury is directed to act is slightly different based on the legal phrasing of the burden of proof.

What that all means is that the ‘laymen’ folks who are chosen for a jury typically are ignorant of laws and legal proceedings. They are there because they don’t have this knowledge. They can then remain impartial throughout the trial by reviewing all of the evidence presented in a ‘fair’ and ‘just’ method. Yes, they can even use some of the verbal and body cues of the defendant to determine if they ‘feel’ his body language is indicative of lying, which could sway their view of ‘preponderance’ or ‘reasonable’. In civil trials, juries are reminded to rule based on “preponderance of the evidence”. In criminal trials, juries must rule based on “reasonable doubt”.

What does this all mean? It means that in a court of law, while you could use some of these lie spotting techniques to determine whether a defendant is telling the truth, what makes the difference is the evidence presented. The evidence is what catches someone in a lie… particularly when they don’t confess.

For this reason, legal court proceedings require burden of proof for juries to ponder during deliberation… rather than using hunches, intuition or gut feelings.

Local Friendships

Back at home, we don’t have to judge our friends based on vague legal terms. Instead, we have to use our own critical thinking skills. This is where you can use and apply lie spotting techniques (which, if you have noticed, I have not included in this article intentionally), to spot a friend, co-worker or boss in a lie. Again, it’s up to you what to do with that information once you spot it.

If lying or telling the truth is an important concept for you, this article might not make you happy. You should understand that lies are everyday things told to us by even our closest friends. If you get worked up at the thought of someone lying to you, you should probably learn to relax more. Lies are something told by many people every day. If you’re a bit uptight at learning this, you might want to forget all about this article and go on with your life oblivious. After all, “ignorance is bliss”.

We don’t have to use juries or law books to judge our friends. We use our instincts and common sense. If you add in a little behavioral profiling (yes, it is a form of profiling) you may be able to determine if that leg twitch or nose itch or eye glance or finger motion is a telltale sign of lie. As I said, most lies are insignificant in the grander scheme. Learning to let these things go or, as another phrase goes, “don’t sweat the small stuff” will let you remain a happier person. Nothing in life is ever perfect. Nothing. Not relationships. Not people. Not actions. You have to expect that anyone around you will not always do things for your benefit, not even your spouse. You have to be willing to understand this and compromise by ignoring these lies.

If a lie is something you can’t ignore, particularly a life changing event (birth of a child), then that’s where you must stand up and take responsibility for your own actions… or confront someone about their actions.

↩︎

 

%d bloggers like this: