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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

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Candidates Contradict Each Other’s Denials

Self-Reference, Intentions, and the News

News reports in general, and celebrity coverage in particular, are becoming ever more self-referential. What’s reported is frequently not some state of affairs out in the world but rather some other report that is itself an account of yet another piece, each article in the sequence sprinkled liberally with the cascading reactions of players and observers alike. These reports can reinforce one another and result in a sudden surge of concern over some issue that, like a house of cards, just as rapidly fades from view. A Yankelovich study of what Americans over the last fifteen years have said is “the greatest problem facing the country today” shows spiky peaks of ...

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