Beware professional authority

Although it wasn’t a full, true fisking, my post from Saturday did a fairly decent polemic job on this LA Times article related to mental health, psychological therapists and President Trump.

In thinking further about what I had written, I realized there is at least one more good angle I can take to this article. This angle will be in my quasi-professional status as a communications student, and directly address something of concern I have with the field I am in and the “social sciences” in particular.

Keep the above article in mind, but follow me into a digression about the media and the social sciences.  See the below quote from a communication research text book I have for one of my communication’s classes:

Currently, there are no quality-control standards to regulate the U.S. media’s reporting of opinion polls or surveys. For nearly 50 years the professional survey research community has sought, without success, to have media only report studies with adequate scientific samples, rigorous interviewer training and supervision, satisfactory questionnaire design, public availability of data, and controls on the integrity of survey organizations. Unfortunately, the mass media report both biased, misleading survey results and results from rigorous, professional surveys without distinction. It is not surprising that public confusion regarding and a distrust of all surveys occur. (Neuman, 360)

Note that the logical, professional suggestion is that the media should be guided (even muzzled) by the superior knowledge of the social sciences. This is all logical and reasonable, until you go back and analyze the LA Times article I fisked on Saturday. Two things become obvious from the article:

  1. This article is a good example of the media using the most biased, shocking, misleading information, instead of the most qualitative ones.
  2. This article is also a good example of the social science professionals using their authority inappropriately for personal ends, violating ethical rules of their professions.

Because of that second point, social science  professionals using their authority inappropriately and unethically, I am willing to learn from the professionals (I intend to be one), but I will not grant them unmonitored authority to say what is right.


Neuman, W. (2015). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Noida, India: Dorling Kindersley (India) Pvt .Ltd.

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