web analytics

Beware of Truth Sayers

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, June 2nd, 2019 - 21 comments
Categories: drugs, journalism, Media, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Recently, before Budgetgate, I came across this piece with a promising title: Social media – bringing falsehoods to a screen near you. On the site’s front (landing) page, it was advertised as

“Blurring facts and fantasy video OPINION: Fake news is everywhere – do your research.”

At the top of the article, it even had a video showing the PM with this caption: “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks with Stuff Political Editor Tracy Watkins on foreign aid and fake news.”

I was poised to be pleased reading this. So I thought.

And how disappointed I was.

It starts off promising enough. Apparently, “most of the country’s leading magazines” employ (or contract?) “skilled and experienced reporters to develop their editorial content, and often equally skilled lawyers to ensure the accuracy of the article or feature”. Skilled reporters and equally skilled lawyers, no less. The reason touted is to be “respectful of it’s [sic] readers and advertisers”. It could also be that they don’t like to be sued, but likely it is a bit of both.

The reasoning assumes that the readers of those magazines want to be informed. I reckon most readers want to be confirmed rather than informed and, of course, entertained. Publishers want to sell magazines so they give the readers what they want, of course.

The piece then goes on to lament the lack of the same safeguards in social media.

Getting it right doesn’t seem to matter much any more [sic]. Much of what is published via social media and elsewhere today, is opinion presented as fact.

Worse than that is material which deliberately sets out to mislead, often to support a particular view or agenda.

I couldn’t agree more there. So far, so good.

By and large they are un-checked. Often their material is shared and re-circulated many times over. And people will believe what they say.

My observation of this ever more dangerous news cycle is that it ultimately extends into the traditional press.

And then the real kicker comes.

He had heard a politician speak on talk radio on drug law reform. The female politician had said “that there was no evidence anywhere in the world where legalisation of marijuana for recreational use had impacted road crash statistics”. Clearly, this didn’t confirm the author’s bias and he went online to quickly find ‘facts’ that supported and re-assured his views on this.

And yet, a quick Google search on the impact of legalisation in Colorado, United States, which legalised marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes in 2014, will show that deaths from motor vehicle accidents increased from 488 in 2014 to 648 in 2017 according to the state’s Department of Transportation statistics. An increase of 33 per cent in three years. Is there any other explanation?

The sad fact is that the more often people get away with publishing inaccurate information, the more it will happen. Ultimately the falsehoods will make it to the traditional press. [my bold]

I also went online and did a quick Google search, as you do when somebody challenges your bias. The top-ranked article I found was Traffic deaths rose, then fell, after three states legalized marijuana – But that’s not the entire story. Things obviously are not as clear-cut as one would like to think or believe. The irony is palpable.

The point is not whether legalising marijuana caused a spike in traffic deaths in Colorado. Nor is it whether this could or would happen here in New Zealand if drug laws were to be reformed and liberalised. The point is that with so much inaccurate information around, so muck fake shit spouted by people with hidden agendas, the best approach is not to search for the first confirmation of your own beliefs and then stop. The point is to engage your brain, tackle your own inevitable bias, and challenge your own beliefs.

We can’t all have a considered opinion on all things that is based on proper research, validated evidence, and sound critical thinking. I think it is perfectly ok to say that you don’t know, that you’re not sure – let your inner Socrates (or Rumsfeld) speak. It beats by far stating an unsubstantiated opinion and claiming it as the truth.

21 comments on “Beware of Truth Sayers ”

  1. JanM 1

    Lazy non sequitor argument by a B- brain. Tracy Watkins is another piece of flotsam we would be better off without.

  2. vto 2

    So if I claim that National Party voters hate beneficiaries is that opinion or fact?

    Maybe it depends if those getting the old age benefit are included

    • JanM 2.1

      It's opnion of course. Where's your evidence? And, by the way, all statement of opinion should be preceeded by "I think that …."

  3. vto 3

    But seriously.. we were discussing last night how it's impossible to have decent conversations today because of exactly this…

    Some ignoramus will wail "naaaaa" and that will be it.

    Is there a solution?

    • higherstandard 3.1

    • Bewildered 3.2

      Yes, take the lefts perception of morale high ground, class and intersectional politics out of hard lefts argument , view every policy on its objective merits Presently you can’t debate hard left as every argument begins with, do you agree with me, answer, no, then you are scum, neoliberal facist ;sexist, racist, this then ends any debate on the facts at hand Example the lovely first comment of the day by Jan

      • JanM 3.2.1

        My comment was about the laziness of the non sequitor argument which at times is used by both right and left. Marijuana is made legal; there are more road deaths. Therefore making marijuana legal caused more road deaths. A classic! There is no reliable evidence to show that one follows the other. All other possible factors are ignored to prop up an opinion which may be completely false.

  4. Andre 4

    An oldie but goodie from Fivethirtyeight on good and lousy science and the reporting on it. It's longish but worth reading all the way through.

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-isnt-broken/#part1

  5. Jenny - How to Get there? 5

    The point is that with so much inaccurate information around, so muck fake shit spouted by people with hidden agendas, the best approach is not to search for the first confirmation of your own beliefs and then stop. The point is to engage your brain, tackle your own inevitable bias, and challenge your own beliefs…..

    Another way is to actually have your own experience on the ground and to be in touch with the people and events and the facts that are actually being reported on.

    • Rosemary McDonald 5.1

      Another way is to actually have your own experience on the ground and to be in touch with the people and events and the facts that are actually being reported on.

      Thank you, Jenny-How to Get there?

    • Incognito 5.2

      Another way is to actually have your own experience on the ground and to be in touch with the people and events and the facts that are actually being reported on.

      Yes, that’s a start, almost …

      Your experience will be coloured by knowledge and lack thereof and by your own beliefs. How do you deal with that?

      What do you mean by “be in touch”? Social media? Do you trust those people and, if so, why?

      How do you verify “facts”? Google or Wikipedia?

      How do you form your opinion on stuff that happens at the other side of the world and which you know nothing about?

      How do you form your opinion when something is really very complex? Do you use Occam’s Razor?

      How do you present your opinion? Do you qualify it?

      Many people use heuristics such as common sense, but these have limitations, as you know.

      • greywarshark 5.2.1

        As far as trustworthiness is concerned, if you are 'in touch' with the same people often and they regularly verify their statements with personal or other anecdotes, and you have formed an opinion as to whether they pass on reliable info, and the same with semi or full scientific opinion, and you have read or heard much from them, then you can trust them to form good opinions, with the knowledge that on certain topics their judgment is biased.

        No-one is right all the time, often people are right but about something not the point of the argument, some people have a personal or religious filter that is like a flash card in their mind, then you aren't ever going to get a truly reasoned opinion as it's right, wrong, or we could save you if you come to us.

    • Sacha 5.3

      have your own experience on the ground and to be in touch with the people and events and the facts that are actually being reported on

      That helps you know what happened (in a limited number of places) but not really why.

      • Poission 5.3.1

        The incompleteness of a proof ( Kleene 1952)

        . . . we can imagine an omniscient number-theorist. We should expect that this ability to see infinitely many facts at once would enable him to recognize as correct some principle of deduction which we could not discover ourselves. But any correct formal system which he could reveal to us, telling us how it works, without telling us why, would still be incomplete.

        • Incognito 5.3.1.1

          To explain the phenomena in the world of our experience, to answer the question "Why?" rather than only the question "What?", is one of the foremost objectives of all rational inquiry; and especially scientific research, in its various branches strives to go beyond a mere description of its subject matter by providing an explanation of the phenomena it investigates. (Hempel and Oppenheim 1948: p8) [my bolds]

          https://www.iep.utm.edu/explanat/

  6. Chris T 6

    Maybe I am getting old, but I have never understood why people would even get their news from social media sites.

    They are being feed it by their friends and the media site themselves political leanings perspective.

    It is natural people tend to be drawn to people and groups that agree with their point of you.

    Go to the source of the news, not who picks what you need to see.

    Mind you if you are a yank and have places like Fox and CNN, I understand this might not actually help when it comes to biases

  7. SHG 7

    I think the OP misses the point. It's not that material on social media is often opinion presented as fact; it's that the material is literally UNTRUE because the untrue version is more profitable than the true version.

    • Incognito 7.1

      Not sure I missed the point or a point, but point taken. You have made the same excellent point under an earlier post of mine and I refer anyone to it there: https://thestandard.org.nz/hate-speech-is-an-evitable-evil/#comment-1619332

      The post was not so much about why weak information and opinion masquerade as fact or factual on and in (social) media) but more about how we, as recipients and consumers (and products) of these media, deal with and respond to it.

  8. Is there any other explanation?

    Wow! Using correlation=causation to support your confirmation bias. Those really are mad skills those "skilled and experienced reporters" employ to ensure that their editorial features are accurate.

    This explains a great deal about Tracy Watkins political reporting, so thanks for drawing our attention to it.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    8 hours ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    12 hours ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    15 hours ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    16 hours ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Better care for babies with tongue-tie
    Babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. Around 5% to 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, in New Zealand each year. At least half can ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison over
    The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is over, with all remaining prisoners now safely and securely detained, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. The majority of those involved in the event are members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five of the men are deportees from Australia, with three subject to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers from the UK and the US from 15 January
    Travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today. “The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago