Saturday, April 15, 2017

Polling For Skepticism

Or perhaps "Trolling For Skepticism."  Related to my post two weeks ago about people not really believing that anyone is going to declare martial law but not wanting to look like they are being taking in, I think that should be in the background not only for all polling, but for all entertainment-value commentary as well. A ridiculous number of Democrats appeared to believe that Bush, or Mossad, or the CIA, had something to do with causing 9-11.  Lots of Republicans were revealed to believe that it was at least possible that Obama was born in Kenya.  It's the "at least possible" part that makes for all the fun. People with good imaginations can imagine a lot of things.  Cynical people can easily believe that other human beings are at least capable of terrible deeds.  Sometimes these people aren't so good at evaluating whether they are likely.  They assign some small percentage, so as not to get caught unaware later.

However this can be played in reverse as well.  Because there is a non-zero chance for just about everything, ridiculous ideas can be floated along the lines of "Well, we can't rule out the possibility that..." As Lawrence O'Donnell recently explained to Rachel Maddow
It’s “impossible,” fellow anchor Lawrence O’Donnell told Maddow on April 7, to rule out that “Vladimir Putin orchestrated what happened in Syria this week – so that his friend in the White House could have a big night with missiles and all of the praise he’s picked up over the past 24 hours.” (Full story here.)
Well sure. It's impossible to rule out the possibility that Adele is channeling John Lennon, or that Barack Obama is actually a space alien, but that doesn't mean that any sensible person subscribes to the idea.

It's a dishonest formulation.

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