Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Media is Anathema to Critical Thinking

One of the big stories to gush out of online media today is that of a 1928 film clip depicting what some are suggesting is a woman talking on a cell phone. In numerous news articles, the figure is called a 'time traveler'. This has to be one of the most noteworthy cases of blatant disregard for critical thinking that I've seen from major internet media sources. Viewing the footage, you can see that the individual is holding something up to her head and talking... and that's all. The quality is grainy and dark, like most film shot in the '20s, so there's no telling what's in her hand. And this has led to speculation about time travel?

Has no one thought to ask how a time traveler would get cell phone service back in 1928? People have already suggested that the woman may actually be carrying an ear horn, or early hearing aid device, but you probably won't find that in news headlines. Since the footage is from the premiere of a Charlie Chaplin film, perhaps the woman is pulling a prank. Some have even surmised that the figure is actually a man dressed as a woman. Or maybe she's just covering her ear because it hurts, because it's gotten cold (she is wearing a pretty hefty coat), or she doesn't want the camera on her face.

Whatever the explanation, once again the media has blown an extremely trivial and unimpressive discovery into something paranormal. You might ask, 'it's only the media, why do you care?' I care because while I've noticed how many people tend to distrust the media on natural explanations and government affairs, they seem to exercise far less critical thinking when the reports involve unexplained phenomena. Another recent example is the so-called UFO spotted in New York on October 13th. A couple days after the sighting, the circular floating objects were suggested to be... you guessed it: balloons, which had gotten loose from an engagement party for a teacher at a nearby elementary school.

However, in the Associated Press' video on the incident and explanation, interviews with a few witnesses show that people aren't buying the balloons theory. Why? No one really offers a reason, they only seem to prefer believing the fantastical story to the mundane one. The craziest thing is that close-up footage of the UFOs in the AP video shows what looks startlingly like a cluster of silvery balloons. But if that's "the official story", we can't believe it, and the media went to great lengths to remain impartial on the issue.

I think the media realizes that most of our world still prefers magical thinking to rational thinking, and in that saddening fact they find a way to climb in their ratings.

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