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Most of you are no doubt familiar with the late Michael Crichton, best known for his books — especially, The Andromeda Strain — although he also wrote screenplays and was a film director.

He was a man of amazing intellect, particularly in matters scientific. In the quote below, he refers to another man of immense intelligence, the physicist Murray Gell-Mann, with whom he discussed news coverage.

In 2002, Crichton (pron. ‘cryton’) wrote an essay called ‘Why Speculate?’ It featured this warning about Big Media (emphases mine below):

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect …

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works 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 with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

The complete essay is here.

Crichton pointed out that if you heard inaccuracies from someone first-hand, you would tend to discredit them.

So, why don’t we discredit Big Media based on the inaccuracies they are telling us?

Even more important are the omissions. On holiday in Cannes, I watched CNBC Europe by default (British channels were not coming in well) to get Prime Minister Theresa May’s post-election statement on Friday, June 9, 2017. Whilst waiting for two hours, I heard only two news stories repeated over and over! More was going on in the world that day. Why not cover it?

These channels — and other media outlets, such as the press — are highly economic with the truth, including the traditional television news and newspapers. We now know that because we have a raft of websites giving us more news items — and better analysis.

Why do we persist in giving Big Media our time and money? It’s time we stopped trusting them!

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