The understated value of low-wattage Internet pilgrims

Since you visit the Internet, you’re surely aware that it features a colossal army of jabbering fools whose self-appointed role is to tirelessly clutter the Web with a staggering amount of fact-starved and barely decipherable material every day.

One of the many silver linings of this inexhaustible supply of really, really dumb bloggers is that morons offer excellent examples of the phenomenon of cognitive bias. We all indulge in this practice, but unsophisticated thinkers cannot see their own cognitive biases (hello, Dunning! Meet Kruger!) so they have no motivation to conceal them and probably couldn’t even if they tried.

My one-stop shop for what the dumbest right-wingers in America are thinking, Granite Grok, is biased against atheism, gay- and transgender-friendly legislation, immigrants, minorities, global warming, taxation, and educated people. Not because they have evaluated any of these things objectively on their merits — such a task would be too Herculean for them to even ponder — but because they believe that as “conservatives” they are supposed to automatically categorically reject a well-defined array of issues and concepts.Now, the remaining co-founder of Granite Grok, Skip Murphy, has naturally got his dander up over renewable energy, and he uses the example of the beleaguered Ivanpah plant in California as an example of why not just this facility but the whole solar-power field should be written off. (If you survey Google News for stories about this, you can tell the right-wing rags right away — they’re the ones blaming President Obama.)

Here are the basics. It wasn’t a catastrophic fire, no one was hurt, and the plant should be back running at its full (but lower than originally advertised)  capacity soon. But of course Skip doesn’t see it that way. He can’t because oops bad brain not working right thing.

Let’s start with his exaggerations and lies. Since his post consists almost entirely of quoted matter, he only has room for a couple here.

Skip observes that Ivanpah “decided to show us all that it could set itself on fire and kill off 2/3rds of itself.” In the Gizmodo article that Skip himself quoted, it says that the plant is currently running at one-third of its capacity owing to a combination of the fire and scheduled maintenance. (This, by the way, is another hallmark of stupid and sloppy bloggers: They often quote something that says something different from what they claim it does, making for bemusing juxtapositions of text.)

Skip then writes, with the mouth-breather’s equivalent of a gleeful closing flourish, “The Sun. Solar.  Free!!!   Hmmm, methinks this ain’t free for anyone.” All this shows is how primitive Skip’s understanding of alternative fuels are. No one I know has ever called them free. Energy for human use is never “free,” as anyone who has ever sniffed a high-school physics textbook should know. There are varying degrees of mechanical efficiency in different systems, and we’re still in the larval stages of many of these technologies.

Of course, Skip is not only a fuckhead, but he is aware this his few commenters consists of fellow fuckheads who give him a pass on his mistakes even when they can discern them, or else they are drummed out of the Granite Grok monkey-house.

But let’s look at Skip’s reasoning here: A small fire leads to a temporary shut-down of a mixed natural-gas/solar-power plant; therefore, the entire solar-power arena is dangerous and worthless.

Does that sound familiar? If so, it’s because a lot of people believe that guns are dangerous and should fall under heavier government regulation, thanks to a never-ending series of events far more catastrophic than a non-lethal fire in the desert. But Skip is precisely on the other side of that argument. He always is. And his concern for reckless federal spending doesn’t extend to what is by far the most egregious recent U.S. boondoggle of them all (the Iraq War). (For an entertaining aside on Skip’s astonishingly myopic views on the Middle East as well as his inability to tell I-countries apart, see this.)

Skip lives in a beautifully simple world: Anything perceived as liberal that the government spends a dime on is inexcusably wasteful. Anything perceived as conservative is unimpeachable, pure gold, unless it’s weakly conservative (that is, not far-right-wing), which includes, in Skip’s addled mind, about 90 percent of Republicans in state legislatures and U.S. Congress.

It’s also funny, darkly so, that Skip, a defender of the fossil-fuel industry that gave us the Valdez and BP spills and their lasting damage to ecosystems, is pretending to be concerned about the lives of birds threatened or ended by the human energy sector. Of course, this is not altogether distinct from a functionally illiterate blogger yammering about the ignorance of college students, which Skip does at least once a week, in pidgin English.

Actually, now that I’m already finished, I need to take it all back. There’s no “cognitive bias” at work in the gray matter of Skip or anyone like him. It’s just bias, period.

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