Let’s begin with two simple definitions –

A fact is something that can be proven by observation from cause to effect. 

An inference is something that is inferred, or implied, by the existence of two conditions. For example: my dog is asleep; my dog farted; I infer that my dog must only fart when he is asleep.

In order to understand how shock-jock radio works we have to understand how these two definitions become blurred in practice, in order for the broadcaster to shift the argument his or her way.

Let’s take another example from AJ – In a broadcast a few years ago he stated the following – “The Federal Government has given the NSW government 10 million dollars to improve their transport infrastructure” This is a provable fact.It is available to be examined as a fact of government and can be restated as an evidential fact.

The shock- jock will now transfer the basis of fact into inference by personalising the act of the fact.Thus- “This money has been begrudgingly given to the NSW government by a prime minister and treasurer who have lied about the costings of the project” 

Note how the fact of the 10 million dollars has shifted from being an “article of faith” to being an “article of doubt” – an inference based upon the fact of the money and the inferred untrustworthiness of the Federal Government.

I noticed yesterday that the leader of the Opposition did just this in a statement on the interest rate where he affirmed the fact of the interest rate cut and then blamed the prime minister and treasurer for the economic conditions that surrounded it, even though the Governor of the Reserve Bank is the only one person who actually can be inferred as the responsible conveyor of the fact of inference.

The AJ’s of this world use this personalisation of a fact  as the pivot of their arguments all the time because they know, as we all should, that a fact is a fact and an inference is a way of both disputing a fact and creating a “scapegoat” for the fact.

The problem is that over time the intelligent person can, and will, see through this type of argument,but, sadly, the AJ listener for example is not able to see the conditions of the argument as it is overlayed with emotive reaction of the shock jock audience.I have witnessed this on a larger scale with Ray Hadley’s audience, because Hadley does not argue on the ABB1C because he does not know it so he takes the “reactionary” emotion and uses it to constantly infer, and, in fact ignore the facts.

I suspect that this type of argument has now filtered into many areas of public service and private business leaving many to sigh at the very low level of rhetoric that has emerged. We are living in a constant Parliamentary Question Time


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