Sunday, August 05, 2012

Hand Me My Echo Chamber, Please

My friend Steve Wainstead put a term into my head a year or two ago, and it rattles around in there from time to time. The term is 'confirmation bias', and is the idea that people will seek out sources of information that speak to their point of view, either subtly or overtly.

Common question from the left: Why are there so many right-wing talkers on the air? How do we explain Fox News? Common answer from the right: Because the rest of the media doesn't speak to me the way the talkers and Fox do.

When Fox can parade an article like this, it merely deepens the suspicions and biases of its adherents:
Back in May, Ann Romney, wife of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, wore a $990 Reed Krakoff silk shirt for a media appearance. The item of clothing set off a media firestorm, with the Romneys widely accused of being “out of touch” with average Americans.
In particular, the Washington Post wrote that the $990 blouse “will not help her husband change those perceptions, no matter how many Laundromat photo ops are on the campaign’s itinerary.”
Fast forward to last Friday, when First Lady Michelle Obama attended an Olympics reception for heads of state at Buckingham Palace, donning a J. Mendel cap sleeve jacket from the 2013 Resort collection.
The price-tag? $6,800.
This time, the Washington Post simply described the intricacies of the jacket and noted that Mrs. Obama has previously been criticized for “not dressing up enough for Queen Elizabeth II, so she stepped up her game.” No snide remarks, no outrage over the cost, no suggestion she was “out of touch.”
Just an Exhibit 'A'.

The discussion of the relative wealth of the candidates is amusing to me, for if I had to reject on the basis of their wealth, their status, their privilege in areas like education, I couldn't vote for either Romney or Obama. From Forbes:

Here’s an approximated summary of where the Obamas hold their wealth:
Cash: $660,000
Mutual funds/ETFs: $625,000
Pension: $90,000
Treasuries: $3.4 million
Real estate: $900,000
TOTAL: $5.7 million

Funny thing about making attacks on holdings while trying to appeal to poorer people. You have to count on their ignorance, willful or otherwise, to get the job done. I suppose it's working thus far.