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May 12, 2010


Hugh Green

Michael, you might find this interesting. From CEPR's blog - a post titled How Do We Correct Misinformation in Public Policy Debates?

'So, what should we do when faced with false information in a policy debate? Nyhan argues we need to "raise the reputational costs of promoting misinformation" and that the best approach may be "for concerned scholars, citizens, and journalists to (a) create negative publicity for the elites who are promoting misinformation, increasing the costs of making false claims in the public sphere, and (b) pressure the media to stop providing coverage to serial dissemblers." This isn't, of course, contrary to providing information that debunks a false claim, but it does suggest that the primary audience for debunking information is less the people in the public at large who hold the mistaken belief, than it is the media and other elites who are transmitting the false information.'

Michael Taft

Hugh - if we could extract costs of promoting misinformation in the current debate, we could reduce the deficit in half overnight. The problem is that there was, in this instance, no misrepresentation as such (and I should have pointed out that the Irish Times did publish in their business pages one of the caveats I referred to). To state that GDP was revised upwards is a correct statement; rather its the landscape that is missing (and media outlets would claim they do 'news', not landscape).

There are instances of intellectual outrage - but I fear that the consensus is so deep-rooted that any attempts to debunk or shame will met with silence, if not ridicule or outright hostility. In principle, the CEPR's proposal should be taken up, and not just in the sphere of economics. I'm certainly open to ideas. But I wish I could say I had some of my own.

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