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January 25, 2013

Taranto on the Chicago Tribune's Embarassing Gun Correction: Ignorance Is a Form of Bias

The Chicago Tribune read an info-formative graphic which explained to its almost-as-ignorant readers that a buckle for affixing a carrying strap to a gun was in fact a mount for a bayonet, or, indeed, a "grenade launcher."

Taranto likes the error to Todd Akin's, and notes that, in an area where someone is ignorant, ideology has a way of filling in all the gaps of knowledge in a way that's ideologically helpful to the ignoramus.

Knowles's assertion that "this was a careless mistake" and not "an intentional deception" is surely true. But his denial of bias is not credible.

The episode reminds us of Todd Akin, the failed Missouri Senate candidate. Asked a question last summer about his position on abortion, Akin made some claims about the workings of the female reproductive system that were about as accurate as the gun graphic that occasioned the Trib's crow consumption.

Was Akin engaged in "an intentional deception"? That seems highly implausible, as it implies both that he knew that what he was saying was false and that he expected others to believe it was true. It's much likelier that, like Knowles and his staff at the Tribune, Akin was misinformed and made "a careless mistake."

It would be preposterous, however, to deny that Akin was biased. Indeed it seems obvious that he believed the falsehood in question because that falsehood made it easier to justify his ideological position to himself (and, he mistakenly believed, to others).

I think the same thing goes on with 9/11 Trutherism. It's usually easier to believe an Unbelievable Thing if you don't know much about it -- every bit of reading you do just might disprove that Unbelievable Thing you believe.

So, better to keep oneself virginal of any penetration by information.

The gun-sissies of the press find it easier to imagine that any gun which looks ugly is capable of automatic fire and so don't bother digging in any more deeply; they've heard enough from 2nd-amendment supporters to know that maybe that's false, but if they keep their brains hygienic, uncontaminated by dirty data, then they can assert that the AR-15 is an "automatic rifle" without having full knowledge of the falsity of this claim.

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posted by Ace at 01:02 PM

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