Politicians’ attempts to discuss technology have given us some truly delightful moments of misunderstanding. There was George W. Bush’s use—twice!—of “the Internets” during presidential debates. And the late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska launched a meme with his description of the Internet as “a series of tubes.”
We nearly had another politico to add to the pantheon of techno-confusion. Last week, a story circulated online that an Irishman on a city council had claimed that his home of Connemara would be perfect for the cloud computing industry because it sees so many overcast days each year . For his trouble, the councilor was called a “feckin’ eejit” by a fellow politician, according to the story widely circulated on Twitter. Earlier today, the Telegraph posted a version of the tale.
This lamentable misunderstanding would have been great fodder for conversation about politicians not comprehending the technologies they are supposed to support as well as regulate. But it seems that it was too good to be true. At the Irish blog the Science Bit, Brian Hughes did some good old-fashioned Googling and found that none of the politicians name-checked in the story exist. But all is not a waste. Hughes writes:
Such hoaxes can be informative in their own way, especially with regard to the reaction they provoke. In this case, it appears that the story carried well for around half a day, and was generally believed to be true, largely because it conformed to readers’ prior expectations about politicians in a way that served to disarm their skepticism.
Even the hyper-logical can fall victim to confirmation bias in this manner.
Read more on the Science Bit.