Totally Unbiased

Sometimes people make it too easy. I saw this tweet yesterday:

So I commented on how people who write that sort of headline are a key reason meaningful action won't be taken to combat global warming. That sort of headline inspires distrust as it makes it appear the source is extremely biased. I won't dwell on that since it's boring to drone on ad nauseam about how people are so partisan truth accuracy seem to have little value anymore. Suffice to say, the headline is terrible. The fact it went to print speaks volumes about the BBC.

Which is why the BBC secretly changed the headline. You can see the original article here. You can see the current one here. The headline has been changed to read:

Final call to save the world from 'climate catastrophe'

If terribly biased (and incidentally, inaccurate) headlines aren't enough to show you're untrustworthy, secretly changing your publications to try to hide your idiotic mistakes arising from your bias ought to be.

It's not just the headline that was changed though. The article's text underwent major revisions after publication. One section, a section which explicitly called for readers to vote for politicians who support certain policies:

Was completely removed. Another section was completely rewritten. Here is the original version:

Here is the current version:

Not a single one of these changes was disclosed. That is not okay. This behavior is blatantly dishonest.

8 comments

  1. That sort of headline inspire distrust as it makes it appear the source is extremely biased.

    Not to "defend" the headline (or to ignore the issue of changes made to the article without disclosure)....

    IMO, in the vast majority of cases, only those already aligned (motivated) towards distrust and perception of bias on the issue of climate change are likely to be "inspired" by such headlines. I suppose, depending on what you mean by "inspire," your statement might be accurate, but I think the differential impact from such headlines is probably negligible.

  2. I don't think the fact people have already demonstrated their bias enough times that most people have already reached conclusions about them is a reason to say further bad behavior does not inspire negative feelings toward them. If nothing else, there are presumably people in the world who have not made up their minds about such things yet. After all, new people are born every day.

  3. Quick note, I'm fixing a typo I noticed in the sentence you quoted Joshua. Ever since i broke my finger so bad, I've been struggling not to make tons of typos. I know errors slipped through in the past, but I'm spending twice as much time trying to deal with them and I feel like more errors are still slipping through in my writing. It's horrible how often I've had to edit/repost things lately.

  4. I don't think the fact people have already demonstrated their bias enough times that most people have already reached conclusions about them is a reason to say further bad behavior does not inspire negative feelings toward them.

    That seems to me to ignore much of the evidence we have about how people assimilate information related to climate change.

    It seems to me that you're constructing a scenario where neutral people formulate opinions in an objective, negative reaction to perceived bias. It's as if your "already demonstrated bias" is just objective fact, constructed independent of observer bias. I don't think that's how it works, at least much of the time if not must of the time.

    If nothing else, there are presumably people in the world who have not made up their minds about such things yet.

    Of course, but as a vague speculation it seems to me to be a rather weak foundation for any conclusion about any differential impact of (what you perceive to be) bias.

    Seems to me that people tend to assimilate information in such a way as to confirm existing biases. Climate change is an issue where a lot of people formulate conclusions based on their interpretation of evidence they don't have the skills or ability to interpret. What's even more interesting is that people sometimes even double - down when they are presented information that their previous interpretation was in error.

    Of course, if you have evidence of people shifting in their orientation or altering their preexisting views in response to perceived bias, as opposed to a perception of bias acting as confirmation in ways strongly associated with preexisting ideological orientation, I'd like to see it.

  5. Joshua, there are two possibilities. One, some people will see this sort of intellectual dishonesty and react by trusting the source less. In this case, what I said is correct. Two, nobody who ever sees this sort of intellectual dishonesty will react by trusting the source less. In that case, what I said is incorrect. I sincerely doubt you think people are so completely biased the latter is true.

    I get talking about how people's bias affects their interpretation of things is a hobby horse of yours which you like to beat on a constant basis, but it's not always going to be worth bringing up. And if you think it is, you really ought to just copy-paste the exact same message over and over because you're really just saying the same thing each time.

    Which is kind of ironic, if you think about it.

  6. . I sincerely doubt you think people are so completely biased the latter is true.

    Not usually, anyway.

    I get talking about what you perceive to be other people's insane biases is a hobby horse of yours which you like to beat on a constant basis, but it's not always going to be worth bringing up. And if you think it is, you really ought to just copy-paste the exact same message over and over because you're really just saying the same thing each time.

  7. Joshua, when you don't have a response to the points people make, responding instead with petty snark is bad form. That last comment of yours was little better than the, "They do it too!" approach. Actually, it was worse. It doesn't even fit. I don't go to other sites to bang on that issue. The only place I focus on it is here, on a site I've repeatedly said I use as a personal journal, a journal I made because of that issue.

    You do this sort of thing a lot. It'd be nice if you'd stop.

  8. It's not hard to figure out what the scientific consensus is on any topic as long as you use the best sources of information possible. When in doubt about the moon landings or the shape of the Earth, for example, you don't need to rely on media. There's NASA, for example.
    Plus all the other scientific communities on the planet.

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