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We investigate the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement using a new data set containing information on a large sample of young German twins. The TwinLife Study enables us to examine the predominant model of personality, the Big Five framework, as well as traits that fall outside the Big Five, such as cognitive ability, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the underpinnings of political engagement. Our results support previous work showing genetic overlap between some psychological traits and political engagement. More specifically, we find that cognitive ability and openness to experience are correlated with political engagement and that common genes can explain most of the relationship between these psychological traits and political engagement. Relationships between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement exist even at a fairly young age, which is an important finding given that previous work has relied heavily on older samples to study the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement.
In an on-demand media environment, the 2016 presidential primary debates provided a ratings and economic boost to host networks surpassing all prior primary debates and even major sporting events in viewership. In turn, millions of viewers were exposed to and subtly influenced by the ways in which these candidates were visually presented. We analyze how the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates were presented in their initial two debates (Fox News and CNN; CNN and CBS, respectively). Candidates are considered in terms of visual priming through aggregate camera time and average camera fixation time and how contenders were visually framed through the proportion of different camera shot types used (solo, split screen, side by side, multiple candidate, and audience reaction). Findings suggest that while the front-runners from both political parties benefited from preferential visual coverage, Donald Trump stood out in terms of the visual priming and framing that presented him as a serious contender.
Background. Disinformation, now best known generically as “fake news,” is an old and protean weapon. Prominent in the 1980s was AIDS disinformation, including the HIV-from-Fort-Detrick myth, for whose propagation some figures ultimately admitted blame while others shamelessly claimed credit. In 2013 we reported a comprehensive analysis of this myth, finding leading roles for the Soviet Union's state security service, the KGB, and for biologist and independent conspiracy theorist Jakob Segal but not for East Germany's state security service, the Stasi. We found Stasi involvement had been much less extensive and much less successful than two former Stasi officers had begun claiming following German reunification. In 2014 two historians crediting the two former Stasi officers coauthored a monograph challenging our analysis and portraying the Stasi as having directed Segal, or at least as having used him as a “conscious or unconscious multiplier,” and as having successfully assisted a Soviet bloc AIDS-disinformation conspiracy that they soon inherited and thenceforth led. In 2017 a German appellate court found our 2013 analysis persuasive in a defamation suit brought by a filmmaker whose work the 2014 monograph had depicted as co-funded by the Stasi.
Question and methods. Were our critics right about the Stasi? We asked and answered ten subsidiary questions bearing upon our critics' arguments, reassessing our own prior work and probing additional sources including archives of East Germany's Partei- und Staatsführung [party-and-state leadership] and the recollections of living witnesses.
Findings. Jakob Segal transformed and transmitted the myth without direction from the KGB or the Stasi or any element of East Germany's party-and-state leadership. The Stasi had trouble even tracking Segal's activities, which some officers feared would disadvantage East Germany scientifically, economically, and politically. Three officers in one Stasi section did show interest in myth propagation, but their efforts were late, limited, inept, and inconsequential.
Conclusion.. The HIV-from-Fort-Detrick myth, most effectively promoted by Jakob Segal acting independently of any state's security service, was not, contrary to claims, a Stasi success.
The uses of natural selection argument in politics have been constant since Charles Darwin's times. They have also been varied. The readings of Darwin's theory range from the most radically individualist views, as in orthodox socio-Darwinism, to the most communitarian, as in Peter Kropotkin's and other socialist perspectives. This essay argues that such diverse, contradictory, and sometimes even outrageous political derivations from Darwin's theory may be partially explained by some incompleteness and ambivalences underlying Darwin's concepts. “Natural selection,” “struggle for existence,” and “survival of the fittest” are open concepts and may suggest some hierarchical and segregationist interpretations. Circumstantially, Darwin accepted social “checks,” such as discouraging marriage of “lower” individuals to prevent them from reproducing, in a vein of Malthusian politics. This makes Darwin's theory of selection by struggle collide with his theory of social instincts, by which he explains the origins of morality. It also favors reading Darwin's On the Origin of Species or The Descent of Man from opposite, mostly ideological perspectives. Darwin's position is ambivalent, although hardly unreasonable. The recognition he makes of social instincts, as well as the use of the concept of artificial selection, entails accepting the role of human consciousness, by which social evolution cannot be reduced to natural evolution, as socio-Darwinians did next and as some neo-Darwinists seem to repeat. On these grounds, this essay argues the inadequacy of the conventional model of natural selection for understanding politics. If we want to describe politics in Darwin's language, artificial rather than natural selection would be the concept that performs better for explaining the courses of politics in real society.