Saturday, December 02, 2006

So, who gets decide what is rational? redux



The production team of BBC's flagship news programme 'Newsnight' has recently launched a series of web-based initiatives to make their show more interactive.

Presumably this is in response to viewer numbers tanking because not many people want to stay up that late on a weeknight just to watch a bunch of public schoolboys regurgitate government and security service bullcrap.

One of the new initiatives is a regular, chatty email written by the presenters and production team sent to anyone who can be bothered to subscribe. They sometimes include jokes.

I am a subscriber.

And the most surprising thing I've read for a long time plopped into my inbox earlier on this evening.

It came from Newsnight's editor Peter Barron

The full (copyrighted) text is up on the web here but I think I'm allowed to reproduce a couple of chunks on the basis of fair comment...


Last night an amateur film-maker spoke to me about his belief that there's been a huge cover-up in the official reporting of both 9/11 and 7/7. Why, he asked, doesn't the BBC report the many discrepancies and oddities surrounding the accounts of these hugely significant events?

The reason we haven't gone deeper is that there's surely no rational explanation for the attacks other than that they were carried out by two groups of Islamist terrorists, however puzzling some of apparent inconsistencies.


I appreciate that the BBC can hardly go chasing after and reporting on every 'Green-Biro Special' that comes through its letterbox but to come out and say that it won't report certain stories because...


there's surely no (other) rational explanation for the attacks ... however puzzling some of apparent inconsistencies


For feck's sake.




FWIW here's the comment I just posted on the Newsnight webpage...


Ten minutes spent reading up on the bombing of Bologna train station in 1980 and the activities of Propaganda Due in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s will yield a well-documented example of a terrorist conspiracy executed by elements within a Western government against its own people.

These things happen.

And thorough investigation of ‘discrepancies and oddities’ is arguably the only way they will be uncovered - if and when they have occurred.

On the specific issue of 7/7

It took the efforts of an ordinary citizen to finally extract an admission from John Reid that a key time in the 7/7 Timeline, as given in the ‘Official 7/7 Narrative’, was incorrect -

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5170708.stm

The most active July 7th ‘Truth’ group that I am aware of has its homepage here…

www.julyseventh.co.uk

And a 30 minute video that attempts to communicate key ‘discrepancies and oddities’ from 7/7 can be found here…

video.google.com/videosearch?q=ludicrous+diversion

There are some people, people without access to the resources of an organisation like the BBC, who are trying their best to get clear answers to the ‘discrepancies and oddities’ of 7/7. They are not advancing alternative accounts of 7/7 but simply asking questions. Isn’t that what our journalists are supposed to be doing?


My comment is awaiting moderation. There's also a sporting chance that it has sent some automated scanning algorithm, operating in a basement just down the road from me in Vauxhall, totally berko...




Hello Boys!




Anyway, it's late. I've had a couple of drinks. So I'll leave it at that. For now.



I MEAN really!!! For FECK's sake...



9 comments:

t-mix said...

One more thing one could ask is why the media so happily reports about crop circles and UFOs but remains reluctant to at least try to debunk any conspiracy theory involving the governments, people or corporations. But then again, crop circles and UFOs can not sue you if you report unfavourable about them...

Bridget Dunne said...

Hi Stef

The previous Newsnight blog on 'Internet Conspiracy Theories' explained the reluctance of journalists to research these events:

"You lot can say what you like about Diana and flying saucers and JFK, but hacks stick to the evidence, at least until they get down the pub....So which CTs should you buy into? Well you'll just have to make your own minds up. I've got a mortgage to pay."

Just about says it all!

This Newsnight blog attracted by far the most comments (over 550) - strange how the one you commented on (and I've tried 3 times) has only 18 to date.

Thanks again for the big up for July 7th.

(All the above written in green ink btw)

Anonymous said...

A chap called Richard Heuer wrote a book for the CIA called "Psychology of Intelligence Analysis." It's a book of two parts, the latter one listing cognitive biases (a la Tversky and Kahneman) but the first part is of interest to your post. In this part of his book he explains the method by which intelligence analysts worked in the past and how they should work now. In the past they went through a process of prescience analysis. It sounds reasonable enough - become an expert in a particular subject or country, when something happens (assassination, coup etc) the expert would deliver analysis to policy makers. Although reasonable it ended up producing lots of failures in inteligence and hence policy. This means of analysis has been replaced by something called Analysis of Competing Hypotheses [poor wiki link] which Heuer covers in Chapter 8 [excellent link] of his book. This consists of awaiting news of an event: eg 7/7 bombing. Constructing competing hypotheses (narratives) that would explain who did it; how and why etc. Thus, we have (so far) the competing hypothesis of the UK gov "suicide bombers trying to effect some sort of agenda"; or My Lord Patels hypothesis, "false flag operation by people duped into carrying bombs instead of drugs" (which would remind keen law students of R v Shivpuri 1987). Armed with our two (or more) competing hypothesis one would try and prove/dispprove either one or both of them on the basis of available evidence. As more evidence appears (think Rev Bayes) the process is reiterated. In said manner one should be able to assign degree of believe to each of the remaining hypotheses (eg initially both hypotheses have a 50:50 chance of being true; then, Scotland Yard photo of bombers is an obvious photoshop, therefore degree of believe of hypotheses shifts to 90:10 in favour of My Lord Patel's hypothesis etc etc).

Of course, this should be newsworthy to Newsnight editors on two counts ... 1)an explanation of how intel is analysed, and 2)the competing hypotheses and how/why they have been discounted.

(Just another quick point: A chap called Ian Hacking, in his book Epistemeology of Probability, described how the meaning of the word probability has changed and when it changed (he nailed it to within ten years). In ancient and mediaevel thought probability meant, 'the weight of opinion of learned men'. Hence, if I thought that it was probable that something would happen, as an ancient I would be thinking that I would be able to get 9 out 10 learned men to make the prediction. This meaning changed from the 'weight of opinion' to the 'weight of evidence' in the 1670s (I think, would need to check the book) based upon letters to and from Leibniz.

Anyway, the point of all of this ... compare the two techniques of intel analysis and consider that the CIA was using an ancient technique until Dr Heuer came along and brought them up to date (sort of).

Bridget Dunne said...

It took a while but your comment has made it on

Newsnight

Bridget Dunne said...

Stef

check this out:

http://www.the4thbomb.com/

Stef said...

@t-mix: yup, not only do alien crop circle makers not sue they aren't particularly relevant to anything important either - it's all about bread and circuses, with the emphasis firmly on the circuses

@anon: thanks for the background on the Competing Hypotheses work - top stuff. We wouldn't want our journalists thinking like that these days though. The strain would probably kill them.

Hmmmm, certainty, lovely snuggly certainty...

Daniel said...

Bravo (and I don't mean the shitty cable channel)!

Anonymous said...

90:10

shifts to

95:5

when taking account of ...

http://postmanpatel.blogspot.com/2006/12/77-london-bombs-amazing-new-cctv-pics.html

Anonymous said...

link should be http://postmanpatel.blogspot.com/2006/12/77-london-bombs-amazing-new-cctv-pics.htm

blogger didn't appear to render correctly (apologies all for double post).