Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fake data, fake causation, fake news

The headline I'm showing here is an example of how fake news websites bullshit people. In the case of this article from Glenn Beck's The Blaze, by making up a causal link between two consecutive events, which is one of the variants of the famous “correlation does not imply causation” mantra. I talk about old tricks like this in The Truthful Art.

There is simply no evidence to support the claim that protests to raise the minimum wage led McDonald's to launch their new self-serving machines. A column The Blaze links, by Ed Rensi, proves nothing; it's just old, plain confirmation bias. Automation would likely have happened regardless —as McDonald's itself acknowledged.

Allow me an aside: There's an ongoing discussion these days about the role that “fake news” played in the election. Focusing just on scrappy websites put together by a young fellow living in, say, Georgia —the country, not the state,— or on how Russia may have helped spreading lies is wrong.

U.S. organizations like The Blaze, Infowars, and radio and TV shows like Rush Limbaugh's or Sean Hannity's are fake news as well, and they are far more influential. If you think that calling them “fake” is an exaggeration, you haven't listened to Rush Limbaugh enough. Here's a sample. For your entertainment, begin at 6:45, when he describes what “true Americans” are, in comparison to those “other” people.

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