Moulton Lava

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Location: New England, United States

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

P.S. Your News Is Dead

There was an overnight drama in the West Virginia coal mine disaster.

Earlier in the day, the reports percolating up from the rescue team said they had found one dead miner and had not yet found the other 12 missing miners.

Then, around midnight last night, reports filtering through the company communicators said the rescuers found the other 12 alive.

Three hours later, the mining company corrected the news. Of the remaining 12, only one was alive (and in critical condition). The other 11 had been found dead.

The emotions of the family members swung wildy between extremes of despair and joy, and then back to heartbreak and anger.

The episode reveals the power of news and wishful thinking to manipulate the emotional state of people caught up in a gripping life-and-death drama.

The analysis will eventually deconstruct the specific miscommunication in the mine, but the repercussions extend to other stories where erroneous intelligence reports and wishful thinking played a decisive role in grave political action.

Human emotions, it appears, are easily manipulated by news reports that concord with wishful thinking. Sober skepticism is the domain of the conscientious scientific researcher, not the malleable and gullible public.


Blogger torporindy said...

The media error has so far overshadowed the real story of the terrible workplace and Bush's MSHA cuts.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

The abject failure of the regulatory infrastructure is hardly news, since that dysfunctionality applies across the board in all sectors of government.

What made this story stand out is the stark demonstration of the dramatic interplay of raw intelligence, strong emotions, and wishful thinking.

At one time, Americans were able to make sober assessments of reality, and craft wise and intelligent responses to emergent situations.

That's no longer the case, whether we are talking about international threats to American hegemony or internal weaknesses in our societal infrastructure.

2:50 PM  

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