Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Media Cascading into Falsehoods Once Again?

There are numerous reports in both newspapers and on the radio (I haven't had the TV on, but no doubt it is there too) of an American diplomat who supposedly said on Al Jazeera that the US has been "arrogant and stupid" in Iraq.

The only problem is that the diplomat was speaking in Arabic (good to hear that they can do that!) and Arabic can be tough to translate into English.

So do we think that every media outlet that passes this story on has had their own translator check the accuracy of the translation? Or is everyone just assuming that since someone ran the first story, and then someone else respectable ran the story, that it must be right?

In information cascades, you will frequently have everyone coming to the same wrong conclusion, even when their own private information suggests a different conclusion. The situation above could be a perfect example: a reporter who knows a little Arabic might check the actual words, but if they are not expert, then they will put more weight on the cascade of everyone else saying the original translation was right than on their own opinion. The result? A cascade of the same story, with the same translation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is a really good article about the "global warming issue" (oops, forecast is snow showers tonight) by a not very conservative (politically) investment newsletter writer:
In a speech on the Senate floor in 1982, Al Gore laid out his solution to the nuclear “arms race.”

His plan was perfect… politically. It was simple, it played with the day’s political football (the nuclear freeze movement), and it was impossible to carry out. Gore wanted to limit each missile in our arsenal to only one warhead. And thus, all of our technological advantages would disappear. The Russians’ out-dated arsenal would once again be as powerful as our own.

The Russians themselves could have hardly come up with a better plan. It was brilliant. And utterly useless.

As we know now, our spending billions to develop the multiple-warhead MX missiles was one of the primary drivers behind the collapse of the Soviet Union. That country’s planned economy didn’t generate enough wealth to keep up with U.S. technology. Of course, no one knew that in 1982. Back then, the leading thinkers of the eastern elite, such as M.I.T. economist Paul Samuelson, believed the Soviet’s central planning was more efficient than our free market.

Given his history, it’s no surprise Al Gore’s latest brilliant idea is entirely useless. Gore proposes to combat global warming with a “carbon freeze” (strict limits on the emission of heat-trapping gases) that would destroy most of the economic advantages the U.S. enjoys.

But I have to hand it to him. It’s another doozy: It’s simple and it can’t be done. Thus, it won’t be Gore’s fault when something bad happens. Perfect. It’s better than a lie.

I’m sure you recognize global warming as the latest “Big Problem.”

Global warming mirrors the nuclear freeze movement. All the same infantile morons are there – it’s like a big-government playhouse. You’ve got your Gore and your Nader and your Kennedy. You’ve got Hollywood stars (most of them high-school dropouts) flying around in private jets blathering complete nonsense to corporate leaders who, stunningly, don’t even crack a knowing smile.

Finally, just like the nuclear arms race, global warming is a problem that’s so big and so dire it scares the crap out of people – but it can’t be accurately measured or evaluated.

Global warming is so complex, you can’t prove any idea true or false. It’s this complexity that attracts all of the politicians to the stage. Unlike the national debt, public education, or declining real wages… nothing about the Big Problem can be verified as true or false. It’s perfect material for liars. If the public can’t evaluate the problem or the solutions based on outcomes, they’re left to choose their leaders based on the apparent sincerity of the speaker.

And who is more sincere than Al Gore?


Porter Stansberry