Sunday, November 18, 2018

Bias makes you stupid

Bayeux Tapestry (detail, the Death of Harold)


     The Chicago Sun-Times has the largest circulation of any newspaper in America.
     Bigger than the New York Times. Or the Washington Post.
     In fact, bigger than those two put together.
     Do you believe that?
     No?
     Good.
     Because it isn't true.
     I wrote the first line as an example of bias. Were I to sincerely insist the above were true, you would rightly assume that I was doing so because I work there, and was waving the flag for the home team, regardless of the facts, under the mistaken notion that such exaggeration made me look better.
     It doesn't. Yet people still do this. A lot. Why? Wounded ego. Fear. Cravenness. They feel small—Flash! We're all small—and want to puff themselves up bigger than they actually are.
     We see this continually in our president, spouting self-adoring nonsense because he wants to appear bigger than he is (a reminder that self-esteem has nothing to do with externals. He's rich and famous and the president of the United States. You'd think that would be enough. It obviously is not).
     Look at the gruesome torture/murder early last month of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It was clear from the get-go that the killing was approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was assassinated at the Saudi Embassy in Turkey by thugs imported ahead of time for that task.
    The idea that it was some rogue operation, as Donald Trump first suggested, was ludicrous. But suggest this patent bullshit he did, the beginning of one of the more appalling threads of our president's Bayeux Tapestry of lies and evasions.
    Why?  Donald Trump despises the media, because the free press takes his various lies and missteps and hangs them out in public, like a housewife stringing laundry along a clothesline, for all to see, faded and repulsive in the light of truth.
     And Trump loves despots like the crown prince.
     Plus the Saudis buy lots of expensive suites in Trump hotels. And arms too.
     So even after his own CIA—oh, Trump also hates American intelligence agencies because, like the press, they keep track of his missteps—points out the obvious: of course the prince ordered the killing, Trump clings to his fictions, the way he babbles about forest floor maintenance so as not to point out the obvious, that the California fires have a connection to global warming.
     Bias makes you stupid, or seem stupid. In trying to look better than you deserve you look worse, as bad as you actually are. Admitting your flaws mitigates them.
     This is why responsible people—journalists, leaders, anybody—recognize that the world as it is and the world as they would wish it to be are two very separate things, and embrace reality because it's what we're stuck with.
     The Chicago Sun-Times, by the way, is in fact the 35rd biggest newspaper in the country, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. In my view that's plenty.

7 comments:

  1. What bothers me isn't so much that Trump keeps lying. People with oversized egos and massively unjustified self-confidence often do that. It's the wellspring of their confidence. What bothers me is how many people believe his lies.

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  2. Many pundits have asserted that Trump isn't so smart, that his successes are not due to his intelligence, that he isn't that wealthy, etc. Most of these opinions are untrue. He probably has more than average intelligence and has more business sense than most of us. He also had enough political savvy to tap into those segments willing to vote for such a low-life. What he lacks is a conscience and sense of shame. He is probably part psychopath, part sociopath, but obviously also normal enough to thrive in society. He knows he's lying and doesn't care that we know it too. That so many Americans don't understand, that his political views aside, he is totally unfit for his office and a threat to the country, that is the scariest thing about him.

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    1. As far as business since, I think you are wrong. How many times did his casinos go bankrupt, when every other casino was making money. Trump airline went under. Trump steaks? Under. I am guessing his clothing line didn't sell well either. Even his golf courses are not doing all that well. He really didn't build that much. Much of his money has come branding his name. One his his college professors said he was one of the dumbest students he ever had. He certainly has a knack for being a scam artist. He probably wouldn't be president if not for the Apprentice. If you read Neil's piece about the farmers he visited, they would vote for Trump despite that the tariffs would hurt them. And I have seen ten year olds that are more articulate.

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  3. I agree with everything you said, except I don't beleive Trump thrives in society - he thrives in his own society. He lives in a cocoon, he's never had to follow the rules we do. Don't want to pay your bills? Just stiff your contractor. Get in over your head? File for bankrupcy. Can't find a bank that will do business with you? Find a friendly Russian bank to loan you money. He's been able to control his life to an extent none of us can. Even filing bankrupsy is a form of control - of the banks. Now he had to deal with the real world where he can't control congress (at least the House now), reporters, Muller and he can't deal with it. Though he is savvy, I don't think he's smart. He knows nothing of history, the Constitution he swore to uphold, literature; all he seems to know is real estate and how to screw the system. I seriously doubt he, or his children, could function in a real world where you have to deal with rules, laws, norms, or bosses (who aren't Daddy).

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  4. "Bayeux Tapestry of lies and evasions." Nice.

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