Friday, November 21, 2008

Voodoo Factchecking.

About ten years ago, I went through a phase of every year buying the [That Year] World Almanac and Book of Facts. It was quite a useful thing, whether you wanted to look at how many state legislatures were controlled by Republicans or you wanted to know the name of a group of animals (a herd of cows, a flock of seagulls, a murder of crows, a sleaze of Democrats, etc.)

Jokingly, I repeatedly pointed out to my then-roomie (is there any gayer word in the language than "roomie"?) that if it's not in the World Almanac & Book of Facts, it's not a fact.

Once, he wanted to know the name of a group of some animal (kittens, maybe) and we could not find it in the World Almanac & Book of Facts. So we deduced that that animal does not exist in a collective sense.

Rick Sanchez Miller Redfield has come up with a similar mystical method of determining the truth of things. In this case, he measures the accuracy of a connection between two terms by googling the two terms and counting the hits that return. Presumably, the more hits, the more valid the connection.

Here's the transcript:
MILLER REDFIELD: Something else to take notice of first. I want you to look at this video, all right. It seems almost sad. Look at this. This is the president of the United States walking out on stage to take a picture with world leaders invited to the G20 summit over the weekend. Look at him. And he seems like the most unpopular kid in high school that nobody liked -- you know, the one with the cooties?

Everybody's shaking hands but he walks in and nobody's shaking his hand and he's not shaking anybody's hand.

This is different, though, because look -- I'd like you to watch this again. Watch. Everybody is shaking hands. He's not shaking hands. Remember just six years ago, he was "the bully who everyone seemed to like" -- or did they just pretend to like him?

By the way, just to be clear, bully is not my word. It's one of the words most used to describe the Bush administration's foreign and economic policies around the world.

To check, I Googled Bush and bully together.

Are you ready? Two million five hundred thousand hits. This may be a case of what goes around comes around. But maybe not. Still, you know what, he's the president. And as I watch this video with you guys, I can't help but almost feel sorry for him.

Hmm. 2 and a half million. That's slightly more than the number of hits googling "Al Gore" and "fraud" generates. How many hits are returned by googling "Obama AND socialist"? What's that? 5.56 Million? In this Voodoo Factchecking Method of Miller Redfield's, does that not mean it is more than twice as likely that Barry O is a socialist than it is that Bush is a bully?

How about "God" and "Flying Spaghetti Monster"? Or "CNN" and "biased"? Or "Nancy Pelosi" and "diarrhea"?

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