Pleasantly Disgusted – Yet Another Stupid Headline

Cycling Stupid HeadlineI can’t stop myself! I’ve just seen my third incredibly stupid or misleading headline of the week and must spread the word.

A Dutch Guy Is Disgusted By America, But He Has A Hell Of A Point screams the headline I first saw when a Facebook friend commented on the story.

The link leads to a YouTube video in which a Dutch cycling enthusiast speaks about the state of cycling in the United States. His channel is dedicated to all things cycling in the Netherlands. He has instructional videos, information on cycling infrastructure, cycling routes in various cities, and many other useful tips.

His tone in the video is anything but “disgusted”. I’d call it the opposite of disgusted. It’s clinical in its analysis and hopeful in tone that biking in the U.S. will continue to grow. He fairly systematically covers some of the difficulties of biking in the United States, how biking in the U.S. is different from that in his homeland, and places where he sees room for improvement. He is critical a few times but nothing he says nor the tone that he uses could possibly be misconstrued as “disgusted”.

Not to mention that he doesn’t really have a “Point” to the video. He mentions a number of things but it is more of an analysis than any sort of attempt to persuade people.

The headline is designed to generate clicks and angry comments. It’s unfair and totally misleading.

Comments were already piling up about smug and nasty Europeans based apparently upon having read the headline but not bothered to watch the video.

Congratulations Upworthy! You are the third winner, this week, of the Misleading or Stupid Headline of the week.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Coming very, very soon: The Broken Throne

Critical Thinking Fail – Lance Armstrong Story

Critical ThinkingA fellow by the name of Arthur Caplan wrote an opinion piece about the Lance Armstrong doping and banning situation. The article has some merit but right at the start he uses a bizarre analogy that has a meaning exactly the opposite of what he is trying to say. Very strange and fodder for today’s Critical Thinking Fail post.

Basically Mr. Caplan uses  the analogy of a female swimmer named Shirley Babashoff to try to illustrate his point that Armstrong has been convicted in the court of popular opinion without evidence. I’m actually on Mr. Caplan’s side in that stripping Armstrong of his wins and claiming he is somehow worse than his fellow competitors is a sham. However, the analogy is insane.

Babashoff was a swimmer in the 1972 and 1976 games when East German women were winning all the medals largely through the systematic use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). She accused them of such wrongdoing and was largely ignored only later to be proven correct.

In this case it is Armstrong being accused of using PEDs so the comparison to Babashoff, the accuser, is mind-boggling. Armstrong is the equivalent of the East German swimmers in this example and Babashoff compares to his accusers.

I’m all for a critical examination of Armstrong and the fact that he didn’t do anything his fellow competitors were not doing. I’m opposed to stripping him, or any competitor of trophies and records when it’s highly likely that their opponents were doing the same thing. It’s hypocritical nonsense to do so. But, Mr. Caplan’s use of an analogy that is actually the opposite of the point he is trying to make is, in my opinion, a Critical Thinking Fail.

What do you think (not about his main point, about the Critical Thinking)?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire