Tag Archives: media

Real vs movie fighting

It will surprise nobody that real fighting or full-contact competition differs from movie fighting. What is perhaps less obvious is that the incentives for the actions are completely opposite. The actions themselves are not completely opposite, because movie fighting is supposed to look somewhat like a real fight, which constrains the difference between them.
An obvious incentive difference is the desire to hurt an opponent in a real fight vs not hurt a fellow actor. A more subtle distinction is that in a real fight or competition, nobody wants the opponent to see a punch or kick coming. In a movie, the flashier and more visible the attack and defense, the better. So in a real fight or competition, the movements are quick, preferably without wind-up by other parts of the body, mostly in a direct line from one body to the other (although some curved punches and kicks are used). The movements may be masked by feints, but these are subtle, like eyes flicking right while punching with the left. In a movie, the kicks especially move in long visible arcs, with the body turning 360 degrees in some cases, and not too fast. Every move is designed to be seen by the audience, which implies seen by the opponent.
In a movie fight, the techniques should not repeat, otherwise the audience gets bored. In a real fight, the only reason not to use one’s best move exclusively is the need to surprise the opponent. Only a few of the most effective techniques are used. Another reason for this is that real fights end quickly (not counting the posturing and shouting), so there is not much time to showcase a variety of punches and kicks. A wider range of moves is used in competitions, but still not close to the range in movie fights.

On reporting on the Syrian war

According to the media, there are no ordinary towns in Syria, only key towns, strategic towns and key strategic towns. The same holds for villages, highways, road crossings, border crossings etc. There are no minor skirmishes in the Syrian war, only major offensives, strategic offensives and similar very important actions in very important places. What the media calls major campaigns usually involve from a few dozen to a few hundred fighters. Entire cities are attacked and defended for months by some hundreds at most, with the media reporting major clashes every day.

On electric bikes and science news

There is some debate on whether electric-assist bikes are good or bad. The argument on the negative side is that people will stop cycling and bike roads will be taken over by these (electric-)motorized vehicles. On the positive side, the claim is that electric bikes replace motor scooters, cars and public transit, which is good for the environment and perhaps health if people actually pedal their electric bike a bit. To summarize: electric bikes good if replace motor vehicles, electric bikes bad if replace bicycles or walking. It is an empirical question what the substitution sizes are.

There are many calls for scientists to communicate better, engage the public, present their results simply and interestingly etc. Whether more science news and popular science is good or bad depends on what it replaces, just like for electric bikes. If dumbed down entertainment science replaces the rigorous variety, this is bad. If science news replaces brainless news (celebrity gossip, funny animals, speculation on future events), it is good. It is an empirical question to what extent scientists switch to popular topics and crafting press releases if their evaluations rely more on outreach or policy impact. Also a question for the data is which news are left out of print to make room for more science news.

To maximize education of the public, there is a tradeoff between the seriousness of the science presented and the size of the audience. Research article level complexity is accessible to only a few experts. Entertainment is watched by many, but does not educate. The optimum must be somewhere in the middle.

Similarly, difficult courses in a university have few students taking them, but teach those few more than fun and easy subjects. The best complexity level is somewhere between standup comedy and a research seminar.

On journalistic privilege

Journalists have certain privileges over the average citizen – they get access to inside information, public figures and press conferences. An attack against a journalist creates more outrage, because it is seen as damaging the free press. These advantages are not given so that journalists could make money or satisfy their curiosity. The privileges are provided to help journalists serve the public interest, similarly to the delegation of decision power to politicians. People being people, some journalists abuse the privileges. They do not inform the public, only entertain to make money. This takes the form of sensationalism: covering frivolous topics that sell well, but do not provide useful knowledge. For example celebrity gossip, funny animals, manufactured controversy.

It would be fair to remove journalistic privileges from tabloid reporters and stop calling them journalists. They are just nosy people. The problem is that whoever decides on giving or taking privileges, gets power over the media. Therefore this authority should not be the government, but an independent organization. However, some rights and protections of the media are legislated, so a non-governmental body cannot change them. The legislature would have to delegate its authority in this sphere to the hypothetical independent regulator first. Given how much politicians wish to influence journalists, this decision seems unlikely.