On the Media: The Myth of ‘Blue Monday,’ The Campaign for Creationism, and a Lying Cyborg Telemarketer

This particular podcast seemed to deal with the general lack of integrity in the media today, specifically in news and journalism.

We see new studies and formulas, with questionably subjective material within, every day. Ben Goldacre, author of badscience.net, describes the process by which many of these things come about. A company wants to say that one day is the *insert superlative.* They want to say that their thing is the most “something.” They want to say something ridiculous.

The funny thing is, they also want their ridiculous thing to sound credible. To achieve this, many companies will hire cheap mathematicians to put together incredible equations to back their claim up; the most attractive celebrity; suicide rates in a given season or time of year, influenced by whatever variables tickle the equationist’s fancy; the best, the worst, the funniest, the saddest, the happiest, or in other words, the most subjective.

Goldacre describes his own personal experience in this field, wherein a group approached him asking for an equation to determine the most attractive walk– the catch being that they already knew who they wanted to feature as the #1 best walker (in this case, Beyonce) and the #10 worst (pale, skinny legged celebrities).

The way these groups rationalize the blatantly dishonest and manipulative nature of these false equations is that “people wouldn’t really take these seriously anyway.” Unfortunately, this is a great overestimation of the American public’s capacity for critical thought.

People do believe these things. They even cite them, sometimes casually, and sometimes not. There is a great problem when we manipulate reality to whatever is convenient for us. We learn to lie to ourselves that way. The problem is compounded when we manipulate reality to make our subjective opinion appear to be objective truth.

What would you rather see? The facts, or the opinions made to sound like them? Would you like to see both for color? Or have them separated to enjoy separately?

Another subject of conversation in the podcast was the use of prerecorded telemarketers pretending to be live humans in their calls. The problem was discovered when certain targeted clients called the number of the telemarketer back and found that she repeated exactly the same phrases to them over and over again, dozens of times, with equal results.

 

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