Political misinformation is harder to correct than health misinformation – especially among the educated

We have covered this phenomena before. The first information people receive, even if subsequently proven to be incorrect, is what stays in people’s minds. This is one of the reasons that propaganda based on lies is often successful. It is very hard to refute erroneous propaganda statements.

New research indicates that corrections have a moderate influence on belief in misinformation. ….“The alarming growth of misinformation and the limited repercussions for non-institutional actors for knowingly or unknowingly misleading the public turned misinformation and its correction to one of the most pressing issues in the social sciences,” said study author Nathan Walter, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.


Walter found evidence that corrections had a moderate effect on counteracting misinformation. However, misinformation about politics was harder to correct than misinformation about health, particularly among participants who were well-educated political partisans.


“Realistically speaking, however, the results are also somewhat alarming because scientific and political misinformation is much harder to debunk, interventions outside the laboratory tend to produce weak effects and, as time passes, people seem to forget about the correction and remember the misinformation,” Walter explained.

Source: Political misinformation is harder to correct than health misinformation – especially among the educated

News: They don’t care about accuracy

Clarke, club president of CARE, said his interest is transmitting using LP or “low power” apparatus. John Laybourne, vice president of the Rogue Valley Amateur Radio Club, used a high-power 10,000 watt setup needing a gas-powered generator for the off-the-grid event.

Source: In era of Wi-Fi and LTE, ham radio enthusiasts don’t mind a challenge | The Columbian

Depending on license class, band and geographic location, the limits are 5 watts, 50 watts, 200 watts or 1,500 watts peak-envelope-power, not 10,000 watts. See FCC Regulations 97.313.  I suspect the reporter confused the use of a 10 kw gasoline generator’s maximum output capability with a transmitter’s output and no one bothered to fact check the story.

What explains this sloppiness? They are shooting themselves in the head. The best way to respond to accusations of “fake news” is to double down on accuracy, not to ramp up sloppy reporting.

News: How poor reporting becomes propaganda

Reporters and statistics rarely work well together:

In 2018, the average premium on the exchange was $5,798.83 and for 2019, companies are proposing to sell products with an average premium of $6,274.08.

An average provides useful information about a random distribution – ACA premiums are not a random distribution. ACA premiums are a non-linear distribution.

When prices are across a non-linear curve, the average tells us little about what an actual customer will pay.

During the first half of the curve, rates are nearly flat (up through age 43); 90% of the price hike occurs after age 43. Second, a related problem in ACA reporting is to quote the “age 40 premium”. Age 40 sounds like its a mid point price, but it is not for two reasons: (1) the midpoint of 21-64 is 42.5, not 40, and (2) the non linear curve. The age 40 premium is meaningless. My state agreed with me on this and now releases several sample quotes up through age 60.

The point here is that statistics can give a news report an air of authority. Unfortunately, until 2006, the accreditation standards for schools of journalism did not require an introduction to statistics. Most reporters were last exposed to math in high school algebra. A side effect of poor mathematics training is frequent misuse of numbers in news reports.

Readers see such numbers and take away a false understanding of the topic. This shapes their opinion of the topic being reported on, enabling their view to be twisted away from reality.

The chart is from own paper on what caused ACA premiums to skyrocket and ideas for solving it – however, I no longer believe that the ACA’s problems can be fixed for reasons explained in my paper.

Source: 2019 insurance on the Obamacare exchange in Ohio will increase | cleveland.com

News: Click bait versus actual news headline

I’m so old, I was taught that a news headline encapsulated a brief summary of the news article. Today, the purpose of a headline is to act as “click bait”. This screen capture from Google News illustrates the concept – the one at the bottom is the “old school” approach.

The past week has seen a flood of “news” reports about immigration issues-some were mostly correct yet some, may be many, were poorly researched, left out context, and were intended primarily as propaganda messaging. The Administration is daffy in its understanding of propaganda – and oblivious to the public response to its actions. I was traveling so I ignored most of it but I have saved aside some items for possible posting here, later.

It seems the primary purpose of both social media and news media is propaganda. The concept of an objective, unbiased news media has vanished.

Google has also fallen off the deep end. I looked up a topic related to news media publishing. Google Search helpfully provided several highlighted quick answers at the top. The first quick answer I looked at was sourced to an anonymous post on an investment forum! The anonymous poster had made nearly 7,000 posts mostly about marijuana legalization. Google elevated an anonymous online forum post from a drug fan to an authoritative answer about publishing! Mind blown.

News: One of these things does not go with the other

One thing:

The Centers for Disease Control is reporting an outbreak of norovirus on a Holland America cruise ship in Alaska. Some 73 people reported falling ill on the Zaandam which is carrying more than 2,000 passengers and crew.

Source: Holland America cruise in Alaska hit by norovirus

And the other thing – CDC Official Statement:

The CDC Vessel Sanitation Program is monitoring the outbreak and the ship’s response procedures. Specimens have been collected and tested onboard using a norovirus rapid test; results were negative for norovirus. The specimens will be sent to CDC for additional testing.

Elsewhere, a cruise ship blogger accurately reports the situation as known at this time.

Perhaps it will yet be determined as norovirus but the reporting is currently ahead of the facts. Other illnesses can cause similar symptoms.

What has happened to journalism? Journalists can not get even the simplest bit of a story reported accurately.

Should reporters pay government employees bribes for leaked info?

FBI agents were enticed to spill the goods from reporters who plied them with meals, invitations to parties, tickets to sporting events and golf outings

Source: FBI Report Shows Leak Investigators Leak Like a Sieve – Bloomberg

From the IG report:

“FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events,”

Can you spot the problems with reporters paying bribes to government employees for favors? Think about that for a while if its not obvious …

“Tech Platforms Must ‘Protect Professional Journalism’ “

It would help if professional journalists would protect professional journalism first (see next post):

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson called for social media platforms to “protect professional journalism” and be subject to an “algorithm review board” made up of “experts.”Social platforms, said Thomson, have “a responsibility to project professional journalism, and cultivate a culture of compliance so that the real could be separated from the unreal and the surreal.”

Source: News Corp CEO: Tech Platforms Must ‘Protect Professional Journalism’ | Breitbart

Fake News: Average renter can’t afford their apartment

I removed most of this original post as I discovered confusing irregularities in the reporting that made it impossible to figure out what they were saying. Instead, I’ll leave just the original part here.

The Oregonian newspaper:


If the average renter cannot afford to rent even a one-bedroom apartment, then how are they living in a rental unit?

This logical conflict was invented by the headline writers as the actual underlying report says something different. But the headline sure makes for good click-bait!

In the version for Oregon, they use a one bedroom apartment and rents should not exceed 30% of income. The average hourly wage in Oregon is $25 per hour.

In the San Francisco version, they use a two bedroom apartment and rents should not exceed 40% of income. The average hourly wage in San Francisco is $40 per hour.

The discrepancy between markets, choosing 1 and 2 bedroom rental units and the 30% and 40% income levels is not explained.

News: When is a scientific study, or the reporting on it, just propaganda?

Today’s news brings the following announcement:

By modifying their lifestyle, including diet and exercise, people can lower their blood pressure just as effectively as with medication, according to a study.

Researchers studied the effects of adapting the Newstart Lifestyle program, which includes a vegan diet, daily outside walks, substantial quantities of water, adequate daily sleep and optional spiritual activities.

Source: Healthier lifestyle as effective as medication to lower blood pressure, study says – UPI.com

Most people will read only the headline and possibly the first few paragraphs.

Disclaimer – I personally lowered my systolic blood pressure by more than 30 points and my diastolic blood pressure by 20 points through lifestyle changes alone (different than those recommended in this study). My comments are not about whether this is effective but about the use of this study as a propaganda piece – without any useful analysis by the news media.

There is more to this news report that is important for context:

Second Disclaimer – based on personal experience I strongly agree that personal lifestyle choices can have a profound influence on health and blood pressure! If the Seventh Day Adventist Lifestyle program is right for you, by all means look in to it!

My comments are not about Seventh Day Adventists (I assume they are fine people). My comments are about “stenographer reporters” who copy press releases, enabling public relations propagandists to spin the story and control your mind. At a high level, this study comes across as a propaganda piece, defined as persuading the target to adopt someone’s agenda. The press release makes effective use of Appeal to Authority arguments, notably a university and an Institute affiliation, and linking to similar ideas from the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic.

This item is a wonderful example of how studies are presented by public relations (a.k.a. propaganda experts) to persuade others to adopt someone’s agenda. This item also illustrates how the news media works together with propaganda experts to deliver powerful propaganda messages to you. The news media ought to be in the business of sorting spin out of the reporting and disclosing potential conflicts of interest of their sources – and sometimes they succeed at doing that. But far too often, they become a party and a conduit for propaganda messaging.