Saturday, July 07, 2007

Loudest Voice Often Becomes Majority Opinion

An article about human psychology can tell us something about how political opinion and media work in the U.S.

The study, carried out by Kimberlee Weaver and colleagues, found we can tell that three different people expressing the same opinion better represents the group than one person expressing the same opinion three times - but not by much.

In fact, if one person in a group repeats the same opinion three times, it has 90% of the effect of three different people in that group expressing the same opinion. When you think about it, that is strange. Indeed, I'm not sure I'd even believe it if I hadn't already read many other psychology studies that point to the illogical and unreasonable ways our minds sometimes work.

It is why often even when "the media" is correct it doesn't matter. A newspaper can print the fact that Saddam Hussein was not involved with 9/11, and maybe one hundred thousand people read it. Then the President, the Vice President, Faux News, Rush Limbaugh et al continue repeatedly to say that Saddam and Osama are all the same. That is why 41% of Americans still believe Saddam was involved in 9/11.

We scream at the media that they aren't doing their job. They point to the article or report they wrote stating the true facts and nobody leaves satisfied. A person whispering in a movie theater playing a Bruckheimer flick that the movie is full of plot holes is not going to convince as many people as the loud mouths hooping and hollering about how "bitchin'" was the action.

We have no fairness doctrine. We should have a truth doctrine. The media need to be better educators. When a basic fact such as WMDs or Saddam's involvement in 9/11 is twisted into fantasyland, and polls reveal that people are uninformed, it simply is not enough to point to reporting from three months ago that refutes the lies.

Scream louder. Be a truth teller

Update:One example of the problem is balance. 99.9999% of scientists state that smoking is bad for yout health. However, Dr. X of The Smokers of America disputes these findings kind of journalism is not balanced. It's misleading to give equal treatment. He said/she said reporting is one of the reasons why the truth becomes easier to muddle.

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." --George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005