Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why Photos and Film Don't Tell The Story

Farhad Manjoo uses Phil Jayhan's missile theory to illustrate a larger point about confirmation bias in general.

Which brings us back to 9/11-doubter Philip Jayhan. Jayhan has long harbored a deep distrust of the government and of the institutions that exert power on the world. Given his worldview, it's clear Jayhan really believes that he sees a missile shooting out from Flight 175.

Or, to put it more accurately, he really does see it. A billion things happened to a million people on 9/11, and if you watch all the videos and listen to all of the audio, there's a lot that you'll find significant, and there's a lot you'll overlook. Some of it you've really got to puzzle out. Jayhan puzzles it out according to his own thoughts about how things work in society. And as a consequence of his ideas about the world generally, he is naturally prone to seeing something in those pictures that I -- as a consequence of my own vastly different beliefs about the world -- do not.

I think that gets it right. One of the things that all 9-11 kooks have in common, whether they are liberals, libertarians, or (rarely) conservatives is that they have a deep distrust of the government. Libertarians, of course, are that way intrinsically; liberals are that way in reaction to the Bush Administration.