Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lock up yer daughters!

I remember a year ago watching on television - O'Reilly on Foxnews, to be precise - righteous outrage about a new book for young adults dealing with something called a "rainbow party." The subject matter involves participants attempting to see how much of their lipstick they can get on the genitals of a boy at said party, and this idea - of young girls engaging in oral sex - brought on some fury from O'Reilly and other commentators.

But hold on here - I understand the idea behind these broadcasts - you want to inform parents about potentially irresponsible activity your children could be getting into. But how many young girls first LEARNED about this notion from the broadcast itself? Maybe I'm fooling myself, maybe lots more than I'd imagine, but in my mind, I bet lots.

And remember, to do something intentionally, you first need to have the idea to do it. This may be a bit dated, but I read a blog post today that made me remember it (maybe this one
? I visit hundreds of blogs a day, sadly).

So I think Mr. O caught himself in a cross-purpose, and ended up doing more damage than good. Can I test that? Nah. I think the point is good enough. Reporting can influence behavior, so report responsibly, if you really care about what you're saying.

And in other news, learn Russian, meet babes!


ryan said...

If like any good libertarian you believe that people are generally rational, what does this episode tell you about O'Reilly/Fox's primary motivation? Teaching new sex games can't hurt the ratings ...

Tim said...

Of course I believe that people are rational - but that may not mean the same thing to me as it does to you. Remember: rational doesn't mean smart, it doesn't mean you thought about what you're doing, and it doesn't mean you intend the direct or indirect consequences of your actions.

Ignorance can be rational too - some people just don't have the time to check facts, or even think about the implications. I don't think O'Reilly is trying to promote sex games to pump his ratings, I think he's probably genuinely outraged - I just think he might be too impulsive and angry when he gets hold of the news bulletin to think about what he's doing.

ryan said...

Ignorance is rational only when the expected gains from being informed are less than the cost of information. Rationality doesn't imply intelligence or the ability to make these sorts of calculations, but at some point Darwin should kick in. I'm not saying that O'Reilly is trying to promote sex games, and I'm not saying that he isn't outraged. I'm just saying, the important incentives are provided by ratings, and that TV networks and talk show hosts tend not to be rationally ignorant or just plain dumb when being smart would really help them improve those ratings. I'm not making any moral claims here -- just talking rational choice.

Tim said...

Out of curiousity, do you think that being outraged or so angry you can't see straight bear on the question of the presence of rationality in the actions of an individual?

And I think the costs of believing that what you're doing is doing the opposite of what you intend for it to do is pretty high of itself, with the implication that a rational actor might reasonably blind themselves to them in order to avoid the psychic pain of having to confront their actions.