Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On clues and having them

For those of you who plan to be around in April 2015 for the gala HeadsupTheBlog 10th anniversary festivities -- be advised that we have a lot of "Christmas came early" and "Bowled over" and "gestures as she reacts" and "Guilty! That's what the man said he wasn't Thursday" to get through between now and then. Because some stuff never seems to go away.

As in the example here, which -- has it been four years since the same thing came up?* Yes, and the answer is still the same: Nothing. It isn't. (The hed at issue then was "Why is April a month of tragedies?") There isn't. Go find something else to write about.

The word, alas, doesn't seem to have reached CNN**:

Is there something about this time of the year that makes these types of attacks more prevalent?

No. Which should be the end of the story, but ...

For an answer, CNN spoke with Robert Blaskiewicz, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He teaches a course examining conspiracy theories and runs a blog, called Skeptical Humanities.

And CNN should have listened to him, because the first thing he says is, in essence: No. In the course of what turns out to be an interesting interview (and sounds like it would make for a fun course), he sets out some of the circumstances under which large groups of people are inclined to believe bogus speculation about nonexistent cause-and-effect relationships.

In the state that gave us Rep. Paul Broun, that's by no means an irrelevant story. But it's very much not the story promoted by the headline. And since the hed's premise is the one that the source knocks down immediately (and keeps knocking down throughout the story), why not go with the story you found, rather than the one you went into the interview with?

Local Prof Tells Why Grownups
Let Weasels Hijack Their Brains
Intuition no help, expert warns

Avoid those friendly games of chance, rubes!

It wouldn't be a "liberal" story (though it might have the effect of explaining why CNN's alleged polar opposite, the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, is so successful). It would be an "evidence-based" story. Worth a try, you think? It's not like the Fox audience is going to fall for you the way you are.

* Time's fun when you're having flies
** First brought a wider audience at wonkette.com, which is doing a fine job filling the data-with-snark gap left by Spy.

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