Comparing Fox News & Washington Posts coverage of the same story


Fox News article on the left. See the headline. It actually links to the Washington Post article on the right as its source. See that headline. And if you read the article it says the US actually ranked 19th on risk and vulnerability to biologial threats. And if you look at the report it does show that the US has higher scores, but countries are grouped into cohorts, and none of them are considered to be fully prepared.

No wonder we are literally living in two different worlds of sense-making. Best is maybe both sides should read news from both sides. That way we can reduce our blind-spots and demand better quality and accountability from our primary sources?

Coronavirus: Bad news are coming exponentially, we need to prepare


Friends, coronavirus is going to hit us really bad. A lot of us are going to be affected disproportionately. The really bad news is that those of us who are struggling financially are going to be hit even worse.

When bad news is coming exponentially, things still seem kinda fine until suddenly they are not. We need to brainstorm and problem solve and be as proactive as we can to make it through this.

I am trying to check in 1-1 with as many people I know. Please also feel free to reach out to me with any concerns you have about what’s going on.

Sondland Testimony, CBS vs Fox, ‘quid pro quo’ or not?


Exact same testimony, exact same words being reported. CBS says “Sondland confirms a quid pro quo”. Fox says “Sondland confirms Trump told him no quid pro quo”. Now it may seem like one of them is blatantly lying. But that’s not true. They are reporting different aspects.

Sondland confirmed he thought there was supposed to be one and also confirmed Trump told him the exact opposite.

In other words, CBS is saying that a witness says he thinks the suspect committed a crime. And Fox is saying that the witness says that when the witness confronted the suspect the suspect denied the crime.

In my personal opinion, despite both reporting one part of the truth, the Fox aspect is slightly more misleading here. Because we would all agree that reporting that a suspect denied their crime is not really newsworthy, right? At the same time CBS comes across as if this is more certainly provable than it actually is.

Trump’s influence trick: simply evaluating a lie can make us believe it


If someone was to ask us, “have you ever seen a monkey wearing a pink bikini and red lipstick?”, we’d probably say no.

But to come up with the “no”, here’s the mental process we usually follow. We imagine a monkey, a pink bikini, and red lipstick. Then we check, how “hard” was it to make this association in the head. If it required some mental effort to put it together, we assume that we have never seen this before. And so we say no.

If we were asked the same question 6 months later, “have you ever seen a monkey wearing a pink bikini and red lipstick?”, we may again say no.

Now, if someone asked the same question a year later, we’d do the same mental process. But this time, it will be somewhat “easier” to imagine a monkey in a pink bikini wearing red lipstick. The readiness with which we can “recall” this image will trick our mind into saying “maybe” or even “yes”.

You see, truth requires too much chemical energy to verify. So we have come up with shortcut strategies like “time to imagine”. They mostly work, but can be easily hijacked.

If someone wants to turn us against wind power, and they make the real claims like “it requires a lot of expensive storage”, then they are speaking to our intellectual brain (System II). But this brain often has too much inertia and is harder to influence. But if someone makes an audacious claim “wind noise causes cancer”, it goes to our intuitive brain (System I). This part of our brain has no defense mechanism and offers little barriers to influence. We can’t “unsee” things.

This is how opinions can be influenced. By introducing doubt and creating new associations in our heads. The more outrageous the claim, the further deeper into “enemy lines” it can travel.

We may blame Trump, but this also just shows he really knows how people’s minds work and how media works. The Washington Post, The Hill, Newsweek, are all “working” for him. Every news outlet is actually talking to this System II inside our head and doing Trump’s bidding.

Take your favorite publication and see how they have covered this story. See the headline. If the headline contains the word “cancer”, Trump has totally played them. I am sharing this as a response to his outrageous claim. In some ways I am being played too! I’m reinforcing the wrong association he wants us all to make. This is recursive, inception-type stuff 😂

A year from now, if someone were to ask us, “do windmills cause cancer”, our gut intuitive response might be “maybe”, until our intellectual mind will step in and correct us. Associations form very easily and are hard to undo. “Windmills do not cause cancer” still doesn’t undo anything. If anything, it also reinforces the association.