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Science

Studies Say Ideology Trumps Facts 784

Posted by samzenpus
from the water-still-wet dept.
Anti-Globalism writes "We like to think that people will be well informed before making important decisions, such as who to vote for, but the truth is that's not always the case. Being uninformed is one thing, but having a population that's actively misinformed presents problems when it comes to participating in the national debate, or the democratic process. If the findings of some political scientists are right, attempting to correct misinformation might do nothing more than reinforce the false belief."
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Studies Say Ideology Trumps Facts

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  • Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Psychotria (953670) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:01AM (#25147917)
    I guess that nothing supports false-facts better than trying to debunk them. It's all a conspiracy after all.
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Funny)

      by RuBLed (995686) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:20AM (#25148047)
      No it's not.
    • Not even conspiracy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:44AM (#25148179) Journal

      Actually, my best bet would be on "cognitive dissonance" rather than "conspiracy theory."

      The best way to illustrate cognitive dissonance is via the classic experiment: you assign someone (e.g., a student) a Homer Simpson-esque job that's boring him to tears. Then you one day say he can stop doing it, you have something better to do with him. But you ask him if he can find a replacement for that previous crap job. You even offer a dollar if he does. So he'll go try to convince someone else that it's a great job to take. The fun thing is, after a while he'll have convinced himself too that it's a great job.

      Apparently, having to reconcile between "I'm a nice and honest guy" and "I just lied to a bunch of people for a lousy dollar", he'll alter the latter to, basically, "yeah, well, it wasn't really a lie." Just to keep his mental model consistent.

      It seems to be a function of at least the mammalian brain. When you have two contradictory ideas in your model, one has to give. With humans, though, if one idea is too important to let go, something else has to give.

      Even more fun is that the strength of the effect is inversely proportional to how sustainable or justifiable that action is. If you offer him a lot more money, he has the escape of, basically, "yeah, well, I needed the money. So I have my price too. Bite me." If it's a precondition to getting out of that crap job, same thing, he has an excuse. But when there's no excuse he can wrap his mind around, he'll alter the truth so he doesn't need an excuse.

      A similar fun effect is with kids. Apparently when they really want something or to do something, as silly deterrent like "mommy will pout" is often actually more effective than a harsh punishment, if applied consistently. When there is no real justification for "why didn't I do that, if I wanted to anyway?" something else has to give, and it becomes, "I didn't really want that in the first place." Fun stuff.

      I find that the same applies to politics, religion, fanboys, or, for that matter, everything else. The least justifiable a position is, the more people will warp reality to keep it. And the more rabidly they'll defend that redefinition of reality, lest their whole mental model comes crashing down around their ears.

      And, yes, applying more force just creates more resistance.

      And for a last bit of fun, there's no defender more stalwart of a piece of bullshit, than someone whose model already broke down once and was patched to that bullshit. If they're going to have to admit "I was wrong and doing wrong" anyway, they'll run with that to the hilt, and make an even more warped model in the other direction. So funnily enough, there is no more rabid, say, XBox fanboy, than one who was a PS2 fanboy and felt betrayed by Sony and had to let their whole "Sony for ever!!!" model crash. And viceversa. There is no bible-thumper for puritan morals more rabid than someone who was a prostitute until last week. And viceversa: nobody does a good christian-baiting trolling like someone who still went to church last month. There is no Republican more rabid about every single aspect of that ideology, than someone who was a Democrat until they felt somehow betrayed. And viceversa.

      But now they won't just change about the aspect where they thought they were cheated, they'll go for the whole list, from military spending to abortion stance to gay marriage to everything else. Now Party X is right in everything, and Party Y is wrong about everything, because I don't like Party Y any more. And I must enlighten the masses about how wrong and evil Party Y is!

      And the least justifiable that position is (e.g., don't be silly, Sony didn't "betray" anyone and didn't owe you anything in the first place), the more immovable it will be. As I was saying, fun stuff.

      • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:19AM (#25148375)

        I suspect what you meant to say is that your money is on self-delusional behaviors, such as religion, groupthink, dogmatism, fanaticism, etc. Cognitive dissonance is what then happens when reality comes knocking at the door of this fantasy world. Unfortunately, all too often the doorbell goes unanswered or ignored. That's pretty much to what these studies refer: people choosing to maintain a self-delusion rather than answer the door and be faced with uncertainties.

        • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:28AM (#25148421) Journal

          Cognitive dissonance is just what happens when you have two conflicting ideas, and basically have to choose one. It happens just as well when reality came and rang the door bell, but it's the same mechanism that was at work when that delusion rang the bell and you let it in. You have two options and you can't have both. You choose one. Whether it was the right one or you sank deeper into delusional behaviour, is rather irrelevant for the mechanism at work. Choosing the wrong one is nevertheless just the same mechanism at work.

          Basically I don't disagree with you when you call those behaviours names, or anything. I'm just saying that the term "cognitive dissonance" is used to mean a very specific mechanism, and how, yes, such self-delusional behaviours come to be.

          The dissonance itself is just the fact that (temporarily) two pieces of your mental model are at odds with each other. You have to solve that somehow, because your brain is wired to need one consistent model and try to solve such conflicts. But, at any rate, that's the dissonance: propositions X and Y can't both be true. How you solve that, is already one step further. You can go with the truth, or manufacture a lie, but the dissonance was just the same.

          • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:46AM (#25148523)

            Yep, 'tis true enough. FWIW I perceive far too many people making these decisions based on emotional or social needs rather than the "facts in evidence". That's where the delusion starts for many people, because then they want to pretend that wasn't what they did. They imagine they're rational and open-minded when they're exactly the opposite. Of course they're doing THAT for emotional reasons - preservation of ego - as well. And they slide further down the slope.

            Political parties and their social influences and "platforms" actually harm rational debate rather than help it. People buy into party groupthink and become polarized and dogmatic. Forget having multiple parties and campaign finance reforms... if we really wanna fix what ails our political system, we'd abolish the "party system" and institute electoral lotteries to shut out the the Good Old Boys (and yes, that includes Obama).

            • by jank1887 (815982) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @07:29AM (#25149581)

              Can everyone please stop saying 'they' and start saying 'we'?

              Or are we playing to the self-delusion that everyone except us is broken?

              • by genner (694963) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:03AM (#25149897)

                Can everyone please stop saying 'they' and start saying 'we'?

                Or are we playing to the self-delusion that everyone except us is broken?

                No I'm fine it's just you and to a lesser extent them,

              • by electrictroy (912290) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:10AM (#25149995)

                Yes WE have all been guilty of not listening. But that's okay! We can use that to our advantage. Oftentimes, when you debate with someone, the goal is not to convince that person. The goal is to convince the other people listening to the debate. For example:

                "I think the government should provide a free car to everyone, since it's a necessity to life in America."

                "Okay. Would you consider it okay to break-into your neighbors' homes, remove $20,000 from their wallets, and use that money to buy yourself a new car?"

                "No of course not. That's stealing."

                "Then why do you think it's okay for the government to steal the $20,000 via paycheck taxes?"

                "Um... er... because everybody needs a car! It's a basic right!" ----- In this hypothetical debate, I obviously did not change this democratic-socialist's mind. Due to cognitive dissonance he simply chose to not hear what I was saying to him. However I still achieved my goal: I convinced some of the audience that the idea is immoral (because theft is theft, whether it's done directly by a thief, or through the government acting as the thief's agent).

                • by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @09:54AM (#25151621)

                  You have a problem in your argument... Taking money through taxes is not stealing. You might not like it, and you may not agree with it, but it isn't illegal.

                  Also, taxes aren't a bad thing. They pay for all sorts of things like roads, emergency services, weather radars and a bunch of other things that you don't think are important - until you don't have them.

                • by servognome (738846) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:31AM (#25153097)

                  In this hypothetical debate, I obviously did not change this democratic-socialist's mind. Due to cognitive dissonance he simply chose to not hear what I was saying to him.

                  On the flip side you also did not listen to what he had to say and used a false argument to get your point point across. Your basic premise has nothing to do with a car, and has to do with the idea that taxes = stealing using the car as a straw man.
                  Basically, neither of you made a strong logical argument for a third party, yet you've both convinced yourself that you have - especially given the "truth" of your statement.

                • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:26PM (#25153921)

                  "Um... er... because everybody needs a car! It's a basic right!" ----- In this hypothetical debate, I obviously did not change this democratic-socialist's mind. Due to cognitive dissonance he simply chose to not hear what I was saying to him. However I still achieved my goal: I convinced some of the audience that the idea is immoral (because theft is theft, whether it's done directly by a thief, or through the government acting as the thief's agent).

                  Actually, you failed utterly. You put an idiotic strawman into the mouth of your ideological opponent, then portrayed him as a stuttering simpleton who hasn't given any thought to his views and is unable to write a coherent reply - in fact, you describe him as hesitating and playing for time in a written message. And after beating this ridiculous scarecrow, you think that the audience - us - is somehow convinced that your ideology - which I presume is libertarian from your premise that taxation is stealing - is supreme to socialism.

                  Your post is a truly pathetic attempt at ideological indoctrination at both levels, and yet you think that you've accomplished something besides making yourself look like an idiot or a particularly inept demagogue. That is a clear example of cognitive dissonance, and one that seems quite common within libertarians.

                  Or have I just been trolled ?

        • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @05:06AM (#25148865) Homepage

          Unfortunately it's been proven that dogmatism is the ONLY non-self-delusional behavior.

          You see there is no rational basis for the universe. That means that there will always be axioms, which are non-negotiable, final and eternal truths that we have no explanation for at all. ("we cannot pull ourselves out of the mud")

          The sad thing is that therefore anyone who claims to think "rational" is wrong. If he were truly rational he wouldn't be able to reach any conclusion at all, for he'd run stuck on the axioms he uses, and from the question "why does axiom <x> hold ?" there is no rational way out. And since this persion reaches conclusions in a rational way, he'd run stuck on that problem no matter what problem he was trying to resolve.

          That's what logic has discovered in the past century : any "rational" theory without an infinite number of eternal, unexplained truths is either incomplete (does not explain a (generally very very large) part of the universe) or it's wrong (logically inconsistent).

          One would hope that science is in the former category, and will remain there to be merely incomplete. But one visit to any library will tell you that it's really partially inconsistent, and described to be seriously more "complete" than it really is. (AGW for example, we make models and then "oops" the sun's corona, out of the blue, cools 20%. Trust me, it's going to be a f*cking cold winter).

          Any "true" theory therefore will be dogmatic. The problem is that it's entirely unclear WHICH dogmatism is "the one" (probably an entirely new one). One would hope people would read history and use that to decide which ideologies held out longest and most stably. That sort of thing is very thorougly frowned upon on slashdot however, probably because the answer would certainly not be "democracy", but probably a kingdom with a state religion.

          • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @05:29AM (#25148951) Journal

            Well, in the end, the scientific method is just a way to _avoid_ clinging to some dogma and building cognitive dissonances to support it. There is no immovable "truth", or rather, we don't know it yet. Your pet theory is likely to be not quite the whole "truth" yet. There will eventually be some data which require it to be refined even further. Be honest to yourself and admit that you could have only an incomplete understanding of the universe, and that way we can all continue to learn more.

            Anyone who sees science as some immutable dogma, or as some choice between this dogma and that one, isn't doing science in the first place. That's religion. It's the exact opposite of science. And, yes, it's funny to see people rant against religion, while using science as a dogma. That's not science vs religion, that's religion vs religion. One of them uses pseudo-science trappings, but it's used as a religion nevertheless.

            I don't see how you can qualify the real thing as, basically, self-delusional, or conversely claim that only sticking to a bullshit fairy-tale as The Truth is the only non-self-delusional behaviour. Science is all about avoiding that kind of absolute truths and abandoning any pretense that you know everything. This is the data we have. This is the theory that explains that data. When we'll have more data, we'll refine the theory some more. If some of those axioms don't fit the data, we'll discard the axioms. It's just about as intellectually honest as it gets.

            So, pray tell, in which way is that kind of admission that we don't know everything "self-delusional"?

            • by Hao Wu (652581) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @07:13AM (#25149475) Homepage
              What's the message -- just accept it?

              Or would we rather establish a Ministry of Truth rather than allow people to believe in wild religions, pink elephants, or political controversy presented as fact?

              We need the freedom to be "wrong". That's what it means to be an adult.
              • Most definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Tony (765) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:19AM (#25150103) Journal

                I agree we should be free to think as we will.

                Although I don't believe we have a right to correct information, it'd be real nice if politicians and corporations were held responsible for their misinformation. Our choices (in Truth, wild religions, pink elephants, or political controversy) are only as solid as the information on which they are built, and unfortunately, our Public Representatives (from city council members on up) feed us only the information we require to achieve the goals they desire. There seems to be no regard for the validity of the information.

                It's our responsibility as citizens to hold liars responsible for their lies. As we've seen with Clinton and Bush, though, lies are accepted as truth, even in the face of physical evidence.

                Oh, well. I guess we (as a population) also have the right to accept any gilded bullshit as gospel, and build our worldview on that.

      • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:22AM (#25148397) Journal

        That's a very nice summation of a serious problem. This issue is why I always teach (and try to practice) that it is important to admit when you are wrong. The nice thing about doing so, is that you have to do it less often as time goes on. Well, a bit - but it becomes easier to do. One should never allow the value you have invested in believing something to be a factor in whether you believe it or not.
        • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @04:50AM (#25148789) Homepage

          The problem is that this doesn't work. It's unfortunate, but it doesn't. The real world demands an answer and demands it now. The formation of ideology begins with learning to physically control the body a mind finds itself in. That means that at every point in time any human mind (including that of the most tolerant, most perfect human ever alive) any conclusion is reached in 0.05 seconds or less. That means yours too.

          What anyone's mind really is, in essence is a control loop. Based on what it's seen in the past <x>, it will construct an output <y>, for the present, to send to the muscles.

          It does NOT matter :
          -> whether <y> is correct. For starters it is nearly always not clear what correct means. Do you open the door with your left hand or right hand ? Who cares ? Ideology only needs to be correct "enough" to prevent catastrophic mistakes. Therefore for example religions that are trivially wrong can be useful, and very correct scientificically based ideologies can be very bad (because they for example lead to indecision in the face of a threat)
          -> whether <y> is based on some theory. A child is not capable of reasoning it's way out of a problem using theoretical knowledge for the simple reason that it doesn't have any theoretical knowledge. At first it learns to imitate, then it imitates.
          -> <y> is some combination of imitation behavior (this does NOT mean that your behavior is in any serious way limited by what you've seen, but it obviously does mean that violent video games do indeed cause violent responses in players)
          -> how complex the model forming <y> is. However one thing's for sure : it has to be able to be calculated in the real world in (VERY) finite time. Therefore it barely contains any loops. It's also necessarily simpler than the truth. That means the model used is TOO simple, and will always remain so.
          -> we always use wrong shortcuts. The real world that affects us consists of 6 billion humans, a large planet. A huge nuclear reactor. Trillions upon trillions of animals, bugs, microbes and plants. Obviously whatever it is our mind does, it does NOT simulate all other minds and plants to find the optimal solution. For obvious reasons this is 100% true whether or not the individual in question knows how (or thinks he knows how). If we take into account 1 or 2 "entities" (outside of ourselves) planning our next move, that's atypically high.

          So if you're looking for the response "why don't people think before they do ?". The response is simple : our world is not very forgiving of that behavior in many, many cases. Because it's stupid, in that even a little too much of it will get you killed for utter stupidity (e.g. you'd have problems controlling your steps and would fall down any stair you'd ever try to climb, fall over every rock) Therefore we've evolved not to do that. Some greeks (or whoever before them) stumbled on a few bits of logic, and since then people have been imitating them (it does not matter who was earlier it if they haven't got a continuous link to us). But the current practice of logic, is, in our minds, imitation behavior. Note that this is not an argument deciding whether logic is correct or false, merely that "I think it's right" is not sufficient, and perhaps not even a good sign.

          Certainly stuff like the concepts of "good" and "evil" are based upon imitation.

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:51AM (#25150601) Homepage Journal

        You were modded "interesting", I'd have modded it "insightful" but you got a 5 so what the hell, it's all good...

        Anyway, There is no Republican more rabid about every single aspect of that ideology, than someone who was a Democrat until they felt somehow betrayed. And viceversa.

        That's my dad, to a T. He was a Republican all his life; his parents were both Republicans, too. Then about the time he retired he started realizing that Social Security, Medicare, and all the other governmnent benefits he and his still-living mother were getting came from the Democrats, and that the Republicans had been for the rich (including his wealthy brother).

        He's been a Democrat ever since.

        There is no bible-thumper for puritan morals more rabid than someone who was a prostitute until last week.

        True, and the funny thing about it is the Bible isn't harsh on prostitutes! It's hard on pimps ("whoremongers") but not the whores themselves. Same with alcohol; in fact it says to give wine to the sad and strong drink to the dying. Jesus turned water into wine, and his deciples all got drunk at the last supper.

        And it says nothing at all about drugs, despite the fact that marijuana and opium were known to the ancients, yet your average bible-thumper will be adamantly against drugs.

  • Science education (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomalpha (746163) * on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:01AM (#25147919)

    What if your ideology is based around the careful analysis of facts - like a good science education?

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:10AM (#25147985)

      Sadly, that's not what they're talking about. If anything, just watch the current "debate" that's going on on talk radio and blogs about the upcoming election. You still hear that Obama is a muslim or that Palin wants to ban specific books. Despite these ideas having been debunked multiple times, people keep repeating them. Why? Because that's what they want to believe - ideology trumping facts.

      • Re:Science education (Score:4, Informative)

        by uhlume (597871) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:37AM (#25148135) Homepage

        That's a good point, and well taken, except that the Palin book-censorship "myth" was never debunked — the (truthful, as far as it goes) claim that she never attempted to ban specific books as mayor of Wassila is a straw man, a cynical diversion from the fact that she embarked on her campaign of attempted book-censorship as a city councilwoman, before being elected mayor.

        But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book "Daddy's Roommate" on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. [Laura Chase, the campaign manager during Ms. Palin's first run for mayor in 1996,] and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

        "Sarah said she didn't need to read that stuff," Ms. Chase said. "It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn't even read it."

        "I'm still proud of Sarah," she added, "but she scares the bejeebers out of me."

        (From this article [nytimes.com] in the New York Times.)

        • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:49AM (#25148543)

          But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book "Daddy's Roommate" on the shelves and that it did not belong there

          Talk about a straw man.

          You handily glossed over the fact she only thought the book did not belong, and never did anything about it.

          Further proving the main point. Something within drives you to ignore the very text in front of you, in the rush to demonize the Other.

          • by snl2587 (1177409) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @04:48AM (#25148783)

            You handily glossed over the fact she only thought the book did not belong, and never did anything about it.

            And you handily glossed over the fact that the GP used a poor quote to support his argument, and you're both missing something important. From the same article (emphasis mine):

            The new mayor also tended carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.

            "People would bring books back censored," recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin's predecessor. "Pages would get marked up or torn out."

            Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

            Note: One of these contemporary reports [nytimes.com] from a different article/reporter claim that it was a little more than a simple request. Now back to the main point:

            This presents one heck of a conflict: believe the witness accounts of her constituents garnered from the investigative reporting of news organizations that are trying desperately to dig up dirt on all fronts (yes, all. Just because someone has more dirt than another does not mean that the reporting is unfair.) or the words of the campaign that's trying desperately to get elected. Is there a truth to this? Of course, but it means one side is deliberately lying, spinning the truth, or honestly believes one way or the other despite being wrong. It really comes down to who you believe, if either.

          • by Tony (765) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @08:38AM (#25150419) Journal

            She did try to do something about it. [adn.com]

            I am from Alaska. I have family in Wasilla, some who know Palin. The facts: Palin asked the city librarian if she would remove books from the library. The librarian said, essentially, "Not on my watch." So Palin attempted to change the watch.

            She did try to do something about it, at the cost of a well-liked city librarian. She did so because of her scary fundamentalist ideology, the same thing that caused her to push through measurements requiring rape victims to pay for their rape test kits.

            This "censorship" thing is not a strawman. I'm not sure if two cases make a pattern, but the "Troopergate" (stupid name, I know) affair indicates she likes to fire people she doesn't like, or who stand in the way of her doing things like censor libraries.

        • get real (Score:5, Informative)

          by speedtux (1307149) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @07:06AM (#25149425)

          You're letting your prejudices and biases cloud your judgment.

          Of course, Palin didn't literally ban books from library shelves: she simply doesn't have the power to do so. But it appears that she opposed the presence of particular books in the library and exerted pressure.

          http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=5766173&page=1 [go.com]

          The story is credible also because Palin is in trouble for several other abuses of power.

        • Re:Science education (Score:5, Informative)

          by Digital End (1305341) <<excommunicated> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @07:41AM (#25149703)
          http://www.snopes.com/politics/palin/bannedbooks.asp [snopes.com]



          She didn't try to ban books outright... rather she asked the librarian "Would you ban a book if I told you too" and then after asking 3 times, she threatened to fire her because she didn't feel she had the librarys support.

          Don't get facts crossed, reality is scarier then fiction.
    • by Anonymous Coward
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TorKlingberg (599697)
      In my experience, even people who pride themselves in always having fact to back up their opinions usually had the opinions first and found the facts to back it up afterwards.
  • by johannesg (664142) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:02AM (#25147927)

    Interestingly, an experiment was conducted a few years ago in which a completely incompetent ruler was set up as a head of state of one of the worlds larger nations. After four years of bad rule that included a record deficit, starting two illegal wars, and alienating most of their allies, the people of that nation were asked if they would vote for him again. And they did! So yes, I would say that ideology certainly trumps facts.

    In fact I probably shouldn't be talking about this, since the experiment is still ongoing...

    • by bboxman (1342573) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:45AM (#25148515)
      As the war was duly approved by the house, this was a legal action by the commander in chief -- at least under US law. (it is also possible to take military action without congressional approval -- however this is more complex in terms of legality of the action).

      Now, you might claim illegality under the so called "international law". But here too, one can find a legal basis in various UN resolutions (e.g. 678, 687).

      But, advocating for taking war actions only under the direction of the UN is fairly silly. There are plenty of situations in which the United States should be compelled to act even if various nations disagree with US policy.

      Instead of focusing on the legality of the action in question, the more interesting question is if the war itself was in America's best interests. Here, one can most certainly raise all sorts of claims vis-a-vee whether the war itself was a worthwhile action (cost vs. benifeits).

  • by NaCh0 (6124) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:02AM (#25147929)

    Good thing slashdot is here to set the record straight.

  • by soundhack (179543) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:02AM (#25147931)

    I haven't RTF article, but I don't need to-facts don't matter.

  • Duh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Architect_sasyr (938685) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:03AM (#25147935)
    This is why we mock conspiracy theorists and computer "hacking" in cinema. Misinformation is what keeps the masses happy. Just like security theatre.
  • Dupe? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bjorn_Redtail (848817) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:04AM (#25147951)
    I think I read a similar article sporting the same statistics quite a while ago. Has ArsTechnia posted a dupe? Besides that, the questions they used to measure 'misinformation' aren't the best: There's quite a bit of different meanings to both of them. Could 'possessing weapons of mass destruction' mean having hundreds of thousands shells loaded and ready to go, or could it mean having no more than a couple of arterially shells with expired nerve-gas that even the Iraqis had forgoten about (I THINK we have found the latter). Does being involved with Al-Quida mean planning and bankrolling every attack and operation together, or does it mean that Saddam tentatively let some Al Quida members into the country? Ars' summery doesn't even agree with the graphic they used: The graphic says the question was "The US has found evidence that Saddam Hussain was working closely with terrorist groups" while the article says that the numbers represent folks who though "there was a credible link between the 9/11 attack and Saddam Hussein". Bit of a difference there.
  • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:06AM (#25147963)
    The American media has a good deal of power, and that power carries a good deal of responsibility. When the media creates false debates, unreasoned arguments, and promotes trivia above important things, they abuse that power. A single newsperson instilling spin into a popular story has done more evil than many purse-snatchers.

    I speak of the American media because I don't understand enough of the rest of the world's media to comment.
    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:30AM (#25148093) Homepage
      Yeah, you're right, you have no idea how important that is, and how abuse by the media has led to so many of our current problems. I live abroad, in a country with a censored media, and I even run my own publication which has to be reviewed before it hits print. It's so blatantly obvious when a doctored media report comes out of the state press. After a steady diet of such misrepresentations, I look back at the Western media - they're exactly the same! Two differences are that they're not under government control, and their censorship has different goals. Otherwise, they're doing the exact same thing, distorting the news to support their political positions. It's so readily obvious when looked upon from outside.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by eggnet (75425)

        I think you're almost dead on. Having a political position is a means to an end, not an end.

        Having a known political position guarantees a certain market with your now established brand recognition. If your political view is all over the place, you'll piss everyone off eventually. Hard to keep a steady viewership / readership that way.

        At the end of the day it's all about selling advertisements and subscriptions in American news.

    • The modern media is not the fourth branch, or estate, of government. It is the First Estate. Let me explain.

      The estates have classically been, in order:
      1) The Church
      2) The Aristocracy
      3) Everybody Else

      Traditionally added to this list has been

      4) The Media ("Independent of church and state")

      This was the rule up to one should think about 50 years ago in most countries. It's still the case today in many, especially latin american, countries. However, one should realise that the estates we not so much defined by WHO they were so much as WHAT they did. For instance, one can easily replace "aristocracy" with "very rich people", and the second estate model still fits modern society.

      However, how does one replace "church" in modern society? Even in america, religious leaders wield only a small fraction of the power they once did. Do we then conclude that the model of the three estates is therefore outdated and does not apply? I would argue that this is not the case, and that the three estates model is in fact a valid model for how almost all societies operate on a basic level.

      What did the first estate do? The church was closer to the people that the aristocracy. It wielded great influence over them through its sermons, traditions and omni-presence in society at large. It mostly sided with the aristocracy, to maintain the status quo. Though it would disagree with their policies when it suited its own purposes. The general idea was that the aristocrats ruled, while the church helped keep the people in line. In turn, the aristocrats would confer legal status, benefits and privileges to the church. It was a symbiotic relationship designed to keep power out of the hands of the masses.

      Who replaces the church of the Ancien Régime in our 21st century society? No-one? Look beyond outward apearance and to the actual substance of the matter. Who is close to those in power and spreads their message to the masses? Who is close enough to the average citizen to influence their opinion? Who generally agrees with the government, but can disagree when it suits their purposes. Who benefits from their patronage?

      The modern media, or at least the majority of it, constitutes the first estate in our modern society. I'd like to stress that I do not believe this to be the result of a conspiracy or plot. Rather, I would hold that the three estates model is a natural state towards which human societies will gravitate, without anyone ever consciously planning or realizing it.

      The demise of church power in western society has left a vacuum. The Media has filled that vacuum. When people talk about the Daily Show being the only source of "real news", they are in effect pointing out the inherant difference between the "New Media" of the First estate (Bill O'Reilly), and the "Old Media" of the Fourth estate (Jon Stewart). These two model of media have always existed together, but in recent times, the First estate media has become the dominant type.

      In order for idealogical to work, it needs propaganda. It needs a first estate. In order to resist ideology, we need the truth. We need a fourth estate. Right now, we have too much of the former and dangerously little of the latter.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:12AM (#25147991) Journal

    The cynic in me is beginning to believe that Winston Churchill was wrong in saying that "Democracy was the least worst form of government". After being a part of the American political process for the last 8 years I've seen how ideology has, time and again, trumped reason. Still I'm not completely impressed with other systems, the "meritocratic" technocratic bureaucracy espoused by the Chinese communist party seems flawed as well (don't buy Chinese Milk!). That's despite being described as "the Harvard Alumni Association with an Army".

    Maybe the fact is that, as humans (and 98% chimp) we're only slightly beyond our animal forebears. Perhaps we just cannot handle a technologic civilization with complex issues like genetic engineering, nuclear weapons, climate change, nano technology. If Fukuyama is right in saying that Liberal Democracies are "the end of history" maybe it means that that's the end of our progress. - Then again maybe the United States (with its 70% of the population being strongly religious) is an aberration and the future lies with other less religious societies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Humanity as a whole has definitely peaked. We continue to enhance out technology, but the lump of meat at the centre of it has a fundamental flaw, built in by the evolutionary process. Our imaginations that make all the technology possible is a double edged sword that also results in all the useless and often destructive ideology.

      If humanity has something approaching a "purpose", it is to create a successor intelligence (machine, biological or hybrid) and at that moment we will have become the gods we conju

    • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @04:02AM (#25148599)

      Still I'm not completely impressed with other systems, the "meritocratic" technocratic bureaucracy espoused by the Chinese communist party seems flawed as well (don't buy Chinese Milk!). That's despite being described as "the Harvard Alumni Association wit an Army".

      That's a very naive characterisation of the Chinese system, or any non democracy. From my experience it's more like organised crime with an army. Fact is absolute power lies with the people with the money and guns, not with the Harvard alumni.

      One of my friend's husbands works in China. One of his partners is in the PLA, and the main reason he is a partner is because people are scared of him. Let's just say if her husband's company makes a business offer and you're Chinese, you don't refuse it once you find out he's involved.

      Very scary place.

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:17AM (#25148027) Journal

    Ideology Trumps Facts...if you're a closed minded prejudiced moron who can't face reality.

    The ability to learn, grow and change your opinion is something we all possess. If we choose to close our eyes and pray instead of looking at the facts, it's our own fault. It may be easier from an emotional perspective to deal with our limited existence and the hardships life throws at us by subscribing to a belief system handed down to us, or that we've found in a "time of need" but if you actively ignore reality you're doomed to end up destroying yourself.

    The trouble with studies like this is that they tell us we can justify our own stupidity. Sure, go ahead, but you'll face the consequences.

  • O RLY? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:18AM (#25148035)
    In other news, new studies say that Cookie Monster thinks cookies are more healthy than broccoli!
  • Belief (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:19AM (#25148037)

    I'm entirely not surprised.

    In my opinion, broadly speaking, there are two kinds of people in the world; those who prefer an internal moral compass and those who prefer an external moral compass. The former tend to analyse things for themselves, look at all the facts and come up with a decision- is this "right/true/a good idea/etc". The latter tend to look to some higher authority- religion, the government, parents, spouse, boss, etc to make the majority of these decisions for them.

    This doesn't mean that the former is automatically better than the latter- the latter have a vast pool of opinions to draw upon, while the former only have themselves and can be often actively disregard the opinions of others in the name of "doing what *they* want". Individualism for the sake of individualism, you might say.

    Most people, I think, fall somewhere in the middle and lean one way or the other. I tend to lean towards the former, but I recognise the traps that can befall these kind of people and actively seek to avoid them.

  • ideology trumps facts. ok. so what?

    1. this observation is ideologically neutral. that is, it evens out in every ideological direction, such that no particular ideology is favored

    2. this observation applies to everyone. this observation applies most of all to those of you who think you are immune to prejudice. that's you, reading these words. yes, you are guilty of this. how passionately you dispute the notion that you have prejudices is directly proportional to how prejudiced you are, blindly. meanwhile, if you start with the assumption that you prejudiced, you are better able to identify your prejudices in your thought processes, and work around them

    3. this observation applies to all societies, in all cultures, in all time periods, including the future. in other words, make peace with the concept that ideology trumps facts. nothing you do will ever change that, it is a simple aspect of human nature. unless you seek to disrespect democracy and free will, and somehow "reeducate" people. which makes the cure worse than the disease

    we are all prejudiced. individually, and as societies. so it is better to recognize your weaknesses and work around them than somehow fantasize it is possible to have no prejudices at all. the story summary is nothing more than the sound of someone shockingly realizing a truth about their world, and trying to come to grips with it

    • by rk (6314) * on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:54AM (#25148227) Journal
      This is the very kind of [eggheaded woolly liberal|reactionary anti-intellectual conservative] thinking that has led our country to a [godless communist|theocratic fascist] condition. Surely you will be [sent to hell|purged in class warfare] for your [sins|crimes].
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by plasmacutter (901737)

      i'm sorry, but i'm not.

      I've adjusted my views when presented with evidence which contradicted those initial views.

      I have never held irrationally to a belief when all evidence pointed to the contrary.

  • It's Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CentralScrutiniser (1371657) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:47AM (#25148191)
    Accepting Scientific fact in the modern world usually requires an amout of thought and analysis. Accepting an ideology requires no thought at all. Humans are basically lazy.
  • by francium de neobie (590783) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:57AM (#25148253)
    From the immortal H2G2:

    The major problem - one of the major problems, for there are several - one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

    To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

    To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

    To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:12AM (#25148333)
    To promote your cause, get someone famous on your side. The masses will accept whatever they say - provided your pet celeb. is a "goody". However put someone in a white coat (unless they're famous, of course) up as your representative and you get an immediate turn-off.

    Why is this? Because what people believe is based on trust, not facts. They trust faces that are familiar to them and (thanks to the education system) are not capable of working out for themselves which answer is correct.

    Ultimately it comes down to emotions

  • "Lenses" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChePibe (882378) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:42AM (#25148499)

    I was a poli sci major, now a law student (yeah, I know, what the hell am I doing on Slashdot...). I think the most useful discussion I ever heard in class was one on the general idea of "lenses" we see the world through.

    The professor who taught the course had been in the Intelligence Community for some time, and this is an issue that analysts and other intelligence officers encountered constantly and is, in fact, encountered in essentially every career path. Analysts, who may not have visited the country they work on in years, will see it very differently than the man on the ground. The man on the ground, however, who is constantly tied up with a million small details, will likely see things differently and fail to see the big picture.

    In my own life, I can think of a few instances where this has been particularly true. I had the "pleasure" of getting caught in the middle of a slum during the December 2001 riots in Argentina. Not a pleasant experience, needless to say. So now, every time I go back to Latin America, I'm paranoid. Once you've seen people getting stabbed and robbed all around you, you get that way. It's my "lens" - I always see things as less stable than they truly are, and always feel that I need to be ready to either batten down the hatches or bolt at any moment.

    A more useful story would come from a recent work-related incident. A legal issue came up when I was an intern at a law office (yes, imagine that). I was in a conference with the other attorneys - all distinguished professionals with lengthy records - discussing the matter, and all of the attorneys handled it exactly like they would a case from a textbook - they played their "role". They took the facts they were given, assumed they were real, and attempted to find a legal answer to the situation. That's what lawyers do. After listening to discussion on this for several minutes, I piped up and questioned the very basis of the facts (the situation seemed a bit far-fetched to me - one not yet entirely corrupted by the practice of law - and I simply applied Occam's razor). I received strange stares for a moment, and then the attorney in charge of the matter said, "wow, I'd never considered that before. Let's look into it." Sure enough, I was right, and we saved a lot of money, headache, and effort on research and other costs.

    People simply see things differently and will process information differently. Environment, experience, language, education, spirituality, family background, geographical origin, economic situation, genetics (to an extent), etc. all shape how we see the world - and how we even interpret - or even recognize - fact. It's only human. The best we can hope to do is to acknowledge it and to seek out those who view things differently in the hopes of honing our own vision and seeing things we hadn't seen before.

  • by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @03:46AM (#25148521) Homepage

    Come on folks we all know that were the Colbert Nation [colbertnation.com] leads the world follows. All this is saying is that politics these days is about Truthiness [wikipedia.org] which is "Truth that comes from the gut, not from books". Back in 2005 Colbert was right [colbertnation.com].

    His latest campaign is that we don't even want answers and should not be allowed to ask questions.

    Its very sad how the two best political commentary programmes in the US go out on Comedy Central.

  • The news media..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 3seas (184403) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @04:15AM (#25148643) Journal

    ... is the voice that can be used to correct falsehoods.

    It is also the voice used to create falsehoods.

  • Fox News (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Macka (9388) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @05:20AM (#25148913)

    I'm from the UK and recently took a holiday in San Diego to visit some relatives. Great place, but unfortunately they had a limited Sat TV package that only gave a choice of a few news channels, and Fox News was the one that got turned on most.

    Now I've never seen Fox News before, and coming from a country there the TV news has a mandate to be unbiased, Fox News was quite a shock to the system. I've never seen anything like it. It's completely one sided (towards Republicans) crammed with emotional rhetoric deliberately aimed at misinforming the viewer. It so over exaggerates the current level of the "terrorist threat" to America, that an outsider viewing this crap would think you're on the cusp of being invaded.

    Watching it reminded me of the kind of news propaganda that the Nazi's used in WW2 to convince their population that their cause was just and righteous, and demoralize their enemies.

    I know that sounds a bit strong, but I was just so shocked at the level of dishonest manipulation Fox News are involved in. And horrified that there are people in the USA who actually watch this trash and BELIEVE that it's real news!

    • Re:Fox News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @07:44AM (#25149729)
      "Mandate to be unbiased..."

      You're kidding, right? Of course, that's the problem with journalism, is the deception that the human mind can be unbiased. Most journalists lean heavily left-of-center, and believe that their core "training" is the definition of objectivity. One thing I find rarely done is the realization that maybe they can never be truly objective...
  • by itsdapead (734413) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @06:15AM (#25149143)

    Looking at the paper on the Roberts study linked to TFA:

    Tell some people bad stuff about a Republican, then tell them it isn't true. The pro-Democrats in the audience believe the bad stuff and ignore the rebuttal. The pro-Republicans... mostly ignored the bad stuff in the first place (or maybe didn't think it was so bad?)

    Film at 11. Or, to put it another way, mud sticks.

    I can't quickly see any link from the paper to the specific rebuttal of the ad which the participants were shown - but the paper assures us that it was a "a sharp, factual, bipartisan evisceration of its insinuations" - so that's alright then. (I'm reluctant to criticize a paper too deeply after a 2 minute skim, but that line made my red pen itch).

    The authors of the paper seem to be taking as axiomatic that the ad was completely untrue and the rebuttal was compelling. After all, the title of the paper says "False political beliefs".

    Note that the question in the study was "do you support Roberts for Supreme Court Justice" and not "do you believe that the ad was accurate". Any good propaganda will contain a grain of truth - however disingenuously presented. In this case, it was that one of the "nonviolent" protesters was a convicted violent protester. That shouldn't count for anything in a court of law, but it might reduce your audience's enthusiasm for the right to protest.

    This study would be more interesting if it were done using a nice, well-defined reproducible or falsifiable scientific or mathematical fact and a common misconception. Actually, this has been done in science/math education and there is evidence that merely telling someone "your belief is wrong - here is the right answer" is ineffective unless you force them to see the absurd consequences of their belief. (go Google for "cognitive conflict").

  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @06:34AM (#25149247) Homepage Journal
    as opposed to what you THINK, then facts become a threat. When ideology is what you think, you can revise your thinking without a threat to your ego.

    Fostering brand loyalty is a cost effective way to get repeat customers. But you don't <em>have</em> to be a mindless consumer of political ideology.
  • by misfit815 (875442) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @06:51AM (#25149327)
    How much does a cow weigh? If you ask ten people to estimate the average weight of a cow, then the average of their estimates will probably be a little off. If you ask 100 people, you'll get a number that's closer. If you ask 1000, you'll get a number that's even closer. Why? Because, 90% of us (hypothetically) don't know what a cow weighs, so our guess is going to be off. But, statistically, 45% will be too high, and 45% will be too low, so they cancel each other out. That leaves the other 10% who grew up on a farm, or are veterinarians, or for whatever other reason know what a cow weighs. As the sample grows, the correct answer rises to the top. Which means that, since 90% of us don't know enough about politics to make an informed vote, then the best candidate will rise to the top because the other 10% will know what they're doing. But that doesn't work, does it? Why not? Because we're not just randomly guessing. We're deliberately choosing the wrong answer - the wrong candidate - based on something other than the facts. Our ignorance is getting in the way.

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