Monday, December 29, 2014

Evidence of how Stupid Partisanship Can Make You

An online friend well to my left, one of the more reasonable people I argue with on FaceBook, recently posted the following. The link is from


Could this be more stupid? No. No, it could not.


After listening to the video and failing to persuade him that host said nothing of the sort, that the post and his response were evidence not of her stupidity but of how eager partisans are to think badly of members of the enemy tribe, I made a transcript of the relevant part of the conversation:

Host: “We are now going to bring in a former FAA insider saying that the different way other countries train their pilots may be the real reason Air Asia flight  has gone missing. Joining us now on the phone is former FAA official Scot Brenner. Scot thanks to be with us.”

Scott: “Good morning.”

Host: “Let’s talk about the differences. I mean even when we think about temperature it’s Fahrenheit or Celsius. It’s kilometers or miles. You know, everything about their training could be similar but different, right.”

Scott: “Correct. Yeah, what I think you see it could be a large reliance on automatic pilots and the requirements that pilots use that automatic pilot … “

Host: So it’s not just differences in the way we measure things, it’s difference in the way our pilots are actually trained. Is it not as safe in that part of the world …
The host offers differences in measurements as a simple example of difference, with no suggestion that that particular difference was responsible for the crash. Which doesn't prevent not only multiple left-wing web sites but my pretty reasonable friend from reading into it what they think she must have meant. And claiming she said it.

Stupidity, yes. But not of the host.


Anonymous said...

It's somewhat a strange analogy when language itself would do. However, even if what is being claimed was true why would it be something to make fun of? There have been plenty of issues throughout the years which resulted from mix ups between standard and metric.

Ricardo Cruz said...

I agree. There have been crashes about very idiotic things. I could swear I read a crash where there was miscommunication about measures units (but it could have been something else).

Anyhow, even if she said something stupid, I think it is crass and bad tone to mock a host just because something stupid split out. Everybody says stupid things one time or another; I would hate to have IQ police bugging me all the time.

Josh Sacks said...

The infamous near-crash caused by the conversion from Imperial to Metric (as well as a few other factors as is always the cause in Western air crashes)

Josiah Neeley said...

By the logic of the TPM article, one could equally argue that the Fox host had blamed the crash on the Celsius temperature scale. Presumably, though, even partisanship can't make you that dumb.

Don't call me Janet said...

Based on my limited experience with engineers metric vs. imperial could easily be a source of confusion. Given that conservatives in the Anglosphere often favour imperial measurements it's easy to understand how one person misunderstanding the presenter's suggestion (that conversion was the issue) as a criticism of the Metric system could be accepted by others as plausible. It's not so much stupidity as it is rational ignorance: verifying what the presenter says isn't worth it since the story is only worth a light chuckle, and conservative opposition to expansion of the metric system is reasonably well documented historically.

J Storrs Hall said...

Somewhat more recently, and among people who should know better:
"...on September 23, 1999, communication with the spacecraft was lost as the spacecraft went into orbital insertion, due to ground-based computer software which produced output in non-SI units of pound-seconds (lbf×s) instead of the metric units of newton-seconds (N×s) specified in the contract between NASA and Lockheed. The spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet, causing it to pass through the upper atmosphere and disintegrate."

Attempting to be a Skeptical Thinker said...

People can be so entertaining. We all have that lens of bias that we view the world through. Some consider what they view with humility and awareness of their bias, others awareness of their bias and no cares about it, and yet more with absolutely no awareness of their bias to trouble their worldview. I wonder how it relates to factors such as education, intelligence, and conscience in what level of care that we give it?

Anonymous said...

Differences in training and conventions can lead to very bad outcomes.
I heard the tale, a few years back, of newly-trained Iraqi helicopter pilots flying into sandstorms and not coming back.
Seems they'd trained on the latest and greatest American simulators, and then gone flying in Russian helicopters, and the attitude indicators follow different conventions, potentially leading to a fatal moment of confusion when visibility suddenly goes away and the pilot has to rely on instruments.
And Josh beat me to the Gimli Glider reference. Unit confusion is only a laughing matter when you catch it before things go horribly wrong!

James Hanley said...

On the other hand, the leap of logic from "they use different measures of distance" to "their training is different (and, implied, subpar)" is a bit breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

In a grim sort of way it's almost funny to ready through 80 or so blindly partisan idiots chiming in to unanimously echo on the stupidity of Fox News without a single country voice.

No one noticed that the headline was incorrect and the one person to tepidly note that, um, there WAS a near-crash do to imperial/metric conversion had to preface his comments with some anti-Faux boilerplate to assuage the left-wing fascist bots that he was one of them.

Jonathan said...

Funnily enough, I saw that clip earlier on Facebook, and I didn't think the woman made the error being attributed to her. However, as I'm not an American, these American tribal disputes aren't really important to me. :)

The American refusal to adopt the more sensible metric system used by the rest of the world is somewhat amusing. Even the British haven't been that obstinate.

Tibor said...

Well, Burma and Liberia don't use it either :))

Tibor said...

But for example while the rest of the world uses notes "C D E F G A B C", Germany and the former Austrian-Hungarian countries use "C D E F G A H C" and call B flat (H flat) a "b". But once you have that in your hat you just flatly refuse to accept a "B" instead of "H", even though B is far more logical. I am used to calling it H. And with measurements it gets a lot worse. If you are used to weighing things in stone (I still have no idea how many kilograms a stone is...even though a quick google search would tell me), a kilogram is something meaningless - even if you know the ratio. I know how much a feet is (about 30 centimetres), but I have no image of a foot in my head so if someone says that is 100 feet away, I have to recalculate that to metres and then I have an idea of the distance. Same with temperature. So the reluctance to change is quite understandable. In Europe it is a bit different, because the countries are small. But in a huge country like the US, people mostly just interact with those who use the same system anyway.