Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kagro X Commits the Fallacy of Cherry Picking

Kagro X has an amusing look at some of the more egregious errors of Fox News over the years. There's the shot of Lincoln Chafee losing his reelection bid, and being mislabeled as a Democrat. The same happened for the disgraced Mark Foley and the irascibly nonpartisan Arlen Specter. And of course who could forget their headline that said Scooter Libby was found not guilty. Perhaps they had peaked ahead in Bush's calender for that one. Embarrasing gaffes all, and all working in favor of the Republicans.

Nonetheless, this qualifies as a cherry picking error by Kagro when he concludes:

"So, could it really be just dumb luck? Well, it ain't luck, that's for sure. And that leaves just plain dumb."

Not so fast. While these examples may support the contention that Fox does fact-fudging for the Republicans, it doesn't make the case, not by a long shot. It makes just as strong a case for general incompetence, for the simple reason that Kagro selected the errors we are looking at. How many errors that favored the Democrats occurred in the same time frame? We don't know.

This is what's known as chery picking the data, and one can make a persuasive sounding case for anything doing that. Imagine how good a baseball player would look if the only film we watched were of his hits? To draw a reasonable and defensible position, we need to examine all of the data, not just that which supports our thesis.

Frankly, I suspect the number of Democrat-favoring errors on Fox is significantly lower than those favoring the Republicans, though in that case I dismiss the conscious agenda theory for the "biased apportionment of talent" theory. For example, if you send all your most skilled people to cover the Republicans and send the losers to cover the Democrats, not intentionally, but by virtue of your own biases when determining what story is most important, you still get more mistakes on the Democrats. Nonetheless, my speculation remains that, and with the data at my disposal, I have no business going further. Neither would someone who only had the data Kagro presents.

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