Wednesday, May 8, 2013
It Could Happen
During one of the coldest springs that I can remember (certainly in the last few decades), I have been reading a story about how the decline in snow cover "could push some creatures to extinction". I hate stories like that!
Don't get me wrong here. I'm a news junkie and I like reading news stories about as many different things as I can get my grubby little hands on. Stories like these however, annoy me beyond my capacity to absorb new information. My particular distaste for them is not that the stories are wrong (or right for that matter); and it has nothing to do with whether I believe that the premise is correct or incorrect (well, maybe a little bit). My problem with any story like this is that it is in fact not the reporting of fact as news, nor is it taking a position in editorializing about facts in evidence. It is instead pure speculation posing as something news-like that never says enough about a subject to even face the potential of being wrong. They are so riddled with the terms 'could' and 'might' that they become almost meaningless and all but useless.
Do not be deceived by these cowardly scribbles. While such stories often do a fair enough job of picking out particular observations of phenomena or data (often local or temporary), their use of such information leads them to do little more than attempt to weakly speculate about conclusions. In a complete abandonment of scientific principles and simple symbolic logic, they don't bother to fix a relationship between the observations they make and any kind of conclusion. These attempts to gain notoriety, panic the general public, or simply simply bloviate on the printed page do little more than hide behind their lack of conviction in either their observations or conclusions, and in the end make them worth less that the space that they take up.
So for example, the cold spring that the Midwest has experienced this year 'could' lead to a cooler than expected summer, in spite of the dire predictions of Global Warming. On the other hand, the same data on the lateness and coolness of spring 'might' lead to even warmer summers than those that the Midwest has experienced in recent years. The waffling nature of both claims make both conjectures equally possible, and predictively useless. You may as well claim during the Bible's 'Great Flood' story that rain falling for 40 days and nights 'might' mean that it will rain forever. On the other hand, such unprecedented and consecutive rainfall 'could' mean that such rain will end as soon as tomorrow.
There is no courage in either alternative, nor is there any danger in making them. Regardless of the outcome, the person making either of these potentially dire predictions is allowed the weasel defense of the using could or might to excuse their cowardly inaccuracy, while still allowing them to claim success if their 'coin flip' of speculation proves in any way to be the case.
Far too much of what we see these days as news pass as 'could' and 'might' stories; and their collective uselessness has become a testament to how the mighty have fallen where gathering news is concerned. And let's face it, it's not that our mainstream media outlets are afraid of being wrong. Hell, they're wrong all the time. Of course many of them have the luxury of burying admission of their errors (and their retractions) in sections of the newspaper or segments of their broadcast in such a way that they can go all but unnoticed. Even with this media backstroking available however, it seldom prevents these bastions of fact and truth from running off in meaningless and idle speculation about facts not in evidence.
Looking at the far too many mealy-mouthed stories like this posing as news, one cannot help believe that this 'might' have something to do with the reduced stature of the current mainstream media outlets. Of course it 'could' also have something to with the rather biased methods that this same media uses in its often-failed attempts to bring their version of the facts and the truth to light. Perhaps if these news outlets returned to reporting news instead of attempting to influence events, such efforts 'might' even have a positive effect on their current lack of profitability and 'could' even lead them to a far brighter and more long-lasting future. Then again, it 'might' be too late for a public far too sick of idle and pointless speculation to dig themselves out of the hole that they've dug themselves into.
On the other hand, many of them 'might' be reading this blog right now and manage to slow if not stop their fall before it's too late. It 'could' happen....