Vocabulary Feed

manufactroversy: a word I've been needing

From Leah Ceccarelli at Science Progress:
Manufactroversy (măn’yə-făk’-trə-vûr’sē) 
N., pl. -sies. 
1. A manufactured controversy that is motivated by profit or extreme ideology to intentionally create public confusion about an issue that is not in dispute. 
2. Effort is often accompanied by imagined conspiracy theory and major marketing dollars involving fraud, deception and polemic rhetoric.

I first encountered this in the Wikipedia entry for Artificial controversy:

An artificial controversy, or variously a contrived controversyengineered controversyfabricated controversymanufactured controversy, or manufactroversy is a controversy that does not stem from genuine difference of opinion. The controversy is typically developed by an interest group, such as a political party[1] or a marketing company, to attract media attention,[2] or to facilitate framing of a particular issue. Creating controversy is also a controversial legal tactic used to gain advantage in a negotiation or trial.[3] The controversy may stem from a minor incident blown out of proportion,[4] from a false claim of controversy where no serious dispute existed,[5] or no reasonable doubt remains,[6] or unintentionally from misinterpreting data.[7]

Writing on the politics of cancer and the influence of special interest groups on the public policy debate, Dr. Robert N. Proctorhistory of science professor at Stanford University specializing in scientific controversy and the cultural production of ignorance,[8] which he calls agnotology,[9] described the use of artificial controversy: "The relation between knowledge and ignorance in these matters is complex....The problem is partly that ignorance can be manufactured, controversy can be engineered."[10] In a 2006 interview regarding public perceptions of the press in the United States, journalist Carl Bernstein lamented, "Well, let's take a look at what we're talking about: misinformation, disinformation, celebrity stuff—gossip, sensationalism and especially manufactured controversy.... Increasingly, sensationalism, gossip, manufactured controversy have become our agenda instead of the best obtainable version of the truth. We've become frivolous."[11]  . . .

Writer Valerie Tarico, referred to Prof. Leah Ceccarelli's writings on "teach the controversy" as a manufactroversy.[35]

The Tarico reference is her article from The Huffington Post, Ben Stein: Front Man for Creationism's Manufactroversy, concerning the movie Expelled.

University of Washington professor, Leah Ceccarelli has pointed out that their "teach the controversy" strategy depends on a very specific sleight of hand: blurring the difference between scientific controversy and manufactured controversy or Manufactroversy.

You can say you first heard it here, well, if you haven't heard it already on MySpace or Facebook: Manufactroversy -- a made up word for a made up controversy. 

Mobsourcing: a term I've been needing

I just learned an interesting new word: mobsourcing.  It is a word I've been needing for a variety of  situations I've observed on the Internet. The Wikipedia-style crowd-source ideal should in principle bring consensus close and closer to the truth. My observation with Internet mob behavior, the large number of participants can make the group impervious to factual corrections.  

From the Web 2.0 Blog, by Ken Fischer, 12/26/08: Mobsourcing vs Crowdsourcing: Can conformity occasionally make for a more reliable crowd?

In my last post I started to examine the claim of the cluetrain manifesto that a more networked audience is more intelligent or at least a better detector than an individual. The #Mumbai victim list twitter distribution illustrated 4 ways which a network can apply truth filters and 2 ways in which the network affects might work against detecting falsehoods over the short term.

One recent tweet from Deb Lavoy questioned whether crowdsourcing will always generate good ideas, because after all a mob is also a crowd. Mobs are famous for poor and emotionally driven decisions and actions rather than intelligence and innovation. So how do we prevent crowdsourcing from becoming mobsourcing? Do connections between audience members, which a mob seems to have, mean better decision making? . . .

. . . and Ken Anderberg, January 2008, Is it a crowd or a mob?

Most of us have seen the Western movie, where the crowd lathers up at the saloon, grabs weapons and rope, and marches, mob-like, down to the sheriff's office, ready to string up some alleged villain down at the livery. The villain wants the sheriff to let him out so he can defend himself. The sheriff grabs the 12-gauge and any handy deputies, and meets the mob outside the front door of the jail. . . .

These mobs always have one thing in common--a few people, always in the front, are the instigators, the ringleaders. Everyone else is mostly just jazzed up, liquored up maybe, and just going along with the crowd. That is, with the mob.

The sheriff, using his knowledge of how mobs work, points his shotgun and his pistol at the mob leaders in the front of the pack, and says, "You know, Amos, there are way too many of you, but I guarantee that the first two shots out of ol' Betsy here will be aimed directly at you, and I'll get a bunch more of you with my Colt."

Right about then, the mob leaders figure they will be dead before anyone is hung, and they won't get to enjoy the fun. So they decide the effort is not worth the price and go home, grumbling as they retreat. The mob also disperses.

So, too, is it with crowdsourcing. A few people lead the pack, provide most of the input, while most of the rest of the crowd is little more than onlookers, perhaps somewhat lathered up about the topic, but really without much expertise to add anything meaningful to the discussion.

Is that really crowdsourcing, or is it more akin to mobsourcing?

Creating politically motivated mobs to spread a harmful meme about a candidate was, for example, a very common tactic during recent elections.

Verb: to Weaponize

I learned a new verb yesterday in the vetenarian's office: Reading a newsmagazine from last December in the waiting room, I happend across an opinion piece about how naive we had been to not conceive of the idea that someone might weaponize small pox. (The piece speculating also about Iraq's dreadful stocks of bioweapons now itself seems quaint.)

I typed weaponize into Google and got plenty of hits, which suggests that this new verb had probably washed over me before without my even noticing it. My favorite usage was weaponizing humor. The verb was used as recently as yesterday by the Globe and Mail in the sentence Anti-missile defence without weaponizing space is like being half-pregnant.

But, you know, as the mother of a little boy I have a more apropriate, context in which to deploy this verb: If you weaponize that stick, I'll have to take it away!

Or consider this annecdote, told to me by another mother: A little boy attends a nursery school in which they don't allow war play of any sort and in which such things are stongly discouraged. His also mother does not allow war toys nor does she allow him to watch any violent TV shows. One day the children paint birdhouses in nursery school. When the mother picks up her son at school, she sees him hold out his birdhouse in the direction of another boy and yell, "BANG! I kill you with my deadly birdhouse."

He weaponized the birdhouse.

For me, weaponization is not a scary new concept in terrorism or military strategizing, but rather a tendency to be gently blunted every day whenever it arises.

ON MATURE CONSIDERATION, I don't think I'll be needing this verb. I tried it out on Peter. He was unimpressed.

Also, it occurs to me that it has a sinister utility. Imagine a police officer explaining the shooting of an unarmed person: He was weaponizing his cup of coffee, so I shot him.

If any noun can be weaponized, no one is ever unarmed.

What concrete nouns cannot be weaponized? Tutu? Rubber duckie? Powder puff? Suggestions?

MEANWHILE, tornados passed through Lawrence, Kansas today. Kij Johnson reports:

The tornado was about four miles due west of us, and had lifted before it went directly over our offices in Wescoe on the KU campus. As is typical of Kansas, we (and all our neighbors) were out standing in our driveway hoping we could see it, but no luck.