Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Amazon writes the news

The third filter in Chomsky and Herman's Propaganda Model of the Media is the idea that the media relies on a limited range of sources. In most cases, the sources in question are the very subjects that we would hope the media would do independent reporting on such as the government and large corporations. The outcome of this practice is that these sources then get to shape how they are covered in the media and can control the narrative around themselves.

One major way that these companies do this is by delivering content directly to TV stations with the expectation that the TV station will use the provided video and script to create a segment for their program. A perfect example of this is described in a recent article on The Verge about Amazon using this practice.  

The article includes a screenshot of the script Amazon sent out:


As well as a video of 11 different news stations reading from that script:

Together, these demonstrate that this practice, described and criticized by Chomsky and Herman, is alive and well in the age of COVID-19.

h/t to the AV Club

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What's wrong with this picture

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgia Department of Public Health released the following chart:

They key thing to note are the dates along the bottom.

h/t to Tom Sullivan at Digby's Hullabaloo

Monday, April 13, 2020

I knew Subway was bad for our health...

A student sent me the following infographic which is an excellent illustration of our tendency to confuse correlation with causation:

The image displays a  meme that compares 5G coverage with the hot spots for COVID-19 implying that one caused the other. It then shows a variety of other maps with similar distributions. This illustrates how we often mistake correlation for causation.

Monday, April 6, 2020

John Oliver takes on Psychics

The following video from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is an excellent discussion of tricks and techniques employed by psychics, particularly the techniques known as hot and cold reading.

Another excellent discussion can be found in Season 6, Episode 11 of South Park, "The Biggest Douche in the Universe."

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Access trumps the truth

This link to an article in Vox gives a very nice illustration of how large media companies will bury or hide stories in order to gain access to subjects for interviews. In this case, ABC news buried an interview with one of Jeffrey Epstein's victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, because they were concerned that he accusations against Prince Andrew would interfere with ABC News' efforts to interview other members of the English royal family. In effect, they buried an important news story in order to maintain access and the ability to interview people who might have been implicated by that story.

This story in Salon amplifies this point and makes its relevance to Chomsky and Hermann explicit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Of course the world's greatest detective knows his fallacies

Here is a nice example of a Hasty Generalization. I don't really need to explain it since the great Adam West as Batman makes the fallacy explicit.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

It's natural so it must be good!

The Appeal to Nature is a fallacy in which someone argues that because something is "natural" it must be good. In addition to the obvious point that there are many natural things that are bad (uranium is natural, but don't eat it!), this fallacy often involves a very confused account of what is "natural." The following ad from Nature Valley granola bars gives a very good illustration of how marketers employ this fallacy to sell products to the public:

In this video we see a clear criticism of technology as unnatural, in contrast with all the "natural" activities the young girl engages in. This is an excellent illustration of the appeal to nature in action.