Humans are bad at speculation, predicting the future and judging what is reliable in the media. Every time I read something that I vehemently agree with or vehemently disagree with, I think of The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.
The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect was coined by Michael Crichton in his 2005 essay “Why Speculate?”
“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”
― Michael Crichton
I read this quote many years ago and it has stuck with me. Today, for the first time, I went back and read the original essay and am struck by how prescient it is. We need the press but we must not relinquish our need for scrutiny and judgment in how we read the news.