Friday, June 4, 2010

Look at You, Miss Information!

Here's another story that people should be aware of, but I can link to it. Briefly, John Caruso at The Distant Ocean saw a story from Ha'aretz claiming that another blockade-busting aid ship, the Rachel Corrie, had been negotiating with the Israeli government and would land quietly in Ashdod and allow its cargo to be shipped to Gaza from there. "The most recent messages from Halliday were said to be particularly encouraging," Ha'aretz reported.

But then, another story, from CNN this time, reported:

"We have not stopped and have no intention of stopping," said former Assistant U.N. Secretary-General Denis Halliday from aboard the vessel. "We will only stop when Israelis force us to do so." [...]

But [Adam] Shapiro said people on the ship deny that report and believe it is part of a misinformation campaign by the Israeli government.

So, be wary what you believe from the Israeli and US governments. The other day an article at the Korea Times described what is known as the "Sleeper Effect," complaining that "many South Koreans remained doubtful" about about the report, the work of "a multinational investigation team ... [which] concluded late last month that the Navy frigate Cheonan sank on March 26 due to a North Korean torpedo attack."
A vast majority of countries accepted the explanation backed by convincing evidence but many South Koreans seemingly remained doubtful. Rather, they turned to online posts, which alleged the Seoul administration fabricated evidence.

Domestic observers point out that the phenomenon is caused by the "sleeper effect," under which people tend to trust a message from low-credibility sources some time after they learned of it.

"Most people do not advocate even a persuasive message if it comes together with a discounting cue, or incredible sources, such as rumors on the Web," said a professor at a Seoul-based university.

"After some time passes, however, people forget about the source and remember just the persuasiveness of the message. Then, they believe in it and this is called the sleeper effect. I think the effect is behind the distrust on the Cheonan case."
This story appeared in the Biz/Finance section, under News rather than Opinion. But notice the sourcing. Why wasn't the professor or his university named?
Media Research, a local public opinion pollster, commissioned a survey in late May on the announcement of the sunken navy ship. To the surprise of the government, 24 percent of respondents said that they did not trust the official report.

This means that more than 10 million of the country's 48 million population are suspicious about the in-depth investigation by a multinational team, comprising both private experts and government officials.

North Korea reportedly used identity theft of South Korean people to upload a flurry of posts to contend that the South manipulated the evidence and the North had nothing to do with the case. The anonymous professor said that such a maneuver would have also played a role in creating the sleeper effect.
"Reportedly"? According to whom? And once again, why is that professor anonymous?

Now, there's very good reason to disbelieve anything worked on by low-credibility sources like the US government, or the South Korean government, or the Israeli government -- particularly when official enemies like North Korea or Iran or Hamas are involved. And while "online posts" are not necessarily reliable, sometimes they are, much to the fury of governments. Staff Reporter Kim Tae-gyu is carefully vague as to which "online posts" people were going to. And at the very end of the article, he tells us this:
Ever since the idea of the sleeper effect appeared around 60 years ago, debate has continued as to whether the phenomena take place often or is observed under only very unusual circumstances.
So, we have an anonymous professor pulling an unproved "effect" and North Korean computer hacking out of his fundament to explain away people's distrust of their untrustworthy government. That's serious journalism!

Staying with responsible and thoughtful newspaper work, longtime Korea Times pundit Michael Breen argues that South Korea should change its name so people won't confuse it with North Korea. Oh, and Kim Kardashian wants a bigger ass.