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?

    • 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.

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     A Maori Party post on Instagram invited party followers to ….  Tangata Whenua, Tangata Tiriti, Join the REVOLUTION! & make a stand!  Nationwide Action Day, All details in tiles swipe to see locations.  • This is our 1st hit out and tomorrow Tuesday the 5th is the opening ...
    Point of OrderBy poonzteam5443
    6 days ago
  • Top 10 for Tuesday, December 4
    The RBNZ governor is citing high net migration and profit-led inflation as factors in the bank’s hawkish stance. Photo: Lynn GrievesonTL;DR: Here’s my pick of the top 10 news and analysis links elsewhere on the morning of Tuesday, December 5, including:Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr says high net migration and ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • Nicola Willis' 'show me the money' moment
    Willis has accused labour of “economic vandalism’, while Robertson described her comments as a “desperate diversion from somebody who can't make their tax package add up”. There will now be an intense focus on December 20 to see whether her hyperbole is backed up by true surprises. Photo montage: Lynn ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • CRL costs money but also provides huge benefits
    The City Rail Link has been in the headlines a bit recently so I thought I’d look at some of them. First up, yesterday the NZ Herald ran this piece about the ongoing costs of the CRL. Auckland ratepayers will be saddled with an estimated bill of $220 million each ...
    6 days ago
  • And I don't want the world to see us.
    Is this the most shambolic government in the history of New Zealand? Given that parliament hasn’t even opened they’ve managed quite a list of achievements to date.The Smokefree debacle trading lives for tax cuts, the Trumpian claims of bribery in the Media, an International award for indifference, and today the ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    6 days ago
  • Cooking the books
    Finance Minister Nicola Willis late yesterday stopped only slightly short of accusing her predecessor Grant Robertson of cooking the books. She complained that the Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU), due to be made public on December 20, would show “fiscal cliffs” that would amount to “billions of ...
    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    6 days ago
  • Most people don’t realize how much progress we’ve made on climate change
    This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections The year was 2015. ‘Uptown Funk’ with Bruno Mars was at the top of the music charts. Jurassic World was the most popular new movie in theaters. And decades of futility in international climate negotiations was about to come to an end in ...
    7 days ago
  • Of Parliamentary Oaths and Clive Boonham
    As a heads-up, I am not one of those people who stay awake at night thinking about weird Culture War nonsense. At least so far as the current Maori/Constitutional arrangements go. In fact, I actually consider it the least important issue facing the day to day lives of New ...
    7 days ago
  • Bearing True Allegiance?
    Strong Words: “We do not consent, we do not surrender, we do not cede, we do not submit; we, the indigenous, are rising. We do not buy into the colonial fictions this House is built upon. Te Pāti Māori pledges allegiance to our mokopuna, our whenua, and Te Tiriti o ...
    7 days ago
  • You cannot be serious
    Some days it feels like the only thing to say is: Seriously? No, really. Seriously?OneSomeone has used their health department access to share data about vaccinations and patients, and inform the world that New Zealanders have been dying in their hundreds of thousands from the evil vaccine. This of course is pure ...
    More Than A FeildingBy David Slack
    7 days ago
  • A promise kept: govt pulls the plug on Lake Onslow scheme – but this saving of $16bn is denounced...
    Buzz from the Beehive After $21.8 million was spent on investigations, the plug has been pulled on the Lake Onslow pumped-hydro electricity scheme, The scheme –  that technically could have solved New Zealand’s looming energy shortage, according to its champions – was a key part of the defeated Labour government’s ...
    Point of OrderBy Bob Edlin
    7 days ago
  • CHRIS TROTTER: The Maori Party and Oath of Allegiance
    If those elected to the Māori Seats refuse to take them, then what possible reason could the country have for retaining them?   Chris Trotter writes – Christmas is fast approaching, which, as it does every year, means gearing up for an abstruse general knowledge question. “Who was ...
    Point of OrderBy Bob Edlin
    7 days ago
  • BRIAN EASTON:  Forward to 2017
    The coalition party agreements are mainly about returning to 2017 when National lost power. They show commonalities but also some serious divergencies. Brian Easton writes The two coalition agreements – one National and ACT, the other National and New Zealand First – are more than policy documents. ...
    Point of OrderBy poonzteam5443
    7 days ago
  • Climate Change: Fossils
    When the new government promised to allow new offshore oil and gas exploration, they were warned that there would be international criticism and reputational damage. Naturally, they arrogantly denied any possibility that that would happen. And then they finally turned up at COP, to criticism from Palau, and a "fossil ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • GEOFFREY MILLER:  NZ’s foreign policy resets on AUKUS, Gaza and Ukraine
    Geoffrey Miller writes – New Zealand’s international relations are under new management. And Winston Peters, the new foreign minister, is already setting a change agenda. As expected, this includes a more pro-US positioning when it comes to the Pacific – where Peters will be picking up where he ...
    Point of OrderBy poonzteam5443
    1 week ago
  • Gordon Campbell on the government’s smokefree laws debacle
    The most charitable explanation for National’s behaviour over the smokefree legislation is that they have dutifully fulfilled the wishes of the Big Tobacco lobby and then cast around – incompetently, as it turns out – for excuses that might sell this health policy U-turn to the public. The less charitable ...
    1 week ago
  • Top 10 links at 10 am for Monday, December 4
    As Deb Te Kawa writes in an op-ed, the new Government seems to have immediately bought itself fights with just about everyone. Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The KākāTL;DR: Here’s my pick of the top 10 news and analysis links elsewhere as of 10 am on Monday December 4, including:Palau’s President ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    1 week ago
  • Be Honest.
    Let’s begin today by thinking about job interviews.During my career in Software Development I must have interviewed hundreds of people, hired at least a hundred, but few stick in the memory.I remember one guy who was so laid back he was practically horizontal, leaning back in his chair until his ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    1 week ago
  • Geoffrey Miller: New Zealand’s foreign policy resets on AUKUS, Gaza and Ukraine
    New Zealand’s international relations are under new management. And Winston Peters, the new foreign minister, is already setting a change agenda. As expected, this includes a more pro-US positioning when it comes to the Pacific – where Peters will be picking up where he left off. Peters sought to align ...
    Democracy ProjectBy Geoffrey Miller
    1 week ago
  • Auckland rail tunnel the world’s most expensive
    Auckland’s city rail link is the most expensive rail project in the world per km, and the CRL boss has described the cost of infrastructure construction in Aotearoa as a crisis. Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The KākāTL;DR: The 3.5 km City Rail Link (CRL) tunnel under Auckland’s CBD has cost ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    1 week ago
  • First big test coming
    The first big test of the new Government’s approach to Treaty matters is likely to be seen in the return of the Resource Management Act. RMA Minister Chris Bishop has confirmed that he intends to introduce legislation to repeal Labour’s recently passed Natural and Built Environments Act and its ...
    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    1 week ago
  • The Song of Saqua: Volume III
    Time to revisit something I haven’t covered in a while: the D&D campaign, with Saqua the aquatic half-vampire. Last seen in July: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2023/07/27/the-song-of-saqua-volume-ii/ The delay is understandable, once one realises that the interim saw our DM come down with a life-threatening medical situation. They have since survived to make ...
    1 week ago
  • Chris Bishop: Smokin’
    Yes. Correct. It was an election result. And now we are the elected government. ...
    My ThinksBy boonman
    1 week ago

  • Ministers visit Hawke’s Bay to grasp recovery needs
    Prime Minister Christopher Luxon joined Cyclone Recovery Minister Mark Mitchell and Transport and Local Government Minister Simeon Brown, to meet leaders of cyclone and flood-affected regions in the Hawke’s Bay. The visit reinforced the coalition Government’s commitment to support the region and better understand its ongoing requirements, Mr Mitchell says.  ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New Zealand condemns malicious cyber activity
    New Zealand has joined the UK and other partners in condemning malicious cyber activity conducted by the Russian Government, Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau Judith Collins says. The statement follows the UK’s attribution today of malicious cyber activity impacting its domestic democratic institutions and processes, as well ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Disestablishment of Te Pūkenga begins
    The Government has begun the process of disestablishing Te Pūkenga as part of its 100-day plan, Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills Penny Simmonds says.  “I have started putting that plan into action and have met with the chair and chief Executive of Te Pūkenga to advise them of my ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Climate Change Minister to attend COP28 in Dubai
    Climate Change Minister Simon Watts will be leaving for Dubai today to attend COP28, the 28th annual UN climate summit, this week. Simon Watts says he will push for accelerated action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, deliver New Zealand’s national statement and connect with partner countries, private sector leaders ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New Zealand to host 2024 Pacific defence meeting
    Defence Minister Judith Collins yesterday announced New Zealand will host next year’s South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM). “Having just returned from this year’s meeting in Nouméa, I witnessed first-hand the value of meeting with my Pacific counterparts to discuss regional security and defence matters. I welcome the opportunity to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Study shows need to remove distractions in class
    The Government is committed to lifting school achievement in the basics and that starts with removing distractions so young people can focus on their learning, Education Minister Erica Stanford says.   The 2022 PISA results released this week found that Kiwi kids ranked 5th in the world for being distracted ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Minister sets expectations of Commissioner
    Today I met with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster to set out my expectations, which he has agreed to, says Police Minister Mark Mitchell. Under section 16(1) of the Policing Act 2008, the Minister can expect the Police Commissioner to deliver on the Government’s direction and priorities, as now outlined in ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New Zealand needs a strong and stable ETS
    New Zealand needs a strong and stable Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that is well placed for the future, after emission units failed to sell for the fourth and final auction of the year, Climate Change Minister Simon Watts says.  At today’s auction, 15 million New Zealand units (NZUs) – each ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • PISA results show urgent need to teach the basics
    With 2022 PISA results showing a decline in achievement, Education Minister Erica Stanford is confident that the Coalition Government’s 100-day plan for education will improve outcomes for Kiwi kids.  The 2022 PISA results show a significant decline in the performance of 15-year-old students in maths compared to 2018 and confirms ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Collins leaves for Pacific defence meeting
    Defence Minister Judith Collins today departed for New Caledonia to attend the 8th annual South Pacific Defence Ministers’ meeting (SPDMM). “This meeting is an excellent opportunity to meet face-to-face with my Pacific counterparts to discuss regional security matters and to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the Pacific,” Judith Collins says. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Working for Families gets cost of living boost
    Putting more money in the pockets of hard-working families is a priority of this Coalition Government, starting with an increase to Working for Families, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says. “We are starting our 100-day plan with a laser focus on bringing down the cost of living, because that is what ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Post-Cabinet press conference
    Most weeks, following Cabinet, the Prime Minister holds a press conference for members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. This page contains the transcripts from those press conferences, which are supplied by Hansard to the Office of the Prime Minister. It is important to note that the transcripts have not been edited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme scrapped
    The Government has axed the $16 billion Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme championed by the previous government, Energy Minister Simeon Brown says. “This hugely wasteful project was pouring money down the drain at a time when we need to be reining in spending and focussing on rebuilding the economy and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • NZ welcomes further pause in fighting in Gaza
    New Zealand welcomes the further one-day extension of the pause in fighting, which will allow the delivery of more urgently-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza and the release of more hostages, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said. “The human cost of the conflict is horrific, and New Zealand wants to see the violence ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Condolences on passing of Henry Kissinger
    Foreign Minister Winston Peters today expressed on behalf of the New Zealand Government his condolences to the family of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who has passed away at the age of 100 at his home in Connecticut. “While opinions on his legacy are varied, Secretary Kissinger was ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Backing our kids to learn the basics
    Every child deserves a world-leading education, and the Coalition Government is making that a priority as part of its 100-day plan. Education Minister Erica Stanford says that will start with banning cellphone use at school and ensuring all primary students spend one hour on reading, writing, and maths each day. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • US Business Summit Speech – Regional stability through trade
    I would like to begin by echoing the Prime Minister’s thanks to the organisers of this Summit, Fran O’Sullivan and the Auckland Business Chamber.  I want to also acknowledge the many leading exporters, sector representatives, diplomats, and other leaders we have joining us in the room. In particular, I would like ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Keynote Address to the United States Business Summit, Auckland
    Good morning. Thank you, Rosemary, for your warm introduction, and to Fran and Simon for this opportunity to make some brief comments about New Zealand’s relationship with the United States.  This is also a chance to acknowledge my colleague, Minister for Trade Todd McClay, Ambassador Tom Udall, Secretary of Foreign ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • India New Zealand Business Council Speech, India as a Strategic Priority
    Good morning, tēnā koutou and namaskar. Many thanks, Michael, for your warm welcome. I would like to acknowledge the work of the India New Zealand Business Council in facilitating today’s event and for the Council’s broader work in supporting a coordinated approach for lifting New Zealand-India relations. I want to also ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Coalition Government unveils 100-day plan
    Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has laid out the Coalition Government’s plan for its first 100 days from today. “The last few years have been incredibly tough for so many New Zealanders. People have put their trust in National, ACT and NZ First to steer them towards a better, more prosperous ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand welcomes European Parliament vote on the NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement
    A significant milestone in ratifying the NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was reached last night, with 524 of the 705 member European Parliament voting in favour to approve the agreement. “I’m delighted to hear of the successful vote to approve the NZ-EU FTA in the European Parliament overnight. This is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago

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