Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/12/18: The Media’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale Debacle

Good morning!

It’s  a Cognitive Dissonance Scale (CDS) fiasco! I know I’ve been flogging the scale recently, but it’s not my fault widespread ignorance of Dr. Festinger’s invention is running amuck. Here is the scale (again)…

Remember, the theory, born out daily in practice, is that we subconsciously move people, things and ideas up and down the preference scale according to their connections to other people, things and ideas with strong positive or negative scale scores. This was the theory behind Ram Trucks using Martin Luther King Jr. as a pitch man in the much-reviled Super Bowl ad, which we discussed in the post From The Scary Tales Of The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Files: The Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial.  [Incidentally, those Ram ad writers weren’t quite as dumb as I thought. While the response to the ad over-all indicated that the Mad Men miscalculated regarding the Scale, some data showed that they were right about the black audience, just not right enough. A Morning Consult survey of 1,579 U.S. adults who viewed the ad indicated that 48%  of African-Americans said the ad gave them a more favorable view of Ram, while 17% said it gave them a less favorable view of the bran,  and 30% said it made no difference. That means that MLK was so high on the African-American scale that his positive value even overcame the negative value of shameless exploitation, and that attaching King to the trucks did, in fact, elevate the product’s scale value.]

Looking again at the scale, let us assume that most rational Americans place North Korea very low. How low? How low can can you go? The poverty-stricken Asian nation is dragged down by the fact that it was (and technically still is) a hostile enemy of the U.S. in the Korean War It is a Communist nation, a dictatorship, a brutal dictatorship, a human rights criminal, and most Americans have “being threatened with nuclear weapons” quite low on their personal scales as well.

For the sake of argument, let’s say North Korea’s CDS value is -100. (Imagine there is a zero after all of the numbers on the scale; the N/S is really of infinite length in both directions.)

Now, what would you say is the scale’s value for the U.S. news media? Journalists are under the delusion that their positive numbers are high. They should be high, and they have always been high before, but the last several years of blatant bias and incompetence have lowered them considerably. For me, the news media is in negative numbers already, but just for the sake of the exercise, let’s say that the news media has a faintly positive public scale score of +20.

How about the Olympics? For some reason the Olympics still have a positive rating on the scale, though nowhere near where it once was. That positive rating is why NBC paid a fortune for the broadcasting rights, hoping for big viewer ratings, but also assuming that the high Olympics Cognitive Dissonance Scale score would yank the network’s own score up the scale.

I’ll peg the Olympics scale rating at +50. I don’t really believe it’s that high, especially the Winter version.

Finally, the last ingredient of this complex Cognitive Dissonance Scale excursion is President Trump. There is no way that the President of the United Sates is in scale negative numbers, which are distinct from poll approval ratings.  If he were a Pet Rock, the office, the history, and the symbolic nature of his role would take any President over the mid-line.  If the Olympics audience were entirely made up of “the resistance,” this would be another matter, but it is not. If anything, I would guess, though I don’t know, that the 30% or so  bitter Trump-haters among the public would tend to be less interested in the national pride orgy the Olympics typically presents than the less-deranged portion of the public. Again, for the sake of the exercise, I’ll put President Trump at -0-, neutral territory.

What has happened since the Olympics began is that the mainstream media has been gushing approval over the North Koreans–their athletes, their creepy cheerleading squad, and most of all, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong–all propaganda tools— while sneering disapproval at the President’s representative at the Games, Mike Pence. As some wags on social media have pointed out, this is roughly the equivalent of swooning over Eva Braun during the 1936 Munich Olympics. Wrote the Daily Caller, fairly and accurately,

Calling Kim North Korea’s “answer to American first daughter Ivanka Trump,” CNN wrote that Kim “is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics,” going so far as to say she “would be favored to win gold” if “diplomatic dance” were an Olympic event. The piece never once mentioned ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons, or the fact that Kim is blacklisted by the Department of the Treasury for serious human rights violations.

CNN did, however, comment on her smile and warmth….

The Washington Post followed suit, writing about the so-called “Ivanka Trump of North Korea” and her “sphinxlike smile and low-key beauty.” Numerous other outlets have made similar comparisons to the first daughter, despite the fact that the only real similarity is that the two women have served as smiling representatives for their respective governments on the world stage.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of and adviser to President Donald Trump, is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, fashion designer, model, and actress, as well as a dutiful wife and mother. Kim, on the other hand, is the sister and confidant of a brutal dictator who murdered his own uncle and brother. Kim has served as his propaganda chief, shaping his cult of personality at a time when her brother was purging hundreds of government officials and their families, either by sending them to prison camps or by killing them in horrific public executions to secure his grip on power.

In recent years, Kim has risen through the ranks to become a member of the senior leadership and one of Kim Jong Un’s most trusted advisers. She is rumored to have even taken control of North Korea when her brother was ill, which means that at one point in time, she had her hand on the wheel of one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.

Of course this works on Michael Moore’s Bizarro World scale; he’s a Communist, among other things. He tweeted,

“I just loved the whole F-Trump opening to the Olympics last night. From all Koreans coming in together under one blue flag of peace, to Pence & “mother” forced to sit in front of Kim’s sister, to the popular Korean singers joining together to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” – BOOM!”

Sure, Michael.

(For the sake of avoiding needless complexity, I won’t begin to chart the Cognitive Dissonance Scale dynamics of anyone connected to North Korea having the gall to sing “Imagine.” Can a scale throw up?)

Here is what the mainstream media’s Trump Derangement has wrought: a Cognitive Dissonance Scale disaster for them, and their anti-Trump agenda.

That lower than low rating for North Korea is both an anchor and a trampoline. The news media embracing it pulls its own rating down, and the news media doesn’t have nearly enough positive weight to pull the North Koreans up. Neither does a sort of pretty dictator family member, or smiling young girls cheering under dire threats to their families, assuming either of these have any positive ratings at all. (I doubt it.) In addition, when an overwhelmingly negative person, place or thing is placed in opposition to a person, place or thing that is higher on the scale, it pushes that entity UP the scale. This is the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” phenomenon. Ironically, the news media is using “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic to persuade it to cheer North Korea, but it isn’t their thoroughly warped Cognitive Dissonance Scale they should be focusing on. I’ll stipulate that the mainstream news media’s CDS is sadly similar to Michael Moore’s. It’s the American public’s scale that matters here.


  • By attaching itself to the brutal, communist dictatorship that is threatening the U.S. and locked in at the bottom of the scale, and embracing its propaganda,. the mainstream news media’s score goes DOWN.
  • By aligning North Korea in opposition to President Trump, President Trump’s score on the public’s CDS goes UP.
  • Since the North Korea-fawning NBC is broadcasting the Olympics, its now lowered CDS value pulls the Olympics DOWN.

Forget about the other ethical values ignored in the news media’s handling of this episode. The most striking aspect of it is the sheer incompetence, stupidity and ignorance involved.



52 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/12/18: The Media’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale Debacle

  1. All that fat must be cutting off the blood flow to Michael Moore’s brain. The unified Korean team appearance stunt was done at least once before, in 2006 in Turin, which predates Trump by a decade. Imagine was also sung then, by Peter Gabriel. None of the Korean singers who sang it was from NK. Michael Moore is the all-time champion of selective facts, taking things out of context, and speaking loudly and confidently in place of truthfully.

    • Oh, it’s even worse. Another tweet from Moore read,

      Lest too many people started singing along at home to “Imagine no heaven, no religion, no possessions,” Katie Couric was quick to point out the (true) human rights violations of North Korea. Spoken by a person from a nation run on mass incarceration, and 30M w/ no health care.

      • Those aren’t even the lyrics as sung, and even if they were, coming from a guy who says everyone wishes they were living in his $1M apartment in NY? If the network had wanted to skip John Lennon’s ode to magical thinking (which we’ve all heard a million times anyway) it could have. BTW, that song was written in 1971. If singing along was going to change the world, it would have by now. Songs only bring peace in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood (he actually wrote a 5-day series in 1983 in which the Neighborhood of Make Believe gears up for a war with the neighboring kingdom of Southwood, only for a simple visit to find out they were building a bridge, not bombs, and don’t the leaders look silly now?).

        • As I think I’ve noted here more than once, that song is one of my all time pet peeves, Lennon at his most silly and facile, and anyone who gets misty eyed hearing it immediately goes on my Idiot List for life. It barely edges out “Give Peace a Chance.” “Oobla Di, Oobla Da” is more profound. As is “Why don’t we do it in the road?”

          • Amen and amen. To be completely fair, song lyrics aren’t usually all that deep, however, that song is particularly shallow, and wouldn’t sound out of place sung by an early Sesame Street cast member (probably Loretta Long, usually tasked with the inspirational songs) to rapt-eyed kids.

            I take it that peace songs generally don’t occupy a high place on your play list. I somehow can’t see you chilling on a Sunday morning to “What the World Needs Now,” or joining hands with complete strangers at the end of some kind of community gathering while a chorus of children sings “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”

          • “… and anyone who gets misty eyed hearing it immediately goes on my Idiot List for life.”

            I feel that’s a somewhat one-dimensional way of looking at a piece of music. After all, there’s more to a song than the lyrics. I know several musicians who love the song (and get worked up by its performance) for reasons — like the percussive rhythm or the haunting piano — other than it’s sappy verse.

                • “Mislabel”

                  Mislabel all your folders
                  It’s easy if you try
                  No alphabet to guide you
                  With “P” there after “I”
                  Mislabel every memo, file it far away
                  Mislabel all your contacts
                  It isn’t hard to do
                  No one to buy lunch for
                  Or return phone calls to
                  Mislable everybody, meeting, project, thing
                  You may say I’m an idiot
                  But I’m having lots of fun
                  I hope some day you’ll join me
                  Having no record what you’ve done!

                • I don’t know where you get snobbery out of labeling transparent crap what it is. (I assume you mean UNpalatable.) I don’t ridicule silly and trival songs that are just intended as pure entertainment, like “Three Little Fishies.” But people take the sentiments of “Imagine” seriously, and they don’t deserve to be taken seriously. The author is just emoting and abusing his celebrity without considering that his loyal fans think this junk is profound. People raised on Imagine grow up to vote for bad leaders and to support dangerous movements and policies.

                  Boy, I don’t think I’ve had the snobbery cheap shot thrown at me for pointing out stupidity since high school.

                  Wanna hear what I think about “Give Peace A Chance”?

                  • I think he meant “palpable.” It sounds to me like you are saying that artists must use their platforms responsibly and consider the messages they send with their art. I agree, but, let’s not kid ourselves, most artists are not exactly the smartest nor the most educated people. Their purpose is to touch the heart more than the mind. Frankly most artists are at their worst when they try to be “profound.” Jim Carrey was HILARIOUS as a rubber-faced funny man. He was just tedious in the anti-Red Scare The Majestic. Robin Williams could make you laugh yourself silly as Mork from Ork on Happy Days or in the first season of Mork and Mindy. His “triumph of the human spirit” stuff…not so much. Mel Gibson is one of the greatest action heroes of the silver screen…but who has time for his self-important messages about freedom, faith, etc.? You already skewered Pete Seeger nicely, and a lot of the same reasoning applies to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, and most other musicians/songwriters. Great tunes, great fun, but as a political philosophy, forget it.

      • Single or limited issue people like Michael Moore tend to not be like the guy with a hammer to whom every problem looks like a nail.

    • “The federal government would contribute $200 billion to the package, a figure Democrats have already denounced as too small.” From article in The HIll.

    • As much as the 4.4 trillion budget concerns me, the big item (infrastructure) really needs to be addressed and was estimated at $1 trillion in the 1980s. Obama really kicked the bucket with his shovel ready jobs program.

  2. I just watched 3 of those cheerleader routines in a row. They are cacophonous. They are annoying.

    The media is irredeemably showing their hand in how much they want to fawn over anything that can poke America’s eye.





      • By the way: this post has received no Facebook shares at all….and this is an aspect of this disgraceful newsmedia display that literally no one else is explaining. Drives me nuts. Meanwhile, the mainstream media keep yapping about how charming the North Korea propaganda chief is, and Fox just snarks about it while never getting beyond contempt for the MSM.

        I’m doing something wrong. I wish I knew what.

        • Jack,

          Don’t estimate your self worth based on a website where the fix is in. We know Facebook rigs, lies, cheats, and steals. They are all in for the progressive narrative, whatever that is at the moment.

          You can’t let the bastards get you down.

  3. Some reports out of South Korea seem to reveal the truth: The South Koreans aren’t nearly as enthused about the socialist dictatorship across the border as the American mainstream media is.

    I wonder why?

  4. “Imagine” is something of an anthem for Communists. No possessions, no religion, etc. Unfortunately for Michael Moore, there’s no food either.

    • Even the real Communists didn’t believe that, except the kooks like Pol Pot, and he didn’t exactly produce a brotherhood of man.

    • Like so many artists, Lennon’s political views were infantile. This isn’t a problem except for celebrities who can’t resist using their huge megaphone irresponsibly, and John’s era was the era of political idealism unmoored from common sense or history. The song is an anthem to sentimental ignorance. I don’t care if the tune is OK. The tune of “Deuschland Uber Alles” is pretty too, but if it doesn’t make you think of Nazis, you’re uneducated.

      • I told a performing artist friend that her views were unsophisticated and maybe even somewhat childlike once. She told me that “that’s the problem with you college-educated, government types, you overthink everything. It shouldn’t have to be sophisticated. Be kind. Be tolerant. Don’t fight. Meditate for half an hour every day. And don’t spend one more penny on anything else until no child anywhere in the world is going to bed cold, or sick, or hungry or alone.” Sounds good, and it would make good song lyrics, but unworkable.

  5. I’m not quite willing to condemn the performers, even if the song selection is tone deaf to us. I doubt that had a choice, and performing a song that admits everything is not now all peachy keen on a world stage still has value. When things are bad, the joy in performing means a lot.

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