Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Problem Solving

Instapundit links to some very interesting numbers about media double-standards from Michael Silence. Even after corrected in the comments, they are still pretty revealing. And people add in some evidence of their own. In the same post, Reynolds points out that Biden's son and brother are being sued for fraud by a former business partner. Do you know that? Huh.

All standard stuff. We could multiply examples for hours - and over here on the right blogosphere we do, actually. It is insane that Rezko is on trial and that's not a front page story every day. I don't mean always the banner headline, but some sort of progress report below the fold every day, with talking heads opining on how Barack can distance himself from this, or whether it hurts him, and whether others close to him will be implicated. If such a thing were taking place in another country - if during the elections in France a close relative or associate of Sarkozy, or Chirac, or de Villepin, or Le Pen were on trial, and the newspapers weren't covering 24/7 it we would be appalled at how much they were in the tank, and that the French people put up with such things.

So it's crazy. The world is always crazy. I would like to look at this a different way.

There is a problem-solving technique I was taught years ago called 10x/.1x. Take any problem you are having difficulty with and imagine that it is 10 times worse. If you have a $50,000 mortgage and business is bad, imagine what the problem would look like if you had a $500,000 mortgage and no job at all. This is not just to feel better about your current problem, but to open up ideas of what your real choices are. Problems that are ten times worse often require solutions that are qualitatively different. You can't just try a little harder or move some seat cushions around.

After you have really thought through (and timed how long it took you) the 10x problem - after you have decided what you would do if your wife was not merely inattentive but actively hated you, or if your back pain was not just annoying but disabling - you move on to the other half of the exercise. What if your problem were only one-tenth as bad?

The second half of the exercise is just as important and the first, sometimes more so. One's initial temptation is to just stop the exercise and say "I'd just shrug it off. No big deal." If a problem has just now risen to the level or requiring some creative thought, after all, it's a pretty good indication that it was quite endurable until yesterday. But the lesson requires that you actually attack the second question, and spend as much time as you did on the first one. It is quite difficult at first, because the temptation to simply ignore the one-tenth problem keeps re-emerging.

So, let's play the media bias problem-solving game. What if it really were ten times worse - if Daily Kos owned the New York Times, not just in terms of owning the building and presses, but commanding that prestige in our society? What if ABC really was like Pravda, not just in our hyperbolic accusations, but in reality? What would libertarians and conservatives do? In one sense, we are already doing it, creating an alternative media on the radio and the internet. But play it out farther in your mind over the next twenty-four hours. What would we do?

Do not start the second exercise yet. Let's discuss the first part.

3 comments:

Carl said...

I don't have enough data points for a curve fit. Here's what I know:

1) According to the New York Times, at least 75 percent of today's journalists support Democrats.

2) According to Newsweek's Evan Thomas, MSM backing is "worth maybe 15 points" to the Dems.

3) Multiplying the media's "in-the-tank" factor from 3:1 to 30:1 obviously cannot be worth 150 points to the Dems. Moreover, I think it fair to assume a declining marginal utility of propaganda, implying a non-linear relationship between increasing the partisanship of reporters and the effect on the electorate.

4) The MSM/Democrat snuggle isn't entirely bad for Republicans:

"If you don't print the facts, your audience can't get the truth. If you abandon objectivity to become the house organ for liberal causes, what you want crowds out reality. And that means readers of big-city newspapers--lefties all--never see the blow coming."

Conclusion: Absent further rigor, I'd guess that making media bias ten times worse would add an additional 10 points to the Dems, i.e., for a total of 25 percent of the vote.

OBloodyHell said...

> If you have a $50,000 mortgage and business is bad, imagine what the problem would look like if you had a $500,000 mortgage and no job at all.

Sorry, AVI, this notion breaks down in your example. In the specified case, you declare bankruptcy for the 10x. That option is not so cut and dried for the 1x case. It's much, much harder to deal with the 1x case than the 10x case, because it's a lot easier and more likely for you to *not* lose it all in the 1x case. In the 10x case, you're screwed. Lay back and take it and do the best you can to get out alive. For the 1x case you might not have to lose anything.

OBloodyHell said...

For the 10x case, it's kind of like knowing you're going to die shortly -- horrible as it is, it does allow you to start the trauma progression -- Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

The 1x case, though, is like waiting for a year to get the answer from the doctor if you've got a terminal illness. For the whole time, you don't know if you are going to pull through ok, or not, and it not only frustrates and forces you to tread water on longer-term planning, but the personal stress levels are through the roof because you just don't know what is going on, and are stuck waiting for the other shoe to drop.