Events, dear boy, events: That was British Prime Minister Harold
Macmillan’s excuse about why it all went wrong – and it’s not a bad
one. Prediction is one of the pleasures of life – but how do you deal
with hindsight? The New Yorker has some views: “It is the somewhat gratifying lesson of Philip Tetlock’s new book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?
(Princeton; $35), that people who make prediction their business – people
who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles,
advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry
roundtables – are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong,
they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They
insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an
improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They
have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and
are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the
way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a
mistake.” More here.
Summer on the grassy knoll: I’ve interrupted my upmarket reading – the diaries of former Daily Mirror
editor Piers Morgan – to dip into a hilarious book on how (allegedly!)
Aristotle Onassis was responsible for the death of Robert Kennedy. But
what makes conspiracy theories so irresistible? And should we be
laughing at them? British academic Frank Furedi, author of The Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right,
has some worries. “Conspiracy theory has captured the public
imagination. Often we are less interested in what politicians say or do
than in attempting to decipher the hidden agenda that motivates their
behaviour… The simplistic worldview of conspiracy thinking helps fuel
suspicion and mistrust toward the domain of politics. It displaces a
critical engagement with public life with a destructive search for the
hidden agenda. It distracts from the clarification of genuine
differences and helps turn public life into a theatre where what
matters are the private lives and personal interests of mistrusted
politicians. A constant search for the story behind the story distracts
us from really listening to each other and seeing the world as it
really is…” The full story is here.
Good democracy, bad democracy: Who’s winning? Robert Mugabe, the
CIA, Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov, Gallic wannabe Nicolas Sarkozy,
Mahmoud “Israel should be wiped from the map” Ahmadinejad or our own
John Howard? Have a dekko here.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.