Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

July 24, 2007

Misrepresentation of Factions via the Long-Tail

Filed under: culture, media, politics — codesmithy @ 8:55 am

I found this video on YouTube interesting, because it shows Bill O’Reilly doing a typical talk-show trick. He cherry-picks beliefs held by a minority to misrepresent the views of a much broader group of people, and gets called on it.  Groups don’t tend to be exact homogeneous sets, there is a great continuum of belief that can be expected to follow a bell curve if the population is large enough.  There is no global bell curve of belief, but we can split up “believers,” and we expect that the distribution pattern will follow the bell curve distribution, such as those who favor impeachment and how strongly, and from those that feel strongly that 9/11 was a conspiracy, plotted by those in the U.S. government, to those in the future who will deny that it ever happened.

Note, that Bill never actually debates any of the points, he merely dismisses them as absurd and with incredulity.  The video starts off with a clip of Lynn Samuels attacking some policy. Although, there is insufficient context to really determine exactly what, specifically, she is complaining about. I imagine it is a claim that the Bush Administration decided to raise the terror alert level, and did so for political motivations in response to some supposed hair brained terrorist scheme. Which begs the question, how many coincidences are needed before a connection is considered?

Ellis Henican points out that there are cranks on both sides on the political spectrum. Bill challenges Ellis to provide one example. Ellis suggests Michael Savage and Bill has no choice but to agree. Although, Bill’s argument gets confusing after that point. He claims Lynn is harmful, because some of her ideas make it onto blogs? Although, his reassurance that Michael Savage didn’t say anything irresponsible over the incident didn’t fill me with confidence (“we did transcript checks over everybody”).

Ellis’s point is the weight of an idea should be considered in proportion to the number of people that believe it, or the number of people that it would reach. According to Bill, no one listens to Lynn Samuels anyways, so why bother to bring it up?

Bill fumbles because he can’t admit as a fair and balanced commentator, that he is trying to  misrepresent views of the side he doesn’t agree with. Cherry-picking the extreme views of the cranks and try to attribute them to the whole. Outrage over statements would be more justifiable if it were the New York Times that made the claim, not Lynn Samuels. And as such, Bill O’Reilly needs to be held to a higher standard than Lynn Samuels as well. Invariably, if Bill O’Reilly gets it wrong, it is more difficult to undo the damage.  I don’t know how many people now believe U.S. soldiers killed S.S. soldiers at Malmedy, but it is too many, because it is a mistake that should have been corrected the first time he made it, and only adds salt to the wound with his half-hearted correction, admitting no fault.


1 Comment »

  1. […] Simply put, to have true debate, one needs to move away from the cesspool of O’Reilly and television to a medium where complex thoughts can be adequately explained.  I believe the best hope for that medium is the Internet; which it should be of no surprise that it is under attack the existing media pillars. […]

    Pingback by Noam Chomsky: Concision « Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind — August 3, 2007 @ 6:57 am

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