Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Disease of Pathological Impartiality - Cui bono?

Media and journalism needs to re-awaken to the 21st century.

The old ethos of impartiality, always offering at least two opposing sides of view, is dead. It does not work anymore. Not sure it ever really did, but it surely does not work today.

Media has been pathologically impartial, when it comes to reporting facts. It needs to cure itself of this disease.

Impartiality-automaton has been used, abused and twisted by lobbyists, PR agencies, politicians and corporate spokespeople to the extreme. It has almost completely broken news reporting and any resemblance to what might be called 'truth' in all matters of almost any significance.

Professionals know, that in order to instill a doubt in the minds of men, all they need to do is, is to cast a shadow of doubt, even if only a fractional one.

When scientific facts (say with 99.999 probability) and the fractional doubt (with 0.001 probability) are both presented at the same time, only a few tricks of the rhetoric are needed and readers see the situation as undecided (50%/50% probability).

This is a classic formula of PR used now for already decades, but it's prevalence from politics to science is now so pervasive that journalists should start with that as a given.

Journalists should not just report facts and then automatically tack on an opposing view just for the principle. They should also give some sort of weighting to each view (e.g. 99% scientific consensus, and 1% for-paid unscientific loonies).

If they do not report any weightings, they are leaving out important facts and giving into the fallacy of economy with the truth, even if only due to proof by ignorance.

Naturally one should not fall into dichotomic thinking here either. Nobody is asking to only report scientifically valid facts. But when reporting utter nonsense (in scientific terms), it would be newsworthy to report also the fact that the piece in question is in fact, utter nonsense. After this, it is especially important to report this belief and those who believe in it. For added points, one can report 'why' they seem to believe what they believe, in spite of all the facts.

That is all that is required: calling a spade a spade.

When not doing so, journalists are giving into and propagating outright lies and moronic half-truths, because they are either too stupid or too lazy to find out for themselves.

And if the journalists, whose number one rule is to fact-check, cannot be counted on to check the facts, then can we really assume the readers to do so?

Unfortunately, as long as the media does not perform it's 21st century function of reporting the truth to as large extent as possible, the burden of checking does fall upon you, the reader.

So, the next time you read a report where about PO or AGW, check the facts. For yourself. Check the people who propagate them. Check the sources of peer review. Are the genuine? Check if the authors have a vested (economic) interest. Check who benefits if you believe in their agenda. Ask: cui bono?

How does this apply to PO? There is not a single scientific, peer-reviewed and publicly available data/empiricism based argument that stands against peak oil.

Ever wonder why?

Why are all the arguments against PO ad hominem, rhetorical tricks and with very little data as proof and absolutely no scientific peer review?

Ever wonder why big IOCs most vehemently deny peak oil? Do you think it might be in their self interest to do so?

When you ponder these, remember the old Sherlock Holmes motto:
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Not too surprisingly, the overall principle of filtering out the pathological impartiality of the mainstream media applies to Global Warming debate as well: