The Herman Cain Web Hoax, Confirmation Bias, and Untrustworthy Commentators

Other possible titles for this entry include “Now THIS Is Confirmation Bias!” and “How Ideological Passion Can Make You an Idiot.”

Here is a screen shot of a  Herman Cain PAC website that surfaced this week:

Did you think it was real? Do you think it was intended to fool anyone above the age of 12? Did you not see the horse gag coming a mile away? I guess the real question is, did it take you three seconds, or only one to figure out that it was a gag?

Yet several Angry Left websites, including the Daily Kos and Crooks and Liars, did think the website was genuine, and cited it to their vigorously nodding readership as proof of the depravity of Republicans. Here’s Dave Neiwart, working up a lather at Crooks and Liars:

“And they’re sooooo funny, too, “clarifying” that Kraushaar is not the horse in the picture.

” Boy, I bet that convinces all the women out there, eh? Granted, it probably will work great with Republican men, who all seem to believe that only attractive women could possibly be sexually harassed. (This is particularly the case with “MP” at the Cain PAC blog.) I guess less-than-perfectly-attractive women are just so desperate that of course they would be happy to give Cain a blow job.   EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember when the right-wing was against sexism? You know back when Palin was their media token?”

Over at the progressively unhinged Daily Kos, you can read the hilarious threads as the readership argued solemnly over whether of not the site was fake, treating the question as if it were of equivalent difficulty as squaring the circle or building a perpetual motion machine.

This, my friends, is clinical confirmation bias, when one becomes incapable of objectively judging of new data, and automatically leap at interpretations that support pre-exististing positions. Imagine how much disrespect, fear, distrust and hatred of conservatives must be driving people like Neiwart to allow a web site like this, which is routine fare at the Onion and except for the vulgarity, would have been right at home in Mad Magazine, to fool them.

More significantly, consider this: of what value is commentary and analysis by anyone so handicapped by bias? I can see none. Such writers may be sincere, intelligent, passionate and honest, but it doesn’t matter: if your eye is so jaundiced that you think the world is a giant lemon, your opinion isn’t worth anything at all. You might as well be lying. Yet the Daily Kos, and Crooks and Liars, and many right wing blogs that are equally warped in the other direction, have millions of  loyal readers who think the same way as their yellow-eyed writers. Commentators and  analysts who care about doing a fair and competent job must constantly battle their biases, try to keep open minds, and avoid having their judgment poisoned by emotion.

A commentator or analyst who can’t, or won’t see an obvious hoax like the Cain website for what it is isn’t even trying.

Similarly, it is incompetent and irresponsible for any website or news organization to present the opinion of a writer who is cognitively handicapped by such deep and uncontrollable bias that they can no longer distinguish fantasy from reality.Web hoaxes are unethical when their intent is to cause embarrassment and confusion by fooling people of normal intelligence and knowledge. When a hoax website that is obviously intended in jest fools a supposedly legitimate commentator, however, it performs a public service. It has diagnosed severe confirmation bias rooted in irrational hate, and those afflicted should not be relied upon…by anyone.

One thought on “The Herman Cain Web Hoax, Confirmation Bias, and Untrustworthy Commentators

  1. I am absolutely certain that this supposed website was up and available for as long as possible before the news industry “realized” it was a joke. Problem: No one who wants Obama to be re-elected wants to see a black conservative in the mix.

    Cain proves one thing that Obama administration is most afraid of: that the minority populations in this country are no longer a monolothic voting block, and regardless of Cain’s chances of an actual nomination, it scares the shit out of them. And it should.

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