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December 26, 2012 11:00 AM Russia’s New ‘Good News — or Else’ Policy Idea

By Andrew Gelman

Tim Frye sends along this op-ed from Michael Bohm in the Moscow Times:

State Duma Deputy Oleg Mikheyev from the Just Russia party came up with an original idea to lift the spirits of people depressed by all of the bad news they face every day from the country’s leading media outlets. Last week, he presented a new bill that would force Russia’s main media to limit their amount of “negative information” to 30 percent, while boosting the amount of “positive information” to 70 percent. Journalists found in violation of these rules could face prison sentences of two to six years.
Citing unspecified “medical norms,” Mikheyev said the 30 percent figure is the “maximum allowable amount” of negative information that most people can endure without damaging their psyche. When the amount of negative information exceeds 30 percent, which it clearly has by several times already, the stress level of many people rises to the point where they suffer “spontaneous attacks of rage and aggression,” Mikheyev said. Too much negative information also “weakens their ability to think and lowers their creative powers.” …

Luckily they wouldn’t have to institute such a law here at Columbia or other Ivy League institutions. We’re already giving 70% A’s as it is… .

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.
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