Look in the Mirror: Society and the Media have same confirmation bias problem

I always say don’t throw stones at glass houses, especially if your glass house is just as if not more fragile.

Welcome to social media and the spread of misinformation. We can call it meme pandemonium. The place where the defense is weak and the offense is even weaker.

In the midst of political campaigns or times of crisis, people begin to show their hands. Lately, I find myself having conversations more on Facebook. I find myself fact checking people because I am honestly just tired of the clear misinformation being put out there. It is not a means to call people stupid. It is to shed light and hold people accountable for poorly researched takes or shares. I would also expect others to do the same to me.

Social media is a world of too much self-serving and confirmation bias. My question to you is how many people do you know that fit the bill?

Spotting the Confirmation Bias

They share the content only from right winged sites like Fox, Daily Wire or Blaze Media. They only share videos of people on the right like Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly or Tomi Lahren.

Maybe they go the other way and you only see them share from left-winged sites like MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, New York Times or Washington Post. They only share videos from people on the left like the Young Turks, Trevor Noah or Bill Maher.

I loathe both sides of the die hard followers who refuse to do their own vetting on the information. I despise most of the talking heads on the right. Even the ones I do like pander to their own base far too much.

I equally despise the click bait headlines and one sided tone on many of the columns and articles published by the left-winged sources. Where as I find most of the talking heads to be more reasonable, minus the Young Turks.

I do my best to objectively look through the lens of multiple viewpoints. For me, it is hard to understand why others refuse to do the same. Because of that, we see the intelligent people like Shapiro pander to their base in most of their day to day content.

Why It Happens in the Media

The reality is these talking heads and publications have sponsors and investors to answer to. Therefore, they have to protect their bottom lines just like any other business. No money, no business.

That bottom line is viewership. The higher the views, the higher the dollars that roll in.

The joke in all of it is these relentless people and their affinity for their own political agendas are the driving force behind what the media has become. Thus a never-ending cycle of some people demanding more from the other side has transpired. Go read a comment section on any of the publications FB pages mentioned above. It’s not only pathetic. It is ignorant and foolish.

Ironically, the people demanding more can’t see past their own noses in those sections.

Recent Examples I Have Experienced

My inspiration for writing this came from a post I saw in which someone shared an absurd graphic stating the number of employees for major retailers like Wal Mart and Amazon. In the line below, it stated that no cases of the virus have been reported in any of these major retailers and takes a shot for small businesses being forced to close. That post was shared yesterday evening.

Essentially, it seemed like some tin-foil hat bullshit. That is exactly what it was.

First of all, just google “Wal Mart Coronavirus.” That takes less than 10 seconds depending on your wifi or phone service. You will find articles that discuss store closures, death of employees and more. There was also a story of a lawsuit being filed on behalf of a Wal Mart employee who was diagnosed with Covid19 and died.

Instead, this person decided to hit share because it played into the narrative they want to believe. Then someone shared the post from them thus spreading to more people.

Not only was the post regarding big retailers wrong, it took a shot at the media for their misinformation. (If you are a Jersey Shore fan, insert Angelina UMM HELLO!?!?!)

I am not saying the media does not get information wrong because they do, more than they should actually. Everyone does at some point. Again, much like the lead of the column alludes to, pot meet kettle.

California Doctors Banned Video

The most dangerous part about social media is not only the spread of misinformation, it is the arrogance to double down when the facts just aren’t lining up.

Even worse, you insert your opinion with no basis nor care for the facts.

I recently posted a video of me discussing the misinformation of the viral video with a couple of doctors from California. Of course it played into many people’s narrative that this virus is not that serious. The video was eventually pulled and of course keeps re-surfacing.

After a friend shared my video discussing this, I noticed a comment on it that said “both are flawed but this guy is beyond pompous and annoying.”

I responded by saying I am willing to listen to how what I am saying is wrong. I then asked for forgiveness for coming off as pompous and annoying and stated I can absolutely be annoying, but I wasn’t sure how I was pompous and asked her to explain how.

She would not defend her opinion on my alleged pompousness and was vague in her explanation of how what I was saying is flawed saying the death totals are not accurate.

For the record, I have seen it happen including one in our backyard of Louisiana citing a death cause as Covid19 for an infant born prematurely at 22 weeks because the mother had the virus. The infant tested negative for it. I smell bullshit from a mile away and that fit the bill. To be clear, I am not saying there isn’t misinformation on the reports of deaths.

In response, I asked her to source the deaths being recorded by medical professionals accounting for the CDC tally causing an inflation in the totals. Mainly because the CDC has a vetting process for the numbers.

In fact, more misinformation came out Sunday as still shots from the CDC website were being shared indicating the death total is cut in half. The people sharing the photo did not read the find print on the website referencing the lag time which is why the data may be incomplete. It took me 10 seconds to figure that one out too.

Moreover, there was no valid response to the massive hole I poked in her argument.

Her response was it’s my opinion and I don’t need to defend it with facts. She went on to criticize the media for their reporting of the deaths saying there are many, many that should not be accounted for.

I couldn’t help but laugh at that statement for obvious reasons.

I guess gravity doesn’t exist either. That is the beauty of my opinion! I don’t need to back it up with facts, guys!

Unfortunately, that is what I see many doing consistently. Shit on the media for not properly fact checking and in the same breath share skewed, one-sided or entirely false information that only affirms their beliefs.

Another glaring example after posting the video is the thread that ensued on the Hotard Huddle Facebook page.

Someone commented using the same confirmation bias to try and make a case for why the doctors in California were right. While I don’t have a problem with the person who commented, I do have a problem with parts of the dialogue that followed.

He claimed that based on the studies done regarding antibodies that the death rate these doctors proclaimed were more accurate than mine (sourced by CDC based on cases).

He ignored the fundamental flaw in the video when the doctor used cases to calculate the death rate for the flu while using the entire population of New York to calculate the death rate for that particular state. He ignored the fact that the doctors used the worst flu season (2017) in recent memory as a point of reference.

He is right in the sense that calculating a death rate based on cases is incorrect due to unknown cases, which is a big reason why the CDC has a range of flu cases annually versus an exact case number.

Fair point. However, this virus is still new and pending. These are the numbers we have to go on right now. I am sure the CDC will have a case range after this begins to fade away.

The Santa Monica study that was referenced suggested the cases were 50 times more than being reported based on the antibody study conducted. The study he cited was heavily criticized by many, including other medical professionals and epidemiologists. Those reasons included testing, sampling bias through the use of FB Ads as well as no peer reviews done on the study.

Even then, the doctor’s math on New York was still wrong as 50 times would equate to 15 million cases, not 19 million.

In response, I asked a few questions…

When asked to provide more examples of case studies showing similar proof, he proceeded to share two articles from two different sites, one from CNN (which he called a Commy site, epitomizes why I am writing this).

The leads for both articles said the particular study shows that Covid19 MAY HAVE more cases than we know and referenced the exact same study.

Emphasis on may have because neither article said “definitively have,” like he was alluding to in his comments. Not only did the person take what could have been and applied it to what is…he did not find another similar study different from the one we discussed when asked for it.

When I mentioned the targeting for ads being a flawed method because you can use them to target specific audiences based on a multitude of categories, the response was him saying it was irrelevant. However, he never explained how.

No, it is not. You may notice ads catering to your searches and content you frequently follow. As someone who watches many of Ben Shapiro’s political discussions, I constantly see FB ads for Daily Wire saying I should buy a subscription which includes a coffee mug that says “leftist tears,” (see pandering to primary base commentary regarding the talking heads of the right).

Nevermind the fact that FB Ads are the lifeline of success for my business. Once again, no response to the questions asked. The ones that were answered left much to be desired as I kept poking the holes.

Covid19 is Less Than or Equal To Flu – Biggest Confirmation Bias During the Pandemic

There are a number of reasons for the narrative of comparison.

Some people want to open up the economy sooner rather than later. I understand that. The longer things stay shut down, the more my own business is forced to weather the storm. The more jobs will be lost and more businesses will be closed. It is a scary situation. Obviously, our country needs to find a formidable and safe solution to fight a plummeting economy while keeping the public safe.

Others believe this is some ploy to push President Trump out of office in 2020. Yes, some politicians and journalists are using this as a pawn to sway voters and the minds of people putting this entire thing on Trump. That is not fair because this is beyond the oval office’s control.

On the other hand, he did not do his best in getting out ahead of this as he ignored briefs in January and February and has a clear dialogue downplaying the virus. Is it his fault like some people are spinning? No. Could he have done better in his response? Yes.

The problem is the right wants to defend, defend, defend. The left wants to attack, attack, attack. The facts don’t seem to matter either. That is irresponsible at best and just downright deplorable at worst.

It remains to be seen how well we do with re-opening. I do know Texas and Georgia have already seen spikes in cases since relaxing on restrictions.

The common denominator for many using those narratives is that this virus is not a big deal. They say it is comparable to the flu.

No. It is fucking not. Without diving into heavy detail, here’s the shortlist of why (numbers aside since that seems to be the primary debate here)…

  • Covid19 contagion period is longer, much longer
  • Covid19 incubation period can be longer, much longer (while still contagious)
  • Symptomatically different in some ways
  • Unsure of re-infection rates and how severe it can be
  • Still some uncertainty on if it dies in warmer weather
  • No Vaccine for Covid19
  • Less Severe to Children
  • Spreads more easily
  • Oh you know, declared a pandemic

We Can Change The Game We Are Pawns In

One of the responses I received during a discussion regarding the video referenced earlier, which compared Covid19 to the flu, is that those doctors were medical professionals and the Santa Monica study was done by a medical professional who had done studies before.

The easiest response is so are all the epidemiologists and medical professionals who say otherwise.

Furthermore, it bothers me when people stand on the grounds of professional titles to stake their claim or stake someone’s claim as all knowing.

We have all been wrong before about the subjects we are most well versed in at one time or another. I know I have. I find it arrogant when people will automatically discredit a thought process based on titles in front of or behind the name.

Of course we should hold those with titles and degrees in certain subjects with more weight. Do so with common sense though. For example, I am not going to ask my chiropractor to perform open-heart surgery on me should I need it.

We all have political opinions, but we are not all politicians. We all have our opinions about the mainstream media, but we are not all workers in the mainstream media.

No one should automatically discredit your voice for not holding those titles.

We should ask questions and call out the opinions when the facts are not there to back it up. We have so much power at our fingertips for a world of information. We should use it accordingly.

Decades ago, people were in some ways forced to believe the narratives of the media. As media has evolved into more opinion driven content, we need to do our own due diligence to hold them and ourselves accountable. We are the voices that matter. We can change the way they do business. We just have to hit them where it hurts.

The echo chamber’s voice changed the way the NFL conducted business during the Colin Kaepernick protests. People tuned out so the TV ratings dropped. Thus the NFL stepped in and outlawed kneeling during the anthem. They made the ruling that players should remain in the locker room if they intend to protest. That business had every right to do that because the protests hurt their bottom line. Of course, the ratings rose again.

We can do the same to the mainstream media with a collaborative effort. But we won’t. At least not anytime soon.

Like the media, we are too busy engaging in the confirmation bias pandering to the media in the same way they pander to us. The vicious cycle never ends.

I will never claim to be the smartest in the room. I will never claim to be all-knowing. I will never claim to be better than the next person, especially those that disagree.

This may be crass. This may be arrogant, maybe even a little pompous.

I will claim that anything I write or speak about is well-researched. I will claim to admit when I am wrong, but there better be DEFINITIVE proof that I am indeed wrong. I will always welcome the conversation. But more importantly…

Should I be able to see the confirmation bias in your opinions, you better have many angles to your argument covered.

The glass walls (defense) in my house (stance) are, more often than not, sturdier than my counterpart. The collection of stones (facts) will shatter your fucking walls as the glass tatters to the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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