October 23, 2004
Too Much Reality: Is There Such a Thing?
Yesterday I was interviewed by a reporter from BBC television about everything happening in politics and the media these days, the closing days of the 2004 campaign. I had to apologize several times for being so inarticulate, letting my sentences run on and on without coming to a clear point-- despite his polite request for short answers....
… During the interview, I was tripping over my words, repeating myself, messing up and starting over, or just talking without making sense. There were no short answers. And there were no good answers. There were lots of confusing and hopelessly abstract answers. It was embarrassing because I’m supposed to be a professional; I’ve done several hundred interviews like this. So what happened, just a bad day?
I don’t think so.
There’s too much happening. The public world is changing faster than we can invent terms for describing it. Here are some of the things the BBC reporter and I were trying to discuss:
- Political attacks seeking to discredit the press and why they’re intensifying
- Scandals in the news business and the damage they are sowing
- The era of greater transparency and what it’s doing to modern journalism
- Trust in the mainstream media and what’s happening to it
- Bloggers, their role in politics, their effect on the press: their significance
- How the Net explosion is changing the relationship between people and news
- The collapse of traditional authority in journalism and what replaces it
- Amateurs vs. professionals; distributed knowledge vs. credentialed expertise
- The entrance of new players of all kinds in presidential campaigning
- The producer revolution underway among former consumers of media
- Jon Stewart and why he seems to be more credible to so many
- “He said, she said, we said” and why it’s such a bitter issue in politics
- The “reality-based community” thesis and the Bush Administration
- The political divide and the passions it has unleashed this year
- Why the culture war keeps going, this year reaching the mainstream press
- Why periods of intense partisanship coincide with high involvement
- The problem of propaganda and the intensity of its practice in 2004
- Why argument journalism is more involving than the informational kind
- Assaults on the very idea of a neutral observer, a disinterested account
- And then there’s this: the separate realities of Bush and Kerry supporters
Every one of these things is related to all the others. But there is no over-arching narrative to contain them all. I spend much of the day trying to figure out what the connections are, and how best to phrase them. It’s exciting; it’s exhausting.
What I really wanted to say to the BBC guy was: There’s too much reality rushing over us every day just now. And it’s pushing me to the limits of my own vocabulary. That’s why I talked a lot but didn’t say anything in the interview.
Can anyone help? Do you even know what I’m talking about? Hit the comment button and tell us: what connects the items on my list?
After Matter: Notes, reactions and links:
Steven Den Beste writes in comments:
Technological change has always had profound social consequences, but few inventions in history have caused more political and cultural change than movable type printing. Before Gutenberg, “truth” and “history” were largely properties of the Christian Church (and there was only one Christian Church, then).
Movable type printing took away control over “the truth” from the Church and placed it in the hands of a secular elite.
Now the Internet is taking away that secular elite’s control over “the truth” and giving it to the broad populus.
That’s the connection. Everything you listed is a side effect of that fundamental change. (Link.)
Doug Kern, Here I Blog, I Can Do No Other
Then as now, a new technology gives ordinary people unmediated access to the truth. The Western invention of the printing press in the late fifteenth century and the subsequent dissemination of Bibles written in the vernacular gave lay believers the opportunity to read holy writ and draw their own conclusions about it — just as the Internet gives ordinary people direct access to facts, information, and commentary….
Peter Johnson in USA Today takes on a similar theme (Oct. 24): Media have become the message in a bruising political year.
Just a few years ago, many of these issues would have been fodder for low-circulation academic and trade journalism magazines. Now, those topics get headlines and airtime in major news outlets, driven by partisans who keep a particularly close watch. “The press is living a mirror image of the politicians we cover,” says Auletta. “There’s something healthy about that: Maybe it’ll teach us some things about what it’s like to be a target, make us more sensitive and improve our journalism.”
The Control Revolution. Jeff Jarvis (who was interviewed by the same BBC reporter, Tom Brook) responds at Buzzmachine:
I say it’s about control: If you give us, the people, control of our media — and government and markets — we will use it (see Jarvis’ First Law of Media). If we do not think we have control, then we’ll turn into passive spuds. But once we do have control — whether from the remote control or the TiVo or our blogging tools — everything changes: We demand to be part of the conversation. We compete with the once-powerful. We question their power. We establish new relationships of trust.
PressThink reader, blogger, and newspaper publisher Stephen Waters takes my list, moves the sentences around, adds a few phrases and comes out with a story. Then Waters creates a chart attempting to show what causes what.
The Net explosion is changing the relationship between people and news. It has caused bloggers to have a role in politics and a significant effect on the press. Distributed knowledge has enabled both amateur and professional bloggers, blurring brand. The effect is to enable real-time checking of main stream media, which journalism is only just beginning to appreciate. Scandals exposed by online real-time checking, exacerbated by the media’s reluctance to concede the points, has caused brand erosion. This, in turn, has made readers and viewers wonder if there ever was a neutral observer and a disinterested account.
At samizdata.net, Brian Micklethwait, writing from London, responds to my list and to Stephen Waters: The mainstream media, he says, “are the practitioners of a skill that has now become superfluous. Their stock in trade is wrapping up whatever is their preferred personal/global agenda in the language of National Common Sense. (Hence the National Common Sense suits and hairpieces and voices.) But such wrapping is now waste and nonsense. Nobody needs it any more, or responds to it any more, with other than derision…”
Blogger and Clue Train author David Weinberger in comments:
The entertainer is the pivot here because I think part of the new — but transient — narrative is that “The media are the last to know”…and in particular, the last to know that they’ve lost their pompous, false claim on our trust. “The media are the last to know” is a comic trope since, obviously, they’re in the knowing business. Hence, the narrative has become comedic. Their every protestation of seriousness — from Dan Rather’s apology to Sam Donaldson’s toupee — now only makes them look more ridiculous. (Link.)
Doc Searls, also a Clue Trainer, recently wrote a blog post sending a message to Michael Powell of the FCC, and it bears on all of this. One snippet: “The Net’s architecture is end-to-end, on purpose. It has been described as a World of Ends. In ways as deep and essential as the core of the Earth, it’s something nobody can own and everybody can use. Plus one more thing: it’s a place everybody can improve as well. Which is why it keeps improving.” There’s a lot more there, so read it.
In illustration of several items on my list, but especially the first, Eric Boehlert in Salon, Team Bush declares war on the New York Times (and, of course, Ron Suskind.)
Jeff Sharlet, editor of The Revealer, Our Magical President: How Bush goes beyond the Bible to create his own reality. (The Revealer’s most viewed post ever— 13,000 readers.)
Jay Fienberg in comments: “There is news, and there is the reporting of news, and there is the broadcast system that delivers the reporting of news. The broadcast system becomes so encompassing that it names what it broadcasts ‘news’ and becomes convinced of what is a classic system delusion: the chart is the patient…” (Link.)
Andrew Cline at Rhetorica tries to answer my question: what unites all the items on my list? He says it’s The changing noetic field…
Posted by Jay Rosen at October 23, 2004 4:04 PM
Surely much of the difficulty comes from how the source of reality production is both the site and the object of the propaganda wars. A propaganda war is precisely a battle of competing master narratives, over how to map the territory.
The corporate media/Iraq as colonialism view is one master narrative. From this perspective, the Republican party is the party of militant deregulation, cartelization, and the promotion of imperialism. The Democratic party is the party of responsible, internationally minded promotion of US power. The Keynesian compromise with capital rather than the neo-liberal mainlining of the pure stuff. On the corporate media model, Thomas Friedman's "one dollar equals one vote" thesis from the Lexis and the Olive Tree is a transparent confession that owners and shareholders do and should rule the rest of us.
A second master narrative gives more credit to technology: The media is disoriented by the new media landscape and frequently can't even recognize its own enlightened self-interest. Republican talk radio, the right wing echo chamber, and media recentralization in the guise of deregulation, have pulled us back toward a 19th C. economic model with 21st C. technology at its disposal. Jon Stewart's Daily Show parodies the hapless dinosaur quality of mainstream media political coverage's move toward info-tainment even as it frames this pap as ultimately a self-marginalization for the sake of ratings. From Stewart's view, the MSM has effectively become the servant of the ruling political party because all it cares about is entertainment and profits rather than the public welfare. It is in this accidental respect that the MSM becomes a tool of the Republicans from Stewart's perspetive.
The third master narrative is the Agnew/Buchanan (his speech writer) thesis: Liberal elites trample the preferences of the silent majority by distorting the public discourse in favor of the traitorous values of a ruling elite that mysteriously works its magic unaffected by Republican control of all branches of government. If the fourth estate is discredited, there will be no site from which to question the imaginary data Bush Republicanism runs on and uses to legitimize continued control of all branches of government. Obviously this general offensive goes back decades, transcends any one candidate, and was originally more ideologically coherent than the scattershot series of quid-pro-quos (health insurance relief for business that doesn't relieve anyone else, for instance) and wedge issues Bush and Rove have chosen to rule and run on.
Each of these theses in turn has a take on the war in Iraq. The domestic propaganda war situates the wartime propaganda claims of the Vietnam war that shaped the culture wars to begin with.
For the corporate media view, Iraq is one more colony, albeit a break from the Democratic party's use of international law FOR colonial purposes. From the second master narrative, Bush's colonialism is illegitimate because it has despised the Cold War structure that made international law do the work of US colonialism. It has broken the Cold War diplomatic machine Kerry has to put back in place. The Agnew/Buchanan culture wars thesis says the US has to kick ass to get respect, then capitulation, then peace, in that order. The slightest hint of humanity in the meantime will encourage would be challengers to US hegemony. The Project for a New American Century calls for eliminating all potential rivals BEFORE THEY ACTUALLY BECOME RIVALS. It is actually an argument for policing international thought crimes, i.e. the temerity to oppose the US in any matter, for any reason. In that respect, they are perfectly consistent in taking out Saddam Hussein because he possessed the intention of opposing the US someday, someway. You don't need actual WMD to commit thought crimes against the US.
There isn't ONE master narrative to describe the ground war because the ground war is precisely a battle over what will prevail as the master narrative and who will be recognized as possessing the authority to legitimate it. All of these things are up for grabs at the moment. And each advocate of each alternative master narrative is a player as well as an interpreter. Who do you love?
Jay, here's a reordering of your list, tweaked. I matched them in a table here. This order may be a useful jumping off point:
The Net explosion is changing the relationship between people and news. It has caused bloggers to have a role in politics and a significant effect on the press. Distributed knowledge has enabled both amateur and professional bloggers, blurring brand. The effect, is to enable real-time checking of main stream media, which journalism is only just beginning to appreciate.
Scandals exposed by online real-time checking, exacerbated by the media's reluctance to concede the points has caused brand erosion. This, in turn, has made readers and viewers wonder if there ever was a neutral observer and a disinterested account.
The result is a cynical mistrust of mainstream media that can be played upon by commenting entertainers like Jon Stewart who is credible simply because he mirrors the critical observations of viewers.
Jon Stewart presages, if not a collapse, of traditional authority in journalism, at least a weakening of it, requiring a change to improve, or it will face being replaced.
The crumbling of traditional authority has diminished journalists' influence as arbitors between candidates differing statements. This, combined with the extra channels of communication provided by the Net, have encouraged "He said, she said, we said" and made it such an issue this year. The opportunity for many voices has encouraged the entrance of new players of all kinds in presidential campaigning.
The Net makes some things easier. Argument is participatory, accentuating the political divide and its passions, its very expression drawing greater attention to the cultural war, even drawing in the mainstream press, galvanizing partisans to action.
The net also makes easier propaganda and the intensity of its practice in 2004 can happen, but if we respond to it quickly next time, the same technology can ameliorate it to a degree.
Meanwhile, the medium allows an easy increase in noise such that red herrings like one political aide's comment can be elevated to seriousness, as in the "reality-based community" thesis and the Bush Administration or a poll describing the ostensible the separate realities of Bush and Kerry supporters with peculiar phrasing can, if believed, possibly draw a few votes.
I would venture to say most of the distrust of media goes back at least 30-40 years. So we can't chalk up the distrust itself to the new media.
Jon Stewart and the Daily Show are new media in the sense that cable allowed viewpoints beyond the three broadcast networks to get broader exposure, and, like Fox, the Comedy Channel finally allowed expression of a long and widely held disgust with the sixth grade level of so much media coverage, for example the weekend Washington journalists roundup that seemed like such a pathetic and clueless little club of navel gazers.
C-SPAN and CNN were both revolutionary because they displaced the press and the broadcast networks as primary sources of news, especially in Washington. We could now watch a congressional hearing or debate on a bill and then read the surreal misdescription of it in the press based on what we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears.
That is the kind of experience that leads to a loss of mainstream media authority and credibility--because it often no longer serves the function of primary source that once allowed it to claim that authority and credibility. The internet has magnified that displacement by enabling more competing sources of information and more possibilities for expression of alternative narratives.
That leaves editorializing as a potential niche not covered by CNN or C-SPAN and yet it has explicitly attempted to distance itself from what seems to be the only useful function they might by embracing the view from nowhere understanding of their function. So part of what is happening is the mainstream pretending to tell you about what you have already seen and know about from other sources (in even more detail with the internet). So the joke is on them because they still imagine they are bringing you raw data when they are actually telling you the third or fourth version of a story if you follow news seriously. The Fox approach is logical in this sense in that it recognizes its place in the media infrastructure--it is not informing you, it is bringing you the added value of Republican-friendly editing and newscopy that C-SPAN doesn't perform for you (although CNN increasingly does what it can).
Still, it is important to remember that the Agnew/Buchanan strategy won elections in 1972 and 1980 and 1984 as well as the congressional elections in 2002 (with Bush running away from it in 2000, compassionate conservatism, etc.). Perhaps we need to consider more carefully what hasn't changed as well as what has.
The Democrats have lost institutional control of Congress for one important change. The Democratic party tyranny thesis has lost a central aspect of the historical situation that once made it plausible.
The claims for elite liberal conspiracy have shifted from government to media because the challenge to the right from federal and state government has largely been contained. So we have a strikingly consistent, continuous strategy of forty years with the focus more exclusive shifted to the media.
Now the web offers yet another new media platform for execution of the tried and true strategy previously conducted through direct mail and sped up by cable but now directed exclusively at the media rather than ALSO at the media.
What a provocative list! Certainly all of us feel overwhelmed right now.
A couple of observations first: I am fascinated that the best "news" this year is from comedians: Jon Stewart, Air America, Garrison Keillor, the Onion. It seems to me that the key to your puzzle lies in the comic mind. Psychologists propose two main theories of humor. Freud argued that we laugh at what makes us anxious (so we laugh at jokes about bad things about to happen to others, eg.) Others propose that humor arises from incongruity--from discrepancy between two concepts or objects. For example, we laugh when the Onion has headlines such as "Documents reveal gaps in Bush's service as President" or "Cheney vows to attack America if Kerry wins." Why are these funny?
A second comment, from a different angle altogether: Psychologist Robert Kegan proposed (in "In over Our Heads)stages of human consciousness, analogous to Piaget's stages of cognitive development. At each stage there is a reorganization of reality to accommodate greater complexity. A small child is egocentric--s/he views everything from his or her point of view. They can't take the point of view of another. In the middle stages we adopt the POV of our tribe--we can describe the characteristics and behavior of our tribe and how we fit or do not fit into the tribe, but we don't really have a good understanding of the Other group. At the highest (postmodern) stage we can see ourselves and the members of our groups objectively and can compare the characteristics and behavior of our group with that of others.
Comedians are effective when they can operate at the level of the post-modern mind--Kegan's top stage--spotting the inconsistent and absurd in the characteristics and behavior of our group. I'll get back to this shortly.
I see three underlying factors in your list. Competing worldviews, disruptive technologies and "telling the meta-story".
So what connects the items on your list? I would start with the complexity of the modern environment (by which I mean everythng in our lives not trees.) This complexity is challenging American's ability to keep up. Key features are the rapid pace of change, massive migration of people & overpopulation, the dying out of the Western culture, environmental degradation/resource depletion the media and communication technology. At an intellectual and material level, we live in a society of excess: We deal with complexity, strangers, too many choices, loss of community and so on. In addition, much of our experience is mediated through films and TV: We carry vivid memories of things that we have not experienced first hand. We all saw the Twin Towers fall, but for New Yorkers, it was real; for me it was a horrific reality TV show.
It seems to me that it is not a coincidence that Kerry support comes from the parts of the country that are best educated and most densely populated. These are people who have had the most experience dealing with the "Other" and complexity. Bush support comes from the traditional rural heartland. If you look at the bubble that surrounds Bush you can get a sense of how he is stuck in that middle stage of cognitive development. But, of course, neither GWB nor his followers think that they are out of touch with reality. But because they don't have a well-developed sense of other groups, their representations of those groups is fictional, the stuff of fantasy and fairy tale. So, you get culture wars between those who have accommodated the extreme diversity of the modern world, are more fact based, and know more, and those who still live in their tribal group unchallenged by the other except in their fantasies and on TV. Bush or Cheney just make stuff up, and their believers don't question them, because they live in a created reality which involves a fusion of what they see on TV, their everyday experience and their imagination.
So you get arguments over who gets to tell the "story." If the media tell the story so it makes sense to metro people, the traditionalists feel outraged--why is the media not telling the created reality. And vice versa. So everyone attacks the media for not telling their story.
Furthermore, the internet allows a level of communication and expertise that simply wasn't possible in 1990. The old linear, hierarchical narrative that was permitted by books and in which the modern media grew up no longer applies. In a book, you read from the thesis through the evidence and conclusions, and the author was an expert, and s/he controlled the narrative. Only a few were priviledged enough to be authors. The media adopted that model--they were the experts, we sat through their reports. The media, much of it, has grown irrelevant because they are still using the old hierarchical model, but they have grown decadent over the past decade: They have become entertainers, parroting events to sell papers & ad time, celebrities rather than expert. However, today we use parallel processing--hyperlinks and blogs. We take in smaller bits of info, synthesize more sources, are more visual and everyone has a shot at being an expert. So we can all go off to our bloglands and bitch about those we disagree with. Yet, the opinions of a Rush Limbaugh is equated with the opinions of an expert. We have lost our way to evaluate and compare factual, realistic, substantiated arguments from emotional, fictional claims. Conservatives have been embracing emotional, fictional claims--creating their own reality--beause they have not been able to keep up with the reality.
The media has been stuck in an old paradigm. The reason comedians seem to be telling the best story this year is because they alone are trained to tell the "meta-story"-to step outside and name the discrepancies between the word and the deed. The media in the past several weeks--since the 2nd debate--seem to be adapting and learning to tell the meta-story.
Sorry for the length of this. I see what you mean about no short answers!
sbw, could you offer some examples of questions, or phrasings of questions, that might result in as perverse an effect on Kerry supporters as you think the PIPA survey did on Bush supporters, or could you rephrase the PIPA questions in a way that you think wouldn't have produced that effect?
Jay, if you haven't already you should take a look at the recent CCJ survey of its members' opinions of the election coverage this year.
The unsurprising consensus is that the coverage sucks, and the narrative ends plaintively: "The larger question in many ways is why, if these concerns are raised campaign after campaign, the press seems unable to address or correct them."
I agree with sbw that the PIPA survey and the "reality-based community" paradigm don't really belong in your list, although my reasons are very different from his.
I think the web and blogging have altered the center of gravity in journalism in a couple of ways.
One is that as an institution, journalism is amnesiac; it doesn't hold on to memories much longer than the hero in Memento, and it's much less interested than he was in making the attempt. Bloggers armed with Google and huge hard drives are beginning to forcibly imbue the institution with a long-term memory. At some point, probably when a major player realizes it's easy, fun and profitable, the press will assume that responsibility themselves.
(As a horrid indication that the day may be long in coming, reference Bill Keller's remark that he hadn't really paid much attention to his paper's Iraq coverage before he got the executive editor's job, and didn't intend to look back; an admission that past isn't prologue for him.)
What may accelerate that process is that bloggers have become newsmakers. The press haven't for the most part done any better covering the upstart newsmakers than they have the traditional ones—there's still a bunch of unexplored territory on the CBS story, and while you can bet that some curious souls in academia and concerned ones in the corporate world are building detailed timelines and flow charts of the Sinclair boycott, I doubt that anyone at the Times or the Post is—but the reality is setting in.
A number of your concerns are, according to me, almost identical with one another. You've got a handful of largely psychological issues, among which I'd include the attraction of argument journalism, the connection between activity and intense partisanship, propaganda, the escalation in what amount to attacks upon the concept of journalism, and the culture wars pollution. None of these things are new, but I think all of them were greatly magnified in the wake of 911.
Then you have a handful of professional issues that I'd classify as self-inflicted wounds. Scandals and trust are intimately related. Erosion of authority is what happens when you're not authoritative, which relates to the "he said, she said" abdication of responsibility, which relates to the assaults on the notion of impartiality.
I'm not sure that political attacks on the press are escalating so much as that people are more responsive to them now, which loops back to the authority issue. The press are afraid to exercise their authority. They're afraid to accord this election the importance that people on both sides of the divide believe it deserves. They're afraid to make a call.
Jon Stewart seems more credible to many people because he is more credible. He actually says things we know the press are thinking but won't say, and he uses press figures such as Wolf Blitzer to highlight their own corruption. He popped Begala and Carlson on Crossfire like a couple of cheap balloons, and they're still screaming bloody murder about it. He's of limited value as a source of information, but he's a superb mirror.
The "reality-based community" and the PIPA survey are significant because they point up that a great many people in this country are, for all practical purposes, psychotic.
PTate in MN:
I like what you're saying, but it doesn't just apply to humor. Creative work of any kind. Wisdom also. Good humor, to my mind, includes these other aspects. There's a playfulness and a wisdom at the same time. Making reality thereby more bearable?
I would add that the idea of different stages of cognitive development, as well as the generation of both new paradymes and true creativity, come about through a painful process, such as Jay described in his post. It's a process of holding paradoxes in mind. Tolerating the paradoxical - until some new synthesis is forged, some new vantage point.
Archimedes said he could move the world with a lever and a place to stand. Any one of us, going through these cognitive shifts - whether related to our particular profession, politics, the internet, our lives and relationships - we are all searching for that lever and that place to stand.
Amateurs or professionals (depends on where you're standing) and the idea of distributed knowledge versus credentialed expertise (perhaps the lever?)
But what we are really discussing here is who has the right to report events and generate social commentary. Well, on events we can trust our own eyes and ears and the internet allows us to contact people from all over the country and the world, thus having access to lots of raw data and filtering that based on our professional expertise (of whatever type), our cognitive stage, and our personhood. We're at the point where many of us are recognizing, gee... I have my own perspective and I want to share that.
Of course I too am overwhelmed by the deluge of data. I too need the help of reporters or experts to synthesize the information and provide background and commentary. But then my own mind goes to work!
I don't presume to tell you journalists how to do your job. But I've found to my suprise that I have an interest in what I now think of as political psychology. And I am intrigued by the questions being posed here and the efforts to track down the "truth" versus the "propaganda" in what we hear and read.
And I am bending my wits this way and that to try and comprehend the people who believe the "created reality" in spite of all the deluge of contrary facts as well as to keep up with the "reality-based" community of thinkers and fact finders, posting theses and doing activism and hoping for sanity to prevail.
And I say "Bravo!" And also, "I feel your pain."
Mary Ann; "But what we are really discussing here is who has the right to report events and generate social commentary. Well, on events we can trust our own eyes and ears and the internet allows us to contact people from all over the country and the world, thus having access to lots of raw data and filtering that based on our professional expertise (of whatever type), our cognitive stage, and our personhood. We're at the point where many of us are recognizing, gee... I have my own perspective and I want to share that.
Yes, thank you for your insights. Actually, I am a psychologist (industrial/organizational) not a journalist but it seems to me that psychology has a great deal to contribute to this discussion (In other words, "gee...I have my own perspective and I want to share that!")
One famous psych study c 1951 showed students and Alum of Princeton and Dartmouth a film of a controversial game between P & D. It was a vicious game, lots of penalties. The loyalty of the viewers resulted in what can only be described as perceptions of a different game by Princeton fans and Dartmouth fans although they all saw identical footage.
A football game assumes two sides, but in most world/national events we look to our common leader to explain what we see. In George Bush, however, we have a president who appears to be deliberately uninterested in what you and I might call "reality". His POV is all that matters. So the PIPA reports comment is useful: "One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them." George Bush is cultivating ignorance. He chooses to see what he wants to see, and he just makes stuff up when it makes persuasion easier or more convincing. Your comment upthread that "Psychopathology [is] trickling down from the top, seeping into the society." is echoed by Weldon Berger's comment: "The "reality-based community" and the PIPA survey are significant because they point up that a great many people in this country are, for all practical purposes, psychotic" Americans are being misled, intentionally, by those in power.
Weldon Berger also makes an excellent point that seems to me to be very relevant: "...as an institution, journalism is amnesiac; it doesn't hold on to memories much longer than the hero in Memento" This reminds me that one of the essential features of scientific thinking could be described as memory--going back and considering what previous research has found and building arguments based on past findings. Scientific thinking is what differentiates the Bush WH from people in the "reality-based community." When we analyze judiciously (as it were) we are reflecting, evaluating, considering previous actions/findings/events.
Journalism in the US has not had to have a memory, because journalists could 1) count on the implicit memory inherent in a shared culture; 2) assume that leaders valued evidence (facts) & expertise and would speak the truth and provide explanations that accounted for reality. Basically they could assume that everyone was on the same team or a fan of the same team, playing by the same rulebook and in the game.
But the media today operates in an environment in which 1) the culture is comprised of many POV and competing values (with avenues for expression such as the internet); 2) a President and his men who don't care tuppence for "objective truth" and will deliberately mislead the electorate and just make up stuff to consolidate their power. How does journalism change when we have two teams and one of them, say, the Princeton team, is no longer willing to play by the rules? One would hope that the President of Princeton would clarify and challenge the partisan instincts of the fans, but instead he is encouraging the rivalry. The fans of each team will see different games, although the footage is identical, and no one has stepped forward to call them back to a common understanding of the world.
So, back to Mary Ann's point "But what we are really discussing here is who has the right to report events and generate social commentary, I would add to that that we also discussing who has the responsibility to provide the memory (or narrative) that helps us understand events in appropriate context. Our leaders, who can be expected to do this, are failing or, worse, are deliberately choosing to mislead. In the void, comedians like Jon Stewart are providing context for interpreting facts, naming the meta-story. The pressure is on the media to pick up some of the slack.
Again, my apologies for such a long post. I promise I won't do this again. Interesting topic. I am confident the social psychologists will work on this for a long time to come.
I'm not an expert on rhetoric, but I thought I'd take an amatuer's shot at applying the noetic field (see Cline) to the thread.
There are two striking lines of thought in this thread:
1. The Bush administration has plunged us into an enterprise that can only be described as Wilsonian and progressive. "Reality-based" was the domain of conservatives criticizing the etheral marketing claims of progressives and liberals. The ideal, perfection, utopia, where crime, poverty, racism and joblessness could be defeated with one more bureaucracy, one more government program, was not the domain of the "reality-based community". Dreamers, yes. Reality-challenged, perhaps.
The Bush administration is engaged in an idealistic pursuit of democratization, globalization and capitalism. They are, like many administrations before them, marketing a war and a campaign personified by the President. FDR was not a member of the "reality-based community". He was an entrepreneur, envisioning both the New Deal and WWII. Both containing major failures and successes.
This is the contribution of the Bush administration to a different noetic field made possible by a massive distrust in what was "known" as reality on 9/11/2001. The rhetoric of "everything changed" leaves much of what we understood and trusted about reality behind. But there is a more dynamic flow of information today, and more information available.
2. Some projects are reality challenged, and strain our ability to grasp the bounds of a noetic field. Has anyone ever been involved in a project where management, or perhaps marketing, were "reality-challenged"?
We have developed tools to map progress and productivity toward well-defined goals. An engineer takes the imagined and fictional and breaks it down into smaller, necessarily solvable problems. Each step is built upon something that came before, but may represent a leap from what was previously possible.
I can remember my grandfather laughing at the reality-challenged community that talked about rockets and space and the moon. He was a reality-based, hard working man with both feet planted firmly on the ground.
Again, the Bush administration has plunged us into a project which is "reality-challenged". He did it in Afghanistan and in Iraq. But we, as a nation, are not working from the same milestones or risk assessments. We have different noetic fields with a smorgasbord of information available and a post-modern arrogance to see ourselves as Lippman's "omnicompetent" citizen.
Bush is to blame for some of the dissonance, but not all of it. There are some who are now proclaiming membership in the "reality-based community" that are really dreaming of a different nonexistent reality than the one being pursued by this administration.
I'm not ready for more complex explanations where simpler ones help.
PressThink is a microcosm of the greater reality. If Jay turned off comments, his blog would recreate the traditional main stream media world complete with minimal, delayed feedback and Jay's choice whether or not to share that feedback with readers. Turn on comments and the habits of the readers, previously throttled back, become contributions, much like multi-channels in today's greater world.
In the microcosm, PressThink the medium isn't the problem. Nor is its technology or the multiplicity of world views. To find the problem, just review previous messages to find some contributors for whom playing for keeps is more important than collaborating to understand. Weblog microcosms are reluctant to recognize that kind of behavior, label it, and encourage its improvement -- or, when logic fails, to either isolate it or laugh it down.
Project that to the greater world, where the political stakes are so massive the universe around the campaign gets warped; where leaders of both parties got where they are by playing the game for keeps, not for collaboration. What goes is anything you get away with -- For both sides. The difference technologically is that with the internet, more people are looking and more people are talking. Just not effectively yet.
Just like in the microcosm, in the larger world the media isn't the problem. Nor is its technology or the multiplicity of world views. The problem is our reluctance to recognize short-sighted behavior, label it, and encourage its improvement. Or, when logic fails, to laugh it down -- the way Jon Stewart recently did.
Mary Ann asks "who has the right to report events and generate social commentary." The answer is everyone, of course, for our own safety's sake. Good journalists do not write for objectivity, but to stand up to scrutiny. We need to help people learn to scrutinize. Until then -- until it no longer works -- spinsanity.org will have much to write about.
Until then people like Ron Suskind will be able to get away with accusing Bush -- for arriving at positions that you and I could reasonably reach by rational means -- of belief in magic with no more evidence than that which led to the Salem Witch trials.
We are experiencing a perfect storm based upon four colliding fronts: technological, cultural, biological and political.
Technological advancement is demanding a shift in our culture as to how we access, manage, evaluate and distribute information. That has been occurring everywhere, particularly in the business world for the last several years - it is nothing new, nor unique to this election season.
The current politics, being what they are - significant and polarizing, are magnifying the issue for parties who have not yet had to confront this evolution in our world. And, important point, it is not a "revolution" as many characterize it, but merely an advancement within a society that has been experiencing such advancement since we first started scratching out images on cave walls.
In short, all of our "rolls" are shaking out and the anxiety realized any time that happens on a broad scale within a culture makes it all seem, at times, a bit overwhelming. It needn't be.
The technology will stay and continue to advance; individuals and institutions will struggle and eventually redefine themselves sufficiently within the contemporary landscape; the current magnification being experienced as result of a hotly contested and immediate political reality will subside; and our biology will adjust, just as it has to reading, building, driving, flying, etc. Note, when first confronting the written word society experienced great panic with persecution as the result of threats to established institutions from individuals changing within the broader culture.
In short, relax, nothing is really changing all that much - we just "think" it is. Get over it. The vast majority of our population do not even realize, or think about this - and they don't need to. It is process - and when you attempt to take process apart to the Nth degree from within, you cultivate a sense that you are losing your footing because you are taking apart the very thing within which you currently exist. It can't be done, at least not well, and that's why we have a wonderful thing called "history" to do it for us.
Our Grandchildren may well love reading about it, but, alas, for us, we are all but small players in the currently evolving grand scheme and we'd likely fair better if we learn to simply enjoy the ride, as opposed to trying to extract every penny's worth of value from the wonderful free ticket we've been given for having been born here and now. Take the dog to the park and spend some quality time with the kids - you'll be the better for it. And the "revolution" will be here when you get back, if you're still so inclined as to want to write about it.
Jay, it is NOT a "culture war" -- it is a Moral Superiority War.
When is it moral to fight evil? When fighting evil means killing; AND dying; AND even killing some innocents?
Do Human Rights really supersede "national sovereignty" in a moral order? If yes ... who enforces the human rights?
The UN failed in Rwanda. And in Cambodia -- where Peace and genocide was supported by Kerry instead of (endless?) fighting evil.
Enforcing morality has moral costs. The Left refuses to accept any responsibility for immoral results from their policies, but are double-standard quick to criticize imperfections and big errors of the Reps.
The big big lack of coverage is examination of tradeoffs. More security costs freedom -- freedom comes with less security. Better stuff costs more, and there is a limited current budget.
There is also an appalling lack of "standards" for success. Neither group is providing a reasonable way, in advance, of judging their own performance.
Bush has 5.4 unemployment; some 3% inflation. Those are GREAT numbers -- but somehow "not good enough". In who's dreams?
The Press, being PC Bush-haters, have put themselves and their "objectivity" in play -- by being so obviously biased. The new technology is showing the bias -- but as the 60s anti-war boomers have become "establishment", their elitist dismissal of alternative views, and especially their anti-Christian views, causes increasing objections to such "nattering nabobs of negativity".
But morality evaluations are the base -- what is good, and evil, and why? (Without God, it's all relative, just a matter of opinion. Majoritarian or otherwise.)
Different views of reality?
One: The press is elite in training and often in background, so they never hear a different voice. The people therefore do not see their point of view in the press and seek it in less credible places.
Maybe we should go back to the days when copyboys from working class families became reporters. The press cannot see the forest for the trees. The last decent "report" on this was "red state blue state" in the Atlantic...but usually, blue staters are framed as "the other" rather than "one of us"...Class bigotry is rampant and ignored.
Two:is it a coincidence that bloggers tend to be from Tennesee, Minneapolis or other places usually ignored by the press? Blue state Oklahoma is assumed to be pro Bush...but not once have I seen it discussed why we have a Democratic governor. Hint: Economic matters. But Blue dog Democrats, Koch Democrats and pro life Democrats are unwelcome in the party...again the press in their elite cocoon seems oblivious to this...
Three: Kerry is quoting the bible to support socialized medicine, but not one reporter questioned why these issues were not solved by eight years of a popular Democrat, nor if a monolithic socialized medicine is the answer (I work for a federal system. Hint: Look at the VA)...
Four, Viet Nam...the Swift boat veterans bring up Kerry's open opposition of the war and his branding of Vietnam soldiers as baby killers as an issue, but since few reporters are either Nam vets or Vietnamese refugees, they have left Kerry get away with playing both sides of the issue. The press never brings up the ten million Cambodians killed because of American disengagement in the war...would the same thing happen in Iraq if we disengaged? Again, a class difference.
Five: few veterans in the press. The Mainline press sits in Baghdad...spinning a new VietNam... But in this war, many soldiers are blogging, so when the press prints the 120th AbuGrab story, we can read a different point of view...and guess who we believe?
Six: when things are actually "discussed", nuance is not done, only polarization. So the demagogues spin...but few really discuss things...so I get my news on the net, and when these "discussions" start, I thank God for the remote, and thank God for Animal Planet.
Seven: Religion. The press is clueless as Archbishop Chaput found when his nuanced interview was spun to make him appear to the right of Pat Robertson...thanks to the internet, the full interview was published and publicized, but not discussed. Why? Because the press doesn't know what to do with an articulate bishop who doesn't fit their preconceived notions that all religious people are nincompoops (traditional believers are usually represented by obvious southern obese demagogues, not articulate Potawanami Catholic bishops. Why?)
Weldon Berger asks SBW: to "offer some examples of questions, or phrasings of questions, that might result in as perverse an effect on Kerry supporters as you think the PIPA survey did on Bush supporters."
Well here's an easy one. Who is smarter? Bush or Kerry?
You could also phrase it this way. Is Bush intelligent?
I'm sure the question would provoke guffaws from Kerry supporters. Why even ask, they would say, and roar.
But now it turns out that there is a high probability that Bush has a higher IQ than Kerry. Even the NYTimes was impressed enough by the research, compiled by Steve Sailer to report on it.
This is not a surprise, btw, to Bush's "non-reality based" supporters. Bush obviously has less verbal intelligence than Kerry, but verbal intelligence is not the only kind of measureable intelligence. And when it comes to leadership, it is certainly not the only important kind of intelligence that matters.
I think one thing that Blue State people, living in a blue state dominated media world, don't take into account is the extent to which very simple rhetorical tricks of narrative framing of news stories often magnify the "received" perception of political reality. At Rantingprofs, Professor Cory Dauber does an excellent job of calling these kinds of tricks and devices into question, the narrative framing which the average reader or the reader who agrees with the unspoken biases of the author, might not notice. She points out how the biases of the reporters slips into the verbiage, sometimes, perhaps, unconsciously or because they are not very good at what they are doing, and often quite manipulatively.
But, of course, anyone who has done critical thinking on texts in Grad School knows how important it is to discern the assumptions of the author, the things that are implicit in the intellectual starting point and to cull that out from the final results. It's a mundane enough point; except on the whole, the media is not subjected publicly to that kind of critical scrutiny.
The point I am making, however, is slightly different. Blue state people with their blue state media have their biases and tendencies massaged by the media the majority of the time. Biases are often shared with the reporters on various stories. So there is no stickiness. There is no sense, at least on these stories, that the assumptions of the reporter are other than their own; and that those assumptions are coloring a great deal of the
reportage. They read the NYTimes, say, and it satisfies the way they look at the world, even when it is dealing with troubling news, and all is well. It reaffirms their perspective of the world.
But for numbers of Red State people who consciously don't share these assumptions, the sense of disjunction is heightened by that same sort of reporting and the critical faculties get turned on.
So for those of you who believe, like TPlate, that it is "the educated types" living in the North East who best understand the idea of other and complexity, I'd say that's evidence of a lack of complexity in your own thinking. The media spends a great deal of time presenting the conservative view as "other," so we are "other" all the time. We've learned how to deal with that already. It makes us understand implicitly the idea of other sides of the issue. For those of us interested in questions like this, in fact, it also sharpens and makes absolutely intuitive the critical faculty when it comes to the reading of the news.
What you are describing can best be termed as a crisis of legitimization striking the MSM. Up until the rise of the internet and the blogosphere, the barriers to entry into the media business were fairly high - millions, or tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of dollars were required to launch a newspaper, television station, or news network. Over time, like-minded individuals came to dominate the editorial decision-making processes of the MSM, to the point that they were fairly interchangeable commodities from a consumer's perspective. Indeed, the very process by which journalists become "credentialed" served not only as another barrier to entry, but as a barrier to almost any form of participation for the non-like-minded. One need only recall the struggle that worldnetdaily.com experienced in their attempts to get a press pass on Capital Hill not so long ago to see what I mean.
By eliminating the cost barrier and routing around the ideological barriers (for that is precisely what the like-minded mentality has become), the Internet has made it possible for anyone to participate, in accordance with their ability to write and persuade others, regardless of their "credentials" or their wealth.
However, eliminating the barriers was not enough to initiate the crisis of legitimization. For that, it required the establishment (i.e. the MSM) to slowly whittle away its legitimacy over a sustained period of time. It began long ago, perhaps even as far back as Cronkhite's declaration that Vietnam was unwinnable after Tet, and was certainly in full flourish by the time the Westmoreland, Food Lion, and Tailwind debacles occured at the end of the last century. Slowly but surely, the public came to view the MSM no longer as guardians of the republic, but as a tool that one group of (liberal) elites wielded against another, all in the name of "the people". Talk radio, especially Rush, was the wedge that began to split it all open. By calling the MSM to account, he raised further doubt (amongst moderates and conservatives) as to the integrity and reliability of all of the press. Yet one voice (or even dozens) on the radio was still insufficient to change things dramatically, precisely due to the barriers of entry discussed above. Even a vast radio footprint as Rush's is inadequate to the challenge of overthrowing an established media order with multiple, overlapping and self-reinforcing footprints covering the globe.
Thus, until the advent of political blogging, we had the necessary preconditions for a legitimization crisis - ongoing and substantial editorial failures; a belief that the all sides in the debate are merely agents of one of two factions of a governing elite; and a growing distrust of the MSM, which is now seen as an active participant in the political process, rather than the self-proclaimed unbiased neutral observer that the media ideologues so long proclaimed themselves to be. All that was needed was a trigger and an alternative with a global footprint, accessible to all.
It took the war with Iraq, and Baghdad Bob to bring things to a head. Andrew Gilligan's claims on the BBC that the Americans were nowhere near Saddam international airport, when in fact they had taken it over, eerily mirrored Baghdad Bob's claim that there were no Americans in Baghdad, despite the fact that M1 tanks were literally down the road from him as he spoke. The fact that the MSM happily reported his words as fact (out of fear of their minders) quickly revealed these journalists as jokes and embarassments to their profession. CNN's admission that it remained silent while its own employees were tortured by the Iraqi government was perhaps the height of shame in a media profession notable only for its lack of shame, and indeed lack of character.
Those who sought out real information about the war (a task that ought to have been fulfilled by a healthy, functional MSM) had to turn to the milblogs. But due to the heavy politicization of the war, things quickly descended into a "he said - she said" environment. Facts became irrelevant - witness the story of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. At first, we were told that everything was stolen; later it turned out that very little at all was stolen, and was in fact hidden by the staff. Yet the MSM and the leftist blogs to this day still spread the lie that the museum was completely looted, despite the fact that it was not. When one points this out, one's facts are challenged by reference to already discredited reporting. This was a clear sign of an MSM in the full throes of a legitimization crisis. Facts alone no longer mattered, unless they supported one's arguement. The illusion of objectivity was shattered in the eyes of the politically active public on both sides (albeit not in the minds of MSM professionals). After all, if the MSM itself is incapable of uncovering and reporting facts (however distasteful to their own political beliefs), then just what value do they add to the process?
Election 04 unleashed the power of the blogs. Rathergate showed that the blogosphere has a far swifter decision loop than the MSM; it has repeatedly dislocated the traditional elites everytime they attempt to go beyond their self proclaimed "unbiased" remit. Witness what happened to the Guardian's Ohio campaign, and now to its semi-serious advocacy of assassination. Not only has the MSM been discredited, but it is now facing an enemy (and yes, the blogosphere IS an enemy of the MSM) that is able to "observe, orient, decide and act" far faster than itself. It is also able to self-correct swiftly and publically, something apparently impossible for the MSM, whose mantra now seems to be "deny, admit nothing, counter-accuse". This enemy is growing in size, influence and power and is helped along everytime the MSM attempts to fabricate or distort facts that can easily be checked by those with a subscription to Google.
Now that the crisis is in full swing, it is not surprising to see alternative venues such as Jon Stewart or the blogs taking more prominent positions in the political debate. After all, who is to say that the reporting in those venues is any less legitimate than that of the MSM? And with the recognition that there is no such thing as objective journalism anymore, it is no surprise that there is a "reality-gap" between the left and the right. In an era where each individual can easily immerse himself deeply in political discourse while never hearing a fair or honest discussion of competing views, it would be surprising if it were otherwise.
Thus, the importance of propaganda becomes greater as facts dissolve into disputed opinions. The rise of organizations such as moveon.org, (indeed any of the 527s) or Soros' intervention in American politics is a natural reaction to the collapse of MSM legitimacy. And the best propaganda is that which clearly focuses the hate of an individual upon the propagandist's political enemies. Hence we see the growing political invective, the use of social issues as political levers, the collapse of civility among the political leadership, and the nascent return of political violence (so far limited to voter harassment and campaign sign theft) to the American scene.
One can only wonder where things will go from here!
Hopefully this you will find this helpful in your discussion with the BBC.
I, too, am an amateur at "noetic" stuff too: Re your comment, "The Bush administration has plunged us into an enterprise that can only be described as Wilsonian and progressive," I would disagree with "can only be". One might also describe this enterprise as a "neo-colonial capitalist adventure." Which construct one prefers reflects underlying assumptions about "reality".
In terms of Cline's cite of James Berlin's definition of noetic field as "closed system defining what can, and cannot, be known; the nature of the knower; the nature of the relationship between the knower, the known, and the audience; and the nature of language" the choice of the construct "Wilsonian & progressive" rather than the choice of the construct "neo-colonial capitalistic adventure" reflects the turbulence in the noetic field. What is known? Who gets to decide?
I wasn't quite sure what you meant by "reality challenged". On the one hand "reality challenged" could mean that a leader has a vision of the future and is boldly, resolutely, leading to that future and some of us, the "reality challenged" lack the imagination to see the vision because the gap between our present "reality" and the vision is so great or because we will be losers in that "new reality". On the other hand, "reality challenged" could refer to the gap between the evidence, what is actually happening, and the rhetoric, spin and illusion.
Whether the Bush administration approach to the WOT is Wilsonian or neo-colonial will be empirical. Forty years from now, will the world be better, worse or just other? And better for whom, worse for whom?
Your subsequent three part list organizing Prof Rosen's issues I found persuasive. If I may put it slightly differently, Something is not right with the leadership, the grassroots are complaining, the media is caught in between and isn't quite sure how to respond.
As I reflected on this topic overnight, I found myself wondering if what is going on right now is simply that--in a era when we are facing horrific global threats--we have a incompetent (or possibly, more frighteningly, a psychopathic) leader--a man who does not hesitate to lie/cheat or manipulate others to promote his advantage, who is reckless, fearless, considers himself above the law, appears to enjoy inflicting pain on others, has contempt for others (thinks they are stupid or weak), feels no remorse, makes no mistakes. Such individuals are often quite charismatic and they can get ahead in the world. In fact, the business world has many examples of this phenomena and the damage they can do.
But how would the body politic respond to such a leader? The majority of people and institutions in a nation like ours assumes competence. Journalists and citizens can do their thing, we can bicker about the details (size of government, more taxes/less taxes, welfare reform/health reform) but life goes on. Changes happen, but the system works. But what happens if you get someone in control, by a fluke, who is not what he claims? What if the man in charge is a con artist backed by powerful interests? How long does it take for the electorate and our institutions to wake up to the con? People are very gullible. They can be manipulated by visuals, by fear, by vivid stories. Some folks, even very bright folk, are very slow to learn. Some will never learn. Institutions are slow: The media, as an institution, will be necessarily slow to recognize the situation and necessarily confused about how to respond.
In other comments on this thread, you can see this confusion played out. A number of Bush supporters have posted here. They talk about elitism. Liberals are "lefties" or "nasty, hoity-toity shrikes" They put forth "facts" to support that the media has a left wing bias (for example, that unemployment is at 5.4% although most economists explain that figure understates unemployment by 3-5% due to discouraged workers or complain because the press doesn't report good news from Iraq). They are ill-informed, make personal attacks and more hostile than curious. They will dismiss anything that disagrees with their POV as bias. They will rationalize Bush's record of failure as failures by the elite to move into the 21st century or as unfair or biased reporting. Religion and class resentment are playing an important role. IQ has been mentioned a number of times--the presence or lack thereof (always a numinous topic). I encourage open-minded people to read about the psychological construct of "authoritarianism"--a personality composite that underlies fascism. (hint: The single item that best predicts a authoritarian personality is "We need a strong leader to stomp out the rot that is threatening our nation.")
As sbw comments, "in the larger world the media isn't the problem. Nor is its technology or the multiplicity of world views. The problem is our reluctance to recognize short-sighted behavior, label it, and encourage its improvement."
But I would also say, going back to the "something is not right with the leadership" theme, that the liberal leadership has also failed. Right wing resentment was present before GWB. He has just ridden the crest. A large proportion of the American electorate are resentful, offended, feeling exploited and neglected, misrepresented, angry, willfully ill-informed, and frustrated. This suggests that the liberals also need to do a serious and thorough diagnostic to review a number of their core beliefs--their attitudes towards abortion, the working class, religion, and the use of American power have been mentioned in this thread. Also regionalism, as well--as someone who lives in Minnesota even I have resented the east coast and west coast attitudes present in the media towards the "flyover land" of the American midwest and south. The internet provides a venue of expression and the human spirit has a profound need to be heard. The media is also caught in the middle of this debate as people demand respect for their views and experience.
I'm a newbie to this blog though I've been reading for some time. What is absolutely clear is what Prof Rosen posted in his initial prompt, "There were no short answers. And there were no good answers. There were lots of confusing and hopelessly abstract answers."
I've got to get back to my life. Ciao!
The contention that our current state is driven in large part by the technological advance from movable type to Movable Type (TM) and the internet is consistent with Alven Toffler's long-held position that all major social revolutions -- from nomadic to aggrarian to industrial and so on -- are driven by technological innovations that reshaped how people relate to each other.
The other point of view is that these technological changes don't cause the change but, rather, reveal changes in character -- that is, they are opportunistic: circumstances don't make the man, they merely reveal him.
And I think the thing that is so different this year is our change of national character: a 'winner take all' mentality where the nation is a prize to win for a person, not a jointly held treasure which one person gets the priviledge of protecting. And because, as a nation, we have renounced every "outside" standard for moral behavior in our rush from any sort of guilt for anything, we are left with that most chilling of assessments: "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
The public now has, through the internet, greater access to information and individual public expression -- this is very different from control of "the truth," for without a standard by which to judge, it is like giving blind people access to thousands of balls with the charter to find the red one. This leads to confusion, not control.
And judgments are made on the only grounds available: style, personality, alignment with personal desires, desire for acceptance with friends ... all matters of taste rather than truth.
John Podhoretz finds this election "exciting." I find it dispairing -- because there is no standard for "right," speeches and debates and web sites make up for this lack with belligerence: all opponents are "idiots" or "scum" and all opposing ideas are "trash" and worse.
We are the blind leading the blind -- the fact that we are using the internet to do it is only incidental.
Thank you for your reply and critique of my thoughts on Wilsonian policy and categorizing Rosen's list.
Which construct one prefers reflects underlying assumptions about "reality".
Yes, there is more than one narrative that can be applied. Some narratives I think reflect assumptions more about "motive" than "reality". In other words, some narratives require more assumptions about the meta-physical influences and result in a map of reality based on a greater abstraction of "what's really going on". At some point such thinking becomes conspiratorial and grounded in the paranoid style of politics.
As an offering that our foreign policy has had a Wilsonian flare and more continuity than conventional media's amnesiac narrative: The Wilsonian Model of Foreign Policy & the Post-Cold War World. I would offer that Wilson's critics would not be unfamiliar with the accusation, "neo-colonial capitalist adventure."
I wasn't quite sure what you meant by "reality challenged". On the one hand "reality challenged" could mean that a leader has a vision of the future and is boldly, resolutely, leading to that future and some of us, the "reality challenged" lack the imagination to see the vision because the gap between our present "reality" and the vision is so great or because we will be losers in that "new reality". On the other hand, "reality challenged" could refer to the gap between the evidence, what is actually happening, and the rhetoric, spin and illusion.
Absolutely! And I think this is really a very important issue for discussion. Unfortunately it is often obscured and diminished by over-the-top rhetoric. In the comments to a previous essay, panopticon tried to make the distinction between reality-trashing vs. reality-avoiding (or absence of reality-testing). I think there is a philosophical approach and balance, even where it pertains to political endeavors.
Some of the debate over whether we did the right or wrong thing for the right or wrong reasons is academic, and some of it is not.
I never found the argument from the Right that Clinton was a sociopath worth my time. I don't find such arguments from the Left about Bush worthwhile either. I've also learned that I need a filter for the argument that never seem to change color, but only the direction from where they are being hurled. An example is how Republicans disparaged or promoted the unemployment rate statistic when a Democrat was President, and now Democrats parrot the same arguments against a Republican President: "It's not really 5.4%." (It never was or is.) "All those jobs are hamburger flipping and everyone has to work two jobs to survive." (Same was being said from 1994-1996, and after Bush 41's first term, Reagan's first term, ...)
I share PTate's reluctance to follow you down the path of saying Bush's Iraq policy "can only be described as Wilsonian." I also tend to agree with PTate's suggestion that imperialist colonialism is probably a better fit (thus my early comparisons of Iraq to the Filippine-American War and the Japanese occupation of Manchukuo).
I think in one's sense it is the very antithesis of Wilsonianism. In another sense, it can be connected to it in a way that is unflattering for either Wilson or Bush.
Insofar as Wilson was effectively the founder of the League of Nations and his project purported to create a world in which international law could replace military struggle as the arbiter of international conflict, Wilson is the devil incarnate for the neo-conservatives that have so far set the Bush foreign policy agenda. Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld see international law as a shield of corruption and unilateralism as the only hopeful path to global reconfiguration that is to their liking. For Strauss, the universal state is also the devil incarnate. These people have built their lives around discrediting the ideas associated with Woodrow Wilson. Bush, as I'm sure you'll concede, even ran against them in 2000 as nation-building was identified with the misguided Clinton project. Clinton tactically did an end-run around the UN in Eastern Europe. The neo-cons have designed an entire world policy around the idea of discrediting international organizations and rebuilding the world on unilateral US military power. This is as far from a Wilsonian agenda as can possibly be imagined. A further twist is that the claim is no longer the spread of universal human rights, it is the spread of the particularist legacy of Western civlization so the civilizing mission comes back into the picture in a way the Wilsonian model purported to move beyond in its call for national soveriegnty around the world.
In the sense that the Wilson policy at Versailles was one of the most deeply hypocritical foreign policies in world history, Bush policy can be fairly compared to it. Wilson and the League of Nations spoke of popular and national sovereignty even as they carved up the middle east and handed it out to Britain and France, even as it let Japanese claims to Korea stand, even as it gave German colonies in China to the Japanese, even as it forced reparations and financial ruin on Germany that nearly guaranteed the radicalization of what was left of it after Versailles. In that sense, Bush and Wilson are comparable. But I don't suppose that's the sense in which you intended it.
Thomas Friedman could take the position you do. He is for multi-lateralism and the rule of international law. The neocons cannot. For them, the invasion of Iraq was a pretext and first step toward overthrow of the entire UN regime as we know it (Any Project for the New American Century writings make this abundantly clear).
Does this mean you share Friedman's goals rather than those of Cheney and Wolfowitz? If so, then why are you still with the president when Friedman has abandoned him?
To connect this to the media, Friedman is employed by the New York Times, promoting the war. Cheney has spend his whole term as vice-president demonizing the same New York Times that has been promoting the Iraq War in the name of international law. Because they just don't get it and want to give foreign countries a veto over US foreign policy. Shouldn't you be championing the New York Times as the advocate of your view in opposition to the Bush administration?
"Re: "I don't have to read it, I know it's a liberal hit piece..." Just curious: why such a
lack of curiosity in what's topping the charts on the other guy's radio stations?"
This is one of the results of consolidation of media and media targeting towards groups. The idea that anything that does not please the reader contains no truth and therefore is not worth reading comes about partially because a) people don't want to read something that opposes them b) people feel they don't have time to read everything, and therefore want everything summarized or fed to them through their particularly ideological lens.
Though I don't defend the mainstream media wholly, the MSM now are a reflection of our participation (or lack thereof). Additionally we frequently don't understand the underlying
structures that make the media unreliable at times and attack it recklessly instead of
#1) Journalism generally doesn't pay well (especially newspapers). You don't do it for money, and if you are...well, good luck becoming the next Ann Coulter.
#2) Speed. The news must come out relatively fast, and in topics which the reporter barely
has enough time to get a completely accurate view of the situation. This is natural in newspapers, and any bias generally is unintentional rather than intentional. This doesn't excuse reporters from getting it wrong so frequently, but to some extent, mistakes will be made even with the best reporting.
#3) Though it'd be ideal if they got science reporting more accurate, sometimes it may not be in our best interests to get the whole picture (for example: we'd probably be less likely to fund research in medicine if we knew the real likelihood of pharmacies creating a particularly good drug/embryonic stem cell arguments). If it were a more perfect society, then yes, it'd do us good to have more accurate information, but humans can only filter so much information before not having time to do anything else. While we should refer to experts on topics on the Internet, it creates the same problem of reliability as other media sources, just at faster speeds. On one hand, we can get expert opinions more quickly on topics rather than dealing with the extra lens of regular media, but it still has to be noted that experts also may have designs on information control.
More access to information/primary documents is good, but the problem most of the time still
is: Who is going to process that information for us (those who aren't experts?) Will this process make us believe that there's only one way to skin a cat all the time? Hence the importance in reading varied media sources on a regular basis rises.
I disagree with someone's assertion that the MSM is nearing collapse since television is still the
most popular medium, and probably will remain that way. Rather, segmentation of society
into ideological groups has come to the forefront, and the participation in society
(particularly via the internet) is probably the best way of dispelling the reporting of news in particular ideological bents. Hopefully, we'll see less of the segmented groups catered to in a 24 hour cable news society as time goes on as a result. At the very worst, the Internet and blogs may create a ready stream of more trustworthy pundits for the mainstream media than the current media. The future really is kind of murky here.
One more note: as the Internet becomes a more visual medium (more video clips), are we going to also have the same problem as television on the Internet? Are quickly disseminated video images on the net going to be a more powerful force than text on the Internet, and is this going to make the Internet simplistic like television for a new generation?
Prof. Rosen, I think every topics you bring up make more questions than answers rather than just having long answers.
WARNING: Conservative argument ahead:
"It is a myth (promoted by MSM) they MSM conveys objectively and accurately just facts. That never was the case, and everybody knows that, and always did."
Divergence between ideal and execution does not argue for discarding the ideal.
Analogy (replace "science" with "journal" ):
The MSM are scientists. They revere and aspire to a Scientific Method, which is designed to optimize objectivity.
Unfortunately, due to time and other constraints they are extremely sloppy scientists, and (for structural reasons, and because institutions have psychological failings too) they hold themselves up to be better scientists than they actually are.
Now come the new agers, with new truths, saying "look at the MSM - science sucks - _WE_ are the ones with the truth - the MSM is dead, we'll decide what's true for ourselves".
And they seem rather unaware of the existence of a baby in the MSM bathwater.
Admittedly, it's a full tub, and the baby is smaller than the MSM would like you to believe - but the MSM's higher principles evolved for a reason, and we ignore the reason(s) at our peril.
To illustrate said peril, Barbara Tuchman on role of the press in the Dreyfus Affair (quoted in Squirrel Cage) -
"Variegated, virulent, turbulent, literary, inventive, personal, conscienceless and often vicious, the daily newspapers of Paris were the liveliest and most important element in public life. The dailies numbered between twenty-five and thirty-five at a given time. They represented every conceiveable shade of opinion... "
Prof. Rosen, like others have mentioned on this thread, I am looking forward to your synthesis of the rich brew of comments generated by your initial prompt.
Once I read an article about the creation of knowledge. I can't remember the author, but it was published in 1965. It claimed (very cheerful and positive) that all the knowledge of the world--recorded documents--doubled between the start of writing and 1750, and doubled again between 1750 and 1900, and doubled again between 1900 and 1950, 1950 and 1960, and 1960 and 1965. You get the picture. So I tried to figure out, whimsically--at that exponential rate of growth--when all the knowledge of the world would double in a nanosecond. It was December 31, 1969.
I drew two conclusions from this exercise. The first was that one should never casually project exponential rates of growth. The second was that there is lots and lots of information created in the world, more than anyone can comprehend.
Surely the internet has just exacerbated this! In the best threads, a new perspective emerges from all that information, the multiple voices and contributions. For those of us who are cognitive junkies, the immediacy of the conversation is compelling. The media--print, radio, TV--are being drawn into that conversation as participants. I read the NYTimes, for example, to establish events that have occurred in Iraq over the past 24 hours, I'll review commentary and confirm events in several other papers and I read Juan Cole's analysis as well. Then I'll see what the bloggers are saying, and within a blog, the comments. I'll read your blog to check a journalist's perspective on the media. Then I'll check this week's Onion and laugh at their take ("America finishes strong second in Iraq"). It gets very embedded. What I want from the media is not interpretation, but "facts"--"50 Iraqi soldiers were killed today." "Elections in Afghanistan occurred without disruption." The problem, of course, as the comments in this thread have said over and over, is that out of the billions of events occuring between now and tomorrow, which "facts" are worth attending to? Two people, presented with the same event, may attend to very different facts, and can get very cranky when their facts are not reported.
Anyhow, thanks for a thought-provoking conversation.
Whilst diversity has developed at one end of the spectrum, at the other there is the increasing centralisation of viewpoint which has been facilitated by media deregulation. The perameters of discourse in the mainstream media shrank. Large chunks of the population who were once content that their voices were being represented found themselves marginalised. Technology has enabled us to counterweigh the media superstore with a multiplicity of little market stalls for those who do not wish to buy the homogenised, poor quality product of the corporate media. The mainstream is toxic with disinformation and uncorrected errors. The blogosphere plays (amongst other things) a filtration role. It is possibly the only organ of filtration currently working in the media body. It addresses not only the content of the mainstream media, but the mechanisms of production, the ideology behind it and the nature of its discourse. Jon Stewart and Air America play a role in this too, and are ideologically affiliated with discourse in the blogosphere. Jon Stewarts recent comments on crossfire were greeted with glee by bloggers because he spoke for us, he subverted the show’s hegemonic discourse, he refused to play their game.
Media deregulation was designed to allow corporations to take full advantage of technology that enabled conglomeration. The same technology in other hands has enabled the fragmentation and dispersal of ideas. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Behind all of this is political polarisation, but whats behind that? How much do the countervailing tendencies of the mainstream versus the cottage industry media reflect the political landscape and how much do they shape it?
As an ex-media student It fascinates (and gratifies) me just how much the subject has entered into public discourse over recent years. There has been growing awareness that there really is no such thing as a neutral position. The Internet has fostered consumer sophistication alongside increased access to the means of production.
I’m sure academic discourse has moved on since I was a student, but isn’t postmodernism the key to all of this? You either embrace the dispersal of authority, of ideas and perspectives or you react with insecurity and confusion. Fox watching Bush voters fall into the latter category. They feel the loss of an authoritative voice, there is too much information for them. Without a heirarchical framework they do not know how to measure its meaning or value. The internet is a postmodern invention. If postmodernism is the ultimate expression of democracy, then they are actually reacting against democracy itself. Participating in a democracy has become more complex - too complex for some, hence their attraction to Bush - the great simplifier. This is clear from the PIPA report. The Bush voters ignorance of global discourse and apparent ignorance even of Bush’s own policy positions seems shocking in the context of the mass of information available but is actually symptomatic of it, what the report’s authors referred to it as ‘cognitive dissonance’:
To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about prewar Iraq.”
They are complicit in their own disinformation. Its an unpleasant idea, but perhaps corporatism answered a need in people who feel overwhelmed by too much information and too many choices. The notions of truth and reality themselves have become fluid. Whose truth, whose reality? I think we are witnessing the backlash to postmodernism. What comes after postmodernism? Where is all this leading? This is the socio-political battle of our times. We can regress to the comfort of an authoratative uber-parent or we can try and find new forms of community structured around connections that are based on values, beliefs, ideas, ideals or interests rather than biology and location, but which address isolation, alienation and the insecurity they invoke.
We will, and are evolving new ways of treating the multiplicity of information - the blogosphere has developed its own interlinked pyramidical structure, with large readership blogs feeding down to smaller ones, and same-sized blogs linking to each other. The blogs at the top of the pyramid are developing links with the mainstream media - Markos Moulitsas now writes for the Guardian, various bloggers appear regularly on Air America and stories feed up from the blogosphere to the mainstream media, as the ‘Is Bush wired?’ story recently did. National papers are reaching global audiences - the Guardian now has more online readers in the US than print edition readers in the UK. Even regional papers reach wider audiences as their stories are dispersed via the blogosphere. Blogs are affecting the structure of the mainstream media. Here again concepts of community are shifting from the geographical to the ideological. Even if the nightmare scenario happens and Bush gets returned to office, it would not stop the momentum of this process. Opposition to the Bush administration has provided an ideological rallying point in the blogosphere, it has actually fostered its growth and coherence. Authority may have been dispersed, but facts are still facts. There is still a ‘real’ reality and as the PIPA report demonstrates it is the reality of the Kerry supporters, the global community and the UN.
How does the latest from CBS look from your seat? A major media organizaiton trying to influence an election 36 hours before the polls open? How does this compare with the Sinclair scenario?
This Fager fellow is shameless in relating the CBS plan to put this out at the last minute, in a flagrant attempt to inflame voters by embarassing Bush & Rumsfeld in a way that precludes any kind of rebuttal.
Which class at Columbia School of Urinalism do you or your colleagues teach where this kind of crap is advocated? And we should have some respect for these people as members of a "profession" -- with standards and principles -- WHY???? Give me a break...
From the LA Times (10/26/04):
"Breaking the story would have been a welcome coup for CBS News as it seeks to emerge from the cloud cast by its use of unverified documents in reporting on President Bush's 1970s military service.
Instead, CBS was relegated to airing a report Monday evening, and "60 Minutes" merely got credit in the newspaper, which ran an unusual box noting that the article "was reported in cooperation with the CBS News program '60 Minutes.' '60 Minutes' first obtained information on the missing explosives."
Jeff Fager, executive producer of the Sunday edition of "60 Minutes," said in a statement that "our plan was to run the story on [Oct.] 31, but it became clear that it wouldn't hold, so the decision was made for the Times to run it."
"That's what happened, and it was only fair to credit them," said Lawrie Mifflin, executive director of television and radio for the New York Times.
Both organizations declined to comment further. People familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified, said the source on the story first went to "60 Minutes" but also expressed interest in working with the newspaper. The two media organizations have worked together in the past and agreed to join forces again."
Look in the mirror Jay -- then ask your MSM colleagues how they have sunk so low that this is considered kosher. It helps us understand our democracy right?
Plus the LA Times calls the forged Burkett documents "unverified", like they still might prove to the real McCoy. How stupid do they think we are not to see this kind of tripe for the one-sided advocacy it clearly is?
And once again we have an anonymouos source -- no word on whether this source is related to the Kerry campaign.
CBS = failure to learn
Thanks for the well reasoned reply. You are, of course, correct that the Malayan Emergency does not map directly to the situation in Iraq. You are also correct to look to the larger region (Indonesia) but I think you may have confused Indonesia's PKI, Sukarno's republicans, Kartosuwirjo's Darul Islam and the Dutch with the Chinese/Indian/Malay/British.
You are offering the defense of a British colony as an example of why Iraq is not a colony.
Actually, no, but at this point I think the debate over the semantics (and semantics can be meaningful) of whether occupied Iraq is more like a protectorate or colony or territory is moot for examining the current violence by Arabs and Iraqis against Iraqis and coalition forces.
The resistance in Iraq is not communist.
I agree, this resistance is not ideologically driven by the same dogma that drove the communist movement in Asia. What I have read is there is an unhappy alliance in Iraq coalesced around preventing an Iraqi government mid-wifed by the coalition. So the resistance is not only NOT communist in the same sense, but it is also not homogenous in the same way.
The primary reason the PKI failed was the lack of appeal a Marxist revolutionary movement had for the enormous muslim population.
This definitely sounds more like Indonesia. But I think the British were successful in Malay because the communist terrorists were not popular among the Malayans or Indians and the British resettled the Chinese famers via New Villages. Then negotiated a political solution that became the Alliance Party/National Front.
This is where I think the reporting becomes so important, and as Jay points out, it is too narrow (ambiguous), a tool for terrorists/combatants and [t]here's too much reality rushing over us every day just now.
I'm expecting the worst in Iraq (a fall of Saigon type ignominious exit) and the example of the Malayan Emergency does not lead me away from that view.
I'm not interested in the Malayan Emergency analogy because it is a match for what the coalition and Iraqis are doing/facing, but because it might provide light on what we might be doing right/wrong or not doing right/wrong.
Would you like to make a prediction for what day/month/year we will see an ingominious exit from Iraq?
I think I do see a big picture in all the points raised in your BBC interview. We're witnessing a schism between the elites in America and the non-elite. This may portend a greater change than even the invention of moveable type.
Ever since the dawn of history, the elites have led, and the rest have followed. Originally, this meant the nobility and the commoners; in later centuries the elite opened their membership to others based on their particular merit. But in all cases, the elite comprised the recognized ruling class politically, intellectually, culturally, and economically. There's a good reason that history usually involves what the elite thought and did - the rest didn't really much matter.
In order to lead without chaos, the elite have had to form a consensus on what is right and proper, and what dissent is allowed within those bounds. Nineteenth century England is perhaps the epitome of that system, where the issues of the day were decided only by wealthy MPs whose main difference from each other was which club they frequented. America's experience is a bit more unruly, as the great unwashed occasionally rise up at the polls, e.g., the Jackson and Reagan presidencies. However, the issues of the day were still framed within the bounds of the elite rules of engagement - what the NY Times and CBS said still had a decisive influence on what was said, and on what terms. There was effectively no way for dissidents to express themselves outside the scope of elite media and institutions. Potential upsetters-of-the-applecart were isolated and ineffective.
With the rise of modern communications technology and its availability to nearly everybody, those constraints have been removed. Where the dissaffected in the past had little choice but to go along, now there is the ability for alternative voices to be heard, to organize, and to become effective. We first saw this in the contribution of the FAX machine to the fall of communism. Cable TV has greatly increased the availability of broadcast possibilities. The Internet is a huge step forward in the democratization of the means of mass communication. In short, the non-elite are no longer helpless.
For these reasons, a schism between the elites and the non-elite was probably inevitable sooner or later. Contributing to its remarkable progress this year has been the fact that the radical liberal (by 1960's standards) "long march" through the institutions has been successfully completed, and the elite consensus has moved very far from the sensibilities of a huge number of the non-elite. With this election, the rebellion is in full swing, politically and culturally.
Where is this likely to lead? Undoubtably in the short run, to precisely the chaos that the elite consensus was designed to avoid. When all voices are free to be heard, what an individual listens to is his own choice. This is great news for proponents of individual freedom, but very bad news for builders of public institutions, both governmental and private. Whether this is good or bad, and whether a more widely shared consensus will arise, is certainly unclear. The only thing that is clear is that America, (and eventually all the developed world,) will never be the same.
Concerning the list of contemporary issues under discussion, I do believe that there are some common threads: divide and conquer has always been, along with brutal military action, a favorite strategy for hamstringing effective political action and shortcircuiting any possibility of grass-roots democracy. Fragmentation of the population horizontally and vertically into easily monitored and manipulated, mutually suspicious and terrified cells, is a way to control all activities, and forstall any genuine discussion of real issues such as distribution of assets and the kind of government and processes best suited to the people. This fragmentation makes effective action virtually impossible. Increasing incivility, degradation of public discourse and journalism into ad hominum attack and vitriol designed to further fragment and increase the general sense of helplessness can inculcate the false belief in people that there are only two choices: staying with the endless violence and disarray of "democracy" - or accepting the tranquility and faux peace of a totalitarian state where choices are non-existant, and the tumult of free exchange and value of the individual is forgotton.
People can be driven unwittingly by dispair, the spectacle of never-ending warfare and conflict, exhaustion, and hopelessness, into forms of government that represent the worst Orwellian possibilities and very worst side of human nature - a form of government wherein the people exist only as slaves and consumers to support a divinely ordained and secretive elite.
The forces of international capitalism are at play and profit from all sides of conflict. Those who control the economic forces are most terrified of the power individuals working together for the common good have and, now, as the clock is ticking down on the oil resource (30 years and counting) have advanced an all-out battle for world power, which we are now seeing escalate as things appear to spin madly out of control.
Professional journalists should not be mere mouthpieces for the powers that be, and despite media consolidation, propaganda, and censorship, should speak the truth based on faith in the intelligence, potential, and basic goodness of the common man. There are not only two possible human futures - it is still possible to envision a third, fourth, or even a fifth way and to bring that into being.
Any medium that provides a platform for genuine exchange of ideas and coming together has real value - and at the same time, will be the subject of open and covert onslaught.
A Scientist's View
As a practicing experimental scientist I'll make two points:
(1) What unifies most of the issues you raise is that when journalists use the word 'objectivity', they are not speaking English.
Grab a dictionary and have a look. Nothing in either of the two dictionaries I have at hand makes any mention of the notions of balance or 'he said she said' that define what journalists mean by objectivity. Instead, dictionaries define objectivity as referring to what most lay-people think it means, and what they wish they were getting when they read the newspaper: The real truth. That which can be observed. That which exists not just outside of the journalist's mind, but also outside of the minds of the Republican operatives and Democratic spinners that he interviewed for the story.
Journalists, then, are using jargon when they use the term objectivity in their own sense. The journalistic jargon kind of objectivity might better just be called 'he said she said' -- at least, as a lay person, there seems to be little more to defining it.
Besides journalists, there are several other professions whose reason for existing is mostly/entirely to find the objective truth: scientists, judges, lawyers, and policeman, for example. Each of these professions has chosen a very different way to get at the truth, each has its own pros and cons, and any journalist (or lawyer, or scientist) can benefit greatly from thinking hard about how other professions seek the truth and how those techniques apply to his own profession.
Let me recommend to the serious journalists the technique used by scientists. To oversimplify, scientists start by pointing out what 'he said' and what 'she said' too. This is the first 1% of their effort. They then go on to work hard to understand the real facts, and with the last 99% of their effort craft an article in which they describe what they find to be the facts, exactly how they were checked, and why the reader should be confident that they have gotten the facts straight, and how the facts relate to what 'he said' and 'she said'.
Always easily applicable? No. Easily applicable when one of the major sources quoted in the article is known to be lying, as for example happened several times during the Presidential Debates? Yes, easily applicable. And very helpful to the journalist's true goals.
(2) Journalism is not nearly as 'scholarly' as it might be -- that is, not nearly as good at including in an article easy ways for the reader to check the facts that the journalist is presenting.
Almost all of the citations are to spoken words that aren't archived. Instead, articles should be full of citations to the source material -- they might be underlined in the print copy and html-linked in the online copy. I mean audio and video clips quoting, in full, things that were said in public, or in taped interviews with the journalist. By this I mean links to previous articles in the same paper or elsewhere that are related to what 'he said'. By this I mean links to detailed economic data that forms the background for so many articles.
Us real readers, we want to see this stuff.
>how are we to bring about this conceptual leap and, even more crucially, how could we possibly give the public the tools ....
Glad you asked, Trout.
It's amazing how backwards, indeed, how barbaric our society is in its approach to the problem of government. Determining how to achieve the common good in this complex world is -- obviously -- an intellectual problem, calling for reason, logic, impartial scholarship, etc. But we don't treat it as such. It's a shouting match where most participants are overt deceivers and where deception is accepted as the nature of the game.
What's equally amazing is how irrelevant most disinterested scholars and academics are, and how they seem content to let the insanity carry on without getting involved themselves.
I contend that if the shouting, heckling, lying and corruption could be muted, and processes of reason permitted to proceed, many issues could be resolved quite straightforwardly.
Many would argue that differences would persist because of natural ideological differences between people. That view is overblown. Our fundamental goals are highly consistent. What's needed is brains.
So -- how to "bring about this conceptual leap"? Well, it's not going to hit everybody at once. But a few thinkers -- bloggers, academics, anyone -- have to start appreciating that:
1. To address our intellectual challenges, it's best to use our intellects.
2. The deceivers -- who are everywhere -- represent the forces of darkness. They should be confronted and discredited, and their toxic influence removed from the public debate. (At the moment that virtually never happens; they are the public debate.)
>how could we possibly give the public the tools with which to parse deception from truth when - in some cases now - only in-field experts can separate the artful deceptions spun by legions of talented PR flacks and dedicated ideologues from truth ?
If you have:
- an exchange of sufficient duration between a liar and a capable truth-teller (that is, a truth-teller who expresses himself clearly and simply);
AND (this is crucial):
- the exchange is in written form (to eliminate caveman-era, non-intellectual distractions),
then, I would contend, it's very hard indeed for the liar to remain credible.
Truth has a huge natural advantage in any forum that respects rational processes. The tragedy is that we have so few forums of that description.
Uriel - Are you talking from your heart and fighting with your head ? Both are necessary, I'd say - and I imagine you'd agree.
Logic - in and of itself - does not offer, for most, sufficient meaning. Perhaps you are one of those rare few for whom it does.
I agree that logic and lucid argument can drive back lies, but what great historical force could animate the passion behind that ? - Either a new Enlightenment, or the force of religion.
If Religion, then Christianity and - if Christianity - then disparate and dessicated elements of progressive Christianity require a reawakening, to reanimation by a new sort of energy.
Please believe me - I have no specific agenda. I'm simply calling tthe shots as I see them.
The Religious Right in America - the source of much of the deception we are discussing - also has vitality and offers a sort of hope and community, for it's adherents, which is lacking in mainstream society.
Below - the problem of the religious right in the US ( which underlays my last comment)
The Problem :
Systematic assessments of the influence on the Christian Religious Right in the UAS
Congress and in Federal government overall reveal :
Astonishing gains since the early 90's - when the Religious Right first took
over the Republican Party of Texas.
Here is one entry point - a post I made on this at Metafilter.com : or, go directly
to 1) Theocracy
"The graphs and tables below tell a story. They portray a Congress that is highly polarized, and they dispel two important myths
Myth 1) There isn't much difference between the two political parties.
Myth 2) The Religious Right has grown into obscurity.
According to ratings of key organizations of the Religious Right, members of
Congress who support their agenda overwhelmingly dominate the Republican Party."
(from Theocracy Watch)
2) The Yurica Report especially Conquering by Stealth and Deception - Kathleen Yurica has been covering the
Religious Right in American steadily since, at least, the mid-1980's - when she
was commissioned by Congress to write a report on possible violations of tax
exempt status by Pat Robertson's 700 Club.
I've been covering the religious right recently, at length, Blog on the Religious Right, etc.
and on DailKos