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Terrorism, Tetlock, Turnbull And Too Much To Think About…

“We’ve just been hit for several boundaries, so why don’t we take the fast bowlers off and try spin?”
“No, I refuse to allow the enemy to dictate who I bowl. I’ll continue to bowl who I like.”
“Yes, but I suspect that these batsmen are enjoying facing the fast bowlers and I was always taught that it’d be better to do what the opposition don’t want if you want to win!”
“Who’s side are you on? If we allow the batsmen to dictate what we can and can’t do, then we’ve already lost!”

Yep, well, that’s sort of the way I started thinking when I read the third day of reports from the terrorist attacks from Nice. We were being told how horrible it was. Ok, no argument about that. But I started to wonder how would the terrorists responsible – assuming it was a terrorist act and not simply the act of a loony – would like to have it reported.

For a start, I’m sure they’d like to think that it had a much bigger impact on people than all the other people who died on that day. I mean, isn’t that what terrorism’s about? Striking terror into the hearts of people. So when you interview somebody who talks about how they saw dead children being pulled from prams and…

Oh wait, I sense that I’m going to down the same path as the MSM.

Anyway, I simply asked myself, would the terrorists want it reported in all it’s gory detail, or would they rather that it was factually reported, then ignored. When they claimed responsibility, did they do so out of some contrition, or were they hoping that everyone would be told that it was them, yes THEM, so be afraid, be very, very afraid. Be more afraid of THEM, than the millions of things that are more likely to be the cause of your death.

Am I suggesting that terrorism is no problem? Of course not. Am I suggesting that nothing should be done? No.

I’m merely questioning whether we need to give them what they want. Let the speculation belong to those who may actually be able to prevent the next attack. For most of the rest of us, it’s just a needless worry, because – given that we no more predict where the next terrorist attack will occur than next week’s lottery numbers – we won’t be able to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Which is sort of a neat segway into Philip Tetlock…

Tetlock, who I’m just going to refer to by a range of different names because the computer insists on changing his name to “Fetlock”, is best known for his work on how bad some “experts” are at prediction. He collected a series of predictions from well-regarded people and checked them for accuracy after a period of time. He made a number of interesting observations such as the concept that people who were completely sure were generally less accurate than people who were more circumspect. However, the media seemed more interested in those who were more dogmatic no matter how many times they’d got it wrong. Experts who suggested that there were a range of possibilities didn’t make for exciting viewing/reading, but someone who could tell you with absolute certainty that house prices would drop by 27.4% in the next ninety four days was more exciting than a Heston dish on “Masterchef”!

More recently, Fetlock (as the computer demands I call him no matter how many different ways I spell it), has become frustrated because the subtleties have been reduced to the idea that experts are about as accurate as a chimpanzee with a dartboard. Mainly by the media.

Tetlcock (ah, if you add a letter in the middle of the word, then take it out, it works) never suggested that experts were, by nature, wrong. He simply suggested that one should start looking at their track record and, just maybe, look at more than one prediction before making a judgement on your future course of action.

All of which is my way of justifying my predictions on Turnbull.

Ok, I’ve made a lot of predictions and I’d like to suggest that I’m running with the following accuracy for Australian politics.

Serious ones: 98%
Joking ones: 33%
So ridiculous it could never happen: 12%
Clearly I was joking and I “never ever” meant it: 9%

Now, of course, I’m not going to predict that Bill Shorten will go to Malcolm and suggest that they reach agreement on the following:

  1. Turnbull can stay on as PM without the need to contribute to his own election campaign in future.
  2. Shorten will be Deputy PM.
  3. All the Cabinet will be from the Labor side of politics.
  4. Turnbull join the Labor Party.
  5. Turnbull tears up the Coalition agreement and tells Barnaby to piss off.

Those things are unlikely to happen. Not even if the Liberals only hold a majority of one and Turnbull leaving would give them trouble.

Nah, the far more likely scenario is that Turnbull will pander to the Right, while being told that he’s far too Left and that Thoughtcrime is still an offence in the Liberal Party. He’ll lose popularity and have a hissy fit when he realises that Abbott has the numbers. He’ll stay around for exactly two weeks before realising that New York is much better at this time of year and his best revenge – apart from living well – will be to cause an immediate by-election in the seat of Wentworth…

Yep, that’s right. It’s not accurate…

But then, as Tetlock told us, being right doesn’t matter. It’s far better to be outrageous and emphatic and sure of oneself if you want to get a spot on TV…

And if you want to get a spot of Fox News, then always predict and never look back!

I mean, all the rating’s agencies gave a triple A rating to those companies who went bust in the GFC, yet we still listen to their ratings and Scott Morrison is using the concern about losing ours as justification for doing all the things he wants to do anyway…

So, in spite of getting the ratings spectacularly wrong, we all need to genefluct to the ratings agencies.

Mm, and I told you in 2014 that Malcolm would be PM before the election, but nobody asked me to be on the election night panels!

Yep, Tetlock was correct.


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  1. diannaart

    But I started to wonder how would the terrorists responsible – assuming it was a terrorist act and not simply the act of a loony – would like to have it reported.

    Not a problem for governments or for terrorists.

    Interested terrorist groups will claim Nice/Sydney/Coalitionofthewilling as their big idea (whether it was a single loony or not) and governments will blame relevant terrorist group du jour.

  2. guest

    In the storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, some 200 of the attackers died. Were they martyrs or terrorists?

    Another statistic of interest published elsewhere (New Matilda) gives some startling information about the deaths occurring in Western attacks in the Middle East compared to Western deaths.
    They are the kinds of things we are not encouraged to think about.

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