I find the 'backfired through distrust'/'damaged their own credibility' claim plausible, it agrees with my prejudices, and I think I see evidence of similar things happening elsewhere; but the article doesn't contain evidence that it happened in this case, and even though it's a priori likely and worth pointing out, the claim that it did happen should come with evidence. (This is a nitpick, but I think it's an important nitpick in the spirit of sharing likelihood ratios, not posterior beliefs.)

19Ben Pace3moYeah. I regularly model headlines like this as being part of the later levels of simulacra [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/fEX7G2N7CtmZQ3eB5/simulacra-and-subjectivity]. The article argued that it should backfire, but it also said that it already had. If the article catches on, then it will become true to the majority of people who read it. It's trying to create the news that it's reporting on. It's trying to make something true by saying it is. I think a lot of articles are like that these days. They're trying to report on what's part of social reality, but social reality depends on what goes viral on twitter/fb/etc, so they work to inject themselves into that social reality by attempting to directly manipulate it. The article is suggesting that it's reporting on social reality, making it exciting for you to read it, but it actually only becomes true if it succeeds in getting a lot of people to read it.
4Raemon3moI'd say this isn't just a nitpicking, it's pretty directly challenging the core claim. Or at least, if the essay didn't want to be making that it's core claim, it should have picked a different title. (I say that while generally endorsing the article)

This is a general problem – titles or headlines making stronger claims than the article – and seems to be due to a different person, or different people, choosing the title or headline than the person or persons that wrote the article.

Why Telling People They Don't Need Masks Backfired

by Zack_M_Davis 1 min read18th Mar 20209 comments


In The New York Times op-ed section (archive link), information science professor Zeynep Tufekci argues that health authorities damaged their own credibility by misleadingly claiming that masks aren't useful for healthy people rather than being forthright about the need to conserve masks for doctors and nurses in the face of a shortage. (Elizabeth van Nostrand and Jim Babcock made a similar argument on this website the week before last.)