The Pauline Kael Fallacy

This oft cited, though apocryphal, quote from New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael following the 1972 election is the quintessential example of an out of touch elite. But the anecdotal fallacy, presuming that the world (or country or state) is as your life experiences show it to be, applies not just to New York film critics. We all can fall victim.

For months, many political observers wrote off the campaign of Donald Trump. “There is no way he can win; no one I know supports him.”

In certain areas of Facebook, Bernie Sanders is the presumptive Democratic nominee.  “All of my friends are feeling the Bern.  I don’t know how Hillary is winning primaries.”

With the recent passage of HB2 by the state of North Carolina, the state’s metropolitan Twitter has exploded with indignation and the question, “How can the governor be standing by a decision that is universally unpopular?”

It is ironic that social media platforms which have exposed us to an incredibly diverse range of opinions have actually reinforced people’s existing preconceptions by allowing them to find others who share their beliefs.  Search any hashtag, and you can find hundreds or thousands of people who agree with you.  But to understand events, grow your influence, and shape the future, you need to understand the world outside of your circle.

There are a lot of people voting Nixon out there.  You are at a disadvantage if you ignore them. You are at a disadvantage if you can’t communicate with them.