Sunday, August 28, 2011

reporters report gaffes to fit their narrative

Nice Washington Post article, on something I've been ranting about since the days of Dan Quayle. People love telling stories about stupid things politicians say, but the reportage is highly skewed. In short, reporters suffer from confirmation bias. There are too many facts in the world that could possibly fit into an article, so reporters (as the nytimes motto goes) chooses all the facts they deem fit. This choice inevitably means choosing facts that fit their pre-conceived narrative. So when people like Dan Quayle, George W Bush and Sarah Palin say something dumb (like we all do all the time), then that story gets repeated. It doesn't mean there isn't truth in these narratives have no truth to them, just that they distort the magnitude of the difference. There's some nice footage here of Obama talking about campaigning in 57 states, that no one reported on at all. I remember one analysis of the Palin-Biden debate where Biden made more factual errors, but of course Palin was already painted as dumb. And finally, Al Gore has built this image as the Nobel Prize winning genius who invented the Internet, although his GPA in college was worse than Bush, and Gore failed out of two different graduate schools with C's and F's.
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