Anecdotal Evidence: “The Mitigation Worked to Save Lives”
During the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020, there has been a lot of bantering about concerning various treatments and protocols; never mind the full reversals, like don’t wear a mask and do wear a mask. The argument from anecdote is thrown around like baking soda on a grease fire. Arguments like these are often really about spin; when the anecdotes (stories) serve you, you use them. When they hurt you, you diss them.
President Trump specifically stated that he hoped hydroxychloroquine
would be a game changer. Critics attacked Trump as relying on anecdotal evidence
for his ‘highly 'touted’ cure. They further went on to attack hydroxychloroquine
as dangerous, based on nothing less than their own anecdotal evidence of what
they’ve heard from some doctors. In an article about the lack of hard evidence,
the authors do accurately quote Trump:
While this is called a ‘lie’, it really is simply a common way humans discuss
and discover the truth of things. Some studies have indicated that hydroxy doesn’t
work against the virus, but those are focused on hospital admissions. We would
need studies that show an early prescription at the onset of symptoms (with
zinc and azithromycin) doesn’t work.
While this is called a ‘lie’, it really is simply a common way humans discuss and discover the truth of things.
Trump’s comment has both anecdote and data in it. He is
saying we are hearing positive stories, but that we need to keep collecting
data. There is nothing wrong with anecdotes, but they neither prove nor
disprove anything. There is no lie in anecdotal proof, since it could turn out
to be true.
In a hard-scientific world, we really think of anecdotes as hints or hypotheses,
and you’ll see it again if the virus gets to a truly manageable level.
However, that too is speculative. It makes sense, as does anecdotal evidence. However, we can’t know without a real comparative study. We would have to have the ‘curve’ studied with partial mitigation and no mitigation. Sweden is the curious example that seems to have a similar curve to the rest of the countries, but without the level of lockdown commonly employed.
This kind of spin shadows a logical fallacy calledpost hoc ergo propter hoc(after this, therefore resulting from it: used to indicate that a causal relationship has erroneously been assumed from a merely sequential one). We mitigated, so lives were saved. Well, yes, maybe, but were they saved short-term or long-term? The simple fact is that we do not know. We do not currently have the scientific data to prove it. So, when unvalidated anecdotal evidence doesn’t serve, it’s bad. When other unvalidated evidence serves, it’s good. When trends on a chart serve, they are good. When trends don’t serve, they are bad.
Karl Popper gave us a better standard with his principle of falsifiability (if you can't prove it's wrong, you can't prove it's right) https://youtu.be/wf-sGqBsWv4
In the world of news and crisis, however, all you need to know is that everyone is talking about hope and predictions…which get’s tangled in the web of spin.
When they say that anecdotal evidence suggest something, you can simply say, “Maybe.” When the ‘experts’ come out and insist that the mitigation worked, you can also simply say, “Maybe.” Definitive proof is another question entirely.
Hope and hypotheses are not lies, but they also aren’t conclusive. Don’t get tricked, always spin-check.
Spin-check is about preparing readers to discern the truth, which isn’t easy in a spin-happy world. PRESIDENT TRUMP ALWAYS LIES. Accusing people of lying is the quickest spin of all that groups embrace, and it misdirects us from seeing the truth of things.
Plenty of people out there think it’s true that President Trump always lies, but clearly this is suspicious unless they change the meaning of the words ‘lie’ or ‘always’. The energy to overreact seems to be without boundaries. Here’s a recent example:
Well, this looks obvious! He says he signed the CHOICE Act,
but we know he really didn’t. Ha! Liar! A few comments that immediately follow
this post found at #trumplies show the instant conclusion:
The Trump tweet is explained by considering Trump a
deliberate liar on one extreme, and a self-deceived (delusional?) liar at the
other extreme. Apparently, “We know Trump is lying, we just don’t know exactly
But is he lying? The simplest thing to do to avoid getting sucked into this spin-cycle is to begin with the assumption the other person might not be lying, that something else may be in play. This mindset will lead you to FIRST UNDERSTAND…and, of course, you can still condemn the sorry liar later.
We always try to ask, “Would Trump (or ________) really knowingly make such an outlandish statement that is blatantly false?” The answer is always, “Not likely.” So, we need to look at what the President actually said and compare it to what is claimed he said.
They say he said:
I signed the Choice Act, not Obama.
Last year I signed legislation that gives our Veterans CHOICE, through private providers, and at urgent care facilities! Today we fully funded this $10 billion a year effort that gets our brave Veterans care quickly, and close to home.
Now, first we can notice that he did not say he signed the Choice Act, but rather he signed ‘legislation’. From here we’d simple ask, “Did he sign legislation that does this?” With a little googling we can find that he did sign legislation:
So, he did sign legislation (referring to either story above?). He extended the Choice Act (and improved it, apparently). Is he taking credit for something he didn’t do? Is he misleading everyone? Is he a jerk anyway? Well, all of these are clearly important questions. And, of course, congress passed the law, so they can get credit too.
One might still want to call the President a liar anyway, but the legitimacy of the claim in this case needs some explaining…or…perhaps an admission that it’s just not true in this rabid instance. The overreaction to whatever Trump says makes both spinning and looking stupid rather easy.
As we like to note, if Trump were Shakespeare and said, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,” wouldn’t he be open to the accusation of being a liar? Juliet is not the sun; it’s a gaseous ball of explosions about 93 million miles from earth; Shakespeare/Trump is a liar.
Of course, always make sure you get the actual quote which is declared the ‘lie’. Next, to avoid getting caught up in group-spins like these, simply ask, “What did they mean?” and “Is it true?” In this way you’ll be fair-minded and call a liar a liar with accuracy, rather than getting egg on your face like those who buy spin in Costco-sized containers.
The story is simple. The Dems are saying the US Prez pressured the Ukraine Prez to do what he (US) wanted or else he (Ukraine) would lose out on aide (get punished). Sound right?
There is confusion and complexity in the details which may (or may not) get sorted out in the weeks ahead. What we do know is that there is widespread disagreement among those who could be legitimate witnesses to what happened. That aside, the propaganda lesson here is that this argument can easily be used again and again on any US president. There are two big points to ponder.
1. All presidents can be accused of an implied quid pro quo in every conversation
This is a framework the anyone can use on any President. Think about it; isn’t there an implication in any phone call with the most powerful leader in the world that, “if you don’t behave there will be repercussions?” Does he really have to say anything quid-ish?No president can escape that accusation; no matter what the situation, true? We need to appreciate this reality, because it shines light on the fictional finger-pointing we are enjoying as a nation today. So, wait, what is quid pro quo? It’s Latin for ‘this for that’ and largely a relates to contracts, and is aligned with consideration; or an exchange of value. This value can be as little as a dollar (real estate assignments often use this standard), but value must be exchanged for the contract event to happen.
In the case of the President, was there an exchange of value? Even the always-against Judge Napolitano admits there was no exchange:”The Ukrainian president didn’t ever feel pressured, and he got his money. Do we know if he turned over anything about Biden to the president?” Earhardt asked. When Napolitano said he didn’t, Earhardt remarked, “That’s not quid pro quo. “The delay is the quid pro quo,” Napolitano answered back. “The delay of 55 days, knowing that the Russians are at the border.”” https://www.newsweek.com/fox-news-judge-trump-delay-ukraine-aid-quid-pro-quo-1471758
Huh? Ignoring the fact that there is no evidence the Ukraine president knew about such a delay, there still was no actual exchange of either information (Ukraine) or a delay (US). One might try to spin it into a threat; but again, what conversation could anyone have with any US president that opponents couldn’t claim an implied threat? Every president from the past or the future can be accused of the same thing.
2. Everything any president does can be framed as ‘personal political gain’
Every photo-op, every trade deal, and every military threat can be seen as advancing a president’s standing politically, especially if they are up for reelection. The curious case of Hunter Biden (and Joe) is that the story suggests that if it had been a John Doe (and Joe) that were under the president’s concerned eye, then there would have been no ‘crime’ at all in play. Common sense says if something is wrong, then it is wrong. Changing the characters shouldn’t change anything. Oh, but it does, doesn’t it?
When either party has a biased desire to take down an opponent, then looking for a scandal will always be easy work…if the attack is about implied consequences of crossing the US president, and if it helps his personal political cause. There is no way out of this spin except to see what is motivating those who are questioning others’ motives. CNN’s notion of ‘facts first’ is a good one if followed, which the Democrats have ignored. In the law-and-order world this is highlighted with, “I have the criminal, now I just need a crime.” The same reversal is seen in the preaching world too, “I have a message, now I just need a Bible verse.”Keep spin-checking!
In a 17 June 2019 article in USA Today titled, “Supreme Court upholds ‘double jeopardy’ standard that could blunt impact of potential Trump pardons,” the Mueller Mandate is redefined with the the phrase, “Russian Interference.”
A FEW JUST DEFINITIONS
1. Red Herring[from the practice of drawing a red herring across a trail to confuse hunting dogs] : something that distracts attention from the real issue].
2. Russian InterferenceA computer hacking conspiracy involving gaining unauthorized access into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, stealing documents from those computers, and staging releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
3. Mueller Mandate(b) The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBIDirector James 8. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee onIntelligence on March 20, 2017, including:
(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).
THE ISSUESo, the red herring of ‘Russian Interference’ is being drug across the trail of ‘Russian Collusion’ in this USA Today article (and via other media outlets):
The case had gained attention largely because of the possibility that Trump could pardon one or more of his former associates convicted in federal court by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In other words, Russian Interference in the 2016 election was an issue dating back to the Obama administration, but it was not about whether the Trump Campaign had colluded (secret conspiracy with the intent to defraud) with the Russians. Mueller was charged to specifically determine if there was coordination between Trump Campaign officials and the Russian government.
1. If there had been no Russian Interference in the 2016 election, it could still have been possible that the Trump (or Clinton) campaign could have conspired with the Russian government.2. But if Donald Trump had lost the presidency to Hillary Clinton, then there * WOULD NOT BE a Special Counsel or Mueller Report * WOULD STILL BE Russian Interference3. So, Russian Interference is not the same as Russian Collusion
The spin here is that USA Today is dragging a red herring across the trail to confuse (or conflate) the issues. Without discussing the ‘obstruction’ question, the Mueller Report and it’s confirmation by the Attorney General, the investigation was about whether or not members of the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russian government; which has been thoroughly investigated and established that there was no collusion. It is safe to assume (unless there is unintentional incompetence in play) that in order to keep the issue in the news, USA Today (et al) have muddled and conflated the Russian Investigation with the Trump-Collusion Investigation. It’s a red herring which continues to ‘mislead or distract from a relevant or important question’— which in this case is, “Did any members of the Trump campaign collude with Russian?” The Mueller Report ended the question with a specific, “No.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring
Watch for this common tactic called a red herring — whether it’s intentional or not, it’s a spin to check.
The simple fact is that Mueller did not find sufficient
evidence to charge or accuse President Trump of any wrong doing.
Mueller’s key words from his May 29, 2019 public statement were,
And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
If we were sure the president didn’t commit a crime, we would have told you.
We did not determine the president committed a crime.
The convoluted wording alone should make us wonder about
spin. Clearly Mueller did not have a legal case against the president (or he
would have stated such), but spin allows him to make a political accusation; by
We can’t say the president didn’t commit a
crime; suggesting that maybe he did
We can’t say the president did commit a crime;
suggesting that maybe he didn’t
All of this leaves a cloud of suspicion, but rightly viewed,
Mueller is an agnostic rather than a true atheist.
Agnostic: I don’t know if there is a God or not;
suggesting not enough proof or evidence either way
Atheist: I know there is no God; suggesting
evidence and proof exists to show ‘no God’
By posturing himself as an agnostic, he leaves
room for speculation on the part of all the rest of us. To bend Robert Frost’s
We dance in a ring and suppose, Mueller sits in the middle and knows.
To Un-Spin this matter, we simply need to know if Mueller thinks
he had a case to indict Trump if he were not the president. If that were so,
his language would be something like, “While I know a sitting president can’t
be indicted, I believe there is sufficient evidence to prove he committed a
crime.” That would be provable and explosive if true. Indicting the president
is one thing, accusing him of committing a crime is another.
Of course, he says nothing close to an accusation since he
flatly states, “We did not, however,
make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
Mueller’s spin is to nuance the difference between these two statements:
a crime was not committed
did not determine a crime was committed
In either statement, there is nothing for the legal system
to do. If there was no crime or if no conclusion is reached that there was a
crime, it doesn’t matter legally; THERE IS NO CASE.
Mueller’s entire problem is one of INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. He states this in the same public statement when he says,
[Volume One of the report] includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.
the legal world, insufficient evidence mean you don’t have a case, especially
during a trial. When there is not enough evidence, then charges are dropped and
the person under investigation is cleared and freed.
n. a finding (decision) by a trial judge or an appeals court that the prosecution in a criminal case or a plaintiff in a lawsuit has not proved the case because the attorney did not present enough convincing evidence. Insufficient evidence usually results in dismissal of the case after the prosecution or the plaintiff has completed his/her introduction of evidence or, if on appeal, reversal of the judgment by the trial court.
We can call this one a spin-by-deletion or context error. Honestly, I don’t know if Chris Cuomo just made a mistake, is engaging weak journalism, or is up to something. In his video from Cuomo Primetime (“New Abortion Laws Aim to Provoke Roe v. Wade Protections” – May 7, 2019) he accuses President Trump of ‘fiction, BS, and ignorance’, charging him with misstating the law. Chris Cuomo is the one, however, who is doing the misstating. Here’s the Cuomo verbatim:
CUOMO: What you’re seeing is Republicans running with the fiction POTUS is pushing. It’s fear-mongering. It goes back to the campaign.
TRUMP (video clip): You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.
CUOMO: That’s just not true. That’s complete BS. So, whether he is ignorant or not on the issue doesn’t matter anymore as President of the United States.
So far so bad for the President, except the video tape is both edited and out-of-context. Here’s the verbatim from the New York Times:
CONTEXT: October 20, 2016 debate moderated by Chris Wallace. The question concerned partial-birth abortions.
TRUMP’S ACTUAL WORDS: Well I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying. In the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother in the ninth month, on the final day.
First, this statement was made during the campaign and shows Trump attacking Clinton’s view (or his view of her view). Trump is clearly not stating this is the current law as Cuomo insists he thinks. Instead, Donald Trump is arguing what he believes will happen if Hillary’s view becomes accepted.
Second, this statement also has the words ‘of the mother’ removed. Why would CNN edit Mr. Trump’s words in mid-sentence? Speculation would suggest that it softens the rhetoric, making the issue sound less mother/daughter and more woman/body. Another option is the clip was edited to essentials because of time constraints. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make Cuomo and his team look good.
Chris Cuomo may have been ignorant (didn’t realize the clip was an out-of-context and edited clip) or he may have been simply offering BS (his term), but in either event he’s wrong on this point. The spin is for the Pro-abortion/Pro-life debate. Cuomo is making a case for women’s rights (pro-abortion) and is using a false narrative (via a video clip) to invite people to think this President (and pro-life advocates) are so lame that they don’t even understand the laws and are willing participants in promoting false information. It’s a spin. Of course, the irony is that it is a part of his Facts First segment.
THE REMEDY One should always insist upon two essential things before making a conclusion about another’s BS;
Assume the person being quoted means something that makes sense to themselves, and then look for it.
Gather the context of words, setting, and intended audience.
These two simple practices will steer you well, and they will allow you to see where spin-meister’s, entertainers, op-ed writers, and sometimes journalists, can go awry. CNN’s Chris Cuomo would have done better engaging these tools.
NOTE WELL: The ‘abortion issue’ isn’t going away and is, at its core, a conflict of values: The mother’s rights vs. the unborn daughter’s rights. Pro-abortion advocates are making the mother’s rights the issue, while pro-life advocates are making the unborn daughter’s rights the issue (an alternate framing would say the woman’s rights vs the fetus’s rights, but that’s another Spin-Check). THE QUESTION: At what point does the unborn daughter’s rights exceed the mother’s rights (if ever)? Wherever you land, please check the spin and keep the facts in play, especially within the context they’re quoted.