Election Causation Error II

Or, “You Don’t Have To Believe Everything You Think.” I have this saying on a bumper sticker on the back of my truck. It is amazing what we can interpret from seeing, hearing, or feeling something, which may or may not have any basis in reality because we would be making a generalization from a snapshot. This concept came back to me the other morning listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, on NPR. But first a little diversion…

Over the last several years I have found this radio program, while entertaining, has become more and more condescending to what I call the vast middle-class situated between the two coasts. I am not sure if indeed they are becoming more condescending or if I am simply more aware of what and how things are said. If you’ve never heard the program, they have several sections, played before a live audience, and having three guest entertainers, usually comedians.

I have already covered in an earlier blog my thoughts on how jokes really are not funny, but many comedians these days seem to delight in putting down their fellow humans, especially those they regard as beneath them. I have heard and read in the past about the ivory tower that “intellectuals” inhabit, mainly in the huge cities on both coasts, plus Chicago, but most especially New York City.

I know treating those we think below us with contempt is basic human nature, but it was brought home to me the other night watching a documentary on one of my favorite writer and director, Nora Ephron. Great film by one of her sons, but boy did it point out how those she associated with seem to consider themselves in a class above the rest of us. And this affliction really does seem to pertain to those in the visual, auditory, and written arts.

So back to the radio show in which they were yukking it up over Donald Trump’s “on the record” meeting with the New York Times in which he supposedly spoke over and over about the size of his hands. However, the dialog was not video or audio taped, with just a transcript released. I apologize, but one more aside. Back in the 90s, I had the unfortunate experience of participating in several lawsuits, but they were before it was standard procedure to videotape a deposition.

I became extremely adept at answering questions which, when reading in a transcript, seemed like the answer was succinct. Had you been present, you would’ve heard the sarcasm and contempt in my voice, which never made it to the printed page. Even better, when the attorney challenged me, I simply stated, “What do you mean?” making her or him look stupid.

So I can imagine, only knowing Trump from a few videos and quips, how he was (or thought he was!) probably being funny and self-deprecating. However, the joking inflection of his voice would not have made it to the printed page. And yet these comedians drew a conclusion over the sterile written words in the transcript, that Trump was actually serious and still obsessing over Rubio’s hand size correlation rather than trying to be funny.

Not only did they make the classic mistake of drawing a conclusion from a correlation (you may remember that since being raked over the coals in my dissertation process, I am attuned to and have encountered many such fallacious arguments!), but also they did not even recognize the context. Either that or they purposely chose to cast that meeting in the dimmest light possible. Or both! So much for the self-professed superiority of the performance intelligentsia!

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