Story@BFBV: The Fog of War Story

Everyone should watch Robert McNamara’s “The Fog of War.” I particularly liked Lesson # 7 (“Belief and Seeing are both often Wrong”) which deals with confirmation bias. According to McNamara, people see what they want to see. In this particular case, US Navy “saw” torpedoes when there weren’t any, and that led to the escalation of the Vietnam war resulting in horrible consequences. See Lesson # 7 from 05:22 onwards in this video:

and from the beginning to 00:59 in the following video:

Do you see what you only want to see and that which will confirm your prior beliefs?

6 thoughts on “Story@BFBV: The Fog of War Story”

  1. Hi Sanjay,

    Great blog. I like the examples you provide. Although I am not a big fan of McNamara, I understand the context here. The Gulf of Tonkin incident which finally led to the Vietnam war is a great example of what you are trying to say and also how Govts can spin something.

    Maybe this is off topic I wonder what you think about religion and religious beliefs falling in the same category. I think that would be the biggest example of confirmation bias. Don’t you think so?


      1. Sanjay,
        Thanks for the reco. Although I am a big fan of Bill Maher and his show, “Religulous” was well not the best documentary I have seen on the topic. Richard Dawkins’s ‘The Root of all evil’, ‘the Virus of Faith’, ‘Enemies of Reason’ or Brian Flemming’s ‘ The God who wasn’t there’ – were better in content IMHO than ‘Religulous’. Wonder when we will have a filmmaker bold enough to do the same in India.

        Btw, if you have time, do check out this documentary (if you haven’t already)

        Phantoms in the Brain ( It’s a fascinating look at our brain by neuroscientist VS Ramachandran. Something you may find interesting. A book by the same name is available in the US, not sure if it is available in India)

        ( I linked only to the 1st episode but you can find the rest on you tube)

        Before the value investing bug bit me, I was a devout Hindu who used to read pretty much read everything I could lay my hands on about Hinduism, Islam and Christianity . Now I feel ashamed and disappointed that I wasted so much valuable time in life confirming my religious biases by reading about bronze age mythologies, all of which disappear under the slightest scrutiny. Same issues with homeopathy and astrology. As you mention in your post – we see what we want to see.

        But then I found my doctor in the form of Dawkins and James Randy. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, James Randy and the large no. of rationalists whom I read and watched debate other believers, cured me of the confirmation bias I once had on religion and pseudo-scientific claims (although like most humans I haven’t been able to get rid of it entirely).

        Anyway, my apologies for the off-topic rant. I recently found your blog from a fellow value investor’s blog and I just wanted to congratulate you on the excellent posts and content of your blog. I am sure your ideas will enlighten minds both inside and outside the classroom and help them become better investors. Hope to be more relevant with my comments next time.

  2. @ Kaushik

    It’s not the questions of when a filmmaker would be bold enough to make films like these in India…rather its the question of “”when we would have a sizable number of people in India who would support that film!”

    Either political parties would lobby to ban the film, or no body would go to watch it (if it’s allowed to be screened!).

    In countries like US, this is happening today, but there were people (scientists, philosophers and other atheists) in US during 18th and 19th century too, who continuously opposed this religious dogmatic wisdom. But it was only now, that we see these same people being able to do something like making these film. For example; the largest minority in the US today is neither Blacks(~12.5%) nor Gays(~3.5%), but surprisingly… Atheists (about 16%). Ans it is this sizable number, which give people like ‘Richard Dawkins’, the confidence of making documentaries like “The God Delusion” and “The Enemy of the Reason”.

    This will happen here too…and my guesstimate is that it will happen sooner than we could project.

    -Anshul Gupta

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