Sacred Cattle and Bias

 

People Are Questioning Your Sacred Cows? Listen Up

There’s good reason to scrutinize claims like the Roy Moore mall story. It’s certainly not to protect a pedophile.

I’m skeptical about the mall story. No one in the New Yorker story seems to have been directly involved with the alleged mall ban; every source who was willing (even eager) to talk seems to have heard the story from someone else. It seems probable that there was a rumor floating around that Moore was banned from the mall; it seems possible that this rumor was even true. But it’s also possible it’s false. Those of us over a certain age will remember how many compelling, yet false, urban legends we believed before Snopes.com was invented. And who was the source for every one of those legends? That stalwart figure, “a friend of a friend.”

So without better confirmation than “35 years ago, I heard from a guy that Roy Moore got banned from the mall,” I will withhold judgment on whether Moore was actually banned. I tweeted as much after I read the New Yorker story. And was immediately inundated with aggressive accusations of covering up for a child molester and general partisan hackery.

I am not generally identified as a member of Team Trump, much less Team Roy Moore. Indeed, prior to my tweet about the mall story, I’d been saying some fairly astringent things about the people who were attacking Moore’s accusers — or worse, saying “But Democrats covered for Bill Clinton!” I just didn’t happen to think this particular story was very strong.

I also didn’t think it particularly mattered. If Moore did everything he has been credibly accused of, would we be inclined to give him a pass because that supreme judicial authority, the mall of Gadsden, Alabama, never got around to banning him?

But as I attempted to explain why this story looks weak to a lot of journalists (I was not the only one who noticed the thin sourcing), I began to understand why I’d triggered such outrage. Because several people asked me some version of the same question: “Why would you even question this story?” In their minds, it was clear that there could be only one reason: because I was trying to somehow salvage Moore’s candidacy.

I get asked this question a lot these days. Why would you even argue about rape statistics, when we know that rape is a problem? Why would you give even a moment’s consideration to those who theorize that global warming could be moderate rather than catastrophic? Why would you raise questions about that terrible gang rape at UVA?

My interlocutors have a point: We all make choices about which assertions we interrogate, and which we accept on easy faith. And because we are biased, we tend to interrogate most ruthlessly the inconvenient claims that stand in the way of something we’d very much like to believe. When someone casts doubt on a politically charged story, it’s not crazy to infer an ulterior ideological motive (even though in this particular case involving my qualms about that Roy Moore mall story, this inference was dead wrong).

But if we are committed to believing only things that are likely to be true, then how much does the motive of a questioner really matter? I’d argue “not much.” Knowing someone’s political commitments tells you that they are likely to accept evidence for some propositions more easily than for others. But it does not tell you that their analysis is wrong.

To the contrary, partisans with an axe to grind are often the people who see what others don’t. The faked Second Amendment scholarship of Michael Bellesiles, the forgeries that suggested Bush had gone AWOL during Vietnam, the imaginary gang rape at a UVA fraternity — in all cases, the people who raised questions were dismissed as cranks and partisans, and often this was actually true. And yet, they were the ones seeing clearly, while the people questioning their motives were not.

Truth is powerful stuff; it can be bottled up for just so long before it bursts its container and splatters all over the place. And when that happens, the revelation of the lie hurts the credibility of everyone who embraced it — and harms the very cause they thought they were helping.

So instead of labeling folks as partisan and dismissing their questions, we should embrace a tough critique regardless of its source. You have your blind spots, just like they have theirs. By overlaying their world view onto yours, you may be able to get a fuller picture. You’ll get closer to the truth by listening to people who see the world very differently from you, especially the ones who ask questions that make you uncomfortable. If what you believe is true, their objections can only refine your ideas into something stronger. And if what you believe is false — well, it’s better to find out quick.

No, the AHCA Doesn’t Make Rape a Preexisting Condition – Hit & Run : Reason.com

Source: No, the AHCA Doesn’t Make Rape a Preexisting Condition – Hit & Run : Reason.com

Any slander will do in support of Teh Cause.

Update | May 6, 11:30 a.m.: Since I posted this, several other media outlets have investigated the rape-as-preexisting-condition claims and come to similar conclusions as mine. Politifact declared the claim “mostly false,” and The Washington Post—which yesterday morning published an op-ed yesterday perpetuating the rape claim—ran a Fact Checker column today giving it Four Pinnochios. “The notion that AHCA classifies rape or sexual assault as a preexisting condition, or that survivors would be denied coverage, is false,” wrote the Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee. In addition, “almost all states (at least 45 to 48) have their own laws protecting survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.”

Proof the New York Times Stealthily Revises its Articles after Publication | Watts Up With That?

Source: Proof the New York Times Stealthily Revises its Articles after Publication | Watts Up With That?

 

NY Times regularly revises its articles after publication. The revisions are substantial, undisclosed, and are nothing like real time updates in developing stories. These are regular articles that undergo dramatic changes that appear as if NY Times editors received a commissar’s call stressing the party line and demanding the article matches it exactly, with the NY Times editors dutifully obliging.

I recently stumbled on one of such revisions. Within hours, the description of Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed EPA head, in the NY Times article went from being an “ally of fossil fuel Industry,” to a “climate change dissenter,” to a “climate change denialist.” Later, I was pointed to a helpful website newsdiffs.org. Newsdiffs archives multiple versions of news articles and shows the differences between them. That article has been revised or rewritten at least six times after its original publication, all without any notice to the readers.

On the topic of climate debate, the most prominent rewrite seen is the replacement of the term “climate skeptic” with “climate denialist. Also witnessed, is the attempt to do some damage control, like replacing “Obama’s new climate change regulations” that reporters probably heard firsthand from government officials, with “Obama’s new clean air regulations.

Examples, limited to the climate debate

The following article was completely re-written from its original version on January 14-15. Then, on January 18, the sentence, “Obama’s new climate change regulations are driving electric utilities to shut down coal plants,” was rewritten by replacing the term “climate change” with “clean air,” thus becoming: “Obama’s new clean air regulations are driving electric utilities to shut down coal plants”:

http://newsdiffs.org/article-history/www.nytimes.com/2016/01/15/us/politics/in-climate-move-obama-to-halt-new-coal-mining-leases-on-public-lands.html (By CORAL DAVENPORT)

Multiple changes, including changing the word Skeptics to Denialists in the title:

http://newsdiffs.org/diff/1376719/1376823/https%3A/www.nytimes.com/2017/04/12/climate/scott-pruitt-epa-endangerment-finding.html (By CORAL DAVENPORT)

The article was revised 14 times:

http://newsdiffs.org/article-history/www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/us/politics/donald-trump-visit.html

(By MICHAEL D. SHEAR, JULIE HIRSCHFELD, MAGGIE HABERMAN)

Multiple changes, including in the authorship:

http://newsdiffs.org/article-history/www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/science/earth-highest-temperature-record.html (By JUSTIN GILLIS and JOHN SCHWARTZ)

For example, this link shows multiple changes to the body of the article:

http://newsdiffs.org/diff/1337675/1337968/www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/science/earth-highest-temperature-record.html

The title was completely re-written:

http://newsdiffs.org/diff/1335678/1336522/www.nytimes.com/2017/01/15/business/world-economic-forum-davos-shifting-us-stance-on-climate

Another title that was re-written:

http://newsdiffs.org/diff/1309853/1309964/www.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/science/global-warming-daily-mail-breitbart.html (By HENRY FOUNTAIN)

Multiple substantial changes:

http://newsdiffs.org/article-history/www.nytimes.com/2016/10/15/world/africa/kigali-deal-hfc-air-conditioners.html (By CORAL DAVENPORT)

At the time of this writing, some of these articles are different from their last versions innewsdiffs, and at least one seems similar to the initial version in newsdiffs. Probablynewsdiffs monitors the news articles only for short time. Also, NY Times’ website may send different versions of the same article to different readers.

Remember the BBC Scandal in 2008

This brings to mind the well-known BBC scandal, when the BBC changed a published weather-related article to be more climate alarmist after exchanging few emails with Jo Abbess, a climate activist who then gloated about it. (See also JM1 and JM2). One thing that escaped attention: Jo Abbess was active in the local Agenda 21 chapter (Poole Agenda 21) and was connected to other British alarmist organizations. The published email exchange between poor Roger Harrabin and Jo Abbess was just a small part of thepressure and brainwashing campaign that broke the BBC.

Footnotes

Curiously, newsdiffs.org was created with funding from the leftist Knight Foundation largely with the intent to discover content re-writing that’s in favor of conservatives.Newsdiffs.org was covered by the NY Times in 2012. Apparently, NY Times still had some integrity back then. The NY Times has been doing stealthy revising since at least 2015 and seems to increase their frequency and severity after the elections. I will be posting more examples of stealthy content revising and fake news on my site.

Newsdiffs.org monitors only five websites and one cannot easily search in it (I suggest using https://web-beta.archive.org/web/*/newsdiffs.org) but the software is open-sourced and available at https://github.com/ecprice/newsdiffs.