The "Everybody knows" bias

Alabama Liberation Front:

Michelle Malkin, Flopping Aces and many others have spent days chronicling how the Associated Press has been bamboozled into reporting an apparently fictitious (or, at least, greatly exaggerated) atrocity in Iraq. Yet AP continues to defend both its dubious story and its equally dubious sources.

Why? Why are we watching AP repeat the same basic mistake that CBS committed with Dan Rather's fake-but-accurate National Guard debacle?

Two words: "Everybody knows." Anyone who has studied anthropology, sociology or mass psychology understands how false beliefs can become conventional wisdom within groups if (a) high-status individuals within the group advocate the belief, and (b) there is no one inside the group to dispute the false belief.

That, in short, is the herd-mentality explanation of why liberal bias pervades the MSM. It's also the explanation of the Heaven's Gate cult (whose members acted on the belief that they must commit suicide in order to be taken aboard a cosmic mothership traveling behind the Hale-Bopp comet). Where group membership is dependent upon shared belief, where skepticism of key beliefs is viewed as disloyalty to the group, and where non-believers are stigmatized, marginalized and excluded, the truth or falsehood of group beliefs is moot. Logic and evidence, so far as they might undermine belief, are unwelcome. This is how it becomes possible for groups to act upon false beliefs.

Ali Bubba has much more. I think the AP's response really proves the point when it accuses those who question their story and their sources of being desperate. They have really bought into the chaos theme and are reluctant to see anything discredit it. What they are missing is perspective on the chaos they present. While the killing is a tragedy for those killed and their families it is also a demonstration of the weakness and wickedness of the enemy. He is too weak to take on the government troops so he instead kills non combatants which causes the opposition militia to kill more non combatants while neither side has the capacity to attack the government directly.


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