Monday, February 10, 2020

#2305: Shannon Strayhorn

The Thinking Moms’ Revolution is a website devoted to mothers who like to try their hand at what they characterize as thinking but also unfortunately lack any comprehension of what critical thinking could possibly involve (yes, it’s hard: It must be learned), how to evaluate evidence or in general many of the topics they choose to write about. The result is, of course, rampant pseudoscience, new age bullshittery and denialism – anti-vaccine views are for instance regularly promoted – and their conclusions are based not so much on thinking as on feeling their way to their own gut reaction, guided by carefully selected and framed anecdotes.

Shannon Strayhorn, for instance, is one of the “THINKERS”. She is not very good at it. (Perhaps nagging doubt is why they felt the need to put “THINKERS” in capital letters.) Instead, she tries to compensate with a large dose of self-righteousness and sense of self-importance. Strayhorn appears to consider herself as something of a modern-day, anti-vaccine Sun Tzu in her post “If You Know Your Enemy and Know Yourself …”. She fails miserably on that second part, of course, and, indeed, equally miserably on the first. When she signed up for Paul Offit’s free online course on vaccines at CHOP, for instance, Strayhorn “didn’t sign up to learn something about vaccines, as I have been studying that for years” (yes, the University of Google); she “signed up to learn about the opposition.” Yes, the result is a brilliant display of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

Hat-tip: Refutations of Anti-Vaccine Memes
It wasn’t the first time Strayhorn signed up for such a course, and her previous antics in a course on vaccine clinical trials offered by Johns Hopkins University is telling: Instead of trying to learn anything, Strayhorn rather went directly to the student discussion boards to spread antivaccine misinformation and anecdotes (she has, for instance, weighed in on the so-called “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory with, well, conspiracy mongering (“mainstream media isn’t covering it”)). The other students were, predictably, not particularly impressed with her contributions, and it is worth quoting Strayhorn’s reaction to being rebuffed by the other students in full, since it gives such a fascinating and telling glimpse of where she is coming from: “I kindly said while I am soooooo impressed with their degrees and careers that I find it scary that someone so educated could in fact get to that point considering they couldn’t even be bothered to read the science, and couldn’t counter one little mom like myself. I asked if it was necessary to post my resume too? I was told we are just parents who are so clueless and don’t understand what the difference is between causation and correlation, that the discussion was going to be stopped because it was off topic, and that it wasn’t necessary to counter what I shared because the science was in and definite. Definitely in. Bahahaha....oh it is in....but it is clearly not showing what they want!” Yes, that’s the kind of person we are talking about. You know the kind.

According to Strayhorn, however, there is no need to learn because the issue is settled: “We don’t need to combat the same old nonsense. We have the information. We moved the goal posts. We won’t be dragged into ridiculous debates from ten years ago. There is no debate. We are not going to allow the same old tactics.” Well, they certainly moved the goal posts, but their tactics are precisely the same they were ten years ago – what Strayhorn means is of course that she is going to continue to disregard the obvious responses to her tactics and talking points provided ten years ago and ever since.

Diagnosis: Yes, a regular antivaccine troll, nothing more, but Strayhorn does her trolling with a level of self-righteousness and sense of self-importance that is truly dazzling, even for her ilk. Probably one of the best examples of Dunning-Kruger and Mount Stupid in our Encyclopedia.

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