Anatomy of an instructive howler!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2020

These White People Today: It was an unvarnished howler—even, perhaps, a groaner. That said, the error in question strikes us as highly instructive.

We've mentioned this item twice before. The error belongs to the Washington Post's Michele Norris—and yes, everyone makes them. 

At any rate, in a recent column about vaccine aversion, Norris penned this highly instructive misstatement:

NORRIS (9/10/20):  We are not just tussling with historical wrongs. A recent study of White medical students found that half believed that Black patients had a higher tolerance for pain [than white patients] and were more likely to prescribe inadequate medical treatment as a result.

These White People Today!

In the past, we've learned that you can't necessarily believe the things you read in major newspapers. When we clicked Norris' link, then clicked again, we found that the recent study in question didn't say any such thing at all.

Everybody makes mistakes! This mistake involved a highly invidious racial claim. And it isn't just that Norris' statement was wrong. Depending on how you want to score it, her statement was wrong by a factor of fifty or possibly more.

These "Racial" Misstatements Today! In this case, there's a lot to learn from the chain of slippery behaviors which led to Norris' groaning misstatement. Tomorrow, we'll start with the original study itself—with two structural components of the study which strike us as perhaps a bit strange.

Do These Liberal Researchers Today sometimes place their thumbs on the scales in search of more pleasing outcomes? Down through the years, we've occasionally received that impression. For the record, we have no way of knowing if any such motive was involved in the study whose findings Norris misstated. 

At any rate, tomorrow we'll start with the study itself. After that, we'll move on to the way the study was reported, in the body of its text and then again in synopsis. 

The final error belonged to Norris—and to her unnamed editors, who certainly should have checked her claim before they put it in print.

These Upper-End Journalists Today—how cavalier they can be! Meanwhile, over at Slate, a different breed of journalist is working hard, around the clock, to keep us well-informed. 

As a bit of comic relief, here are some of the journal's recent hard-hitting headlines or headline pairs or front-page teaser links:

December 11: Colonel Sanders was very horny

December 14: Help! My Wife Needs to Stop Treating This Toy Like It’s Our Baby.

December 15: How To Get Your Dog to Stop Eating Your Daughters’ Underwear With Jenny Slate / My dog—and my kids—are both to blame for this embarrassing habit.

December 15: My Boyfriend’s Job Makes It Impossible for Him to Do My Favorite Sex Act

December 19: Help! My Son Keeps Stealing My Flavored Condoms / He thinks they’re candy and trades them for his friends’ lunches at school.

December 20: Jenny Slate’s Dog Ate Five Used Tampons / It could happen to you too.

December 21: Grading Jon Ossoff’s Old-Guy Attempts to Use TikTok to Win Over the Youngest Georgia Voters / *He’s 33.

But seriously though, folks! So it goes in various realms at Slate. 

Meanwhile, for people who clicked the teaser to today's contribution, congratulations! You went in search of political news. As it turned out, you'd been Schwedeled!

Delicious instant update: After publishing this post, we returned one email, then turned to New York magazine's Intelligencer site. We found this hard-hitting report by Irina Carmon:

The Story Behind the Story of Martin Shkreli’s Romance With a Reporter

It takes a lot to get everyone on the Internet to read the same thing—especially in Trump and plague times—but on Sunday night, “The Journalist and the Pharma Bro” did it. Published in Elle magazine, it’s a reported account of Bloomberg News reporter Christie Smythe giving up her career and her marriage for a now-scuttled relationship with reviled hedge-funder Martin Shkreli, who is serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison for fraud. The story includes a kiss in a room redolent of chicken wings. The reaction came as something of a surprise to its author, Stephanie Clifford, who said she is now fielding requests from Hollywood for adaptations. Smythe, who had already sold the film rights to her book proposal about her relationship with Shkreli, has been gamely tweeting through the chatter. On Monday morning, Clifford got on the phone with Intelligencer to discuss how the story came to be published, whether she believes Smythe is delusional, and what was up with that fashion shoot.

To peruse the interview, you can just click here.  Meanwhile, "it takes a lot"—or maybe a little—to get everyone to read the same thing! 

In this case, it took a kiss involving some chicken wings. Tinseltown, here it (allegedly) comes!


19 comments:

  1. "When we clicked Norris' link, then clicked again, we found that the recent study in question didn't say any such thing at all."

    But of course you didn't need to check the link, dear Bob.

    Pay attention, dear Bob, this will save you a lot of time: if it's in WaPo (or NYT, or any variety of NBC, or ABC, or CBS, of CNN, or any other 'mainstream' liberal-goebbelsian org), then it's a lie. 100%. Simple as that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Treating Right-wingers as good faith actors, is the tell.

      Delete
    2. Sing it, Mao.
      Those liars are still pretending Biden's landslide electoral wipeout of Trump was close.

      Delete
  2. "Do These Liberal Researchers Today sometimes place their thumbs on the scales in search of more pleasing outcomes? "

    Liberal researchers who are scientists do not place their thumbs on the scales because that would be fraud. You can go to jail for it. You can lose your grant funding. You can be fired, lose your tenure, and be kicked out of academia (or your corporation) for doing it.

    Somerby thinks it is clever to accuse liberals of bias but this issue concerning the undertreatment of black people for pain is a matter of medical research, it is part of the published literature, and there are serious consequences for medical fraud.

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  3. "At any rate, tomorrow we'll start with the study itself."

    Somerby is like the energizer bunny. He ignores feedback on his essays and thus keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over.

    He is wrong about this. That makes him a lot like Fox News, which repeats its own pleasing messages for the loyal. Somerby will tell his lies here about Norris and pain treatment, and he may even believe them for all anyone knows, but he will do damage to innocent people (black people in this case) by spreading misinformation that conforms to his bigoted views about race.

    He has officially become part of the problem, not part of the solution. And this is why our country can no longer have nice things.

    Note: Somerby is definitely not a liberal. Liberals care about science and allow themselves to be corrected by research. They don't mock it because it doesn't accord with their preferred views, as Somerby is doing yet again today.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Somerby claims to be understanding of The Other and yet he mocks the kinds of things that other people find entertaining, such as those Slate articles. I suppose reading them isn't as fun as musing under his pear tree, but Somerby really sounds like an elitist today.

    ReplyDelete
  5. “For the record, we have no way of knowing if any such motive was involved in the study whose findings Norris misstated.”

    So, if Somerby has no way of knowing, why make the insinuation? If he can convincingly show that the study is faulty, then he should just do it and let that speak for itself rather than searching for motive while pretending not to.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It seems to me that if you love people, you are fascinated by and tolerant of their idiosyncrasies, the anecdotes and snippets of their lives, their foibles and follies as well as their noble moments. You love the variety and colorfulness of their day-to-day adventures, their funny and eccentric activities. There is a richness to human behavior that yields ongoing enjoyment of life's journey.

    Somerby obviously doesn't like people very much. It makes him unaccepting of his own life, not just the lives of others. He seems depressed, which is a consequence of turning a harsh, critical eye on oneself, not just others. I find myself wondering if his critical faculty is just his mother's voice chiding him, but that is between Somerby and his shrink. It is so sad not to enjoy humanity, especially during the holidays.

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    1. Please delete this spam, thank you.

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  8. "in which a source to which he links fails to support the particular claim he's making about These Better-Off People Today."

    Whether a link does or does not support a statement is largely Somerby's opinion. He has now made this sort of criticism several times, but I find it hard that a writer would include a link that did not support his or her argument. Inclusion of a link is voluntary, so why would anyone include one if it didn't support what was written? Somerby wants us to believe that all of the authors he criticizes are being mendacious. I think it is more likely that he is dismisses their evidence, just as he dismisses their arguments, because he disagrees and is too lazy to provide counter-evidence. And that is dirty pool on Somerby's part.

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