160406-predisposedLet me begin by undercutting my own credibility.

In 1966, responding to a rising tide of public interest in the UFO phenomenon (See what I mean?), the United States Air Force commissioned a scientific study of available evidence. That study was conducted by the University of Colorado under the direction of physicist Edward Condon and the report, known informally as the Condon Report, was published in 1968.

So far, so good, but it’s now generally accepted that Condon’s executive summary, which advised abandoning further study of the phenomenon, effectively ignored both the substance and spirit of the report itself.

Thornton Page, for example, writing in the October 1969 issue of The American Journal of Physics had this to say about the report and Condon’s executive summary:

In one sense, the Condon Report lives up to its title Scientific Study, because physical principles and available data are applied meticulously to more than 56 selected, well-documented “cases” (UFO sightings), with the result that 33 cases are explained. However, as several other reviewers have noted, this leaves unexplained a larger proportion than the 10% or so which caused all the ruckus and forced the Air Force to fund the Colorado Project in the first place. Hence, it may be argued that Condon’s carefully written conclusions (the first five pages of the Report) do not logically follow from the case studies.

Nevertheless, the first five pages of the report were used by the American military and mainstream media to debunk the phenomenon. The scientists who’d conducted the studies pointed with scientific interest toward the 40% of cases they couldn’t explain, while the executive summary spun their work in the opposite direction. In other words, Condon did exactly what he’d been hired to do. He put out the fire. And our public watchdog-turned-corporate-lapdog has kept the area nice and moist with urine ever since.

So there was that.

50 years later – five days ago – Bernie Sanders was interviewed by the editorial board of the New York Daily News, and most headlines referring to that interview have given the impression that he failed it miserably:

  • “This New York Daily News interview was pretty close to a disaster for Bernie Sanders” (Washington Post)
  • “Bernie Sanders Gets Slammed for ‘Disaster’ Interview With NY Daily News” (The Wrap)
  • “Bernie bomb! Sanders disastrous ‘Daily News’ interview shows shocking struggle with crucial policy questions” (The Inquisitr)

And so on.

But was it such a disastrously disastrous disaster? Read the 9,000-word transcript, and decide for yourself. You might come away wondering what interview the headlines are talking about. You might wonder whether the tone, if not the content, of these “executive summaries” was foreordained, and whether the purpose of the interview itself wasn’t so much to inform readers as to herd them, regardless of obstacles, in a particular direction for a particular purpose. You might even think Sanders handled the interview quite well. As I did. And do.

Typically, only scientists read scientific studies, while a few of us read executive summaries of scientific studies, if anything at all, and the vast majority of us read only what the media tells us those executive summaries say. So it could go with the public perception of a “disastrous” Sanders interview if we let the media pre-masticate our information for us.

But I have read the transcript. I’ve read the articles linked here, as well, and the upshot, it seems to me, is that mainstream media’s conclusions were in the can, that it was predisposed to half-hear and wholly disagree with whatever Sanders said, the one possible exception being a promise to drop out of the race.

No, friend, the executive summary of anything Sanders says must be and will be that if it looks like a Sanders and it quacks like a Sanders, it’s a disaster.  Just is. And you can take such summaries at face value or you can question them. You can think for yourself. That is, after all, at least as I understand it, what an informed electorate is supposed to do.