Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

More confederacies of dunces

Sitting in the crosshairs of a tropical storm. This has been more or less established fact in the mind of anyone with a minimal exposure to the science of meteorology since the start of the week. I don't make my living at it, so I don't have to cloud my predictions with six lanes of wiggle room. In broadcast weather, it is no longer enough to state observed phenomena and draw my conclusions. It is necessary to think of the ratings.

Pardon me, but thinking of the ratings has been part of the current problem. Thinking of the ratings has escalated six-inch snowfalls into disaster stories. Thinking of the ratings has morphed thunderstorms into the end of the world. Thinking of the ratings has pumped and fluffed up so many routine weather events, some of which didn't happen, that television meteorology has less credibility than ever. This has happened at the same time that the science has vastly improved its ability to predict what are, after all, chaotic events.

How does broadcast journalism fill in the gap? Hey kids, lets conduct a poll. The uses of TV polls have become steadily more idiotic. Do we have spine enough to say "Obama is a Christian, and and any belief to the contrary is either lies or stupidity?" Of course not, think of the ratings: lets conduct a poll. Can we go out on a limb enough to say "all models show Hurricane Earl having a significant effect on large and populous areas of the east coast?" No; lets conduct a poll, whose results show that an overwhelming majority of the respondents "don't believe in" Hurricane Earl, as if its course and very existence were matters of faith, not evidence.

Now, having done that, these fools will go to bed Friday night secure in the belief that because a jury of people as stupid as themselves have said the storm isn't going to happen and doesn't exist, that everything is all right. There remains a slight, shrinking chance that they will get lucky: weather is chaos theory in action, so anything can happen. However, the laws of probability are no longer on their side. So, if a tree skewers their car or the neighbours' shed flies through the living room, these imbeciles will want someone to blame. It couldn't possibly be their responsibility for being fools.

There is rough justice in the likelihood that they will blame the broadcast media who were so concerned about the ratings that they couldn't manage to offer the evidence.



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