Archive for the ‘Reason’ Category

Fallacies, Fallacies, Everywhere!

February 2, 2012

Sometimes I get stuck in a conversation with someone who is making piss-poor arguments, and I just want to shoot ‘em all down. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to do this because I can’t get a word in edge-wise, or because I’m not quick enough on my feet that day to identify the particular BS being spouted. I have a lot of respect for people who can dissect an argument into its components and separate the bogus from the the valid points. This is a skill – a learnable skill – that can take discussions to the next level and allow topics to be examined rationally.

Evan Bernstein from the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe recently responded to a fabulously fallacious and nonsensical email from a listener on the SGU blog, The Rogue’s Gallery. First Evan presents the email in its entirety, then proceeds to break it down one sentence at a time. This is an epic response, and I wanted to share with all of you.

“I don’t like your attitude on the show. You said the Chem-trails are not real. I have seen them myself and have taken many pictures. I have also seen footage of a weatherman in Oregon saying that the military was doing experiments and laying the chem-trails. Why would you be so sure that they are not real. Who are you?? A bunch of snotty punks that never leave your office? I bet the whole show is there to make real people who seek real truth; look stupid. The “experts” like you claim to be, lie all the fucking time; and so do the people on your show. Thats why you dont have the guts to put up a phone number for calls. I bet you are funded by the goverment, or drug companies or something. No normal people are so arrogant. You are not the “experts” of anything, except lies.”

Wow, that’s quite an email.  Allow me to reply one sentence at a time.

 “I don’t like your attitude on the show.” 

Unsubscribe.

“You said the Chem-trails are not real.”

Yes.

“I have seen them myself and have taken many pictures.” 

 You saw contrails, not “chem-trails”.

“I have also seen footage of a weatherman in Oregon saying that the military was doing experiments and laying the chem-trails.” 

Argument From Authority (a very poor one, to boot) 

“Why would you be so sure that they are not real.” 

Evidence, lack thereof.

Who are you??

I see where the question mark from the prior “question” went.  

 A bunch of snotty punks that never leave your office?”

Ad Hominem.

“I bet the whole show is there to make real people who seek real truth; look stupid.”

Only those who regularly botch their punctuation.

The “experts” like you claim to be, lie all the fucking time; and so do the people on your show.

Asshole Fallacy.

“Thats why you dont have the guts to put up a phone number for calls.”

(212) 384-1000

“I bet you are funded by the goverment, or drug companies or something.”

Something.

“No normal people are so arrogant.”

(Fill in your own thought, I really have no idea what this means.)

“You are not the “experts” of anything, except lies.”

Lies indeed, especially exposing the people who spout and regurgitate them.

See? EPIC. Not that this response would make any difference to the listener, but sometimes it’s enough to examine the message, deconstruct it, realize that there’s nothing you could say to make a difference, and move on with your life.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe was my gateway drug into skepticism back in late 2009. My sister recommended the SGU podcast for its laid-back presentation of science and critical thought. And it is laid-back. This isn’t a hard-core science podcast; there is a sharp focus on skepticism and rationality (of which science and evidence play a huge part).

Listening to SGU renewed my interest in recognizing logical fallacies, and has even pushed me outside of my normal biology and medicine comfort zones to explore cosmology, physics and robotics. Each show has several regular weekly sections and the rest is a bunch of unscripted bantering between the five hosts. I describe it to newbies as a nerdier version of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! If this sounds like your gig, check it out The Skeptics Guide to the Universe on iTunes.

Kids Know What’s Up

January 26, 2012

Twice yesterday I was blown away by the insight of young ladies who have an incredible grasp of the world around them.

13-year old schools you on slut shaming.

This is fantastic. I am awed that this incredible teenage girl not only grasps the problem of slut shaming, but that she so thoroughly and eloquently explains it in under four minutes.

Seen on Feministe

Boy-Girl Bear

My friend’s four-year old daughter has this to tell you about her bear:

Text reads: E’s bear’s name is Isabelle and he is “both a boy and a girl and he’s ok with you calling him he or she.” We are changing the world people! It’s so simple for kids to get why is it so hard for adults?!

Order now – only one meeeelyon dollars!

August 12, 2011

Okay, here’s proof that work is slowing down. I was at home browsing through the Costco coupon book (clue one), and I decided to check out the cookware set on Costco online to find out how much the set would be without the discount (clue two). On the front page of the website I noticed this advertisement for a ring, just kind of sitting there above a reclining chair and some discount flatscreen TVs:

To quote one of my favorite podcasters, my flabber is gasted.  I’ll only pause briefly on my personal dislike of diamonds:

  • I think they’re boring little flints of rock (give me a colorful ruby or emerald any day over a diamond).
  • They don’t serve any purpose except to be shiny, to make you look like you have money or to place unwarranted confidence in the strength of your relationship with your spouse or lover, or to make you happy for some other unfathomable (to me) reason.
  • You only want a diamond because excellent marketing by diamond sellers have fooled you into thinking that you want that worthless piece of stone.
  • And finally, the relationships between some diamond mining and human exploitation is sickening.

I have never owned a diamond. When the Hubby and I were engaged I told him that I didn’t want an engagement ring because I’d rather spend the money on a house or car payment. Also because I’m a gigantic klutz and kind of flighty about the spatial relationship between me and the things I own (read: I lose shit really well)

So anyway, all of that is beside the point (I think there’s a point in here). I know that many people like and want diamonds for various reasons. Fine and dandy. But if you are ready, willing and able to put 1 million dollars into a diamond and platinum ring are you really going to buy a ring from Costco??? Diamonds are status symbols, but so are Tiffany & Co. bags.

Help me out guys…I’ve seen the rocks on some of your hands. Are diamonds anything other than sheer indulgence? Is it just the shiny? And would you buy jewelry from a Costco warehouse, or do you need the experience of shopping in a fancy diamond store?

Oh, and the fact that I wrote this blog about some random advertisement on the Costco website is clue three that work is slowing down.

Quran Burning

April 5, 2011

So, a Christian extremist in Florida burned a Quran after “passing judgement” on it, and in response we have  the violent murder of 12 people by a mob of Muslim extremists in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif,  nine more dead in Kandahar, and violence and protests across Afghanistan.

My first response was, “Seriously? The lone actions of a backwater hick of a pastor from the United States didn’t respect a different religion’s holy book, and that justifies the storming of a UN-held building and the taking of human life in Afghanistan? And people wonder why I reject organized religion!”

But as was pointed out in Psychology Today and Salon.com, just writing this off as a spat between two different religious groups is simplistic; there are geopolitical, social, cultural and economic issues that, along with religious differences, probably contributed to the loss of life.

In fact, when some of these other factors are removed from the picture, that may be why moderate Muslims in the United States were able to have a more moderate response to this tragedy:

The Muslim community in the United States has declined to respond to such an act by Jones and his small group of followers.

“Terry Jones had his 15 minutes of fame and we’re not going to help him get another few minutes,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

In the US we have the idea that you don’t get to tell me what to do with my Quran (if I owned one). This mass-produced item that I can pick up at any number of different bookstores is NOT holy; it is ink on paper which becomes my personal property when I purchase it. It is a replica of a holy item. I can dog ear it, highlight it, copy pages of it and throw those copies in the garbage when I’m done with them. And if my replica Quran gets water damaged or otherwise becomes unusable, I can throw it out or destroy it, run down to Barnes and Noble and pick up a new copy. Perhaps we -  and Terry Jones – see the burning of this Quran as a small symbolic gesture, that the Quran he burned was just one copy of millions out there. 

The angry Afgahni mobs probably didn’t go out and kill people just because Pastor Jones was a dick who destoryed a copy of the Quran - that would be ridiculous, right? We in the United States know that Terry Jones is a lone dinkus who doesn’t speak for the majority of us in Western World, but perhaps the Afghanis responsible for the rioting believe that enough of us in the Western world are complicit, that we as a whole – including our leaders - allowed this to Quran burning to happen because we are contemptuous of the Afghani people as a whole, and that we see their nation only as a resource to be exploited.

I don’t claim to understand what really drove one group of human beings to violently attack and brutally injure and slaughter other human beings in Afghanistan. I think it is right to be outraged and offended by the incitement to violence by Jones and the violence and loss of life by Afghani mobs. However, I don’t think the correct response is to simply write off the whole situation as a Christianity vs. Islam problem.

Regarding free speech aka “should we burn Jones at the stake for inciting this violence?”: The first amendment lets me be an asshole – I can burn an American flag, a Bible, a Quran or my bra and not be legally persecuted in this country for doing so. Don’t give me that “we’re in a war” crap. Go see Glenn Greenwald’s The most uncounted cost of Endless War and  Brendan O’Neill’s article Pastor Terry Jones is no more to blame for the Afghan violence than Martin Scorsese was for the shooting of Ronald Reagan for their thoughts on free speech in relation to this case.

Logical Fallacies in Advertising

March 28, 2011

You know when you hear a bad argument and you think “that doesn’t make any sense!”? Logical fallacies are one way to categorize and define these poor arguments.

Poor arguments happen. By knowing and understanding fallacies, it’s easier to spot poor arguments when they are used by others and by ourselves. They help us to examine our own reasoning and allow us to explore logically why we feel the way we do about certain issues. When arguing with someone else, it helps to keep the arguments relevant and the discussion on topic.

Poor arguments can be made ignorantly (i.e., the person making the argument doesn’t recognize that their argument is poor) and intentionally (“well, technically what I said was true, even if the implication was false”). Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck Some people have built entire careers out of making fallacious arguments.

These are some of my favorite fallacies, and examples of them:

Ad hominem – “Michelle Bachman has crazy eyes, therefore anything she says is a lie.” To automatically dismiss all of MBs arguments just because she has crazy eyes  is lazy. We have to listen to her speak, consider her statements and then decide if (once again) she’s making batsh*t crazy invalid claims.

Slippery slope - “If we let gay people get married, next there will be men marrying horses!”

Generalization - “Enron was a large, corrupt company, therefore all large companies are corrupt.”

Straw man – Misrepresentation of your opponent’s statement. When the Hubby says “That girl has nice eyes” and I say “Oh, so you think my eyes are ugly.” – that’s a straw man.

Because arguments are intended to influence the way we think about things, the decisions we make and our actions, you can find examples of fallacious arguments in politics, in courtrooms, in schools, and especially in marketing and advertising. Here are some examples that I’ve encountered in the last few weeks:

This is an implied False Dichotomy. False Dichotomy says that you only have two options. In this case you can use a filthy, disgusting cloth towel OR you can use “Kleenex Hand Towels – a clean, fresh towel every time!” There are other options though…like changing out your reusable cloth towel before it looks like the microbe farm shown in the picture. 

This is an Appeal to Tradition, the idea being that because something is old or we’ve been doing it forever it must be accurate or based on evidence.  Something being ancient doesn’t automatically make it better. Other cereals use granola and almonds too, not because they’re ancient, but because they have nutritional value and are tasty. The Appeal to Tradition is often used to market alternative therapies e.g., “Acupuncture has been used for centuries!”

If an argument makes you go “WTF???”, then you may be dealing with a Non Sequitur, in which “the conclusion does not follow from its premise”…i.e. the statement makes no sense. In this case, giving up implies failure…how is not shopping giving up or a failure? One does not have anything to do with the other.

Not all consequences of logical fallacies are equal. The three examples above are fairly innocuous and all I did was snort when I saw them (actually I squee’ed because I’m proud of myself when I recognize logical fallacies in everyday situations). The only thing at stake was a decision to buy or not buy paper towels or cereal; I’d probably never complain to a company about the situations above. However, some fallacious arguments are the stuff of nightmares and need to be addressed. The statement “My daughter developed autism immediately after getting her MMR vaccine, therefore vaccines cause autism.” is a dangerous fallacious statement (correlation not causation – the two events are related in time, but there is no evidence that one could cause the other) that can lead to unhealthy choices and have serious consequences for individuals and groups of people.

Because arguments are as wide and varied as the humans who make them, the list of fallacies is constantly growing and evolving. There are a bunch of websites that can help us understand the types of fallacies and how and when they might be used (search “fallacies” when you’ve got a couple hours or so to invest).

It’s really easy to make fallacious arguments; avoiding them and recognizing them when they do occur is challenging and requires constant vigilance. I may be making some in this very article, and I’m sure that I could find examples of poor arguments in other blog posts that I’ve written. Making a fallacious argument isn’t the end of the world. But if you are caught making a poor argument, you owe it to yourself and the person with whom you are engaging to say “yeah, you’re right” rather than “nuh uh, you stupid poopy head!”*

*See what I did there? An ad hominem example AND I’ve left myself an out if you find mistakes in my article. Cover My Ass WIN! As an aside, it was really difficult for me to write an article on logical fallacies; it made me paranoid about every sentence in the damn thing. It was like being asked to spellcheck a paper for someone and worrying that I might write “You’re spelling and gramer is bad.”

Anti-Vax Action Alert

November 21, 2010

Elyse over at the Skepchicks posted a notice about anti-vaccination advertisements being aired in several AMC movie theaters across the country.  And guess what – one of them is happening right here in Roseville, Minnesota.  Here’s the ad they’re planning to play:

One Minnesota pediatrician has written an concise response to the advertisement, and has made it SUPER EASY for your to add your voice to the cause, as well. If you visit AMC Corporate Customer Service and you agree with Dr. Jacobsen, you can simply click a button that says “I have this problem too” to speak out against fallacious anti-vaccination rhetoric.  There is also a place to add comments to share your own thoughts with AMC. 

This is not a free speech issue; no one is saying that AMC doesn’t have a right to air these ads. This is a misinformation issue.  This is a Let’s Scare The Crap Out of Pregnant Women issue. As one commenter wrote:

AMC has every right to run these ads. I; however, will go out of my way to not support any company that runs anti-vax campaigns.

As with any controversial topic, take a minute to critically consider the arguments. I happen to believe that not vaccinating against the flu is selfish, dangerous decision. If not for you personally, then for the vunerable people around you (old people, immunosuppressed people, babies too young to receive the vaccine) who may catch flu from you. The flu isn’t just an inconvenient achy, sick-feeling cold thing from which everyone can bounce right back  - people die of the flu, and encouraging fear of vaccinations is a public health danger that we should not condone.

***********

Quick update from the road: AMC will NOT be running the anti-vax advertisement AMC will not be running the anti-vax advertisements!. 2344 people have weighed in at last check. Skeptical activism at work, well done!

Michael Shermer at U of MN

October 21, 2010

Last Thursday (10/14/2010) I went to see Michael Shermer speak at the University of Minnesota’s Willey Hall (timely write-up fail!).  Dr. Shermer was presenting “Why People Believe Weird Things”.  His visit was sponsored/organized by the Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH) group at the U of M. 

Michael Shermer

I liked the lecture hall set-up – the back wall is rounded and the room focuses the audience’s attention down to the center of the room where the speaker is presenting.  But instead of having one screen and the people on the sides getting cruddy views, the room has two gigantic screens angled so that no matter where you sit you’ll have a decent view of the material.

Map of Willey Hall

Before the talk Dr. Shermer checked his set up, then hung around up front chatting with people.  The presentation started about 15 minutes late, but that was okay because people kept streaming in.  Dr. Shermer was introduced by the CASH activities director, and then we were off.  

He started by telling us about Skeptic Magazine and the Skeptic’s Society and he did a quick review of the topics covered on the screens up front. 

The pre-talk display was these six covers of Skeptic Magazine, of which Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher

One of the comments that Dr. Shermer made early on really stuck with me.  He presented the idea that smart people are very good at rationalizing their non-intelligent choices and beliefs.  I think that, like anyone, skeptics can make poor choices when we weigh evidence against our personal beliefs, and we choose gut over facts (I’m still struggling with Penn and Teller’s BS episode on recycling).   In the Q&A at the end of the talk, someone asked him to give some examples of the weird things skeptics believe.  He chose politics – ask a liberal why they believe what they believe, and they’ll tell you it’s because they’re right about x topic, and that yes, they believe that 50% of Americans who vote for Republicans/conservativism are wrong.  Confirmation bias, anyone? 

Dr. Shermer showed this slide during his talk.

Dr. Shermer was all about using the humor to get ideas across.  He was discussing the need for science education in America, and used this video got a LOT of laughs:

After that Dr. Shermer dug into some basic cognitive science topics like association learning and patternicity.  He gave a broad-level overview of some neuroscience studies that have attempted to explain where and what in the brain may be responsible for patternicity.  He showed some great illusions that illuminate how our brain handles facial recognition, and he presented his idea for how this might be related to the phenomenon of déjà vu.  He demonstrated how granularity, shading and camera position in photos can be used to trick our brain into making assumptions about what we’re looking at, and even into seeing things that aren’t there.

Crazy crate  Crazy crate

Jerry Andrus’s 3D impossible crate

Emergence

Nice doggy

Our Lady of the Chicago Underpass

Next he discussed agenticity: the tendency to believe that the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents.  This moved us further into the realms of conspiracy, skepticism and pseudoscience.   Dr. Shermer believes that human agenticity is behind animism, aliens, the 9/11 Conspiracy, JFK’s assassination, etc.  He discussed mind versus brain (“Mind is just the thing that the brain does”) and the brain’s role in creating near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences, as well as the phenomenon of sensed presence, or the feeling that someone is in the room with you. 

He also demonstrated how the priming effect works with a fun example.  Do you remember the hysteria in the 1980s when some people thought that if you played rock and roll records backwards you could hear satanic lyrics or chanting?  Dr. Shermer played Stairway to Heaven forward and backward for us.  When he played it forward he put the lyrics on the screen.  Then he played the song backward – without lyrics.  It sounded like a bunch of gobbledy-gook.  Then he played the song backwards for us again, but this time with these devised lyrics on the screen:

So here’s to my Sweet Satan.
The other’s little path
Would make me sad,
Whose power is faith.
He’ll give those with him 666.
And all the evil fools,
they know he made
us suffer sadly.

And it sure sounded like they were singing those words when we listened to it again.  Fun with tricking the brain!

Dr. Shermer managed to fit in a few more topics like why cold reading works (when someone goes to a psychic they’ll remember the hits (5-10 hits), but forget the misses (200-300), synchronicity, confirmation bias and expectation violation.

At the end of the talk we had about 30 minutes for Q&A.  There was a good mix of Q&A topics – cognitive neuroscience, pseudoscience, belief, atheism.  Nobody was too bumbling, although there were a few cringe-worthy seconds here and there while people rambled or struggled to get their question out.  There were no confrontational questions.

A few of my favorite moments from the Q&A

  • Dr. Shermer using Good Kirk vs. Bad Kirk to explain why emotions are necessary to decision-making.  Good Kirk is pretty accurate portrayal of what would happen without emotions.
  • “Don’t teach people what to think, but how to think.”
  • Someone asked if we could we erase memories like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  The answer started out pretty party line (“We don’t yet know how we store memories, so we don’t yet know how to erase them), but somewhere along the line he managed to get to “Aliens are going to be so incredibly different from us.”  I don’t remember how we got there, but in reading my notes it seems like a fabulous non sequitur.

I enjoyed the talk, both the material and the way Dr. Shermer presented.  I’m really happy that the Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH) were able to organize the talk and the $4 entry fee was very kind.  Next year CASH is bringing Jen McCreight from BlagHag to the U of M – yay!

Would you lie?

October 15, 2010

Seen on Nothing to Do With Abroath

Original article: NZHerald

New Zealand museum bans pregnant women from attending exhibit

A clash of cultures over a rule forbidding pregnant or menstruating women to attend a Te Papa exhibit has been criticised by feminists. An invitation for regional museums to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa’s collections included the condition that “wahine who are either hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating]” were unable to attend.

Jane Keig, Te Papa spokeswoman, said the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs surrounding the Taonga Maori collection included in the tour. She said the rule was one of the terms Te Papa agreed to when they took the collection.

“If a woman is pregnant or menstruating, they are tapu. Some of these taonga have been used in battle and to kill people. Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects.”

If an object is tapu it is “forbidden” and in Maori culture it is believed that if that tapu is not observed, something bad will happen. Women who plan to attend the tour on November 5 are expected to be honest about whether they are pregnant or menstruating as a sign of respect to Maori beliefs.

So the argument for keeping certain women out of the special tour is because the women are sacred, forbidden, and need to be protected.  And if they do go on the tour, tapu will be violated and something bad will happen. 

I have nothing to lose in this debate, so I don’t know if I would lie or not to get in.  But if I was affected by this ban, I might.  Or I might try to organize a boycott or protest.  The group imposing the restrictions doesn’t have the right to insist that I respect their beliefs. They have a right to not let me see their private stuff, but do they have the right to open their collection to the public except for the people they don’t want to see it? This particular museum is a public institution that accepts public funding.

Does the owner of a private collection have a right to place restrictions on who gets to see it, even if they allow it to be displayed at a public institution?

If only I had a seestor with a concentration in museum studies…

Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In

October 11, 2010

Act on Principles is a group promoting “Full LGBT civil rights now. No delay. No excuses.” The group is currently attempting to get the American Equality Bill (AEB) filed in the Senate.  The AEB would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as federally protected statuses. 

Queer SOS is an activist project of the Act on Principles group that is focusing their attention on Senator Gillibrand of New York.  Queer SOS wants Sen. Gillibrand to file the proposed American Equality Bill.  Last Friday Queer SOS hosted “Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In” in Grand Central Station:

Aside from hosting energizing flash mob art-performances-with-a-message, Queer SOS is demonstrating daily outside of Sen. Gillibrand’s offices.  This is part of the the communication that the AEB Project sent to Sen. Gillibrand on 9/17/10 (bolding is original):

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

I’m writing to request again that you commit to and file a Civil Rights bill for our community immediately.

As you know, it is the prime duty of Government to protect its citizens from discrimination and Congress has failed over 30 million LGBTQ people in this regard.

We can not wait any longer for action to redress this.

To press this issue, activists will be launching a daily, friendly vigil outside your campaign offices starting Sept. 27th until the American Equality Bill (AEB) is filed.   If no bill is filed as of October 11th we plan to go 24/7, and then on Nov. 2nd to begin group fasting. 

This is a very serious matter as people will be risking their health standing outside and fasting for basic human justice.  We should not have to take these steps, but talking about this has failed and there is no other option.

We will broadcast our work daily, seek as much media attention as possible, and try to join you at other public campaign appearances.

Please know that this is not an opposition action in any way and that we are very happy your campaign is doing so well! But we NEED YOUR HELP now! We need this bill to organize around and there is no excuse for not filing it immediately.

rest of letter omitted

I support public demonstrations that do not harm or unduly inconvenience the audience to the point where they are coerced into taking action.  Get out there, make your message known, go first amendment-protected speech! 

But group fasting?

It appears to me that threatening a fast is a coercive action – Hey Senator, I’m going to hurt myself unless you do what I want you to do.  I support the goals of this group and I want to support the group itself, but I have reservations about fasting as a political statement.  I know that hunger strikes aren’t new, but why are they okay?  Why is holding one’s health hostage an acceptable means of political pressure?  Can anyone tell me why hunger strikes are appropriate, or give me arguments about why they are not?

Restoring Sanity Rally

September 17, 2010

Do want! I must check cheapflights.com for flights to D.C. immediately!

Everything below is copy-pasted from CNN – click the link for the full article at CNN.com

Via CNN:

Two Comedy Central funnymen are apparently entering into the partisan political fray with rallies of their own in the nation’s capital.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have set October 30 as the date for their respective rallies.

On Thursday night’s airing of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” the comedian announced plans for a “Rally to Restore Sanity.”

“See you October 30 on the National Mall to spread the timeless message, ‘Take it down a notch for America,’ ” he said.

Stewart dubbed the event a “clarion call for rationality.”

“A million moderate march, where we take to the streets to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, ‘We are here! We … are only here until 6 though, because we have a sitter,’” he said.

On “The Colbert Report,” which airs immediately after Stewart’s show, Colbert fired back with plans for his “March to Keep Fear Alive.”

“Now is not the time to take it down a notch. Now is the time for all good men to freak out for freedom,” Colbert said.

Stewart said on his Thursday show that he had reserved a spot on the National Mall.

“The forms have been filled out, the checks have been written,” he said.

[portion of original article omitted]

The announcements come less than three weeks after conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck hosted a much-publicized “Restoring Honor” rally on the National Mall, urging large crowds to “turn back to God” and return America to the values on which it was founded.

That event drew criticism for its timing and location — on the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in the same place.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson told CNN at the time that Beck was mimicking King and “humiliating the tradition.” And other civil rights activists gathered nearby with the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network in a “Reclaim the Dream” rally.

Stewart first publicly floated the idea of a counter-rally in a profile in the September 12 edition of New York magazine.

“Maybe we would do a ‘March of the Reasonable,’ on a date of no particular significance,” Stewart says in the article.

The website logos and icons created for the Colbert and Stewart rallies mimic Beck’s, using identical typography and similar stylized images.

“We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard,” the website for the “Rally to Restore Sanity” says.

The “March to Keep Fear Alive” site takes a more alarmist approach: “Never forget — ‘Reason’ is just one letter away from ‘Treason.’ Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can’t afford to take that chance.”


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