Not Okay: Sarah Silverman Calls for Military to Overthrow President Trump

Comedian Sarah Silverman has called for the military to overthrow President Trump:


Whether this was a joke or a serious comment, this is not okay. We have mechanisms to remove a POTUS from office: impeachment and impairment. There is no need to advocate a coup d’etat. Given the divisions in the country, this is not helpful.


Want to Argue about Politics More Effectively? Learn Risk Analysis 101


For those of us who work professionally in risk management, it’s striking how many of the controversies surrounding the Trump administration are essentially controversies about risks. That means that if you want to argue more effectively (and intelligently) about many of these controversies, you need to know some basics from the discipline known as risk analysis. The good news is that the basic concepts are very easy to learn.

Continue reading “Want to Argue about Politics More Effectively? Learn Risk Analysis 101”

Cognitive Science Suggests Trump Makes Us More Accepting of the Morally Outrageous


(1) Cognitive science research reveals that people show an impressive systematic tendency to completely ignore the possibilities they see as abnormal.
(2) Once an option is recategorized as “normal,” people are more likely to choose it.
(3) Trump’s rhetoric may be shifting the boundaries of what the American polity will consider.
(4) Cognitive science research has not yet conclusively identified a good mechanism for combatting people, like Trump, who try to normalize what should be morally outrageous.


Confirmation Bias (Part Two) How to Overcome Your Own Pre-Existing Beliefs


In the previous post, we linked to Part One of Sandman’s advice about confirmation bias. Here is an overview of part two:

Now I want to address a different question: how to overcome– well, partly overcome– your own confirmation bias.

I don’t want to sound too Pollyanna here, and I certainly don’t want to sound preachy or holier-than-thou. I have plenty of trouble making myself read articles I know I’m going to disagree with – and I’ve pretty much given up on making myself read them with an open mind.

Even Daniel Kahneman, the godfather of research into confirmation bias and kindred cognitive biases, confesses in his book Thinking Fast and Slow that after decades of study he still regularly falls prey to them.

So don’t expect miracles. Yet some of Kahneman’s research deals directly with strategies for reducing confirmation bias. He and others have found some approaches that help at least a little.


Confirmation Bias (Part One): How to Counter Your Audience’s Pre-Existing Beliefs

Legendary risk communication expert Peter Sandman offers sage advice on how to handle confirmation bias when advocating about risk.

Confirmation bias is the universal tendency of human beings to hang onto what they already believe in the face of evidence to the contrary. You may know it by its endearing nickname, “myside bias,” which nicely captures its essence.

I’m not talking about intentional bias. That happens too. People sometimes go hunting for evidence that they’re right and then intentionally distort what they find, consciously building a biased case in hopes of winning an argument. Confirmation bias is unintentional. It’s how we win our internal arguments, how we convince ourselves we’re right.

Since this is a risk communication column, I want to focus here on the implications of confirmation bias for risk communicators. Your audience members are sure to filter your warnings and reassurances through their own preexisting opinions about what’s safe and what isn’t, resisting anything you say that tries to change their views. How should this fact affect your messaging?


Tom Nichols on Countering Trump’s Executive Orders


Tom Nichols is a professor at the Naval War College and Harvard Extension School. He is also a former U.S. Senate aide. In a series of fifteen (15) tweets, he offers some excellent, practical suggestions for countering Trump’s executive orders.

Here is the first one. Follow the link to view the rest.