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February 26, 2012


Brendan points to a New York Times article about the purported Heartland Institute documents that is an example of how low the Times has fallen.

Put aside the Times's disgraceful crusade against the Koch brothers. Let's focus on its credulous acceptance of the purported Heartland covering memo, even though cooler heads had smelled a fraudulent document from the get-go.

As it happens, a leading environmental activist has admitted to employing identity theft to obtain most of the Heartland documents from Heartland. But what about the document that appears to be fraudulent? Oh, that one he claims he received in the mail, anonymously--a story so transparently false that I'm guessing only the New York Times believes it.

For those who maintain an open mind on AGW, I commend to you a slideshow presented by a prominent MIT climatologist. It's a classic.

Giving credence to the fraudulent Heartland document required a very high level of motivated reasoning. There are a lot of things about it that show it to be an obvious fake.

However, I want to focus on one that bears a direct relationship to Brendan's research. There were never two sides to this debate. On the one hand, Heartland says it's a fake. On the other hand.........nothing. It's an anonymous document. There's nobody at all saying the document is real.

It seems to me that once the document is in play, many people will automatically give it a degree of credibility, even though there's no source vouching for it. I think the same thing occurred in Brendan's questions regarding motivated reasoning. The fact that a question reiterated some myth put that myth in play and automatically gave it a degree of credibility.

It would follow that this sort of questionnaire can have the effect of impacting its own results and overestimating the extent of false beliefs.

Could there be an uglier picture of Clarence Thomas than the one selected by the Daily Beast? The low camera angle makes his chin look huge. The photo was evidently taken late in the day or at night, when his face was covered with stubble. The close-in focus emphasizes the stubble. Cropping off his head makes him look ugly. And, he wasn't smiling, because he was in the midst of answering a question.

Of course, the picture isn't at all up-to-date. Is it an accident that the Daily Beast happened to select a 21-year old picture that makes Thomas look ugly and even evil? I don't think so.

Nice point about the meta coverage, Brendan. Some time ago, I saw a similar thing regarding Romney's religion. Some media made a meta attack on Romney's religion. They described in detail unusual aspects of Mormonism that these media claimed would be objectionable to some hypothetical Christian Conservatives.

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