How Do You Woo?

You can woo like this:

U.S. Navy Intercepts Ballistic Missile Shot From Hawaii Base

or you can woo like this:

U.S. Navy Fails To Hit Missile Shot From Hawaii Base

The main thing that these two articles have in common is that they are the same article. One leads you to believe in total success, the other in complete failure. In today's fast-paced world, sound bites and headlines are often surrogates for the news story itself. But, as in this case, you can be easily misled. This vapid headline from Marketwatch is even worse:

U.S. Navy Independently Validates and Demonstrates Its Missile Defense System

and the Washington Post is more direct than even Fox News:

Missile-Defense Test Succeeds

The more accurate headlines can be found at Hawaii's on The Garden News:

Navy missile test is hit-and-miss

as well as the ever thrilling Global Security Newswire:

U.S. Navy Missile Defense Test Shoots One-For-Two

There were two ballistic test missiles (the big boys that could potentially carry nuclear warheads), and two ships that each fired an intercepting missile at their respective target. One hit and one missed. So, is that a success or a failure? Sounds like only a 50% success rate to me, at least on first blush. Certainly, headlines cannot capture the truth and even articles like the AP news story are misleading.

The Navy's success shows that a ballistic missile can be shot down with a Standard missile variant. The failure reveals a glitch that needs to be fixed. In a sense, a failure can provide you with more information than a success. It shows the weakness in the system...something you can work on to asymptotically approach perfection. In the case of the failed test, the Navy found the IR sensor was not being sufficiently cooled, allowing the target to hide within random noise.

All this goes to show that you can't trust the headlines. Sometimes, you can't even trust the news article to give you the full story. While being factually correct, incomplete stories can lead to spin from both sides of the anti-missile missile debate (trust me, there is a debate). During this election cycle, both the right and the left have thrown up many headlines and stories which, although factually correct, were fraudulent in their conclusions if only because they were taken out of context. Personal motivations then become a factor in dictating how far you need to delve into the headlines to find the real truth. Such is the way of the woo.

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