Media & Communication

The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect

by Limbic on February 7, 2016

can a giant eraser remove the past?

“Can a giant raser remove the past?” Typewriter Eraser. Scale X, 1999, by Claes Oldenburg (American, born 1929, Sweden) and Coosje van Bruggen (American, born 1942, The Netherlands). Photo by Woodleywonders via Flicker (cc)

Came across this whilst reading Felix Salmon’s superb “Why you can’t trust journalism“. He links to Seekerblog’s 2006 post on “The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect“, who in turn quotes Michael Criton’s 2002 speech “Why Speculate?“:

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. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

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.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

I have noticed this time and time again. People who lambaste the media for supporting something they oppose will uncritically quote the same media when they suddenly find themselves in agreement.

Another area I notice this is with Serbs commenting on other countries. Serbs have been demonized in the media for over 20 years. They have suffered the most appalling slanders, yet it has not equipped many of them at all to spot the same treatment of others.

When Denmark recently came under fire for extending its social welfare laws of asset confiscation to migrants, I had Serbian friends in all my timelines writing “F*ck Denmark!”, not wondering at all if the story was being portrayed accurately (which it was not).

See also:

Truth Leakage – How politicians and journalists often reveal the truth as metadata or background material when discussing a tangential topic.

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Why Donald Trump Leads National Polls

by Limbic on December 24, 2015

Donald Trump

“The frontrunner’s support is built less on bigotry, than on his confident projection of executive intelligence.”

The always excellent David Frum explains where Trump is getting his political energy from.

The simple “xenophobes, bigots and old white people” trope peddled by his opponents does not explain it.

Frum argues it is a combination of his satisfying the deep hunger in the Republican base for leaders with “executive intelligence” and because “Republicans have come to fear that their leaders have turned anti-native”.

This aligns with Scott Adams’ assessment that Trump’s strategy is all about presenting himself as the only adult in the room, the only person with a plan (no matter how nutty) and the experience to deliver on it (Frum’s “Executive Intelligence”). The good news is that we can all blame George W. Bush for this.

Read it here: Why Donald Trump Leads National Polls – The Atlantic

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Aldous Huxley’s “Impersonal Forces”

by Limbic on September 28, 2012


“Impersonal forces over which we have almost no control seem to be pushing us all in the direction of the Brave New Worldian nightmare; and this impersonal pushing is being consciously accelerated by representatives of commercial and political organizations who have developed a number of new techniques for manipulating, in the interest of some minority, the thoughts and feelings of the masses.” – Aldous Huxley, Preface to A Brave New World

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

Via Happy Birthday, Aldous Huxley: A Rare, Prophetic 1958 Interview by Mike Wallace | Brain Pickings


Goebbels, Chomsky and Vonnegut

by Limbic on June 19, 2012

Some classics from Beware of Images via the superb



by Limbic on October 7, 2011

I was tracking the #OccupyWallStreet phenomenon from when it was just a twinkle in Anonymous’s eye.

As usual, the Anonymous twitter leaders talked it up, and went ahead despite fairly withering criticism. Then it looked like it was going to flop.

Numbers were low, Tweets begging people to bring blankets and sandwiches to the occupiers were mocked by critics pointing out they had 6 months of preparation. And worst of all, the mainstream media completely ignored the protest.

Then the NYPD maced those women for no good reason, and the whole thing flipped.

Now you have a fairly interesting situation.

The Unions are involved. They scented the media attention and rushed in to share the spotlight, but what they have found is a typical “anonymous” rabble: No coherent demands, no focus, no agenda and no leadership.

The original band of hippies and griefers that started the protest have no been joined by semi-professional grievance mongers and it will be fascinating to see if the movement can actually articulate an agenda, or will diffuse into nothing.

The most interesting thing for me is that the media are no acknowledging Anonymous at all in their coverage. They definitely started it. It was an anonymous operation, and now its being hijacked by the Unions, it remains tio be seen what will happen.

See also:

  • Why Did Liberals Embrace ‘Occupy Wall Street’? (Hint: They’re Obsessed With the Tea Party.) [The New Republic]
  • Occupy Wall Street, another futile peasants’ protest [Fabius Maximus]


Well well. The old team has reformed. The band is back for a last concert. The war hero is brought out of retirement to save the war.

The mafia state of Kosovo has hired none other than Tony Blair’s former chief of propaganda to help them spin their way into legitimacy now that the truth of the KLA’s brutal Serb butchering ways has become public knowledge thanks to the Dick Marty’s report, which alleged that not only was there murder and kidnapping of Serbs in 1999 (after the Serbs withdrew)  but that victims organ were smuggled to illegal markets and sold. It is further alleged that the Prime Minister of Kosovo – Hashim Thaci  – as head of the KLA, was involved.  Now an international investigation into allegations of organ trafficking by the Kosovo Liberation Army in northern Albania will be led by American John Clint Williamson.

These lurid allegations address just one of the incidents of murder, kidnapp, assault and intimidation waged daily against the few remaining Serb and other non-Albanian minorities by Kosovo Albanians. Most have already been ethnically cleansed by pogroms and constant intimidation.

Kosovo does not need more spin, propaganda and obfuscation. It needs the truth, transparency and openness. Campbell and Blair have done enough damage falling for the KLAs lies the first time around and convincing the witless Americans to bomb Serbia. Now, with 10 years of hindsight, anyone even passingly familiar with the region knows that the great lie is that all is well in Kosovo. Its economy is n on-existant. It cannot and will never be able to sustain itself. It is run by the mafia. It is a the main Balkan mafia staging ground. It is the European centre of people trafficking (slavery), gun running and narcotics  smuggling. And to cap it all of sectarian Albanians have waged a 10 year war of violent aggression against minorities and there is no let up.

Whilst the vast majority of Kosovan’s are decent people (a visit there will leave you with a lovely impression of the kindness and hospitality of all the communities), the government is made up of ex-KLA gangsters with blood on their hands. That government should not be getting propaganda help from the British Council and Alastair Campbell. They do not have an image problem. Theere is no misunderstanding. The are thugs and gangsters who need to be exposed to the truth.



“We fool the world”

by Limbic on June 6, 2010

Great video parody of  “We are the World” , spoofing the Gaza Hamas Aid Flotilla and its “peaceful” intentions.

Also see this bonus video of the UN Watch representative ripping the ass out of the joke that is the UN Human Rights Council.

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The War of Actually Shipping

by Limbic on February 28, 2010

Linchpin by Seth Godin

A few weeks ago I was re-reading one of my favourite books of 2009, “Pragmatic Thinking and Learning” by Andy Hunt, during a lunch break. On page 109 he writes:

When you try to start any creative endeavor, such as writing on a blog, an article, or (heaven help you) a full-length book, you will encounter massive resistance. Resistance
can take many forms, from niggling self-doubt to wildly creative procrastination to a myriad assortment of other distractions and excuses (see The War of Art: Break Through
the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield for a disturbingly complete catalog of the many manifestations of resistance).

I circled the book and made a note to buy it.

That afternoon I, as I walked home from work, I spotted a new (rare) podcast from Merlin Mann of 43 Folders. He was interviewing Seth Godin about his new book “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?“.

In the interview they have along praise-filled discussion about none other that Steven Pressfield and his absolutely amazing must-read book “The War of Art“, the very book I had underlined at lunch.

The interview also discussed a big current theme of how our “lizard brain” paralyses us in so many ways (a topic I tackle in my hack on the Semantic Pause in the new edition of Mind Performance Hacks being released this year. )

Steven Pressfield’s book is by every account a must read, especially for writers (along with On Writing by Stephen King). It looks like Linchpin may also be worth a read.

You can read Steven Pressfield in the new, free ebook called “What Matters Now“, which came out in December 2009.  From the blurb:

Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O’Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Fred Wilson, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.

I loved Godin’s use of the word “shipping” in the interview, to signify actually delivering (as opposed to faffing). It all aligns beautifully with my 20th anniversary copy of Eliyahu Goldratt’s business classic  “The Goal” .

Merlin Mann Interview Seth Godin –


Big Brother vs Mustapha Mond

by Limbic on February 4, 2010

Thoroughly enjoyed this great cartoon from Stuart McMillen (Recombinant records) presenting the introduction to Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” in which he compares the dystopian visions of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and George Orwell’s “1984”.

Also check out postman’s fantastic 60 minute lecturer on Technology and society (in parts below).
[click to continue…]


Beautiful Visual Thinking collection

by Limbic on February 22, 2009

David Armano,VP of Experience Design at Critical Mass, has shared his beautiful personal collection of Visual thinking examples for anyone to use (with attribution).

Below is an example from the collection.

Read on at Logic+Emotion: Visual Thinking + Synthesis.

The colelction is on Flickr here.

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