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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Confirmation Bias

Some lady named Angela Keaton over at the Antiwar.com blog claims that the media in Missouri have identified affiliation with Antiwar.com as an indication of terrorist proclivities:

"Alas, you can’t fool KMOV St. Louis, Channel 4. They know an enemy of the state when they see one; one of the bumper stickers they prominently featured marking an American citizen as some sort of potential terrorist was from... Antiwar.com. Yes, no one is as dangerous to the state as an advocate for peace."

Wow, so station KMOV came out and said that an Antiwar.com bumper sticker marks you as a terrorist? Pretty scary, huh?

Except the scariness is all in Angela's mind. The station did not claim that the Antiwar.com bumper sticker indicated a terrorist threat! They were interviewing a libertarian who said she thought the police might target her because of her bumper sticker. So this lady's paranoid fantasies are now being used as evidence that Antiwar.com is considered a terrorist threat!

And not one commentator at the blog even spotted this. This is eerily reminiscent of the extreme paranoia of many of Ron Paul's supporters last year, where even a slight hesitation in an otherwise favorable article was evidence that the reporter "hated" Paul.

11 comments:

  1. This is eerily reminiscent of the extreme paranoia of many of Ron Paul's supporters last year, where even a slight hesitation in an otherwise favorable article was evidence that the reporter "hated" Paul.

    It is unwise for you to engage in such calumny. The collective may find it necessary to assimilate you if you persist.

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  2. Gene,

    Wow ... I've never seen you get anything as completely wrong as you're getting this one.

    First of all, Ms. Keaton's brief blog entry on the MIAC report was very obviously written in snark/sarcasm mode.

    Secondly, your attribution of "paranoid fantasies" to the woman in the KMOV interview (her name is Tamara Millay) is itself, well, a paranoid fantasy.

    I think the first point becomes evident on any cold re-read of Ms. Keaton's blog post.

    The second point might require more explanation.

    Ms. Millay was the obvious pick for a local interview on the subject -- she's the Libertarian Party's most prominent public face in this area and she was available and located conveniently to the TV station so they could get there and get it done.

    I'm the chair of the St. Louis County Libertarian Party, the author of several distinctly NON-paranoid articles on the MIAC controversy (as well as several articles distinctly critical of the Paul cult's paranoid approach), the person who set up the interview when KMOV came looking for a Libertarian to talk to about MIAC, and the person who helped Ms. Millay prep for the interview.

    Oh, yeah -- I'm her husband, too.

    Tamara discussed the issue intelligently and without any paranoia whatsoever. She didn't go off on any kind of "they're coming to kill us!" tangent. She simply emphasized the possibility that profiling of this sort could have dangerous, not necessarily intended, results.

    The news crew wanted a shot of a car with some stickers on it. Her car was handy. One of the stickers was an AntiWar.Com sticker. No biggie -- we were happy to see AWC get some face time on the tube. I made sure Ms. Keaton heard about it, and she wrote a little celebratory blurb that apparently rubbed you the wrong way.

    Please re-think.

    Regards,
    Tom Knapp

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tom Knapp wrote:

    Gene, Wow ... I've never seen you get anything as completely wrong as you're getting this one.

    You must not be a regular visitor to this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sidney5:42 PM

    Dear Prof Callahan,

    I am happy to report that my grandmother is back on the wagon. No intervention will be necessary, so I will be able to attend your NYU presentation.

    However, given this MIAC report, I am wondering if it is safe to travel to an event where you will be speaking. In all honesty, should I risk it, or should I consider the ticket I bought a "sunk cost", and move on with my life and ignore the radicalism that you have stirred up in me?

    A follower,

    Sidney

    ReplyDelete
  5. "First of all, Ms. Keaton's brief blog entry on the MIAC report was very obviously written in snark/sarcasm mode."

    Hmm, I'd say it was rather obviously NOT satire, as evidenced by the fact that 40 commenters before me all took it seriously! Now, what she WAS being snarky about was that it was so ridiculous for this station to think these bumper stickers indicated a terrorism threat. But, of course, that's my point -- the station DIDN'T say they indicated a terrorism threat.

    Sorry if I insulted your wife, but where's the evidence that the police are targeting people with AWC bumper stickers?

    Oh, and for pointing all of this out, the lovely Ms. Keaton has referred to me as a 'douche' over at her blog.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  7. Gene,

    You write:

    "Hmm, I'd say it was rather obviously NOT satire, as evidenced by the fact that 40 commenters before me all took it seriously!"

    That could be evidence that it's not snark ... or it could be evidence that 41 commenters, including you, have problems recognizing snark in print (not that unusual a problem -- ASCII doesn't have body language, intonation, etc. to convey sarcasm).

    I regard the latter as far more likely. Then again, it could be that the snark wasn't well done and thus isn't obvious to those not close to the situation like, say, me. My general admiration for Ms. Keaton could, of course, further bias me against reaching such a conclusion.

    "Sorry if I insulted your wife, but where's the evidence that the police are targeting people with AWC bumper stickers?"

    I know of no evidence that the police are targeting people with AWC bumper stickers. Neither Tamara nor, to my knowledge, anyone else has made such a claim (obvious snark excluded).

    Bob, I don't visit Crash Landing as often a I probably should, but I do drop in now and again. If you think Gene was hard on the cultish aspect that support for Ron Paul tended to take on last last year, my own blog might stroke you out.

    Regards,
    Tom

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  9. Y'know, the surest sign of a conspiracy is a suspicious lack of evidence that the conspiracy is going on. First, this lady says that she's worried about being targeted. Then, a brief investigation turns up absolutely no evidence to support this concern. Obviously a cover-up. Free your mind, Gene.

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  10. Well, Tom, I agreed she was being snarky -- about the station being so stupid as to associate AWC with terrorism. If you think she was being snarky about something else, well, exactly what do you think that is?

    (By the way, I wrote Keaton herself and asked this question, and she basically just said "I don't have to explain myself to a guy who masturbates over time preference theory like you!"

    In other words, there was no other target of her snark than the station, she realizes she f*ed up, and has chosen to simply become insulting to cover up the fact.)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gene, I love knowing about confirmation bias. It makes it easier for me to take the moral high road while bashing those others who are obviously trapped in their own little world ... while I soar freely with my own waxen wings.

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