So, if you’ll allow me to borrow the BBC’s phraseology for a moment, it has ‘emerged’ that the story about Internet Explorer users having lower IQs than the users of other browsers was (almost certainly) a hoax. To be fair to me (which, let’s face it, I’m going to be) my post about this yesterday was fairly sceptical about the research, and even included a semi-indirect criticism of churnalism – ‘the BBC’s technology journalists (unofficial motto: why bother thinking when you can just reprint the pres release?’ – which may have been what the hoaxers were trying to expose. (Assuming they had a serious point at all – they may have just don’t it for lols, of course.) But, nonetheless, I was taken in, so I need to come clean, hold my hands up and admit it, rather than just ‘disappearing’ my original post, which is what my source seems to have done.
The trouble, of course, is that the research, while being patent nonsense, wasn’t any more nonsensical than a lot of pseudo-science stories that get covered by the media, and especially not those kinds of pseudo-science stories that are promoted by companies looking for a way to get free advertising in the media. Still, this is in the essence of good hoaxing: make it plausible. And then there’s the fact that lots of people might want to believe the research was true, because they (or should that be ‘we’?) like to think that switching away from Internet Explorer makes them (us) better people. Which, of course, it doesn’t, though I might still try for ‘more technically aware’ or ‘less happy to accept the status quo’ – are those fair? For the record, even if the correlation between browser use and IQ had been replicated in lots of duplicate trials, I would still have been insisting that this would tell us nothing about the intelligence of the participants, since IQ tests measure the (learnable) ability to do IQ tests, not intelligence.
Anyway, this hasn’t been the first time I’ve been suckered, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. My brother once got me to believe that the word ‘gullible’ had been removed from the dictionary, and did it – this is the extraordinary bit – twice in twenty minutes. You could argue this means I’m stupid, but I’m going to go for the gentler interpretation (what a surprise…): other things being equal, I tend to assume people are trustworthy. Although, on further thought, I’m going to end this here, on the basis that my boasting about how trusting I am is uncomfortably close to Ralph Wiggum boasting about how he’s ‘special’…
Oh, yeah, the title is a riff on George W Bush’s famous mangling of the ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’ saw.