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Self-fulfilling prophecy 自证预言

中国日报网 2021-09-28 12:34


Reader question:

Please explain “self-fulfilling prophecy”, as in this: You can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, for good and for bad.

My comments:

This means if you predict something good will happen to you, it probably will. Likewise, if you predict that something bad will occur, it will happen, too.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prophecy or prediction that comes true by itself, seemingly just on the strength of the said prediction being made.

Let me give you an example. Well, two examples, one good, one not so good. A smoker tells themselves that they can stop from smoking for, say, a whole day, because they think it’s something easy of accomplishment. And they do let the day pass without touching a cigarette. At the end of the day, their prediction comes true. Their prophecy is fulfilled, or self-fulfilled. It’s fulfilled seemingly on its own.

Another smoker, on the other hand, tells himself or herself that they will never be able to stop themselves from smoking for a year because they think it’s too hard not to indulge with a cigarette for that long. They’ll probably still be puffing out clouds of smoke one year later.

Prophecy, by the way, is a big word. It usually involves prediction of something major happening, something gigantic, actually, something gargantuan, like the end of the world or the second coming of Jesus Christ.

But a prophecy is a prediction per se, so I think we can get away with our examples without being accused of being trivial.

Anyways, as you can see, what one thinks influences one’s behavior and action. If you think you can do something, you tend to do things that are positive and consistent with the goal you set for yourself. In the first example, the smoker thinks it’s easy to quit smoking for a day and it’s done. In the second example, the smoker thinks it’s too difficult to quit smoking for a whole year so he or she probably doesn’t even give it a try. So, in the second example, negative thinking leads to negative behavior, which, in turn, leads to a negative result.

See the point?

All right, let’s read a few media examples for greater clarity:

1. Last summer, Global Plasma Solutions wanted to test whether the company’s air-purifying devices could kill COVID-19 virus particles but could find only a lab using a chamber the size of a shoebox for its trials. In the company-funded study, the virus was blasted with 27,000 ions per cubic centimeter.

In September, the company’s founder incidentally mentioned that the devices being offered for sale actually deliver a lot less ion power — 13 times less — into a full-sized room.

The company nonetheless used the shoebox results — over 99% viral reduction — in marketing its device heavily to schools as something that could combat COVID in classrooms far, far larger than a shoebox.

School officials desperate to calm worried parents bought these devices and others with a flood of federal funds, installing them in more than 2,000 schools across 44 states, a KHN investigation found. They use the same technology — ionization, plasma and dry hydrogen peroxide — that the Lancet COVID-19 Commission recently deemed “often unproven” and potential sources of pollution themselves.

In the frenzy, schools are buying technology that academic air-quality experts warn can lull them into a false sense of security or even potentially harm kids. And schools often overlook the fact that their trusted contractors — typically engineering, HVAC or consulting firms — stand to earn big money from the deals, KHN found.

Academic experts are encouraging schools to pump in more fresh air and use tried-and-true filters, like HEPA, to capture the virus. Yet every ion- or hydroxyl-blasting air purifier sale strengthens a firm’s next pitch: The device is doing a great job in the neighboring town.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more people buy these technologies, the more they get legitimacy,” said Jeffrey Siegel, a civil engineering professor at the University of Toronto. “It’s really the complete wild west out there.”

- As schools spend millions on air purifiers, experts warn of overblown claims and harm to children, PBS.org, May 3, 2021.

2. I wrote at the beginning of the week that the lightning collapse of the Afghan Army and the Afghan state, far from making me question the decision to withdraw, had removed any doubt in my mind that it was the correct one. The subsequent week has only deepened this judgment. Since then I’ve been wrestling with and trying to make sense of the elite or prestige national media response to the unfolding events. TPM Reader GF captured some of this on Tuesday …

I had to laugh at your post today titled “DC Press Bigs Escalate to Peak Screech Over Biden Defiance” as it made me think of a Punchbowl news article I read first thing this am. The article said the execution of the withdrawal has been awful, Biden has played it poorly etc. etc. The truly gold statement in that Punchbowl article just after saying how poorly Biden has managed the execution of the withdrawal was “There has to have been a better way.” None of these folks know or can suggest what would have been the better way except to make such silly statements as Biden did poorly because there had to be a better way with no follow-on as to what the better way is or was.

Like hyenas and chimpanzees, reporters hunt in packs. There’s a reason they call them “feeding frenzies.” They’re also obsessed with images. But none of that is unique to the current situation. There’s something more at work here.

Some claim that there is a great appetite in the press to beat up on Joe Biden to demonstrate that all the criticism of Donald Trump wasn’t bias, just solid reporting. That’s a significant factor but I don’t think the most important. Will Bunch points out a real and very human factor: many reporters at national news outlets know at least the kinds of people endangered by the Taliban rout and in many cases particular people. Your news organization worked with interpreters and handlers. You embedded with military formations and met military interpreters or members of the Afghan Army. This is human and real, even righteous. But again, I think this is only a part and not the biggest part of what we’ve seen play out over recent days.

I will repeat what I wrote before this bottom fell out. The US has a profound responsibility to everyone who worked for the US during the mission in Afghanistan and is now endangered by the association. We should welcome them all, along with their families, for resettlement in the United States. We should go to great lengths to make good on that commitment. America always needs more good people.


Let’s go back to GF’s “there has to have been a better way.” Both parties’ foreign policy establishments opposed leaving Afghanistan. Since Sunday, many on the center-right have argued that the collapse shows that withdrawal was a mistake. The US can maintain a few thousand troops in a mostly advisory role indefinitely and it’s really not a problem. But this hasn’t been the premise of most news commentary. It’s rather been that, yes, it was probably time to leave Afghanistan, but, yes, “there has to have been a better way.”

Was there?

Certainly the way it’s played out has been messy, chaotic, mortifying. Many armchair quarterbacks have the idea that the US could have evacuated everyone who had worked with us in advance of withdrawal. But as I and many other have argued that’s a basic misunderstanding of the situation. If you evacuate everyone who might be endangered by the fall of the government in advance, you are basically signing the regime’s death warrant. You are saying you don’t expect the regime to last and that the fall will come fast. That message is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

- The Fall of Kabul, Washington and the Guys at the Fancy Magazines, by Josh Marshall, August 20, 2021.

3. Representative Liz Cheney slammed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for tethering himself to the divisive populism of Donald Trump, saying that McCarthy’s fealty to the former president has prevented him from performing the duties of his office.

“What he’s done is embrace Donald Trump. And if I were doing what he’s doing, I would be deeply ashamed of myself. I don’t know how you explain that to your children. When you are in a situation where you have somebody who did what Donald Trump did, it is absolutely clear he cannot continue to be somebody you embrace,” the Wyoming Republican said on CBS’ 60 Minutes, which aired Sunday.

House Republicans voted in May to remove Cheney as conference chair in retaliation for tough criticisms of Trump, his false voter fraud claims and role in the January 6 Capitol riot. McCarthy, a loyal ally of the ex-president, spearheaded her removal from the role, openly endorsing a candidate to replace her.

Cheney, widely viewed as one of the most traditional Republicans in Congress, ascended up the party ranks quickly after she first took office in 2016. But the party turned against her over her criticisms of Trump and vote to impeach him.

She told Lesley Stahl that “a lot” of Republicans “both in the House and the Senate” have privately encouraged her fight against Trump. “The argument that you often hear is that if you do something that is perceived as against Trump that, you know, you’ll put yourself in political peril,” she said.

That's a self-fulfilling prophecy because if Republican leaders don’t stand up and condemn what happened then, the voices in the party that are so dangerous will only get louder and stronger,” Cheney added.

- Liz Cheney on McCarthy Embracing Trump: ‘I Would Be Deeply Ashamed of Myself’, MSN.com, September 26, 2021.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


On the outside looking in? 局外旁观


Click bait? 标题党


Strong-arm their way? 用武力的方式


Down the road? 日后


Dark horse? 黑马

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