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what do you think about this? [Jan. 25th, 2005|11:56 pm]
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NPR's All Things Considered: Dr. Drew Westen -- Jan 23, 2004

We've grown accustom to hearing versions of every story--one from the left and one from the right--as if the average of two distortions equals the truth. You've seen this on tv... the journalist provides the skeleton of the story. It's then up to partisans to try to graft flesh onto one side or the other of its clanking bones.

A few weeks ago, for example, I heard a news anchor begin a segment about missing explosives at the Alqaqa munitions dump in Iraq. He described claims that weapons were missing and then handed it over to a democrat and republican to dress the skeleton in red or blue.

In fact, however, the munitions were missing and the subject of the debate that followed--when the munitions were missing--was a question of fact, not interpretation--unless of course democrats and republicans live in different time zones

Unfortunately, this format from the left/from the right capitalizes on a design flaw in the human brain. We believe what we want to believe. We seek information and draw conclusions consistent with what we want to be true

I've been studying this kind of emotional driven political thinking for the past several years and the results are sobering. For example, during the disputed election of 2000, we could predict whether people would feel that manual or machine counts are more accurate just by knowing their feelings toward the two parties and the two candidates

When people draw conclusions about political events, they're not just weighing the facts. Without knowing it, they're also weighing what they would feel if they came to one conclusion or another; and they often come to the conclusion that would make them feel better, no matter what the facts are.

An experiment completed right before the election shows just how powerful these emotional polls can be. Here's what we told the participants: a soldier at Abu Grebe prison was charged with torturing prisoners. He wanted the right to subpoena senior administration officials. He claimed he'd been informed the administration had suspended the Geneva Conventions.

We gave different people different amounts of evidence supporting his claim. For some, the evidence was minimal. For others, it was overwhelming. In fact, the evidence barely mattered. 84% of the time, we could predict whether people believed the evidence was sufficient to subpoena Donald Rumsfeld based on just three things: the extent to which they like republicans, the extent to which they like the U.S. military, and the extent to which they like human rights groups like Amnesty International.

Adding the evidence into the equation allowed us to increase the prediction from 84% to 85%. Our readiness to believe what we want to believe makes it all the more important for journalists to distinguish what's debatable and what's not. The line between facts and observations isn't always easy to draw, but presenting fact as opinion isn't objective reporting. It isn't objective to preface news that's unflattering to once side or the other with "critics claim..." when it doesn't take a critic to claim it.

There's nothing like a healthy debate, but there's nothing as unhealthy as a debate about the undebatable.

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[User Picture]From: thisapologist
2005-01-28 05:50 am (UTC)
i transcribed it in a hurry so i didn't have to continuously listen to the webcast..... any typographical errors were my fault... and, in all likelihood, any grammatical errors were simply mis-hearings.

i agree wholeheartedly with your comment, though. however, i feel like his goal for this broadcast is to break the conventional listener/media sucker away from that........ it just makes people consider whether or not they're considering.... and side on their own.... to some extent.... maybe not every listener, but at least a portion.

he's an ass, but an ass with a good tactic for encouraging "independent thought."
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[User Picture]From: i_hunt_veggies
2005-01-27 03:27 pm (UTC)
yea, i agree with a few things. i do think that we are constantly hearing two sides to stories, usually not getting the "truth" in either. and i also agree with some people finding conlusions based on what they WANT to know, not what they find. i think its misleading that , 84% of the time people's opinions on abu graib could be predicted on their political standpoints. for me, i think he should've been supboened, i also do not like george bush or the majority of his cabinet. so..would it automattically be assumed of me that because i share these two opinions that they are related? for me political opinion and abu graib were seperate issues; i didn't want the people responsible to get in trouble because i didn't like them previously, i wanted them to get in trouble because its a blatent infringements (thats an extreme understatement) on human beings rights. anyway, hope your classes are goin good sara.
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[User Picture]From: thisapologist
2005-01-28 05:55 am (UTC)
the more i read, the more i see this broadcast aimed at (not to be biased or judgmental) people who are still incredibly gullible and very likely to buy into the opinions of authority figures...... something about the things he says, i think, are meant to make you kind of uneasy..... in some way, shape, form or fashion...... he's pushing the envelope and he knows it........ because you'll probably agree with a piece of his broadcast and feel conflicted about other things.... i don't know.... i commented about this in my response to nelly's reply..... but i think he's just forcing people to realize why they consider what they consider "truth" to be "truth."... or something like that... i just wonder how effective he actually is at accomplishing that.

sorry, not the most eloquent reply i've ever written.... :-) ... classes are pretty good, i think.... lyric poetry's my favorite, of course.
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