Sunday, January 31, 2016

a history lesson in reasons to be doubtful about the predictions of journalists in New York, HT Atlantic, someone predicted in 1897that Hiram Maxim's invention would make people think twice about war ... that invention ...

Not that Jim West really needs more ammunition for his position that we don't take the proclamations of journalists seriously but ...
Recently the Atlantic Monthly featured a little blast from the past.  Hiram Maxim invented this thing that was considered so terrifying that someone at the New York Times declared it would cause people to think twice about starting wars.

“These are the instruments that have revolutionized the methods of warfare, and because of their devastating effects, have made nations and rulers give greater thought to the outcome of war before entering … ” the Times wrote in 1897. “They are peace-producing and peace-retaining terrors.”

For those who don't already know, Maxim's invention was ...

the machine gun.

So if New York journalists ever struggle with the feeling that ordinary people don't take their proclamations and predictions seriously, they need to be reminded once in a while that this could be because writers in New York have a history of making insanely stupid predictions such as saying that the invention of the machine gun will make nations and rulers give greater thought to the outcome of war before starting a war.

That's not how people work, clearly. Surely after World War I and World War II and all that came after we can say that at least one prediction by an author at the New York Times proved ridiculously wrong. Not that journalists haven't been getting predictions wrong all over the world, it's just that there may be something special about New York. 

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