Sunday, October 2, 2011

Visually unconvincing

…and therefore probably not true!

Following on from my previous post on the Mona Lisa, I was interested in the total disconnect between the alarmist broadcasts about the impending hurricane Katarina pounding New York a few weeks ago and the actual live images that were being simultaneously broadcast. At the start of these alarmist news broadcasts, I thought that the accompanying drumbeats (on the BBC) made sense for once, implying as they did some catastrophic event. But the live scenes broadcast simultaneously with the reports from on the spot correspondents told a very different story. The 170 km per hour winds did not square with the picture of ordinary people hailing a taxi quietly or chatting and laughing, apparently totally unperturbed. Nor were the umbrellas upturned and the almost vertical downpour of the rain gave the lie to the declared strong winds. In fact, the visual picture was of nothing more than an ordinary rainy day.

The drumbeats sounded ridiculous, in retrospect. And, by the simplest of all tests, namely the visual test, all these news readers came out as being extremely gullible and silly.

I wonder – do they actually see the pictures that are projected while they read the news.

Which means that TV news stations should be a good deal more careful if they want their reports to have credibility. In such instances, it is perhaps best (from their point of view) to stick to reading the news without accompanying pictures.

It is not quite that easy to cheat the visual brain.


Katherine said...

I agree. For 20 years I have not watched television news (except on rare occasions in other people's homes). But I listen 3 - 4 times a day on the non-commercial national radio. It's not infallible, I think I get a better sense of reality this way.

Gene Ha said...

It's in the nature of storm warnings that they prepare you for the worst. Just because we got lucky this time doesn't mean they shouldn't offer similar warnings if a new storm with exactly the same readings showed up next year.

Many people stayed in New Orleans during Katrina because the hurricane warnings had seemed overblown the last few times.