Sunday, 25 June 2017

An Analogy from Snooker

I’ve no idea what wood snooker cues are made from but let’s imagine that you are Mr Ash and that you own a company that makes high class snooker cues out of ash. Your rival, Mr Willow makes them out of – you’ve guessed it – willow. One day the talented local snooker star, Dave ‘Interesting’ Davis comes to you for advise about what sort of cue to buy. Naturally you tell him he will succeed with ash cues. It looks like, as a result of this conversation, he is about to put in an order for 20 cues from you to be used in next week’s regional competition at the local snooker hall. At the last moment you learn that he’s been advised to go for willow cues and has placed the order with Mr Willow. You and your staff are furious to have lost this prestigious order. So too, on your behalf, are your nieces Laura (Kuenssberg) and Cathy (Newman) who work as reporters on the local rag. Come the day of the competition you, Laura, Cathy and a handful of your employees stand at one end of the table just as Dave is about to take his first shot. Such is your resentment that you are all muttering and predicting how badly Dave will do with his willow cue. The referee tries to quieten you down to no avail and, eventually, your clearly audible grumbling (the two young women are particularly gleeful in their loud predictions of failure) contributes to Dave miscuing and fluffing the first shot. You, your employees and Laura and Cathy are heard to say – “There, told you so, hardly surprising with a cue like that!” Dave is exasperated and wishes you'd all clear off.
Clearly, what has happened is that your understandable resentment has got the better of you and has actually caused the bad start which you wanted. Instead of acknowledging that you have contributed to this you actually take the bad start as evidence that willow cues are no good. So much do you resent the purchase that Dave made and so much do you, therefore, wish to be proved right. You confuse your causing it with merely observing it.
What you, your employees and your nieces should have done is, recognising your own seething resentment, withdrawn from the snooker hall to the bar and watched it on the monitors. You should have allowed 10 or 12 frames to elapse with Davis undisturbed so that he got a fair crack of the whip and then, if he was trailing 10 frames to 2, drawn the very justifiable conclusion that his cues weren’t up to much and that the should have invested in ash. Of course this means allowing the possibility that he will be LEADING 10 frames to 2 something which you will not be able to countenance very happily but, nevertheless...... In this way you ensure that you make a properly dispassionate judgment instead of merely expressing your resentment in a way that actually influences the outcome and contributes to ‘making’ the news. Doing the latter, especially when participated in by your two nieces, who are supposed to be professionally impartial, is merely contributing to a self-fulfilling prophecy that tells us nothing from a neutral and reliable perspective. The two women end up reporting a failure to which they contributed and, all things being equal, deserve to be sanctioned for their interference, especially as so much was at stake for so many.

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