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Washington Post: Driver of Non-Checking Information. Part 1
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Washington Post: Driver of Non-Checking Information. Part 1


WASHINGTON - March 5, 2019

Sex, politics and beer – Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh had to endure a nationwide scandal before the U.S. Senate elected him with a minimum superiority of 137 years. Allegations of abuse shook Kavanaugh’s reputation. He had to justify himself to the Senate and 20 million viewers. Despite the candidate’s emotional performance, not everyone believed him.

Abortion supporters and activists for tighter control over arms trafficking staged numerous protests. At the beginning of the scandal, Trump suggested that the women protesters in the Senate and the Capitol were professional provocateurs, hired by billionaire George Soros.

At a meeting of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence in late September, Christine Blasey Ford, an alleged victim of violence, presented her version of events. The incident supposedly occurred at a party in 1982: Kavanaugh and his friend threw her on the bed and tried to undress her. Kavanaugh was 17 at the time and she was 15.

Ford said she was "one hundred percent sure" it was a young man named Kavanaugh who molested her 36 years ago. At the same time, initially, Ford could not specify where exactly the party took place or remember who else was present at it.

Kavanaugh himself firmly rejected all the accusations and said the campaign against him had destroyed his life. The vote on his candidacy was postponed until the FBI investigation, which was requested by Senate Committee members, was completed.

Scare Tactics

Given the tense situation around the vote, senators had to get familiar with the FBI investigation results in an unnamed secret room in the complex of buildings at Capitol Hill. In addition, the police strengthened the protection of the Capitol on the day of the vote, and limited the access of the press and the public to the arriving politicians. Inside and around the Congress buildings, several uncoordinated daily protests were held, and the police have counted from a dozen to a hundred detainees.

Elise Swain

The police presence has been reinforced after a number of cases where protesters ambushed Republican senators in their offices, restaurants and even their own homes. Some politicians' personal data was published online. Thus, Senator Susan Collins, whose voice could be crucial, after one of the meetings required a police escort to leave the building without hindrance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said intimidation will not prevent politicians from doing their job. In particular, he drew attention to the incident when Ted Cruz and his family had to leave a Washington restaurant where the protesters raided.

"They will never be able to intimidate us and force us to refuse to perform their duty," Mitch McConnell said.

A group of feminist protesters was detained by Capitol police on the day of the procedural vote. Among others arrested were actress Amy Schumer (niece of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer) and model Emily Ratajkowski.

A Political Boomerang

Some publications, with different political positions, produced pieces explaining that regardless of Kavanaugh’s fate, the story of the charges against him would serve as a unifying factor for the Republican Party and all right-wing American forces.

"Republicans are well aware of Mr. Trump’s excesses and falsehoods. But they have also come to understand that the resistance to him isn’t rooted in principle or some august call to superior character. They know Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton in 2016 despite her history of deceit. Voters know this is about the left’s will to power by any means necessary," the Wall Street Journal article "The Never Conservatives" said.

Others, in turn, claimed to the last, that is, before Kavanaugh's election as a Supreme Court judge, that he was indeed guilty.

For example, the Washington Post published an article on October 20 admitting that Kavanaugh’s former prep school, Georgetown Prep, was hiring an alumni relations director, ostensibly to help deal with the consequences of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Kavanaugh and his longtime friend Mark Judge were accused of numerous sexual assaults while students at Georgetown Prep, and in one case were alleged to have run a "gang rape ring" with other Georgetown Prep students.

"The elite Bethesda school, attended by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, posted a job listing this week for a Director of Alumni Relations," WP declared, apparently presuming Georgetown Prep needed help handling its alumni in the wake of the "gang rape" news.

There was only one problem: Georgetown Prep started its search for the alumni director back in July before charges against Kavanaugh surfaced. And that's what they told the Washington Post reporter ... who apparently published the story anyway.

Further, initially, the WP updated the story by adding that the school was hiring an Alumni Relations Director, still seemingly implying that the position was somehow related to Kavanaugh.

Only later when it was revealed that the ads had nothing to do with the Kavanaugh scandal did the WP publish a retraction.

The situation would seem unremarkable if not for the fact that such little things are ubiquitous in Washington Post articles.

Kavanaugh's approval to the Supreme Court was a major victory for Trump and the Republican Party. The appointment of judges with similar political views is a victory for any president.

The Conservative Brett Kavanaugh took the place of Anthony Kennedy, a judge who often took a liberal point of view on issues such as abortion, positive discrimination and the rights of the LGBT community.

The WP published another interesting story on February 4.

The article, titled "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes First Public Appearance Since Cancer Surgery," came out on February 4 while the most famous woman in American justice was in recovery. It was the first time in her career that the 85-year-old judge missed work at the Supreme Court.

Nikki Kahn

She became a judge of the Supreme Court in 1993. During her tenure, she has had serious health problems, twice battling cancer, but the judge still didn't miss any sessions.

On December 21, she underwent surgery to remove two malignant nodules in her left lung. The pulmonary lobectomy was performed at the Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer center in New York City. According to the Press Secretary of the Supreme Court Kathleen Arberg, Ginsburg was discharged a few days later.

Malignancies in the 85-year-old Ginsburg’s lung were discovered during tests conducted at George Washington University hospital after she fell and broke three ribs on November 7, 2018.

According to the WP article, "Ginsburg did not speak [during the Supreme Court], and many in the crowd did not know she was there. She sat in the back, and most saw her only as they left the performance. Michaels did not announce her presence."

In addition, the newspaper added: "Despite her appearance Monday night, it is unlikely that Ginsburg will go to the Capitol on Tuesday. Few things are mandatory for a Supreme Court justice, and attending the State of the Union address is not one of them."

In this regard, we would like to cite as an example the Secretary General of the European Federation of journalists Ricardo Gutierrez who talked to journalists during his visit to Russia.

In short, his thoughts are as follows:

The decline in press freedom is a global trend that is observed throughout Europe.

The state tries to control the global context in which the media works, as confirmed by the ban on the program Telegram.

A modern journalist has to produce more content in less time, and because of this, the quality of the material and, as a consequence, the credibility of the media falls.

The journalist’s mission is to guard society, to call the authorities to account, to initiate public debates. But most journalists perform a destructive function. In addition, it's important to understand the term “fact-checking,” which journalists don't use in their work. For example, this applies to when they interview or give news for the sake of a large number of views.

"Modern journalism is not journalism," Gutierrez said.

The European Federation interviewed 1,000 journalists from 47 European countries a year ago. Just over 40% admitted they act as censors against themselves. But the real figure is higher because it's difficult for any journalist to admit that they're a censor for themselves: It’s equivalent to a journalist not fulfilling his mission.

The level of journalist burnout in Europe is of great concern. It usually happens when a journalist can’t reach the professional level he desires. Therefore, many journalists today become PR specialists or public figures.

So, back to the Washington Post article, one wants to note how much the desire to earn views prevails instead of the quality of the pieces. And let's be honest: The media doesn't provide confirmation of their loud words, they only write dry information that can break the record in future views.

Here's what regular WP readers write in response to hot scandalous news:

You remember the high-profile event in Washington where white teenagers in MAGA hats brutally bullied the Native Americans Indigenous People's Day March in Washington D.C.

According to some videos, it seemed obvious the students were attacking Native Americans who were peacefully singing and playing musical instruments. Students who attended Covington Catholic High School were in Washington, D.C., for the anti-abortion March for Life rally. Earlier, the students faced a group of protesters from the marginal Black Hebrew Israelites movement.

Politicians, activists and internet users sharply condemned the students for inappropriate behavior towards adults. That is, it was primarily about disrespect.

The principal student, the instigator of the scandal, was identified as Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic after he made a statement. Sandmann said he and his classmates didn't tease or bully Native American protesters and started singing "school spirit" after being yelled at by an unrelated group of Black Hebrew Israelites.

One of the students' mother said that the fake news spread information that the fault lies with the students, although in fact the Native Americans representative Nathan Phillips was the main culprit when he cursed the students and drummed in their face.

Well, you remember that story. Most of the media reported that 64-year-old Phillips is a veteran of Vietnam, while in 1973 he was 18 years old when American troops completed their withdrawal from there on March 29, 1973. A young Vietnam veteran, huh?

Later, the Washington Post published a refutation of the previously stated fact.

There was another case on December 19, 2009, when a plainclothes policeman, identified as Det. Mike Baylor was driving across Washington D.C., where teenagers were throwing snowballs and hit the car. He pulled out a gun, came up and had a fight with the teenagers (as you can understand, pulling a gun is a violation of the law).

By this point, a video had also appeared on the internet in which the officer admits he pulled his gun out in the midst of a snowball fight.

The Washington City Paper published Baylor's photos with a gun at 3:00 pm. And the Washington Post posted a note about the incident at 5:00 pm, stating that everything was legal, Mike Baylor did not draw his weapon, it was a patrol, and then he immediately put the gun down. However, at 10:00 am they had to make add that that was "judging by the photos from the internet."

Here are some key excerpts:

"Assistant Chief Pete Newsham, who leads the department’s investigative services bureau, said it appears the patrol officer acted appropriately, and the worst the detective might have done is use inappropriate language in dealing with the snowball fighters."

And this:

At some point, Newsham said, the detective approached the group of snowball fighters and had "some kind of interaction" with them. He said the detective holstered a cellphone, and someone from the crowd called to report a man with a gun.

"He was armed but never pulls his weapon," Newsham said of the detective. "I think what probably happens is somebody probably saw his gun and called the police."

UPDATE (10:57 pm) This YouTube video appears to show a confrontation with the detective. Warning: Contains strong language.

UPDATE (10.20 pm) The plainclothes D.C. police detective may have unholstered his pistol during the confrontation with participants in the huge snowball fight, based on video and photos posted on the Internet.

Then a clash occurred between the WP and the Washington City Paper. The latter immediately released an article detailing the Washington Post as unprofessional.

Then the WP published pieces confirming "the plainclothes D.C. police detective may have unholstered his pistol during the confrontation with participants in the huge snowball fight, based on video and photos posted on the internet."

Here two questions arise: Why are such non-professional journalists hired at the supposedly prestigious WP? And why do journalists first go for a sensation without even checking the information they publish? And finally, this leads to another: Whose orders is the WP carrying out?

The best section in the American media is the statistics section. For some reason, not one publication calling itself the first and the best source of information recognizes that any statistics is a priori false. Statistics are never completely objective data.

Washington Post: Driver of Non-Checking Information. Part 1


There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics, Mark Twain said, attributing it to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Statistics, info graphics, big data, data analysis and data science — these are now engaged with a large part of society. Everyone knows how to do it.

Sampling Bias

In 1948, on election night, the Chicago Tribune newspaper published perhaps the most famous headline ever: “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” Immediately after the polling stations closed, the newspaper conducted a survey, calling a resounding Dewey victory. But what went wrong?

People were called randomly and in an insufficient quantity. In 1948, the phone was available only to people of a certain income. Thus, the polling method itself amended the distribution of votes. The sample did not consider a sufficiently wide range of Truman voters (as a rule, Democrats have a large share of votes among the poor). This is called sampling bias.

Salary of Graduates

Is no one surprised that university graduate salaries always seem implausibly high? The matter is even reaching the courts now, where graduates argue wage information is artificially inflated.

It's a pretty old problem. According to Darrell Huff, a similar question arose among Yale graduates of 1924. And in fact, everyone tells the truth, but not the whole truth. Statistics were gathered by surveys (in those years by paper mail). Only a small number responded, and those who were doing well were more likely to respond, so only the “good” part of the picture was seen.

This is what creates a bias in the sample and makes the results of such surveys absolutely useless.

Play With Scale

Suppose tomorrow we need to show at a meeting that we have caught up with our competitors, but the numbers don't converge a little, then what to do? Let's move the scale a little. Even known for its quality work with data, the New York Times has released a similar completely confusing graph (note the jump from 800K to 1.5 million in the center of the scale).

Washington Post: Driver of Non-Checking Information. Part 1

Hide the Desired Numbers

The best way to hide something is to divert attention. For example, consider the number of private and public schools (in thousands of pieces) by year. The graph shows that the number of public schools is decreasing and the number of private schools is not changing significantly.

Washington Post: Driver of Non-Checking Information. Part 1

In fact, the increase in the number of private schools is hidden against the background of the number of public schools. Since they differ by an order of magnitude, in fact, any changes will not be noticeable on the scale with a sufficiently large step. Let's redraw the number of private schools separately; now we can clearly see a significant increase in the number of private schools, which was "hidden" in the previous graph.

Washington Post: Driver of Non-Checking Information. Part 1

Conclusion and Further Reading

76% of all statistics are taken from the head.

This collection does not cover a complete list of techniques that consciously and deliberately distort the data. First of all, this article demonstrates that we have to very closely follow the statistical data provided to us and the conclusions drawn from it.

So, returning to the Washington Post study, it argues that "2018 was more dangerous for students than for the military." In reality, there are 50 million students and 1.3 million in the military and they die 40 times more often.

Most interestingly, the journalist Philip Bump based his findings on incomplete figures obtained from press releases from the Ministry of Defense.

"The figures for 2018 do not suggest schools are more dangerous than combat zones. After all, there are more than 50 million students in public elementary and high schools and only 1.3 million members of the armed forces," the article says.

The article adds that military personnel are about 40 times more likely to be killed than a student in a school shooting, representing a revision of the original piece, which put the rate at 17 times more likely. The revision has sparked a mixed reaction online. The original report was shared widely on Twitter, with a number of liberal commentators seen to regurgitate the false claim.

Critics hastened to brand the report as fake news and said it was an example of the liberal press's perception of bias against weapons. Others were more philosophical, saying that while the reporting could be wrong, the real numbers remain astounding. In connection with the generally numerous criticisms, the WP later denied the data.

Author: USA Really