The peril of predictions

I make a point not to write too much about Ann Coulter, mostly because I am loathe to give her any more free publicity than she already gets on top of that which she almost seems to gouge out with her fingernails (you’ll notice I haven’t linked to anything but myself from here … for that very reason, lol). Only when something she says or does is an illustration of a larger principle would I ever consider it. Last summer, for example, I used some of her writing in an exploration of what plagiarism means, and sadly she was excellent example. In that case, she had borrowed the words of others without attribution, but she manages to get herself in hot water even when the words are her own.

Prediction is unquestionably a dangerous game … given the limited information we have, and the apparent freewill of the other 5,999,999,999 people on the planet, making predictions about the future is always a hit and miss proposition, where an accuracy rate of “1 in 10” might be considered good, lol. Even still, when we make predictions, there are ways to do it so that they don’t get thrown back in our faces when they prove to be wrong. Hedging our bets is one way, using probabilities to talk about what might be, instead of what will be. Ridiculing those you presume will be wrong, in advance inside your prediction, isn’t a very good one.

“The war was so successful, they don’t have any arguments left. They can’t even sound busy. Just two weeks ago, they claimed American troops were caught in another Vietnam quagmire. That didn’t happen. They predicted huge civilian casualties. That didn’t happen. They said Americans would turn against the war as our troops came home in body bags. That didn’t happen.”
–Ann Coulter, Jewish World Review May 1, 2003

Coming up on 4 years later, there are certainly others who made similar statements around the same time, but few expressed the glee of Coulter, even while expressing similar levels of lack of foresight. Its not so much that Coulter is so spectacularly wrong in this quote … as I say above, anyone who makes predictions will be spectacularly wrong once in awhile. Coulter thinks she is going to get a chance to kick ‘they’ while they are down, but she ends up kicking air, looking really silly.

The problem with gloating, with the self-satisfaction that is obvious from quotes like this is that its all well and good when things work out as you plan, and the crowd smiles and applauds as you point at the folks who were so spectacularly wrong. More often than not though, you end up standing there by yourself with the crowd pointing and laughing at you, as Coulter is here. I suppose if it feels good enough the few times you succeed, it might be worth the ridicule … from my perspective, I’d rather try and have just a little more respect for my opponents typically. Its one thing to make predictions that turn out to be wrong … its quite another to ridicule the people who turn out to be right in the process. Leave it to Ann …

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