Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fox, Confirmation Bias, Nobody I Know Voted for Reagan

How Stupid Happens | National Review Online:

The human search for truth is immensely marred by selection and confirmation bias. The people we know are NOT a "random sampling" -- they were selected. Because of the schools went to, places we work, churches we did or did not attend, organizations we are or are not involved in -- PLUS, the fact that we at least get along with them well enough to remember that we know them.

In one of Bernard Goldberg's "Bias" books he talked about a dinner party in NYC of mostly CBS journalists, where "Nobody knew anybody that had voted for Reagan, how could he have won by a landslide"  -- thus showing that journalists are not generally very savvy on statistics, demography and certainly not selection bias.

The column does a good job of covering how statements like: “Fact-Checking Site Finds Fox News Only Tells the Truth 18 Percent of the Time,” “Analysis: Over Half of ALL Statements Made On Fox News Are False,” and “Fox News wins battle for most-false cable network.” happen.
Essentially, it is exactly the same way as "95% of scientists believe in Global Warming" -- first, select your scientists -- in the GW case, those that had published papers on Global Warming, then survey them -- wala! This case, select your "facts", then check them -- naturally with all your biases present at the "check".
In the Fox case, pick stories that you find to be "controversial" (selection bias), then go look at what you believe about the story, and where Fox is "wrong", (from the perspective of you and those that agree with you) they are "lying"!
Then there is plain old bias -- in case you don't get enough examples from this Blog: 

The deeper problem with PunditFact is the bias in how it evaluates statements. Consider two structurally identical questions: In the first, it considered Chris Wallace’s claim that Hillary Clinton had “defended Syria’s President Assad as a possible reformer at the start of that country’s civil war.” 
That statement, the editors decided, was only half-true, because that was “not expressly her opinion.” Rather, she had said that members of Congress of both parties who had visited Syria had suggested that Assad was a possible reformer. (Never mind that Mrs. Clinton’s claim is itself untrue, a three-Pinocchio offender in the Washington Post’s judgment.)
In the second instance, PunditFact considered a claim from Bill O’Reilly, made during an interview with President Barack Obama, that he had not accused the administration of obscuring the motive behind the Benghazi attack for political reasons. O’Reilly had in fact interviewed people who said that, but he himself had not made that claim. 
PunditFact nonetheless rates it “mostly false,” because O’Reilly had, in its view, “nurtured suspicion.” Mr. O’Reilly and Mrs. Clinton were engaged in precisely the same rhetorical strategy: the time-honored Washington dodge of using others to suggest indirectly what you think or suspect yourself, e.g. “it’s a serious charge,” “some have said,” “it has been suggested that,” etc. In both cases, the statement was made on Fox News, but Mrs. Clinton gets a pass (“not expressly her opinion”) while Mr. O’Reilly gets labeled a liar — for precisely the same thing. This is what simple bias looks like.

It's football season. Every week there will be calls seen differently by opposing teams and fans of opposing teams, and THAT assumes unbiased referees. As evidenced by the above, one can make no such assumption when it comes to "fact checking".

In general, very worth the read -- entertaining and generally informative.

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