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A long-haired man in a leather jacket, toting cloth bags full of groceries, faces away from the observer as he scans a parking lot.
Who would you expect to remember their cloth bags more often at the grocery store, climate believers or climate skeptics? The answer is, on the surface, counterintuitive. Photo by the author.

There’s so much weirdness going around lately, isn’t there? Merely observing the world around us and trying to keep track of current events can start to feel like a study of gaslighting. Some of the topsy-turvy news is in all likelihood intended that way; witness President Trump’s recent assertion that negative press coverage of Himself is the same as fake news. That said, there’s plenty of other press releases from Bizarro World out there. Here are more items that you really wouldn’t expect to see in a version of reality that made proper sense.

A report out of New Orleans last week called attention to astroturfing on behalf of efforts to build a $210 million gas-fired power plant in the area. Some unknown entity paid freelance actors to pretend that they were everyday members of the public motivated to sit through multiple meetings of the City Council’s utility committee and clap whenever statements were made against renewables. Rates varied between $60 to show up in an orange shirt, to $200 for charismatic speakers willing to recite a prefabricated spiel. Everyone had to sign nondisclosure agreements, of course, since it’s a lot harder to mislead folks when you’re honest about your unethical intent. Entergy, the company behind the proposed plant, claims they aren’t responsible for the performances. The New Orleans City Council ended up voting 6 to 1 to approve building the plant, despite its apparent lack of necessity and the availability of cheaper solutions.

Governor Mary Fallin portrait. She's wearing a dark blue top with a gemstone cross necklace.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. Photo by Michael Vadon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0

In topsy-turvy news from Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin (R) signed a bill that will increase “diversity” in her state by allowing private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ families. Wait, what? In Bizarro-Oklahoma, turning away potentially loving forever-homes because of religious beliefs about which people are permitted to love each other actually “leads to more options for loving homes to serve Oklahoma children.” The idea that more (presumably Christian) faith-based agencies are needed to preserve diversity in the heartland is astounding to say the least.

Then, there are these guys. Richard Painter, formerly George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer, will be running for Al Franken’s old Senate seat. (It gives one pause to consider what Bush 43 might have done in the absence of an ethics lawyer, but I digress.) And – he’s running as a Democrat! Painter is a critic of President Trump and claims that the Republican party has left its values behind. (It takes some folks longer to realize this than others.) Painter isn’t the only topsy-turvy news in election politics, either. His change of heart may be genuine, but Michael Zak probably isn’t.  He’s the Republican plant who petitioned to run as the Green party candidate in New York’s 27th congressional district, presumably to split the opposition’s vote for the benefit of a weak (yet genuine) GOP incumbent. Once the press busted him, he dropped out.

But wait! Not all topsy-turvy news is bad!

Here’s some food for thought. In a political climate where retribution seems more important than rehabilitation, Connecticut may kick that trend in the gut. Who’d have thought that providing better quality, nutritious food to prisoners would mean so many improvements down the line? A budget proposal from Governor Dannel P. Malloy (D) seeks to reduce prison violence, improve health outcomes, and save the people of Connecticut money in the long run by providing foods like lean ground beef, whole pieces of chicken, and more fruits and vegetables on prisoners’ plates. Maybe it’ll work better than feeding them Nutraloaf.

Finally, you might expect people who acknowledge climate change to work harder at staving it off than climate deniers, but you’d be wrong. A year-long study by psychologist Michael Hall out of the University of Michigan revealed that those who doubted the reality of climate change and opposed broad policy-based solutions were more likely than those who are more concerned about the climate to report that they engage in personal-level ecological actions like using public transportation, reusing grocery bags, and buying “Earth-friendly” products. Meanwhile, the healing crystals that the most spiritually woke among us use to enhance their connections to the Earth often come from dirty, destructive mines in countries with lax environmental and labor laws.

In the end, reality doesn’t fit neatly into preconceived boxes. As we’re fracturing into ever more solid echo chambers, it’s wise to approach seemingly topsy-turvy news with a critical eye and a mind open to the possibility that what’s “common sense” isn’t necessarily true.

Related: EPA Head Scott Pruitt Is No Conservative

Sources:

11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting
I’m a Republican. Why Is My Party Gaslighting America?
President Donald Trump finally admits that “fake news” just means news he doesn’t like
Actors were paid to support Entergy’s power plant at New Orleans City Council meetings
Gov. Mary Fallin signs controversial adoption bill
Former George W. Bush ethics lawyer will run for Al Franken’s senate seat
Fake Green Party Candidate Exposed as Having Ties to Republican Congressman
The state that wants to spend more, not less, on prison food
On Climate Change, A Disconnect Between Attitudes and Behavior
Do You Know Where Your Healing Crystals Come From?

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