Thursday, April 11, 2019

Black hole image and science reporting


Many times I have wanted to write about the atrocious way in which science is misreported by journalists, how this is complicit with capitalism, feeds an anti-science agenda, and confirms conservative biases. You wouldn't think that the astounding new images of the M87 black hole would be the place to start. And indeed it's far from the worst example. But maybe it's useful to consider for precisely that reason.

Journalism is fixated on the story. It needs to turn a chaotic world of interactions into a simple, linear narrative that an eight-year-old can follow. But your life is not a story. It is not linear, with clear demarcations of good, evil, and so on. A moment's consideration will realise that no life is a clear progression from A to B, because even if this path is indeed one of the "journeys" (another word journalists love) you are "on", that's far from the only dynamic.