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A Bad Case of Expertitis


The days of extolling objective journalistic discussions of scientific and technocratic issues -- always a bit laughable -- are clearly over. Now, journalists are being told not to present both sides of important debates, but rather, to take the "side" of "experts."

An op-ed in the New York Times urges journalists to stop presenting both sides when "experts" have reached a consensus opinion. You see, it only causes confusion to give a voice to dissenting opinions. From "Why People Are Confused About What Experts Really Think," by expert psychology professor Derek J. Koehler:

Government action is guided in part by public opinion. Public opinion is guided in part by perceptions of what experts think. But public opinion may -- and often does -- deviate from expert opinion, not simply, it seems, because the public refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of experts, but also because the public may not be able to tell where the majority of expert opinion lies.

Balderdash. We hear constantly that "the experts" have reached a "consensus," and we should just go along. Indeed, that argument is wielded as a cudgel to stifle debate.

But here's the thing: People know that many "experts" are ideologically predisposed, their "studies" often intended to reach certain predetermined conclusions. Or, that their interpretations of data are akin to the cliché about the butcher putting his thumb on the scale. They know what they want to find, and lo and behold, they find it!

Finally, people no longer trust authority because they know that the fingerprints of "the experts" are all over many of the worst problems we face.

These advocates should look in a mirror for the reasons the public refuses to meekly follow what "the experts" advocate. Indeed, the more heterodox views are stifled and kept from the public to skew political debates, the more the public will distrust the views of "experts."

Image credit: © Subbotina Anna / Dollar Photo Club.

Cross-posted at The Corner.