Re: The Media

1

anyone else suspect that Republicans perennially include disposing of NPR and PBS altogether partly because it makes them chuckle to watch liberals frantically dance?

It had occurred to me. Essentially every time I hear another blowhard talking about doing something just to piss off the libs.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:20 AM
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Oh, chicken little. There are critical thinkers who exist and thrive in the current media; Felix Salmon, Barbara Ehrenreich, Matt Taibbi all have no problem getting published.

People don't like bad news, so press that's not cheerful only attracts a small audience. Media moguls do indeed follow the dynamic JE outlines, but they do so the world over, and it's insufficient to stifle an interested audience. Real censorship spans a range from Politovskaya to this description of Russian TV: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n03/peter-pomerantsev/diary or the brave anonymous person behind blog del narco.

Oligarch publishers and an indifferent audience are much, much weaker conditions than real censorship.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:23 AM
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People don't like bad news,

Glenn Beck and Fox News is always bad-news-themed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:26 AM
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The archives are useful again.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:26 AM
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Ok, before I fix the link, let me complain: There are many, many times when I fix something or add something to a post after it's up, and then save it and the post changes. And then I wander away, and the post reverts! It drives me nuts.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:29 AM
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Anyway, it works now.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:29 AM
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5: That's weird. Hasn't ever happened to me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:32 AM
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I don't know anything at all, but that sounds like your browser going back to a cached version of the page somehow -- that is, the updated version is live, but you're looking at a stored version on your browser. What happens if you refresh the page when it happens?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:34 AM
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That sounds like it's probably an ID-10T error.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:34 AM
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8 is probably right.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:36 AM
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I do not think that Fox is bad-news-themed in any different way than is socialist propaganda that peddles free-floating anxiety.

Obviously, people stay tuned to shouted reports of transient threats (immigrants and leftists in the case of Fox, class enemies, imperialists, and freaky threats from outer space for socialists). This shouting is different from suggestions that things are getting worse without any easy cure, or suggestions that sloth and greed located within the audience contribute to the problem. These are uneasy tidings which do not make home, hearth, and the generous protection of our superiors any consolation.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:36 AM
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3 gets it right.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:37 AM
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urple can't make a grilled cheese sandwich, but I'm pretty sure he designed skynet.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:37 AM
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8 wouldn't explain why the "fixed" links don't work for other people. (See 4.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:38 AM
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5: Sorry. Didn't mean to throw you into defense.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:41 AM
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Complaining about the media is, as I have said before, not much less respectable than many hands making light work measuring twice, cutting once your car is like a woman the poor craftsman blaming his tools. If liberals cannot, reliably or even occasionally, persuade majorities to agree with them and vote accordingly, they should dare the daunting task of being more persuasive rather than settle in for another twenty years of whining-in-the-wilderness.*

* Diet of locusts and honey optional.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:44 AM
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More concisely-- bad news takes away simpleminded hope or criticizes the audience. Transient and externalizable problems are not bad news in this sense, regardless of how hostile Glenn Beck or Zyuganov become. For both of them, isn't the main portion of their support frightened old people and disaffected rabble?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:44 AM
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But complaining about the media is part of the process of becoming more persuasive. We can't sell liberal ideas unless we first sell the concept that the ideas reflected in the news coverage of the NYT aren't liberal ideas.

It's not the whole problem, but it's a first step.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:46 AM
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If liberals cannot, reliably or even occasionally, persuade majorities to agree with them and vote accordingly, they should dare the daunting task of being more persuasive rather than settle in for another twenty years of whining-in-the-wilderness.*

I frankly don't see how someone can make statements like this once they realize that "the corporate media" is synonymous with "the media". You know, the media from which virtually everyone gets their opinions. The mainstream media. It's run by corporations. You know, corporations.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:48 AM
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So, casting aside concerns about integrity and the ends justifying the means and the primrose path to monstrosity (see? how easy was that?), and furrowing my brow in a determined attempt to find the silver lining: I'd like to view JE's post as a roadmap to success rather than as an autopsy report on the political viability of liberalism.

Related: I think things would be much worse without the likes of Jon Stewart, et al. Seriously. Mockery and derision are really effective. Not as effective as continuous radio programs that repeat all the same memes and codewords while consistently appealing to, what, the lizard brain? But there's no reason you couldn't do the same thing with a leftist philosophy, and add mockery and derision in there for good measure. (I think that method might be incompatible with an openness to experience / ideas, so probably couldn't be called liberal anymore. But I'll take what I can get.)

If only someone would pay for it. (HINT, Soros. Goddamn. Get on that already.)


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:51 AM
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NPR yesterday was talking about Obama's budget, and said something to the effect of: "As usual, while the White House and Republicans face off on either side, the huge majority of average everyday people are in between these two extremes."

Yes. What a nice narrative that has nothing to do with reality.

Then they went to talk to some guy from a centrist thinktank, who somehow represents an average person, and he said "Actually, I think this budget is great!" And yet they did not reverse time and revise their lede to reflect that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:53 AM
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Did you ever expect a corporation to have a conscience, when it has no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked?


Posted by: Edward, 1st Baron Thurlow | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:53 AM
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Yeah, 16 seems to make the assumption that "the media" functions as an honest, neutral arbiter of ideas. I don't think that's correct.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:53 AM
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19 is false. No American journalists have been killed or imprisoned for their work, and plenty of them have outlets, ranging from books to NYT and WaPo op-eds to long and detailed paid blogs.

Do people here really believe that their reading ability is so superior? If anyone here can find good writing, everybody can.

John Stewart, Colbert, and the failed attempt at a for-profit left leaning antiFox are all relevant to the discussion, an easy way of identifying where the margin of broadly acceptable speech lies.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:54 AM
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Do people here really believe that their reading ability is so superior? If anyone here can find good writing, everybody can.

Most people spend their valuable time doing something else.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:57 AM
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Do people here really believe that their reading ability is so superior? If anyone here can find good writing, everybody can.

Are you kidding? The reading ability of most people here is so superior to me. And yes, I think my reading ability appetite for politics is superior to the average person.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:58 AM
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(I think that method might be incompatible with an openness to experience / ideas, so probably couldn't be called liberal anymore. But I'll take what I can get.)

Yeah, I think the right term there is left-populist. Fairly similar to Glenn Beck's right-populism. Except not wrong about so many things. Or so crazy. (Necessarily.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:58 AM
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Oooh, a Ned gave me a pwny!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:59 AM
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What Cryptic ned said. My overwhelming experience is that most people don't care to search for writing or commentary, or, well, anything really. That's why I like this place -- here, they do.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:00 AM
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Is there a name for second order pwnage?


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:01 AM
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the huge majority of average everyday people are in between these two extremes

I stopped listening to NPR, because far too often not owning a gun was the only thing that was keeping me from blowing a gigantic hole in my dashboard. While it may be true that a plurality (huge majority is complete fucking nonsense, since each party has the solid support of at least a quarter of the population) of Americans will tell you they reside philosophically between the two parties, it's also true that a huge majority of Americans don't have the political awareness that God gave a manhole cover.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:04 AM
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Do people here really believe that their reading ability is so superior? If anyone here can find good writing, everybody can.

Oh come on, that's crap. Most people can't read for shit. Emerson's point rre: ambient media is right. Most people have neither the time or the inclination to actively force their way through a vast and expensively maintained field of obfuscation to find their way to something that's at least moderately accurate.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:05 AM
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But complaining about the media is part of the process of becoming more persuasive.

Part of the process, but it probably won't be the whole of the process if you want to actually persuade people.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:05 AM
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It's not as if we have a fairly equal playing field here. The right has the money, and owns most of the media.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:07 AM
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a plurality... of Americans will tell you they reside philosophically between the two parties,

But when you ask them their opinion on issues one at a time, they're generally further to the left.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:07 AM
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19 is false. No American journalists have been killed or imprisoned for their work

I don't understand your argument. 19 says that the media is owned and run by corporations.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:08 AM
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And yes, I think my reading ability appetite for politics is superior to the average person.

Rather than sniping, let me remark that John Stewart, Colbert, and say Ta-Nehisi Coates to name someone who leans left, writes well, and is paid for it, do not think about their audience this way.
I do not believe that superior analytical skills or erudition help all that much for political reasoning. Literacy and some ability to think in the long-term and beyond immediate geographical neighborhood are important, but that's a low bar.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:08 AM
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Do people here really believe that their reading ability is so superior? If anyone here can find good writing, everybody can.

Yeah, this is a very effective but also kind of bullshit rhetorical move. It's very hard to say "Yes, my reading ability is wildly superior to that of the average citizen, and so is that of most of the other commenters here," because it makes you sound like an arrogant asshole. If that's the conversation we're having, it's also true.

Now, superior reading ability doesn't make me a better person, superior reading ability doesn't even necessarily keep me from coming to some incredibly stupid and wrongheaded conclusions: I know plenty of people who are as bright as I am on this axis where either I'm wildly offbase, or they are. But you really can't say "If this crowd can find information, then there's no problem with the dissemination of that information to the population generally." We're a bunch of academics, lawyers, and people who voluntarily associate with that sort of person. Finding obscure information is what we do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:09 AM
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let me remark that John Stewart, Colbert, and say Ta-Nehisi Coates to name someone who leans left, writes well, and is paid for it, do not think about their audience this way.

I don't think their audiences are dumb, either. I don't think the average person seeks much exposure to anyone like either of them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:10 AM
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let me remark that John Stewart, Colbert, and say Ta-Nehisi Coates to name someone who leans left, writes well, and is paid for it, do not think about their audience this way.

I strongly doubt any of the three is mistaken enough to believe that his audience is primarily or even significantly composed of average persons.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:10 AM
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But complaining about the media is part of the process of becoming more persuasive.

That particular bank shot seems to have worked better for conservatives than liberals so far. Wouldn't making more persuasive arguments serve better than wishing there were a cable news network broadcasting from Tír na nÓg?

Yeah, 16 seems to make the assumption that "the media" functions as an honest, neutral arbiter of ideas. I don't think that's correct.

Neither do I, but it doesn't change the fact that blaming the ether for one's failure to be heard, understood, appreciated and supported as one wishes is what stereotypically sullen teenagers do. The referees are part of the court/field on which the game is played, and liberals are imitating Mark Cuban, only with fewer sympathetic qualities.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:11 AM
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Rather than sniping, let me remark that John Stewart, Colbert, and say Ta-Nehisi Coates to name someone who leans left, writes well, and is paid for it, do not think about their audience this way.

Bullshit. They may all be nicer, better, less snobbish people than I am -- most people are. But I'd bet enough money to cause me real financial pain that if you asked any one of those three people whether their own ability to find, read, and process political information was way beyond that of the average US voter, they'd say yes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:11 AM
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That particular bank shot seems to have worked better for conservatives than liberals so far. Wouldn't making more persuasive arguments serve better than wishing there were a cable news network broadcasting from Tír na nÓg?

I wonder, why does it always turn out that the brands with the biggest advertising budgets always have the "more persuasive arguments"?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:13 AM
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Literacy and some ability to think in the long-term and beyond immediate geographical neighborhood are important, but that's a low bar.

I have some bad news for you. You may want to sit down.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:14 AM
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Do people here really believe that their reading ability is so superior?

You mean here where there was once a separate sub-blog set up to discuss Heidegger's Being and Time?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:14 AM
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41.1: It's worked better for conservatives than liberals because conservatives have been doing it and liberals haven't. The NYT doesn't need to be burned to the ground, there's useful stuff in there. But there's also a lot of stuff that's ideologically driven by an ideology that's not a leftist one, and anyone trying to sell a leftist ideology has to both recognize that, and make sure the intended audience recognizes it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:14 AM
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41.last: It certainly annoys me, but I'm easily annoyed.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:15 AM
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whether their own ability to find, read, and process political information was way beyond that of the average US voter

Not to mention that we keep talking about ability, when the most significant differences relate to inclination.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:16 AM
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Most people have neither the time or the inclination to actively force their way through a vast and expensively maintained field of obfuscation to find their way to something that's at least moderately accurate.

I would say that "inclination" is doing the work there. Keeping track of celebrity romances and the latest trends is actually a fair amount of work if you don't care. But this is a marginal part of the debate-- for the sake of argument, granting the ignorance of the masses, count Beck v Colbert.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:16 AM
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John Stewart, Colbert, and say Ta-Nehisi Coates ... do not think about their audience this way.

Not to start a sub-argument, but those three, and quite a comparable few, seem to spend rather a lot of time and energy assuring their audiences that they think about them in exactly that way and, moreover, that their audiences really are special in a way that only a mother or a blogger could know. Cf. Patton Oswalt going on and on about the brilliance of standup comedians, which I've always thought was a pretty obvious way to compliment his audience on their taste.

Goodness, I'm cynical this morning. I blame society.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:20 AM
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Is 49 supposed to be supporting your position? Because who cares whether it's driven by ability or inclination--the point, and the end result, remains the same. (Note that I have no idea what the last sentence of 49 means--maybe if I understood that then I would understand your point. One strike against my reading ability, I guess.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:20 AM
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Neither do I, but it doesn't change the fact that blaming the ether for one's failure to be heard, understood, appreciated and supported as one wishes is what stereotypically sullen teenagers do. The referees are part of the court/field on which the game is played, and liberals are imitating Mark Cuban, only with fewer sympathetic qualities

Oh, I don't like the whining, either. Fucking throw some elbows if you think the game is dirty.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:20 AM
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51: I was confused by the same sentence.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:21 AM
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52: Or, if you don't like to see the other team running up the score, play better.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:23 AM
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Yeah! Just have more money and power! Have it. Why don't you have it yet?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:24 AM
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54: Isn't it difficult to play better when you're not even on the court?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:25 AM
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Fucking throw some elbows if you think the game is dirty.

Not likely a winning strategy if the other side has the refs on the take. Which is basically the complaint here.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:26 AM
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re: 49

I don't think it's just inclination. I mean, that is a big part of it, but also, a lot of the mass media really is riddled with lies. It takes a combination of some reasonable level of general knowledge, and a modicum of analytical/interpretative skill to see through some of these. It doesn't really require stellar levels of any of those, of course, given the right inclination, but people don't just acquire the inclination through some miracle of inspiration. It's a virtuous circle* where some awareness makes it clear that someone is bullshitting you, which in turn reinforces the inclination to seek out some better source of information, and so on and so on.

I'm not making any massive claims here, either. Even those of us who are far out at the smart-arse end of the spectrum are probably being unwittingly bullshitted to a thousand times a day.

re: 51/52

Sure. I'd like to see a load of really vicious nasty shit coming from the left. Fuck virtuousness. I'm also fairly far down the 'kick them in the balls, no, not metaphorical balls, I mean their actual balls' road. But raising some awareness of how fucked the media are needn't be pathetic whining, although I agree it often is.

* well, it makes you a grumpy bastard, but that's another matter


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:26 AM
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Just have more money and power! Have it. Why don't you have it yet?

You wouldn't understand, man. I'm not into your petty contests of strength and skill. Have you heard Arcade Fire yet? You have? Well, they've sucked since before you heard them. I'm into urban planning now. I listen only to obscure Jane Jacobs B-sides.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:27 AM
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Keeping track of celebrity romances and the latest trends is actually a fair amount of work if you don't care.

Yeah, most things are harder to do if you don't care. I think the relevant point is that it's a lot harder to care about something like politics, which requires you to think (at least nominally) about issues and make moral and political judgments about them, than it is to care about celebrity gossip, where you are not actually required to have an opinion beyond "I like schadenfreude!"

Also, celebrity gossip involves people who are way, way more attractive. Not actually a minor point.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:27 AM
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You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes! You say, "Steve, how can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes?" Okay, first... you have to get a million dollars.


Posted by: Steve Martin | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:28 AM
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Right. At some point you have to talk about the refs, rather than treating bad officiating as a given.

That doesn't mean give up until the officiating is perfect, but you need to shape your tactics to fit what the refs are going to do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:28 AM
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Also, celebrity gossip involves people who are way, way more attractive. Not actually a minor point.

Not since the country agreed that unattractive* or funny-looking people could no longer be President.

* Richard Nixon: outlier.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:30 AM
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At some point you have to talk about the refs, rather than treating bad officiating as a given.

To sustain the Mark Cuban analogy, it often seems like liberals are concerned solely with talking about the refs.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:33 AM
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||
Until just now, I was unaware that Henry Waxman is barely garden gnome height.
|>


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:34 AM
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57: Well, that's why I initially expressed hope we could buy some refs. But barring that (come ON, Soros), it doesn't mean we have to roll over and take the abuse. However much faith you put in Malcolm Gladwell (which, yes, I know many people do not), I did find that article on underdogs to be interesting. If the system is rigged, playing by the rules gets you exactly nowhere. I don't have, at the moment, a bunch of brilliant ideas about what the necessary game changers might look like, but I am fairly certain that the left would have to be fairly organized and disciplined in order to implement them. And I don't think many people would argue that the left is currently organized and disciplined. It's not even unified.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:34 AM
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Flippanter, if you'd ever encountered a grassroots conservative discussion forum, you'd know they are far, far more obsessed with the perfidy of the mainstream media than any of your liberal friends. Even though the media is entirely on their side in terms of economic issues.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:35 AM
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I don't think many people would argue that the left is currently organized and disciplined.

Somebody hasn't been watching their Glenn Beck.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:36 AM
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Busted.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:37 AM
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It's because we're trying to get to a background assumption where everyone knows the refs aren't on our side. If the population generally thinks that the corporate media is liberal, so that any information you get from the NYT is presented in the most favorable possible way for the left, (A) they're mistaken, and (B) we lose all the arguments where people are working off the NYT as a source. Until the stuff Emerson's saying is conventional, we've got huge problems making any other points.

And I think your esthetic distaste for whining (which is generally reasonable) is leading you to dislike this sort of thing more than it deserves. There are plenty of leftists focusing on stuff other than media criticism, and if that's what interests you more, that's what you should be reading. Doesn't make the media criticism counterproductive.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:38 AM
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To sustain the Mark Cuban analogy, it often seems like liberals are concerned solely with talking about the refs.

Yes, we never seem to criticize Republicans. We should have a thread every now and then where we dislike Republicans.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:38 AM
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Yeah, the right wing whining about media bias serves a useful purpose. The media is already, even when not actively supporting the right, predisposed to cringe rightwards because of fear of being accused of 'liberal bias'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:40 AM
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Ok. I think I need to clarify. What I don't like is media criticism that takes a defensive position. It's not productive, and it comes off as whining*. I absolutely think media criticism is necessary, but go on the offensive.** I think it takes a sustained effort -- the media didn't become this biased over night; it's taken, like, 20 years, right? -- but in the end, you have to go on the attack. Sustained, coordinated, relentless and ruthless attack. I don't see that, and that's what frustrates me.

*I wasn't actually applying this term to anyone here; it's a general complaint.

**I know that the terms "defensive" and "offensive" are slippery, and that they're doing a lot of work here. I'm not sure what to do about that. Sometimes it really does come down to tone.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:51 AM
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Sometimes it really does come down to tone.

This is right, and there's good media criticism and bad media criticism. But if you're talking tone, I don't think you can effectively complain broadly -- you need to point at particular people who are doing it wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:55 AM
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||| Anybody else notice that Andrew Sullivan appears to preparing to turn against Obama? Does anybody else care? ||||


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:58 AM
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predisposed to cringe rightwards because of fear of being accused of 'liberal bias'

I haven't formulated a coherent summary of my views on the media, but I find Jonathan Chait's account of Joe Klein's reaction to his first encounters with the liberal blogosphere instructive:

In early January, Time unveiled a new blog, Swampland, featuring several of its political writers, including Klein, a columnist for the magazine. While this was almost certainly not its intended effect, Swampland turned out to be a fascinating experiment aboutthe effects of bringing mainstream journalists into close contact with the Internet left. Klein's initial forays were classic Klein: His second post was a blast at "illinformed dilettantes" of the left who prove that"[l]iberals won't ever be trusted on national security until theystart doing their homework." Predictably, the netroots lashed into him. Just as predictably, his immediate reaction was to lash back .... The next couple of weeks, however, saw none of the sorts of criticism of liberals that marked Klein's first post and much ofhis career. When, a few weeks later, he ventured back onto controversial terrain, he did so in an apologetic tone, almost as if he were cringing in anticipation of the blows that were sure tofollow. .... Klein still regularly took issue with his liberal critics, but thefrequency of his dissents declined markedly, and the esteem with which he treated his tormentors rose commensurately. He continued to endure constant criticism and would often post three or four updates to his blog items, each replying to a wave of attacks. Moreover, Klein began with increasing frequency to concede the truth of the criticisms against him .... And his liberal opinions seemed to grow more frequent and less hedged. ... Liberal bloggers regarded the newly tamed Klein with unconcealed satisfaction. In a post on how the netroots was successfully lobbying the mainstream media, Yglesias wrote, "I might also note that Swampland is suddenly full of posts I find much more agreeable than the ones they were doing early on. " His fellow blogger Ezra Klein (no relation), of the Prospect, offered a persuasive explanation of his namesake's more liberal-friendly tone: It's worth remembering that, for years, the only thing these quasi-liberal columnists heard was how biased, outof-touch, and incomprehensibly progressive they were. So they began tailoring, consciously or not, their work to defend against those criticisms. Klein, like many journalists, had spent his career in a world wherethere was only one real movement in U.S. politics. He had become accustomed to sustained ideological mau-mauing, but he had expected it only from one side, and, over the years, this imbalance had taken its toll. Now, suddenly, there are two such movements.

Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 9:59 AM
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75: Sullivan disagrees, but I don't trust Mr. "Objectively Pro-Saddam" any further than I could swing a bat.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:03 AM
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the huge majority of average everyday people are in between these two extremes.

In the US, at least, it is probably truer to say that a majority of average everyday people are in fact well to the left of both parties. Check the poll results on issues like "higher top-rate taxes", "universal health care", "reduced military spending", etc.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:08 AM
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bullshit rhetorical move.

Wow, apparently hit a nerve with that. I think it's a peripheral point, but for whatever it's worth, not a rhetorical ploy on my part. Merely clever is not saying much IMO.

Heidegger

Did the group make it to page 50? Brains don't count for much compared to persistence in my experience.

people don't just acquire the inclination through some miracle of inspiration. It's a virtuous circle

Agreed with both of these. The link I posted to disagree with a claim of a passive audience was some Egyptian kid with a hand-lettered sign produced in a society subject to much tighter media controls than ours, a counterexample to place a limit on claims about powerful media. I don't have magic insight into what causes the virtuous circle of inspiration and information, but I do believe that the relatively feeble media bias in the US is not a strong effect. Obviously this is a minority opinion here. My opinion is formed mostly by i) thinking about other countries and ii) noticing that the people most interested in Fox news that I know in the US are elderly.

nicer, better, less snobbish people

The issue in my mind is less about Stewart's ranking of his abilities vs those of his audience, but how important differential ability is perceived to be. The showbiz people I have known seem to actually like their audiences, to respect the audience's judgement at some level. I do not think the funders of TV shows see things the same way, though.

49 confusing

I was trying to say that counting the audience size of existing left-leaning outlets is a way to estimate what people want, granting (for the sake of argument only) that audiences are stupid and held in contempt by performers. There are clearly popular performers who don't like their audiences much-- Graham Norton, Paris Hilton, the Coen brothers, for instance. I am not claiming that liking the audience is a necessary condition, just that I think it obtains sometimes.

This is a great conversation, but I'm not sure I can keep my end up for a bit, didn't mean to stir things up and then leave, but that's apparently what I've done. Sorry if that's rude....


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:09 AM
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76: More of this, please. Although this would probably be more effective on tv, coming from many attractive talking heads.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:10 AM
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If the right leaning media finally go completely, irrefutably batshit loony-tunes MAAAAD, is there any chance that there'll be a public reaction against them?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:14 AM
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I am in agreement with a surprising (to me) amount of what Emerson has to say. I wouldn't paint with quite as broad a brush as Emerson does, but as he acknowledges at the outset, he is deliberately choosing stark formulations.

There is one point Emerson omits that I think is important. Our "best" journalists (defined as the ones doing real reporting for publications with the highest proportion of serious news) are uniquely susceptible to mau-mauing from the right. Uniquely susceptible because they are, as a group, politically liberal, and because they have, as a group, internalized certain notions of fairness and objectivity. As a consequence, their internal self-policing function is on one-sided alert for liberal bias, and they consciously bend over backwards to give the other side a fair hearing -- even when doing so requires them to ignore or downplay the obvious lack of merit of one side of the argument. I think this is the proximate cause of a lot of the "Aesopian" reporting (I love that usage) that Emerson describes.

The Joe Klein story cited earlier is one example, but something similar applies to a lot of straight news journalists who are a lot more left-leaning than Joe Klein. Some of them I know from personal experience to be further left than I am, and yet some of their news stories ended up furthering right-wing interests.

You simply don't find any meaningful equivalent on the right.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:15 AM
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Brains don't count for much compared to persistence in my experience.

The metric, though, was reading ability. I don't see much controversy that a group dominated by people with graduate degrees has a markedly higher level of reading ability in a country where the median citizen reads at an 8th grade level and 1 out of 5 adults reads at a 5th grade level or lower.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:17 AM
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The showbiz people I have known seem to actually like their audiences, to respect the audience's judgement at some level.

Recognizing that calling something bullshit immediately proves that it's true, because only truthful criticisms are irritating enough to be responded to, the implicit claim in this is also bullshit. Because I think that the audience of US media is ill-served by the information that's easily accessible to them in the media, despite the fact that better information could be found if they knew where to look and put the effort in, doesn't imply dislike for the audience or total contempt for their judgment. And the contrary is also true: just because Jon Stewart probably is fond of his audience and has some respect for their judgment, doesn't mean either that he thinks there's no problem with the information they're getting, or that there really is no such problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:18 AM
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If? 68 to 81.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:19 AM
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75, 77 - Sullivan is a boundless series of arbitrary enthusiasms and scorn, but he really is just a mark who thinks he's a smart. One of his guest posters had some approving things to say (embedded in a largely negative piece, to be fair) about a laughably bad piece of Breitbart journalism on fraud in the Pigford settlements; I look forward to Sullivan picking this up as a thing he just knows to be true, to sit next to The Bell Curve.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:23 AM
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82 - How much of that is because there is functionally no journalism on the right in America? There are pundits on the right, many of them (even ones not named Andrew Bacevich) very insightful, and there are propaganda mills. But there's no commitment to the endeavor of journalism as late-20th century American journalists understood it.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:26 AM
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I think things would be much worse without the likes of Jon Stewart, et al. Seriously. Mockery and derision are really effective.

Yes, yes, and more yes.

Mockery and derision are the best tool our side has for reaching the lizard brain of the media consuming public. Fomenting raw anger à la Beck and Limbaugh won't work. I mean, it works in the sense that you can get some people in the base riled up. But the Dean Scream episode shows, anger makes the Dem elites too uncomfortable, so they distance themselves from it, and there's no way to make the breakthrough into the mainstream.

Ridicule, on the other hand, is the kind of deviation from rational empiricism that liberal elites can get on board with, and can get traction with the mainstream. Think Dan Quayle (and, increasingly, Sarah Palin).

There's a kind of hundredth monkey phenomenon about when it becomes safe for the mainstream to indulge in ridicule of a particular person. It won't work with every figure, but it's possible to nudge certain figures across the boundary.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:26 AM
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Ok, really, how can you not run wild with a quote like this? Why do we not have an army of clever, attractive young people swarming cable television talking about this in a coordinated attack? My frustration mounts.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:28 AM
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86: I see him more as someone writing an ongoing politically-themed soap opera with himself as the main character. Or to put if differently, he has to turn against Obama now, to retain his branding as Andrew Sullivan: Unpredictable Iconoclast.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:28 AM
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John Boehner is a big orange crybaby.


Posted by: 100th Monkey | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:30 AM
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to retain his branding as Andrew Sullivan: Unpredictable Iconoclast Mickey Kaus with a beard.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:31 AM
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Sullivan is a boundless series of arbitrary enthusiasms and scorn, but he really is just a mark who thinks he's a smart.

This is Andrew Sullivan aptly summarized in one sentence. Behind the flowery prose, he's just McMegan with a slightly different set of enthusiasms and slightly superior schooling.

I once had a (cordial) email exchange with him about a tax policy issue he had blogged about, and it became apparent that behind his ample facility with the English language he had no idea what he was talking about. I mean, he didn't even grasp the basics.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:31 AM
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I once had a (cordial) email exchange with him about a tax policy issue he had blogged about

Lime cordial or ginger cordial?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:35 AM
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I wish I understood what lw's argument is well enough to argue back, but I don't. I'm bad at reading.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:49 AM
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There's a couple of points I think he's trying to get to that aren't terrible -- effective political action is possible even where the media is biased is one, 'smarter', more verbal people aren't always more likely to be right on political issues than less well educated people might be another. But the arguments he's making to support those points don't work terribly well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:53 AM
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Jesus that obwings thread is an abortion. Now I know why I stopped visiting there. Anything a liberal says gets nitpicked to death while the local republicans are allowed to shot out what ever diarrhea of idiocy they want


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:56 AM
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If there really were a liberal media, would the Democratic Senate have impeached Clarence Thomas?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:56 AM
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Emerson is correct about the crappiness of the media, but the upside of even completely fixing the media seems fairly limited to me -- the Democrats would get, what, 1-2% more of the popular vote, which would shift policy slightly to the left. It would not usher in an era where suddenly everyone in the country is a left-wing Democrat, although obviously every little bit helps.


Posted by: Disingenuous | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:57 AM
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Egyptians didn't need well-funded media to form an opinion, why should we?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 10:57 AM
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100: Because currently almost nobody in this country knows someone or has an immediate family member who has been disappeared or tortured by the police, for starters, and the standard of living for the average American, while pitifully low compared to richest Americans, is still way higher than it is for your average Egyptian. I think if those things changed, we wouldn't need a well funded media either. (The civil rights movement comes to mind here.)


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:02 AM
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almost nobody in this country knows someone or has an immediate family member [...] tortured by the police

This may be true for UMC white people, but "almost nobody" is wrong.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:10 AM
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You wouldn't understand, man. I'm not into your petty contests of strength and skill. Have you heard Arcade Fire yet? You have? Well, they've sucked since before you heard them. I'm into urban planning now. I listen only to obscure Jane Jacobs B-sides.

Yea music and urban planning. I'm into The Miseducation of Mount Laurel, NJ, myself.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:13 AM
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The US incarceration rate is the world's second highest, though there are very few political prisoners. The declining US standard of living for factory workers spawned the militia movement, I think.

The other useful examples in my mind are Gdansk in 1981, Iran in 1979 and maybe 2009, Beijing 1989, and Algeria in 1991. Media bias does very little to explain success or failure of any recent popular movement, I think, with the possible exception of China's.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:16 AM
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102 is right. Should have been "significantly less" and / or "almost none of the doctors and lawyers."


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:17 AM
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If this is the WTF politics thread, then: WTF, South Dakota?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:19 AM
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I've come around to the view that digby's "Very Serious People" formulation should be supplemented by "Reality-Based" to indicate what smug suckers liberals can be.

Folks who like to characterize themselves as "reality-based" are completely unable to grasp what Suskind's anonymous source (Karl Rove?) understood:

"when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

I think the inability to grasp this concept - the concept that one can alter the very playing field - is characteristic of a certain "reality-based" kind of naivete.

WMD didn't exist, but the media said they did, so the fact that this was wrong did not matter. The sooner liberals understand that Rove got the better of that discussion with Suskind, the sooner liberals will start engaging in the real public policy debate.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:25 AM
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Egyptians didn't need well-funded media to form an opinion, why should we?

You might want to rethink this. Thirty years of Mubarak followed by a military coup is not exactly an example of effective People Power.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:27 AM
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I haven't read the thread, but while I agree at some level with JE's general critique I think the influence that liberals and even mainstream media outlets attribute to Fox News and other conservative media outlets is wildly exaggerated -- the audience for NPR is vastly greater than that of Fox News, and I think the better explanation is that there is simply between 20-30% of the country that are insane conservatives, and another 20-30% that can be swung, and that it's unsurprising that there's media that chases those voters. I think the liberal blog obsession with dumb things that conservatives say on right-wing shows isn't useless, but is basically a waste of resources.

There is another point that I don't see made that often, which is that the audience for TV news programs tilts more conservative than the national audience as a whole. That is, for some reason, people who want to watch the news on TV are more conservative than the TV audience as a whole, so news programmers are chasing a more right-wing sector of the overall public.

I do think there's a fair amount of truth in the vulgar Marxist critique that economically left politics are unlikely to be heavily promoted by news agencies that are part of major multi-faceted corporations.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:28 AM
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That is, for some reason, people who want to watch the news on TV are more conservative than the TV audience as a whole,

Because they have a news channel devoted to catering to them, maybe? I think it's right that Fox doesn't necessarily make conservatives, but I think it makes them louder and more aggressive.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:31 AM
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Jonathan Chait's account of Joe Klein's reaction

I used to bitch about Emerson's media formulation because I thought it lacked an explanation for what changed in the last few decades. I see that he's developed a more complete and entirely plausible thesis, but I still think he gives short shrift to the incessant bitching of the right.

Flip's idea that working the refs is unsporting or unpleasant or something doesn't speak to the question of whether it works, and I think Emerson may underestimate the significance of that factor.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:34 AM
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110 -- Nah, this was true even in the 1960s - 1980s, and long predates Fox News. At least according to the long-time news guy that I know, I'm not sitting on top of huge amounts of survey data or anything. It's largely that the audience for TV news are basically middle-class and up types who tend to be more conservative generally, and the professional-SWPL-obot-liberal set has never turned to TV news much at all, even in the olden days.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:35 AM
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the influence that liberals and even mainstream media outlets attribute to Fox News and other conservative media outlets is wildly exaggerated

Fox News basically invented the Tea Party, which then has gotten some rather insane fruitcakes into some very influential positions.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:36 AM
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Example #<insert large number here>

MSNBC online poll choices:
The White House (1) is making worthwhile cuts; (2) should do more to cut entitlements; (3) should do more to cut defense spending; or (4) should cut spending, but not too much in a weak economy.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:39 AM
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I really, really don't think that the "Tea Party" is the product of Fox News, although this is a difficult thing to prove decisively one way or another. As Apo always says, and Apo is right, the Tea Party is the right wing of the Republican party, and it's totally unsurprising that the election of a powerful black president would motivate those guys to action. Perhaps the form of the right wing backlash has varied slightly due to Fox, and it's certainly been promoted on that station, but if it wasn't Fox there would be some other outlet for the forces of reaction.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:43 AM
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I think the influence that liberals and even mainstream media outlets attribute to Fox News and other conservative media outlets is wildly exaggerated -- the audience for NPR is vastly greater than that of Fox News

This seems like a weird comparison. The audience for NPR is probably mostly people half-listening while driving, and I would guess there are far greater numbers of people who, while driving, tune in to trollish local radio shows, or Limbaugh.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:47 AM
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109.b - Isn't that most likely just due to the fact that the audience for television news is really old?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:49 AM
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I would guess there are far greater numbers of people who, while driving, tune in to trollish local radio shows, or Limbaugh.

No need to guess.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:50 AM
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Fox is influential because it makes crazy rightwing ideas respectable, and reportable by other media. Besides, Fox is only one of many conservative news outlets.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:51 AM
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116: There's also the fact that NPR isn't at all similar to Limbaugh. There are some liberal views and attitudes on NPR, but a lot of centrist/conservative stuff as well, and even the liberal stuff isn't Limbaugh-esque whipping up feelings among the party faithful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 11:57 AM
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117 - Yes, I've read that the average (I believe median, because mean seems impossible) age of a Fox News viewer is 65 and CNN is 62, someone with more time can look and see if that's accurate.

The Fox News/NPR comparison isn't to point out perfect balance in the news media -- that doesn't exist, largely because the audience for news media generally skews so conservative. It's to question the general grand narrative that the news media is the primary and effective source of conservative power (and thus, should be the primary focus of opposition from liberals), as opposed to just playing to and encouraging a base that already exists. Liberals have plenty of media outlets, though not primarily TV, for themselves, and have done fairly well electorally recently.

In many ways, the most important feature of the conservative media is that it imposes discipline on more moderate conservative and Republican leaders and tends to force them to the extremes. I think that in the long term this has been very bad for the Republican party politically, although it also has had bad consequences for the country.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 12:03 PM
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Liberals have... done fairly well electorally recently.

This is something that we shouldn't lose sight of -- that the leftmost option the electorate has generally doesn't do too badly. The electoral problem we have is that the leftmost option we have is usually kind of useless.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 12:14 PM
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Liberals ... have done fairly well electorally recently.

I'm an old guy, and can remember a time when guys like Obama and Dole and Reagan were considered conservatives. Again: "Reality-based" folks have trouble with the concept that the playing field itself can be altered.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 12:33 PM
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Jesus that obwings thread is an abortion.

Ugggh, this inspired me to read the comment, and I am worse off for the experience.

To be fair to ObWi, however, I got the sense that the regulars there were similarly frustrated by the direction in which things went but, for whatever reason, nobody wanted to explicitly tell turbulence to drop it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 12:41 PM
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104: The US incarceration rate is the world's second highest, though there are very few political prisoners.

This statement relies on the questionable assumption that the war on drugs was something other than a political strategy to defeat the African-American civil rights movement by aggressively criminalizing the only significant economic activity that had been allowed to take root in African-American communities, thereby (1) giving the state an excuse to employ unchecked repression against African-American communities, (2) diverting African-American militancy from political to economic matters, and (3) pitting African-American communities against each other (especially along generational, religious, and economic lines). Everyone incarcerated as a result of the drug war is a political prisoner.

And what makes you say the U.S. has the world's *second* highest incarceration rate, anyway? China only has a higher incarceration rate if you pull their numbers out of thin air. Not that "America: fewer prisoners than China!" sounds any better than "America: less torture than the Taliban!"


Posted by: hipster ariel sharon | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 1:00 PM
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Everyone incarcerated as a result of the drug war is a political prisoner.

We all have blind spots, but murder is a pretty big one.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 1:07 PM
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126: We all have blind spots, but murder is a pretty big one.

1. Your faux outrage over the murders of African-American men would be more persuasive if you weren't expressing that outrage in defense of the policy that had led to those murders in the first place.

2. We shouldn't assume that "murderers" and "political prisoners" are mutually exclusive categories--especially, again, where widespread murder is actually the intentional result of government policy.


Posted by: hipster ariel sharon | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 1:19 PM
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This kind of thing convinces me that liberal's have a real problem with the media:

Donahue was the highest rated show on MSNBC at the time it was canceled, managing to beat out Chris Matthews' "Hardball" in the ratings.[7] Soon after the show's cancellation AllYourTV.com reported it had received a copy of an internal NBC memo that stated Donahue should be fired because he would be a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war".[7][8]


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 1:29 PM
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Al Jazeera English, people. I also love reading foreign correspondents on twitter . Doesn't help too much for coverage of U.S. politics of course.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 1:53 PM
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(I realize most people don't get it on tv, but DC does. And it's online)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 1:56 PM
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128: Pshaw, Donahue just needed to make better arguments or something.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 2:07 PM
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127: That is some old-school hipstering. Give my regards to Pandagon in 2004!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 2:07 PM
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can we talk about this particular crazy:http://volokh.com/2011/02/15/asteroid-defense-and-libertarianism/

I think it boiled something down i hadn't quite put into words before: That what libertarians really care about is that Worthies (as proven by income and 'winning' the race to domination of others) must not be made to suffer compromise with anyone. Being invaded means some russian guy shows up and says you have to drink vodka, not bourbon. That really is the worst thing one could imagine because the restriction comes from another's will, not the hand of god or fate.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 2:58 PM
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That is, for some reason, people who want to watch the news on TV are more conservative than the TV audience as a whole,

Because they have a news channel devoted to catering to them, maybe?

Also because they're elderly.

Or to put if differently, he has to turn against Obama now, to retain his branding as Andrew Sullivan: Unpredictable Iconoclast.

But wait! He just noticed something!

"But it seems to me that on the current right, Obama cannot win."

Now that's the voice of a man with his finger on the pulse.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:01 PM
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The last sentence of 133 is an incredibly astute explanation for libertarianism.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:05 PM
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I don't know relevant this is to the current conversation, but it's upsetting and came via the media: I just got an email alert from a hollywood trade rag (that in turn got my email address from some other entity) that Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Egypt. This is a site that normally deals in gossip. They know because CBS released a statement. I don't know what to do with most of this right now besides feel very sad and angry on behalf of Logan, but there is something extraordinarily wrong about getting that email.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:12 PM
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also, wrt media bias and apropo of last night's jeapordy, is anyone concerned that once computers are 'better' for answering any question you want, and are seen as go-to experts, that this increases the power of the owners of said machines? IBM and the goog don't seem scary, but still


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:14 PM
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137: no.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:17 PM
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as i tried to post at delongs, I would like someone to pass a corollary bill that says if you blow up coal plant or oil refinery, it isn't arson. conservatives are much better at starting negotiations.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:25 PM
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The bill I want to see would make it legal to physically attack abortion protesters, in the name of protecting threatened doctors.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:27 PM
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Not to harp on this, but Gawker suggests that CBS released the Logan information because someone else was about to "break" the story. That is sickening. I am kind of hating everything right now.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:37 PM
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IBM and the goog don't seem scary, but still

Speak for yourself. If I didn't have so much actual work to do for my actual job, I'd have written a scathing letter to the NYT, which blew a perfectly good investigation on scams of Google search results, and ended up publishing a near puff-piece complete with cute shot of the personable Google employee in charge of the "webspam team."

You can tell by the language of framing how the NYT wants its readers to view this topic. "Dirty little secrets" and "cowboy outlaw" and "no-no" and "snooker" and "players" and "nibble" and even "embarrass" signal the reader that this is a sophisticated game, the desired outcome of which opinions may differ.

Left unexamined are a myriad of implications for how this link-spamming can affect ordinary users, including this whopper of a claim by one of the spammers*:

"I think we need to make a distinction between two different kinds of searches -- informational and commercial," he said. "If you search 'cancer,' that's an informational search and on those, Google is amazing. But in commercial searches, Google's results are really polluted. My own personal experience says that the guy with the biggest S.E.O. budget always ranks the highest."

*To whom, it should be noted, the Times inexplicably granted anonymity ("Stevens is the name he uses for work; he says he has a Chinese last name, which he did not share.")


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:49 PM
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it seems like google is as much the victim of that as users who have to wade through jcpenny's products or as the retailers who are at a competitive disadvantage to those who pay spam-posters.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:01 PM
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142: I've seen some stuff recently citing the hackability of Googl/e's algorithmic search as the weakness that a) has caused Googl/e's progressive loss of traffic and b) led to the rise and future dominance of F/acebook. i.e., the future of search is social, so that you get curated lists from a set of people you know, even though it's F/acebook's algorithm that might be doing some of the curating. (Actually, this is kind of like Googl/e's initial insight in using links to rank search results.) This seems like it has obvious limitations, too, but yeah, Googl/e's algorithm seems to have succumbed to the SEO infection, and I, for one, haven't been able to find a decent alternative.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:08 PM
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For some definition of "victim."

I wish Google made its complain-about-our-search-results link more prominent.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:08 PM
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I can't imagine Googl/e's not aware of the problem. They're doing a shitty job of fixing it, though.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:10 PM
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142 - Witt, are you familiar at all with the world of SEO? It's not surprising to me at all that the guy requested anonymity. Matt Cutts, the Google employee they quoted, is the front man for a lot of Google's discussion of this (the thing I'm most aware of was people setting up advertising-laden mirrors of the programming Q&A site Stack Overflow, which were outranking Stack Overflow itself on searches due to SEO), and his blog really is quite interesting.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:11 PM
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I find it remarkable that there are still people who aren't scared of Google or are willing to view it as somehow not like any other giant horrible corporation; just shows that SWPL marketing goes a long way.

On the other hand, I don't understand what Witt is mad about; getting beat by the SEO folks must be one of the 3-4 things that Google fears most, right?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:12 PM
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not that i mean one should be sorry for them. but its not like prioritizing global warming denialists over science sites in results.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:12 PM
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Why are we google-proofing "google"?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:12 PM
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Or "Facebook"?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:13 PM
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It doesn't sound like they "granted" him anonymity, exactly. He didn't tell them his name.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:14 PM
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150, 151: No real reason, other than sometimes I do things for no real reason. And I hate both of those companies.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:15 PM
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Also, are giant corporations all alike, or just giant horrible corporations? Maybe giant friendly companies are all alike, but giant horrible companies are horrible in their own way? Or maybe the reverse!


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:16 PM
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It's not surprising to me at all that the guy requested anonymity.

I agree. I'm annoyed that he was granted it.

I periodically consider sending the ombudsman an annotated file of some of the NYT's most egregious violations of their stated policy on anonymous sources. I always decide that my time is better used on practical efforts like advocating for reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles.

(And I know nothing whatsoever about SEO -- my sole experience being the giant "Uuhhhhh" I got from a young web developer when I asked him how I could write intelligent, non-repetitive content for our website that could somehow signal to spiders/search engines which were the *important* phrases on the site.)

On the other hand, I don't understand what Witt is mad about

For one thing, that the NYT is publishing an article filled with cutesy terminology and fuzzy spokesmen such that their readers are likely to continue to be people who aren't scared of Google or are willing to view it as somehow not like any other giant horrible corporation.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:18 PM
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I made a bet with my dad that at least half of Google's business would be nationalized in 20 years. He took the "would be nationalized" side b/c he's a relentless optimist.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:19 PM
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And I know nothing whatsoever about SEO

Framing aside, that seems like a useful background to evaluating the fairness and comprehensibility of the article.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:20 PM
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I think the thing google should be afraid of is people deciding they like getting information from google, but purchase reccomendations based on what their friends "Liked". so i'm more worried about facebook and isps/wireless carriers. you could throw in apple/amazons editorial policies too. i think people are 'ok' with google because they haven't done anything bad (i have troubling taking the 'big brother' kritik seriously, since most people have 10x as much data posted publically on facebook. plus its mostly stuff one shouldn't need to keep secret in the first place)


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:21 PM
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It doesn't sound like they "granted" him anonymity, exactly.

ARGH! Of course they did. They're making the editorial decisions! They decided to track him down, buy him an expensive dinner, and quote him. They didn't just grant him anonymity, they handed it to him on a $118-dollar platter.

I'm not shouting at you, Sifu, but I am shouting at the notion that reporters and editors don't have immense discretion over what gets classed as "news," how it gets researched and written, who is defined as an acceptable source, how that source is framed (note that the reporter got in a few snarky digs about this guy, but only in a He's Not One of Our Kind, Dear kind of way), etc. etc.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:23 PM
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At least half of Google's business will be lost to an as yet undetermined competitor within twenty years.

Also, reflexive fear of Google is basically idiocy, so I should probably bow out of this thread and go make dumb jokes in the other one. Hearts!


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:23 PM
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My fear and dislike of Google is not reflexive, but also not based on anything I can talk about! So there!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:25 PM
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I think I should also avoid all internet discussion where "framing" is used as an analytical technique. Off to different pastures!


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:25 PM
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You are a superior person in all respects!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:25 PM
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161: you know who sucks really, really bad, civil liberties-wise? Movie studios!


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:25 PM
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Framing aside, that seems like a useful background to evaluating the fairness and comprehensibility of the article.

Well, yes and no, right? I mean, I freely admit that I'm quite ignorant of the technical ins and outs of this debate, and I wouldn't represent myself as being able to give any kind of intelligent analysis of that side of things.

But this is very explicitly not a technical article. It's a social article, and its audience is basically people like me -- literate, white-collar workers who use Google a lot and are mildly interested in slightly geeky, mildly arcane inside baseball that makes you sound well-informed at cocktail parties.

I mean, I'm being deliberately harsh and over-the-top there, but this is not a serious article. For one thing, if it were, the reporter would have had the morality to disclose who tipped him off to the JC Penney phenomenon in the first place.*

*N.b. I did not notice this in my reading, but numerous NYT commenters picked it up.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:27 PM
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164: ...What?


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:27 PM
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Yes, why pick on the giant entity that is actually trying to dominate as many areas of human life as possible in order to collect proprietary information in order to make money, when there are relatively minor businesses that make motion pictures to pick on?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:28 PM
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For the record, I have no opinion about whether Google acts maliciously, and indeed would lean toward the idea that it doesn't. I *do* have strong opinions on how people begin to act given the incentive and structures around them (see: Milgram, Stanley--Experiments), and an inherent mistrust of systems involving overwhelming data aggregation.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:32 PM
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I always decide that my time is better used on practical efforts like advocating for reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Yeah, but how much of an effect do you have there?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:37 PM
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Take Google out of it. The NYT piece that Witt mentioned is a good example of how the media provides information.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:39 PM
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169: I realize this belongs on Standpipe's blog, but I hope it was clear that I was poking fun at myself. Even I am not *that* earnest, or more accurately, that narcissistic.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:45 PM
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I will admit to having taken the nuclear weapons thing seriously.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:55 PM
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ARGH! Of course they did. They're making the editorial decisions! They decided to track him down, buy him an expensive dinner, and quote him. They didn't just grant him anonymity, they handed it to him on a $118-dollar platter.

They...referred to him by...the name he uses for business. According to the article, at least. Which seems like the opposite of anonymity. How is this different from referring to Perez Hilton as "Perez Hilton" instead of "Mario Lavandeira"?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:56 PM
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Oh dear. Maybe my few days in DC affected my humor skills, such as they are. It was meant to be such an over-the-top example that it was obviously tongue in cheek.

Maybe I should have added an emoticon.*

*This is a joke.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:58 PM
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How is this different from referring to Perez Hilton as "Perez Hilton" instead of "Mario Lavandeira"?

1. The article implies that the reporter doesn't know his actual name, not that he knows it and is consciously choosing to cite the source by a more widely-known name.

2. The person in question is not a celebrity or someone in the public eye.

3. As far as I know, Perez Hilton is not doing anything that might be construed as illegal.*

*This is not an argument that what the SEO guy is doing is illegal.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:01 PM
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I'm still trying to understand what you're saying, Witt. Are you saying that if a source has information that a journalist finds useful for an article, but refuses to reveal his or her real name, the journalist should not quote them or otherwise use them as a source?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:19 PM
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re: 161

Yes, I've grumbled slightly in the past about my (very) peripheral/tenuous experience with them. They come across like bastards up close, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:25 PM
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I second essear's question in 176. One reads a lot of terrific investigative reporting in which a source's (interviewee's) name is changed or suppressed, and while the NYT piece may not count as a terrific piece of investigative reporting, its shortcomings don't seem to me to be a function of "Steve's" anonymity.

The passage quoted in 142:

"I think we need to make a distinction between two different kinds of searches -- informational and commercial," he said. "If you search 'cancer,' that's an informational search and on those, Google is amazing. But in commercial searches, Google's results are really polluted. My own personal experience says that the guy with the biggest S.E.O. budget always ranks the highest."

is among the most interesting in the piece, which does manage to put up a red flag for readers/users of Google.* That article has been on the NYT most-viewed list for several days, so it has accomplished something.

Granted, the piece could have gone all out and explored questions of how our information is filtered, and it would have been a much meatier (and lengthier) piece, but I'm not seeing that the article as it stands is nothing but a puff piece.

* I was a little puzzled by the notion of Google-users who search for "dresses" or "furniture" in the first place.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:54 PM
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Isn't the problem with "anonymous sources" when they are actually important officials who don't want to say something that they might be held accountable for, but by virtue of their position what they say gets pushed into the dialogue? afaict SEO people don't have anything to gain by pushing memes, trolling, whatever.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 6:43 PM
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Are you saying that if a source has information that a journalist finds useful for an article, but refuses to reveal his or her real name, the journalist should not quote them or otherwise use them as a source?

I'm saying that, at a bare minimum, the New York Times ought to abide by its own policy.

They're not, traditionally, very good at that. (More.)

And altough this guy wasn't precisely anonymous, I'd like to know how someone could go about tracking him down, given the generic fake name and the fact that he refused to mention his business's name. A quick Google (ha) search by me turned up a bunch of spammy sites, and some reprints of the NYT article.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 6:51 PM
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I was just happy that the SEO article was relatively well-written, style wise. It did seem to be a bit of a puff piece for google - and it abided by the rule that if you mention something google does, be sure to include, whether as a quote or as a paraphrase or as part of your own writing, a stock "google has a lot to deal with, so cut them some slack, ok?" line - but it also sort of seemed a puff piece for SEO as a general practice. I'd have come away thinking it was all just a big game and we're on the sidelines watching, if I didn't think it was serious.

Also, every time the reporter mentioned a result rank, I kept thinking, "doesn't that depend on your user profile/location/etc.?" But maybe there's some agreed-upon average of all ranks that can be referred to as an absolute rank?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 7:03 PM
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180.1: I don't see that the NYT is violating its own policy in the case of "Steve."

In routine interviewing - that is, most of the interviewing we do - anonymity must not be automatic or an assumed condition. In that kind of reporting, anonymity should not be offered to a source. Exceptions will occur in the reporting of highly sensitive stories, when it is we who have sought out a source who may face legal jeopardy or loss of livelihood for speaking with us.

...

Whenever anonymity is granted, it should be the subject of energetic negotiation to arrive at phrasing that will tell the reader as much as possible about the placement and motivation of the source - in particular, whether the source has firsthand knowledge of the facts.

It seems to me that these conditions are met in the case of Steve.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 7:06 PM
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182: All right, one last go-round and then I'll give it a rest.

It's very hard for me to imagine anyone arguing with a straight face that SEO-guy faces legal jeopardy. Eliot Spitzer isn't around any more, and I can't think of any other crusading DA or AG who would want to take on such as case. To say the grounds would be flimsy is a massive understatement, IMO.

So that leaves loss of livelihood. To imply that using his real name would jeopardize his livelihood suggests that either Google would come after him (and gosh, the article is at pains to point out that Google doesn't even like to embarrass people, much less threaten their livelihoods), or that his customers would desert him.

The second claim is laughable on its face. If you were hiring a guy to do SEO for you, and you googled him and found nothing, would you be more or less reassured than if you googled him and got a NYT piece claiming he was some kind of black-hat expert?

Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I think the reporter got played. There is absolutely nothing in the article that an independent reader can use to verify this guy's authenticity. Even the address of his building is vague, and although the reporter uses enough weasel language that he can claim he didn't actually state that this guy had an office there, he was still hungry enough for this guy's quotes that he included him in the story, landlord denials notwithstanding.

So, yeah. I'm leaning toward thinking this one gets filed under "Too good to check." Bah.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 7:22 PM
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The second claim is laughable on its face. If you were hiring a guy to do SEO for you, and you googled him and found nothing, would you be more or less reassured than if you googled him and got a NYT piece claiming he was some kind of black-hat expert?

I'll have to let the people around here who know more about the SEO world than I do answer this. I assumed the guy needed to be anonymous because he operates in a kinda sorta disreputable business.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 7:31 PM
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I think US media has a strong and persistent rightwing bias and also is mostly very low-quality. John talked about both of these things but so far you've only talked about the first.

I actually think the low quality of media is the more serious problem. You've a tremendous amounts of bad governance in America and while I can't prove it, it seems reasonable to think the media has a lot to do with it, that media is actually kind of important.


Posted by: David | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 8:11 PM
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Yet another example--and per 185 more to quality than bias.

In his reports on Egypt's crisis, [Anderson] Cooper repeatedly scored Mubarak's government for untruths. He did it in pointing out that journalists had been beaten and detained, in contradiction of the government's contention that they were being allowed to report freely. And in discussing a claim that the government had directed that protesters not be pursued or harassed. And in dismissing a government statement that only 11 people had been injured in the protests when an independent human rights group put the figure at close to 300.
For that, Cooper was ridiculed by James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. CNN media critic Howard Kurtz questioned whether Cooper should be "taking sides." And Liz Trotta said that "any correspondent worth his salt knows that you shouldn't be making editorial comments." She, amusingly enough, is employed by Fox News.
All three critics concede Cooper was accurate: The regime did lie. Yet they question whether it was journalistically ethical to say it.
I particularly like, CNN media critic Howard Kurtz questioned whether Cooper should be "taking sides." Truth or lies, who's to say which is better?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:36 AM
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55

Yeah! Just have more money and power! Have it. Why don't you have it yet?

There are plenty of rich liberals. That isn't your problem.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:50 AM
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The regime did lie. Yet they question whether it was journalistically ethical to say it.

At least half of what's wrong with our national media, right there. It's unethical *not* to say it and that there's any debate on this question is just infuriating.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:15 AM
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186 is very interesting. Especially when compared against 87's implied defense of journalism as late-20th century American journalists understood it (contrasted to the punditry we see now on the right). It seems like it should have been easy enough for Cooper to find some independent third party to challenge Mubarak's untruths--I wonder why he didn't?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 9:17 AM
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It's not a new thought, but I'll say it again: The rightwing critique of the media is that it gives short-shrift to rightwing viewpoints. The leftwing critique is that it gives short-shrift to the truth.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 9:22 AM
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it should have been easy enough for Cooper to find some independent third party to challenge Mubarak's untruths

This only superficially lets Cooper off the hook for "bias." After all, if you know what you want someone to say, and you choose your source specifically to say that thing, then why not just say it yourself? Why do we need an expert to tell us the earth is round?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 9:24 AM
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Why do we need an expert to tell us the earth is round?

Because journalists don't report on "earth is round" stories, they report on things that are actually being disputed. Which means there's someone out there taking the other side. Now, that someone might be crazy, and that someone might have a conflict of interest, but in that case it should be relatively easy to find someone credible to assert that the person is crazy and conflicted.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 9:33 AM
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192: but a story shouldn't be "Max says the world is flat. Moritz, on the other hand, says Max is nuts and the world is obviously round." Journalists have a duty to actually decide what the truth is and then write it.

It's the result of a basic confusion between deliberative and forensic rhetoric. I don't mind stories like "Max says chickens should be licensed. Moritz, on the other hand, says this would be too costly." But in forensic matters, they shouldn't be writing this sort of on the one hand nonsense if they know perfectly well what the truth is.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 9:51 AM
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192: but a story shouldn't be "Max says the world is flat. Moritz, on the other hand, says Max is nuts and the world is obviously round." Journalists have a duty to actually decide what the truth is and then write it.

So maybe part of the trouble is that, while we all agree that this is obviously right and true, it seems that most journalists don't. What's going on? Are people brainwashed in journalism school? Are they given orders by editors to "fix" articles if they simply state the truth instead of finding an external person to say it to them? It's hard to believe that most people who set out to become journalists would have an ingrained sense that they aren't allowed to say when one side of a debate is true and the other is false, if this can be ascertained. At some point it's being drilled into them. When?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 9:55 AM
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193 nails it.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 9:58 AM
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194: It's not exactly that I want journalists to be saying "X is true" without factual support. But if the facts they're reporting on lead to the conclusion that X is true, I don't think they need to launder that conclusion through a mouthpiece, and I don't think they need to pretend that someone who believes "X is false", without factual support, is worthy of equal consideration and credibility.

I think there's probably a confusion somewhere between "You should objectively present all the credible facts, regardless of which way they cut," and "All sides of any controversy must be given equal credence."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 10:04 AM
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196: But do you think all journalists (or at least most of them) just happen to share the same confusion, or do you think it's being imposed on them at some point by editors or someone else with authority? (I guess there's an alternative, which is that it's imposed not by particular authorities but by the collective culture of journalism.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 10:08 AM
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194: a very good question. IME it's a two-step process. You can't just write "Max says X. But, in fact, Y" very often; you have to find some evidence that Y. And editors value quotes: so a lot of the time your evidence will consist of a person who says Y. It's also easier to phone someone up and ask "Y?" than to research and prove for yourself that Y.
So now you have an article that says: Max says X. But in fact, Y. Moritz explains "Y, because a, b, c."
This is a good article to have.

The fatal slip then happens when editors - especially US editors - become pathologically afraid of making people angry, and force you to rewrite it as "Max says X. But Moritz says Y because a, b, c."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 10:08 AM
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197: I don't really know, and I do think it's a good question. Mostly, I was just trying to narrow down what the problem is -- there's nothing wrong with reporters insisting on backup before they make factual assertions, it's just that interpreting that as requiring brainless evenhandedness is a problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 10:13 AM
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This phenomenon ties in with what we discussed earlier: Journalists are fearful creatures who don't want to get people riled up, particularly when writing about politics.

In science reporting, everyone understands that evolution occurred roughly along the lines described by Darwin. In political reporting, Darwin's claims are a controversy with two sides and no correct answer.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 10:40 AM
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You can't just write "Max says X. But, in fact, Y" very often; you have to find some evidence that Y.

But note that journalists can actually say this when Y is uncontroversially true. They just aren't supposed to take sides in a controversy. That's why the 'world is flat' analogy is misleading.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:34 AM
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But note that journalists can actually say this when Y is uncontroversially true.

But it's never the case that Y is uncontroversially true if there's some Max saying X. The point of the "Opinions on shape of world differ" line is that the existence of someone saying something crazy is treated as enough reason to report it as a controversy, rather than as someone saying something crazy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:37 AM
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I mean, take a simple factual error (hypothetical example): "Boehner said (tearfully) that Obama's proposed budget includes $10 trillion in spending in 2012; the budget released by the administration actually calls for just over $3.7 trillion in spending for fiscal year 2012." That's how I'd expect that to be reported, not as "Boehner said (tearfully) that Obama's proposed budget includes $10 trillion in spending in 2012, but the White House claims that its budget only calls for $3.7 trillion in spending for fiscal year 2012."


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:42 AM
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IM limited E of dealing with reporters, much of the problem with journalism can be explained by the fact that journalists are phenomenally lazy (charitable explanation: are working under incredibly tight deadlines). It's easier to drum up quotes from both sides and put it into generic story reporting formula y than it is to undertake even the most minimal analysis or independent thought, but you need the latter to report the truth.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:44 AM
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Journalists have a duty to actually decide what the truth is and then write it.

The point is that there isn't supposed to be any way for a story reported by a journalist to be wrong; objective journalism is the uncovering and reporting of the facts. If a journalist has to make judgments about the credibility of various arguments, and incorporate those judgments into the reporting, then the quality of the reporting is going to hinge on the quality of the reporter's judgment. And, probably more importantly, the reporting isn't going to be objective.

I think there's probably a confusion somewhere between "You should objectively present all the credible facts, regardless of which way they cut," and "All sides of any controversy must be given equal credence."

My guess is that there's widespread failure to understand that objectivity is not neutrality.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:59 AM
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203: But there's a sliding scale of how simple a factual error has to be before it gets treated as such. Remember the Bush/Gore debates with "Fuzzy Math"? IIRC, that was about as clear as your example, and yet was reported as a controversy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 12:00 PM
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IIRC, that was about as clear as your example, and yet was reported as a controversy.

I don't actually remember the details of the debate or the reporting on it very well, but if this is right, then I think that's clearly just bad reporting. But I do think it's useful to distinguish criticisms of individual instances of bad reporting (which are widespread, especially on television--we generally have a shitty media--although a lot of the reporting done in our major newspapers is typically fairly high quality) from criticisms of objective journalism as an enterprise.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 12:11 PM
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The argument here, and I'd have to go collect examples to support it for you, which I'm not going to right now, is that while that sort of thing may be 'bad reporting', it's an identifiable type of bad reporting that happens often enough to be treated as a systematic problem rather than as a collection of isolated incidents.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 12:14 PM
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208: I don't disagree in any way with that. See 205.last. I was responding to the thread of comments in 186 et seq. that were suggesting that journalistic attempts to maintain objectivity were themselves problematic.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 12:19 PM
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that were suggesting that journalistic attempts to maintain objectivity were themselves problematic.

I do not accept that is what was being suggested.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 1:06 PM
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That's why the 'world is flat' analogy is misleading.

And we all know that analogies are banned. But what about the two-sided reporting of evolution I discussed in 200? I promise you I'm not making an analogy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 1:18 PM
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211: I admit I'm not sure what exactly you means by "in political reporting, Darwin's claims are a controversy with two sides". I agree that in science reporting evolution is always taken as a given. I can understand political controversies about whether evolution should be taught in schools, etc., although I feel like those articles are usually fairly clear on the fact that, despite controversy on the point at the local school board, there's broad scientific consensus that evolution is both correct and is a bedrock theory essential for understanding all modern biology. The reoprter doesn't take sides on the political question of whether it should be taught in school, though--is that what you want?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 1:25 PM
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Here's a nice example, urple. Some people say evolution is false; others say it's true.

I suppose calling creationism bogus would be tantamount to taking sides on whether it should be taught in schools, but so what?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 1:51 PM
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I don't see how you write that article any better while keeping it objective. I suppose it could be packed with more quotes from scientists (or even just statements from the author) about the scientific consensus surrounding evolution, but it's not really an article about evolution at all--it's about a crazy school board in Kansas.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:03 PM
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To expand on my 210, I think ajay captured the distinction well in 198. To repeat:

So now you have an article that says: Max says X. But in fact, Y. Moritz explains "Y, because a, b, c."
This is a good article to have.

The fatal slip then happens when editors - especially US editors - become pathologically afraid of making people angry, and force you to rewrite it as "Max says X. But Moritz says Y because a, b, c."

I expect media outfits to be able to make the judgment implied in the first formulation.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:16 PM
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I wasn't disagreeing with 198.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:18 PM
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it's about a crazy school board in Kansas.

In fact, no, it is explicitly not about that. It's about a state school board and a number of scientists advancing a viewpoint that other scientists disagree with. Your interpretation is unsupported by the text of the story. In fact, you've made it clear that if the text supported your interpretation, you'd object.

I don't see how you write that article any better while keeping it objective.

This is a strange definition of "objective." Evolution is an objective fact. Presenting it as a scientific controversy - as this article does - is objectively false.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:22 PM
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Coudl you quote the portion you're objecting to? Because I read the article and I'm not seeing it.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:26 PM
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Urp, I've moved on from objecting to the article. I'm now objecting to your description of the article. Where does the article say this is crazy? Where does the article portray evolution objectively?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:33 PM
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A really objective presentation would have described the controversy as something like "An effort to require religiously based criticisms of evolutionary theory without scientific basis to be taught in science classrooms." Leaving that out is what gets to "Shape of earth: views differ."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:40 PM
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Further to 204: It's often the case that a small but fanatical group of people care about the crazy side of a story. The truth has a much more diffuse constituency. So if you report their side as crazy, you or your boss will get an avalanche of complaints. But if you punt and go for faux-evenhandedness, a lot of people might shake their heads and sigh, but precious few of us are going to write in. And I say that as an inveterate letter-writer.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:46 PM
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220: well, they do say:

If the board adopts the new standards ... Kansas would join Ohio ... in mandating students be taught that there is controversy over evolution.... While the proposed standards for Kansas do not specifically mention intelligent design - and many of its supporters prefer to avoid any discussion of it - critics contend they would open the door not just for those teachings, but to creationism, which holds to the Genesis account of God as the architect of the universe.

Which comes pretty close to calling this "an effort to require religiously based criticisms of evolutionary theory without scientific basis to be taught in science classrooms", especially for something that is explicitly purporting not to be religiously based.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:51 PM
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Sure, if you read between the lines and are familiar with the backstory. If you just wanted to inform people, coming out and saying it straightforwardly would be more effective, and just as objective.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:55 PM
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Not really. Again (only from your quote, haven't even read the article yet and am just jumping in), this is a case of "critics contend". Maybe those critics are wrong? Who knows?


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:55 PM
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||

Saiselgy update! The tendendy toward coldly rational yet nonsensical freakonomics is becoming a terminal case of McArdle Syndrome. Two more posts like this and we will know his brain has become entirely a colony of Tyler Cowen's.

|>


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:59 PM
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In fact, it comes just as close to calling this explicitly not religion-based - the only people who think otherwise are described as "critics" whose views are given no more credibility than those of the creationists.

Which is what makes it "objective" by your standards, and "non-objective" by mine.

Besides, who says that creationism isn't scientific? Not the New York Times, which reports without contradiction that some people think that science doesn't require natural explanations for phenomena.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 2:59 PM
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I don't see how that coming out and saying it straightforwardly could be considered objective. Maybe the reporter could have said something like: "While the proposed standards for Kansas do not specifically mention intelligent design - and many of its supporters prefer to avoid any discussion of it - similar efforts in other states have invariably proven to be religiously-motivated efforts to require that non-scientific religious criticisms of evolutionary theory be taught in science classrooms". I think something like that would have been better.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:02 PM
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225 -- I abandoned ship about six months ago and haven't looked back.

Pitchers and catchers report! I'd forgotten it was today until I read about it in the Times, which is still good for some things.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:05 PM
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Yes, that would be good.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:05 PM
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I don't know. To me, with the entire tone of the article, the author is clearly laughing at these ignornant fanatics in Kansas. It's subtle, sure. I concede it's not a fantstically-reported article. But it didn't seem terrible to me. And I do still think it was very self-consciously reporting on the controversy, not on the validity or credibility of evolution (about which there's nothing to report), which is the reason for all the he-said she-said.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:07 PM
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To me, with the entire tone of the article, the author is clearly laughing at these ignornant fanatics in Kansas. It's subtle, sure.

This is the worst of both worlds. If the writer has, and is intentionally conveying, a set of beliefs about the facts, they are not 'objective' in the sense of being evenhanded, but they're misinforming anyone who isn't sophisticated enough to know what they probably mean. If you're supposed to understand something from the article, it should be explicitly stated.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:12 PM
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230: You must see this as a flaw in the story's objectivity, right? It would be better if it wasn't subtly hinting at its pro-evolution stance.

I actually don't agree - I think the author could just as easily be sneering at the intolerant evolutionists and their "theory."

But if I were to accept your narrative, I would note that Emerson elegantly describes the problem with this sort of journalism. Such journalism, he says, uses:

AESOPIAN LANGUAGE
Under the Czars and under Communism writers learned to make their points indirectly in order to get past the censors, writing stories whose meaning was evident only to the well-informed. In the same way, media people who are uncomfortable with the Overton Window they find in place figure out veiled, indirect ways of suggesting to the informed reader that the official story is wrong. When criticized, they will justify themselves by pointing to the little reservations and occasional ironic digs they made here and there. However, they will never flatly say that the official story is not merely uncertain or not universally accepted, but flatly wrong and dishonest - even though this is often the case.
Aesopian language fails to communicate the truth to the average reader and is thus bad journalism, but it is flattering to the discerning reader. Those who get the point are able to congratulate themselves on being smarter than the lumpish and ignorant masses, and since a major Democratic demographic is intensely invested in its own intellectual superiority, many Democrats (the lumpen intelligentsia) do not see any problem with Aesopian writing.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:19 PM
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If you're supposed to understand something from the article, it should be explicitly stated.

I don't think you're supposed to understand anything from the article other than that there's a controversy about this issue in Kansas. It's pretty clearly not reporting on the validity or credibility of evolution. I suppose it's possible that someone could be reading this article in the NYT and have no prior opinion about the credibility of evolution, or whether it should be taught in schools, or whether religious alternatives should be taught alongside it. That's going to be a relatively rare person, but I'll grant that this person isn't going to get a full picture of the issues involved from this article, and isn't going to have a good basis on which to make up their mind about the issue. For everyone else, the article conveys everything it needs to--there's currently a controversy about this issue in Kansas.

I do not think a longer general interest NYT Magazine peice on the teaching of evolution in science classrooms would have the same he-said she-said tone, even if it was reported fairly and objectively.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:20 PM
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So that leaves loss of livelihood. To imply that using his real name would jeopardize his livelihood suggests that either Google would come after him (and gosh, the article is at pains to point out that Google doesn't even like to embarrass people, much less threaten their livelihoods), or that his customers would desert him.

The article stated that Google completely wiped out any traces of his last company. I wouldn't give my real name.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:26 PM
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Orthogonal Tangential to the issue being discussed, here, I am shocked by the number of well-educated, apparently sane, apparently liberal, often atheist, women whose OkCupid profile reports that they think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schools. Whatever this faux-objectivity business is, it might exist way beyond news media.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:29 PM
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,


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:30 PM
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235: On this issue specifically, I wouldn't be surprised if it were derived from bad reporting like the linked Times story. "Well, golly, all they want to do is to be allowed to teach criticisms of evolution -- what openminded person could object to that?" This would imply that the women in question were kind of dopes, or at least really not paying attention on the subject, but faux-objectivity in your media will lead to confused people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:34 PM
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235: the number of such shocks is … innumerable.

Other shocking things: the number of women* who think that women have an obligation to shave their legs; that "wherefore" means "where"; who think that the sun is smaller than the earth; who don't know (or care) what comes next in the series 1, 4, 10, 19, 31, ...; who can't select the right option in the question "STALE is to STEAL as 89475 is to..."; who think the world would be better if people with low IQs were not allowed to procreate, and others that I can't remember offhand.

* one might also be shocked by the number of men that think these things, but I can't attest to that since I don't read their profiles, y'know?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:35 PM
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I acknowledge that not everything in 238 is equally shocking, or shocking in the same way.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:36 PM
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who don't know (or care) what comes next in the series 1, 4, 10, 19, 31, ...

Well, if you're not told it's an arithmetic progression, it could be anything, right?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:37 PM
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who think the world would be better if people with low IQs were not allowed to procreate

Yeah, I think we've discussed this one here before. It's by far the worst. Too bad there's no "don't even show me profiles of anyone who chooses this answer" option.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:38 PM
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Indeed.


Posted by: LW | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:38 PM
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238: in light of the previous answers, perhaps their aversion to procreation by those with low IQs is merely a signal that they wish to use birth control?


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:38 PM
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Well, if you're not told it's an arithmetic progression, it could be anything, right?

Actually, though, it's not an arithmetic progression. It's the partial sums of an arithmetic progression.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:41 PM
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I can't even see those hairs you're splitting.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:45 PM
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who think the world would be better if people with low IQs were not allowed to procreate

Yes, this one is the worst, and also by far the most common atrocious answer that I encounter. I'm actually grateful to people who list "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Fountainhead" as a favorite book, because it is such an effective screening device.

My favorite message so far was from one woman who wrote, simply "Make me an offer." No further elaboration. I still don't think she is a prostitute, but it's sure hard to tell.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:45 PM
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I bet she doesn't want to play games, either.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:46 PM
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"Well, golly, all they want to do is to be allowed to teach criticisms of evolution -- what openminded person could object to that?"

There basically are no scientific/non-religious criticisms of evolution.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:47 PM
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246: "One dollar."


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:48 PM
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There's a big difference between a protest and a prostitute.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:49 PM
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Well, there are scientific criticisms within evolutionary theory, but you're right that there's nothing that attacks the whole shebang. But someone getting their information from articles like the linked one wouldn't know that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:50 PM
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I can't even see those hairs you're splitting.

An arithmetic progression is a series s.t. ni+1 - ni = a for any i. For instance, 3n, 0 ≤ n ≤ ∞ is an arithmetic progression, with a = 3.

In the series given, ni - ni-1 = 3i, that is, the differences between successive terms form an arithmetic progression. But the series given is not itself an arithmetic progression. (But it isn't the series of partial sums of an arithmetic progression, as previously claimed)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:55 PM
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"It's not a new thought, but I'll say it again: The rightwing critique of the media is that it gives short-shrift to rightwing viewpoints. The leftwing critique is that it gives short-shrift to the truth."

this is true, in that compared to what conservatives want, 'he said she said' [i]is[/i] liberal - it is entlightment based, not idnetity based.

i think just as important in what makes the media 'liberal' is that conservatives think the media is disloyal to the ethnocultural majority, and finds bigotry a bit tacky. Like showing gay people on tv 'normalizes' it, instead of otherizing it as conservatives would like.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:59 PM
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(Because the first term would have to be 1, and the second 3, to get 1 + 3 = 4 for the second partial sum, but then the third term would have to be 5, and then you have 1 + 3 + 5 = 9, rather than 10.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 3:59 PM
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251: I still think you're being a bit unfair. The article could be better, but in addition to the various things I quoted above, does say:

It was one part biology lesson, one part political theater, and the biggest stage yet for the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which posits that life's complexity cannot be explained without a supernatural creator.
And now, the board's 6-to-4 anti-evolution majority plans to embrace 20 suggestions promoted by advocates of intelligent design

Emphasis added. That's reasonably straight reporting for something that, again, is explicitly purporting not to be religiously motivated (and whose supporters, we're told, won't even mention the words "intelligent design"). And although a lot of the analysis is presented in terms of he-said she-said quotes instead of straight reporting, the quotes are overwhelmingly derisive of the proceedings. "Kangaroo court", etc.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 4:01 PM
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252 and 254: Oh, right. I'm a moron. It's been one of those days.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 4:05 PM
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256: Don't procreate today!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 4:10 PM
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It's a Tufnel arithmetic series - one louder than an ordinary arithmetic series.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 4:13 PM
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This book review on Google from Inside Higher Ed may add something to our discussion. I liked this:

I stop short of prescribing much in the way of specific regulation. My goal is to convince readers that Google is already highly regulated, so it's dumb to say that Google should remain unregulated. More importantly, I want to raise the prospect of whether Google and the Internet in general are properly regulated. That, to me, is the grown-up way to approach the question. Right now Google is haphazardly and clumsily regulated. Copyright stops Google and others from doing clever, useful things. Antitrust is too toothless to provide serious competition in online, search-based advertisements. Most important from the perspective of the values important to a democratic republic, Google's search standards are opaque and potentially corrupt.

Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 4:19 PM
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194

So maybe part of the trouble is that, while we all agree that this is obviously right and true, it seems that most journalists don't. What's going on? Are people brainwashed in journalism school? Are they given orders by editors to "fix" articles if they simply state the truth instead of finding an external person to say it to them? It's hard to believe that most people who set out to become journalists would have an ingrained sense that they aren't allowed to say when one side of a debate is true and the other is false, if this can be ascertained. At some point it's being drilled into them. When?

I expect this, objective reporting, is taught in journalism school and it is part of the culture. It is what wikipedia calls writing from a neutral point of view. There are actually good reasons for it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:10 PM
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217

... Evolution is an objective fact. ...

Actually it isn't. It is a well supported theory.

Much of what political partisans like yourselves believe to be objective fact is either highly debatable or flatly wrong. So I would just as soon journalists not listen to you on this subject.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:16 PM
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241

Yeah, I think we've discussed this one here before. It's by far the worst. ...

What's so bad? Wasn't there support in the earlier thread for the idea that some people are too dumb to consent to sex? It's hard to procreate if you aren't allowed to have sex.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:19 PM
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Evolution is a fact. Things evolve. Natural selection is a well supported theory.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:23 PM
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Much of what political partisans like yourselves believe to be objective fact is either highly debatable or flatly wrong.

Thank god we have you around as a model of neutrality, then!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:25 PM
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Wait, was the view paraphrased in 241 really expressed? I was around for the beginning of that thread, and what I remember was people debating the issue of consent, not the right to procreation. One can see where they could theoretically overlap, but they're actually different issues.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:30 PM
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Wait, was the view paraphrased in 241 really expressed? I was around for the beginning of that thread, and what I remember was people debating the issue of consent, not the right to procreation. One can see where they could theoretically overlap, but they're actually different issues.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:30 PM
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Fox News, of course, has rendered a motto: We report, you decide!

Leaving aside the extent to which Fox's motto is disingenuous, the "you decide" thing seems a reflection of a wider societal trend: we see an absurd number of commercial ads, often for food, proclaiming, "Your Choice!" It's all over the place: a value menu of items all priced the same -- your choice among the items! Or some Buy One Get One Free promotion -- your choice of which one!

Would it be too much to suggest that we've become increasingly fearful that we're being manipulated, and we distrust authorities, don't know what the fuck to believe, feel deeply constrained, and so on, and have retreated to a stubbornness that ultimately gives voice to sentiments like: Well, evolution is your opinion, and maybe I have a different opinion, so there!

I feel this is so obvious as to be banal, to tell you the truth. My point would just be that journalistic trends (while certainly a function of corporate control and advertising interests), may be just as much a reflection of this larger trend.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:30 PM
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265 cont'd: Different issues in that the idea of consent was explored wrt a) the ability to fully grasp the nature of the act and potential consequences, and b) an unequal distribution of power between sexual partners. Telling people they can't procreate is entirely different.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:35 PM
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Wait, was the view paraphrased in 241 really expressed?

OKCupid has all these questions one can answer, and it has fancy algorithms matching different question-answerers based on how they answer. Many of the questions are incompetently written, but some are just offensive (or designed to weed out offensive people). One of them runs more or less thus:

The world would be a better place if people with low IQs weren't allowed to reproduce.

__ Agree
__ Disagree

And a surprising number of people agree.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:43 PM
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269: Oh...no. Thanks for clarifying. That is an extraordinarily depressing piece of information.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:44 PM
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And a surprising number of those people feel no shame about making their agreement public to other users of the site.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:46 PM
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I suspect approximately none of the people who answer yes to that question sincerely believe their own answer, in the sense that they'd support public policies aiming to implement it. I bet it's mostly considered a mildly funny (even though it's unfunny) way to say that you (i) consider yourself smart, and therefore not part of the low IQ group, and (ii) prefer not to spend your time around unintelligent people. Not that this makes it a forgivable answer--it's not--but it does make it less monstrous.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:50 PM
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272 probably gets it right. That doesn't stop a person from feeling that an "Agree" answer is a reasonable screen against potential datees.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:56 PM
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I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with urple, but yes -- my experience suggests that when you probe deeper, a significant number of the people who think creation and evolution should both be taught in school just mean they see nothing wrong with a discussion of "For religious reasons, many people believe X," and do not actually think creationism should be given air time in science class.

Similarly, people who think that low-IQ people should not be "allowed" to reproduce are using that language to indicate a vague wish -- yeah, the world would be better without so many stupid people! -- that has no basis in a belief that some group of people ought to be legally or medically prevented from having babies.

There are those who honestly do think this, of course.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:57 PM
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I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with urple

The fuck?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 6:59 PM
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272

I suspect approximately none of the people who answer yes to that question sincerely believe their own answer, in the sense that they'd support public policies aiming to implement it. ...

It is currently public policy in lots of situations when the IQ is low enough.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:04 PM
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275: Well, for example, take your read of the evolution article upthread. There are a fair number of occasions where my perspective and yours are so far removed from each other that it's hard to fathom where we'd overlap.

To be clear, I see this as an extended version of my less-frequent disagreements with Tweety and Halford -- it's not that I think you're acting in bad faith or trolling, just that I think we're often coming from totally different vantage points.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:05 PM
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I get the feeling I wouldn't have done well on OKCupid. On the Spring Street personals, I was already pretty skeptical of anyone who answered the question about their zodiac sign.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:25 PM
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"The world would be a better place if ..." is really a terrible framing.

"... if there were no poor people."

Sure, of course it would. That doesn't mean I think that we should kill all the poor people.

Etc.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:27 PM
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275: you're a lunatic, is all.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:29 PM
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268

265 cont'd: Different issues in that the idea of consent was explored wrt a) the ability to fully grasp the nature of the act and potential consequences, and b) an unequal distribution of power between sexual partners. Telling people they can't procreate is entirely different.

So you think there are people with the capacity to consent to procreation but not to sex? Apart from the practical difficulty this makes no sense. Having children is a weightier matter than having sex.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:34 PM
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281: Not if the issue is the unequal distribution of power. We don't allow 15 year old girls to have sex with 21 year old men*, but we absolutely allow them to have children when they do. (Or when they have sex with other 15 year olds.) I'm just saying, it's not an easy issue.

*Not in most states, anyway. Fuck Alabama.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:42 PM
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I expect this, objective reporting, is taught in journalism school and it is part of the culture. It is what wikipedia calls writing from a neutral point of view. There are actually good reasons for it.

It's arguable that the optimal situation would be for there to be a variety of journalism sources out there reporting in a variety of different ways. You'd have a group of people calling it like they see it on the leftier end, a corresponding group on the right, and a group who do the "shape of the earth: views differ" bit. The problem is that as things are only the latter two get significant mainstream exposure (the occasional Rachel Maddow excepted), with the third group doing duty in the popular imagination as 'the left'.



Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:43 PM
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... The problem is that as things are only the latter two get significant mainstream exposure ...

That's because the market for left wing journalism is small.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:47 PM
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That's because the market for left wing journalism is small.

Yeah, but why now? There have been times in US history when this was not so. Implying it ever was thus seems to miss the point.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:49 PM
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281 creates the unfortunate impression that Shearer doesn't see a distinction between forced sterilization and forced abortion.

This is why I disagree with you, urple, but think Shearer is trolling.


Posted by: Wittt | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:55 PM
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275: I value you opinion. Don't listen to the mean lady.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:58 PM
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That's because the market for left wing journalism is small.

Sure, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be optimal, from a healthy-public-discourse point of view, if it weren't.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 7:58 PM
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I just don't understand trolling. I think this is possibly a sign of naivete.

Also, I am currently too tired / lazy to look up accents in html.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:05 PM
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Actually it isn't. It is a well supported theory.

Well, okay, sure. I was engaging in shorthand, but I think your deliberately uncharitable interpretation is actually more faithful to my intent than apo's more objectively accurate interpretation in 263.

We can have a chat about epistemology - how do we know anything? - but the fact is, anyone with any grounding in reality understands that evolution via natural selection is provisionally accepted as a fact because it's a great explanation backed by huge amounts of evidence, and there is no remotely acceptable alternative theory.

If you're going to deny the reality of evolution via natural selection, James, I defy you to identify one demonstrable fact. You don't actually know anything. All you've got is "well-supported theories."



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:10 PM
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the market for left wing journalism is small.

It's important to distinguish between the market for circulation and the market for advertising. The latter is what matters.

The psychographic profile of a Fox News viewer (gullible, easily influenced, none too bright) has a certain attraction to advertisers (although Fox News' demographic does skew old, which is less attractive to advertisers, since it's generally held that consumer brand loyalties are well cemented by middle age).

An audience of skeptical, critical thinking intellectuals is not a good product for advertisers, unless that audience is exceptionally affluent and consumption-friendly. So to the extent that being left-wing is anticorrelated with affluence and positively correlated with anti-consumerism, a media product that appeals to readers who are both left wing and intellectually demanding is as bad as it gets as advertisers are concerned. I mean, you'll get the lectures on DVD and Rosetta Stone courses and what have you, but that's not where the money is.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:10 PM
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291: Thank god Knecht is here to explain what we should all know. (I'm looking at you, Shearer.)

Also, urple is not a lunatic. His reading upthread of the evolution article developed enough that I took his point in 233 to be a fair and reasonably nuanced statement. Opinions differ, of course.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:16 PM
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Other shocking things: the number of women* who think that women have an obligation to shave their legs....

"I live by a man's code, designed to fit a man's world, yet at the same time I never forget that a woman's first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick."

God bless you and keep you, Carole Lombard.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:17 PM
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Opinions differ, of course

parsimon is a bad journalist!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:23 PM
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Sorry. Making things explicit, etc.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:23 PM
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Other shocking things: the number of women* who think that women have an obligation to shave their legs....

And correlatively: "It says here I have a right to a world where you shave your legs."


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 8:33 PM
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Shearer is right about most of that stuff, except the OP stuff.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:04 PM
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I think it is because it is the place where liberals tend ot get sentimental and tribalist/deontological.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:05 PM
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It is Shearer that is being tribalist. Shearer, do you believe that quantum mechanics or relativity should be treated by the media in the same way that you suggest evolution should? They have roughly similar levels of empirical support and roughly similar levels of intuitive difficulty (actually I think QM is more intuitively difficult), but evolution is far more socially/politically controversial.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:32 PM
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It is Shearer that is being tribalist. ...

And what tribe do you think I am a member of?

... Shearer, do you believe that quantum mechanics or relativity should be treated by the media in the same way that you suggest evolution should? They have roughly similar levels of empirical support and roughly similar levels of intuitive difficulty (actually I think QM is more intuitively difficult), but evolution is far more socially/politically controversial.

As well supported theories? Of course, that is what they are.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:42 PM
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Doesn't The Nation actually have better circulation numbers than the center-liberal/center-right publications? That's only one market - magazines - but I don't think you can really just wave away a lot of center-right bias by attributing it to "the market."


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:46 PM
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291

An audience of skeptical, critical thinking intellectuals ... readers who are both left wing and intellectually demanding ...

So you believe there are large numbers of such people but they just don't appeal to advertisers?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-16-11 11:54 PM
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301

Doesn't The Nation actually have better circulation numbers than the center-liberal/center-right publications? That's only one market - magazines - but I don't think you can really just wave away a lot of center-right bias by attributing it to "the market."

The Nation appears to have circulation of about .15M, Time of about 3.3M. Doesn't look better to me.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 12:11 AM
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Time's a different category.

I was thinking in comparison with things like New Republic, Weekly Standard and National Review. But I see that National Review is surprisingly high at 200,000. The Nation beats the other two.

On the other hand, the New Yorker apparently* beats all of those by a lot, and it tends to be more liberal, when it's on politics, than all of the above, so that's probably the better example.

*I don't actually care enough to look beyond wikipedia.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 12:28 AM
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Apo at 263 is right as against Shearer on the question of evolution. Evolution has been observed; it happens. Natural selection is the body of theory analogous to quantum mechanics in that it represents the best attempt to date to develop a theory which explains it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 2:22 AM
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304

Time's a different category.

The category you all are complaining about with respect to under representation of left wing views and opinions vary about the shape of the earth.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 6:47 AM
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Time did do a cover story entitled "Is 'Oblate Spheroid' the new 'Round'?"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 6:53 AM
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James, I'm not able to parse your 304. Probably not your fault, but could you restate it?


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 6:58 AM
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305

Apo at 263 is right as against Shearer on the question of evolution. Evolution has been observed; it happens. Natural selection is the body of theory analogous to quantum mechanics in that it represents the best attempt to date to develop a theory which explains it.

You are quibbling as politicalfootball acknowledged in 290:

Well, okay, sure. I was engaging in shorthand, but I think your deliberately uncharitable interpretation is actually more faithful to my intent than apo's more objectively accurate interpretation in 263.

The controversy about teaching evolution in the schools is primarily about the theory not the fact that selective breeding is possible which I believe creationists generally concede. And the theory of evolution is actually a general framework some portions of which are better supported empirically than others.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 6:59 AM
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You are quibbling

Welcome to Unfogged!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:03 AM
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308

James, I'm not able to parse your 304. Probably not your fault, but could you restate it?

I see lefties making two complaints about the media. That left views are underrepresented in the main stream media and that reporters refuse to take sides about what lefties claim to be matters of objective fact (the shape of the earth). Neither of these claims appear to apply to the section of the media market, small political magazines, that The Nation is in.

As I understand it you all are not complaing about The Nation vrs National Review but about publications like Time. So the circulation figures of The Nation seem irrelevant. And if they were really large that would count against the claims unless you all think The Nation is not really on the left.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:11 AM
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I'm glad that Shearer's increasingly desperate cries for attention were eventually heated.

I've always heard people joke about how "bad attention is better than no attention", but I've found it disturbing when seeing it at work among my children. If the baby is getting a lot of attention, my daughter will get jealous, and deliberately do something to get in trouble, just so that we'll switch our attention to her.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:13 AM
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311: Okay, got it, thanks. I think the complaints are correct, but that magazines in generall don't matter. At all. Too small.

That there is a set of high-status folks/jobs that are falling down on the job is a valid complaint, though the ultimate effect is just so very marginal.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:15 AM
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If the baby is getting a lot of attention, my daughter will get jealous, and deliberately do something to get in trouble, just so that we'll switch our attention to her.

And that's how Lehman Brothers collapsed.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:16 AM
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My daughter was head of risk management at Lehman, Moby. it's a sensitive subject around our house.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:24 AM
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I'm glad that Shearer's increasingly desperate cries for attention were eventually heated.

There's something wrong with this sentence. After all, everyone knows that desperate cries for attention are a dish best served cold.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:42 AM
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Fuck me. I meant "eventually heeded".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:53 AM
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But did they become heated before they were heeded?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:54 AM
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315: That was indeed the joke I was trying to make.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:54 AM
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I get that. But it wasn't funny. Because my daughter really was head of risk management at Lehman Brothers.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 7:57 AM
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That was not a risk I had modeled.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:02 AM
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317: That was indeed the joke I was trying to make.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:06 AM
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It initially boosted earnings when they discovered they could pay her entirely in Otter Pops.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:07 AM
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The controversy about teaching evolution in the schools is primarily about the theory not the fact that selective breeding is possible which I believe creationists generally concede.

That species evolve is observable fact. That they evolve by natural selection is observable fact. Well substantiated theory is (1) common origin of all species; (2) relatedly, speciation by means of natural selection; and (3) the natural origin of life on earth.

(1) and (2) are "controversial" in some quarters because they make plausible (3), and (3) is not controversial in a scientific sense; any dispute over it lies outside the realm of science, which is by definition concerned with natural causes.

(1) and (2) are controversial only among certain individuals who have religio-ideological reasons to disbelieve (3). The degree of consensus among experts regarding (1) and (2) far exceeds the degree of consensus among experts regarding other things that are taught in schools as straightforwardly true, e.g. that the American revolution originated in disputes over the legitimacy of taxation.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:07 AM
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Will you people stop making jokes! Christ, this shit's serious. The media sucks, I can't spell, my daughter is a criminal, and all you people can do is joke, joke, joke.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:09 AM
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Walt is Billy Ray Cyrus?!?


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:11 AM
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And now Sifu has outed my real identity. This is like the worst fucking day of my life.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:12 AM
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324. Moreover abiogenesis has very little to do with evolution, and teaching the facts of evolution does not require taking any particular position on the origin of terrestrial life, or the universe, or any damn thing else.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:14 AM
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290

If you're going to deny the reality of evolution via natural selection, James, I defy you to identify one demonstrable fact. You don't actually know anything. All you've got is "well-supported theories."

I think you have facts or data and models of the data. Facts can be unreliable also but I don't see them as the same thing as models or theories.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:17 AM
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329: While that's a reasonable distinction to draw, it's not the colloquial use of the word 'theory' that people object to in the case of evolution. Here in America, people often use 'Fact' or 'Law' to describe reliable, well supported, structures of scientific thought, and 'Theory' to describe speculative scientific conceptual structures that are not yet well established. Using your terminology (which is perfectly valid terminology in many contexts, nothing fundamentally wrong with it) would leave you referring to the "Theory of Gravity" to describe the scientific claim that there's some mysterious linkage between the way apples fall off trees and planets move in ellipses; if you talked that way, though, people would be confused, and think you intended to convey that you doubted the validity of that claim.

When people say that evolution is a fact rather than a theory, or the reverse, that it's a theory rather than a fact, they're using 'theory' in the colloquial sense I described, where it means a speculative or ill-supported claim. Your statement that evolution is a theory hasn't got anything to do with this disagreement.

This has been today's episode of explaining the obvious at wearisome length.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:26 AM
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When people say that evolution is a fact rather than a theory, or the reverse, that it's a theory rather than a fact, they're using 'theory' in the colloquial sense I described being culpably ignorant, pig-headed, irritating, tribalist right-wing trolls.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:31 AM
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329: James, do I read you correctly to say that there is no such thing as a demonstrable fact?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 8:57 AM
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Nah, he's saying that facts are something like direct sense impressions, and once you're interpreting anything at all, that interpretation is theory rather than fact, regardless of how well supported it is. "The moon hasn't fallen out of the sky" is a fact, Newton's laws are a theory. It's not crazy, just useless in context.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:05 AM
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Ah. So the discussion in that other thread where a definition of "real" as "directly observable" was bandied about apparently also applies to James's notion of "fact"?

My own sense-data don't tell me that James is a person rather than a purple unicorn that communicates with the internet telepathically, so I think I'll believe the latter theory for now.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:09 AM
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My sense data tells me that quantum mechanics killed Christ.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:12 AM
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"Direct sense impression" was probably oversimplified of me -- I don't think he's being radically skeptical about everything he doesn't personally perceive, just distinguishing between data and interpretation. I do see the distinction he's making, and it's a perfectly reasonable distinction to make in some contexts, just useless and obfuscatory in this conversation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:12 AM
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Despite LB's efforts, my question to James stands.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:19 AM
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Elsewhere on the web, someone on my FB feed linked approvingly to a George Will column about the importance of funding science, and I posted a comment about how he's a troll who doesn't really care about science except when it suits his right-wing messaging. They promptly deleted their link, and now I feel like I'm turning into a mean-spirited internet bully.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:19 AM
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My sense data tells me that quantum mechanics killed Christ.

To be more historically apposite, that would be "relativity killed Christ."


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:29 AM
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My sense data tells me that quantum mechanicsessear killed Christ.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:41 AM
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C'mon now, we all know that ari killed Christ.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:43 AM
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Don't play essear's game, Knecht. That's exactly what he wants you to think.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:47 AM
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When people say that evolution is a fact rather than a theory, or the reverse, that it's a theory rather than a fact, they're using 'theory' in the colloquial sense I described

Speak for yourself. When I say evolution is a fact rather than a theory, I mean there are observed instances where a genetic mutation in a defined population has become stabilised within that population and has led to observable changes in the appearance or behaviour of the phenotype. I'm perfectly happy to use theory in your sense to explain how that works (or I would be if I were an evolutionary biologist) and I never say theory when I mean hypothesis, so where do you get off atttributing shit?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:49 AM
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My sense data tells me that quantum mechanics killed Christ.

But he only stays dead as long as we're observing him. Look away and who knows?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:49 AM
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343: When I say evolution is a fact rather than a theory, I mean there are observed instances where a genetic mutation in a defined population has become stabilised within that population and has led to observable changes in the appearance or behaviour of the phenotype.

As Shearer said above, plenty of creationists wouldn't argue with you about that much -- they might quibble about using the word 'evolution' to refer to a claim that limited rather than to refer to the whole conceptual structure, but the stuff that you can call a 'fact' in that sense isn't terribly controversial. To get to a point that's really controversial, you need theory.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 9:58 AM
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As Shearer said above, plenty of creationists wouldn't argue with you about that much

What creationists, or at least the most vocal of them, say is that life forms were created in more or less their present forms. I'm excluding theistic evolutionists from this because, as I said above, abiogenesis is a different debate.

To maintain that position in the light of present knowledge requires them to say that theirs is a god who sees when a sparrow falls, but a bacillus not so much. Which puts them on pretty dodgy theological ground because it requires them, as mere mortals to decide which bits of his creation god takes an interest in and which he doesn't. In fact it requires them to say that god doesn't take an interest in the overwhelming majority of organisms, which evolve at a rate quick enough to be observable by humans in real time (been sick lately?)

Now if you tell me that they equivocate on this issue, I won't contradict you, but that doesn't mean that their equivocation need be taken seriously in schools, because it's fundamentally incoherent.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 10:19 AM
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To maintain that position in the light of present knowledge requires them to say that theirs is a god who sees when a sparrow falls, but a bacillus not so much. Which puts them on pretty dodgy theological ground because it requires them, as mere mortals to decide which bits of his creation god takes an interest in and which he doesn't.

It may be dodgy theological ground, and it may be fundamentally incoherent, but as I understand modern creationists, that's exactly where they stand -- drawing a sharp distinction between what they call 'microevolution' and what they call 'macroevolution', and admitting that the first happens. I agree with you that the distinction is incoherent, and is clearly an ad hoc attempt to save creationism from the weight of the evidence, but to understand what the problem is you need to have a coherent interpretation of the data.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 10:24 AM
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Which puts them on pretty dodgy theological ground

I am pretty sure almost every religious person has beliefs that put them on dodgy theological grounds. I don't think creationists are exactly special in this regard.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 10:29 AM
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To get to a point that's really controversial, you need theory.

LB, I think where you're losing me is your defense of James's idea that "Facts can be unreliable." As I said in 290, we can get into the whole epistemology debate if we must, but for normal workaday purposes, facts do not require theory to exist.

Evolution is a fact. It happened. We know this, in part, because there is a theory (or a set of theories) of evolution describing the facts of evolution.

Whether or not you believe in the theory of gravity, apples still fall downward.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 10:37 AM
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I'm mostly just trying to keep people from talking past each other. In context, I don't think Shearer meant anything more by "Facts can be unreliable" than "Something can be in the category of things that I'd call a 'fact' rather than a 'theory', and still be doubtful or untrue".

My flowerpot just fell off my windowsill. I'm stating a fact here rather than a theory. But you probably don't believe that a real flowerpot actually really fell off my windowsill, given the context of what I'm talking about, and you'd be right not to believe me because I'm lying, it didn't happen.

There are a whole bunch of facts which support the theoretical structure of evolution. Lots of them are non-controversial, even to creationists, who accept the facts but argue about what they mean. Some of them are controversial to creationists but not to reasonable people, and some of them aren't things that anyone is terribly sure of, and could turn out to be wrong tomorrow after some new data comes in. I don't think there's anything in the last category that would be at all likely to cast doubt on the theoretical structure of evolution overall, but there's some "unreliable facts" out there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 10:46 AM
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Do they then use the term micro-evolution to mean "evolution of micro-organisms"? Because the rest of the world uses it to mean evolution below the level of speciation, which is quite different. To the extent, admittedly limited, that the species concept is meaningful for micro-organisms, they undergo speciation. In that case the creationists are simply playing Humpty Dumpty. There's glory for you!

Incidentally, there are a handful of examples where speciation has been observed in macroscopic species.

Look, I'm not downplaying the importance of theory in understanding evolution. If you looked at it without a coherent theory it would appear chaotic and hard to understand. But this started when James suggested that the confidence we have in evolution was less than in other sciences, and I suggested that the fact of evolution is indisputable, however much debate there may be as to its cause.

If I observe anomalies in the orbit of Mercury as understood in Newtonian physics, somebody cleverer than me can explain them in terms of general relativity. Fine, but if general relativity had never been understood, the orbit of Mercury would remain what it is.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 10:52 AM
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But this started when James suggested that the confidence we have in evolution was less than in other sciences,

I don't think he said this -- see his 300 where he equates it, as a well-supported theory, with relativity or QM. All that I've been doing here is trying to clarify an irritating bit of equivocation, whether intentional or unintentional, on his part, between theory as interpretation rather than data and theory as something doubtful.

I don't think he's said anything all that off-base on this topic, it's just that what he did say was both kind of pointless and stated disagreeably, so people interpreted it as wronger than it was.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 11:00 AM
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ik think the argument is that while creatures can evolve to slight variations, like the dog breeds, that new genetic features can't exist. only the explication of the genes in the gene pool god created.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 11:04 AM
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hence 'the eye is too complex to have evolved' type arguments used to support 'macro evolutions doesn't occur'


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 11:06 AM
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Back when I used to hang out in Usenet groups regularly trolled by creationists (talk.origins was one continuous flamewar - it was awesome) it became obvious that creationists fall into roughly three distinct camps:
(1) Hardcore creationists most of whom believe the earth is about 6000 years old and everything was created in more or less its present form. Minor modifications due to The Fall were usually acknowledged. Fossils were created in a single event - Noah's flood.
(2) More subtle but still hardcore creationists who believe that creatures were created in distinct kinds ("baramin" is the term of art) within which evolution proceeds more or less as Darwin claimed. Most were Old Earth, but some were Young Earthers. The original kinds were perfect and unchanging but began to degenerate (become susceptible to evolution) due to The Fall.
(3) Old Earth creationists who accept the majority of evolutionary biology but believe that god created the original unicellular organism and intervened at the molecular level to cause evolution to proceed along particular paths, leading eventually to a paleolithic Eden where things then unfolded more or less as in Genesis. The seven days of creation are understood to refer to large spans of time rather than literal periods of 24 hours.

The first category are basically beaten. The second and third categories are the ones who still have a chance of convincing school boards to crack the door open. I used to be in the third category myself. It has the advantage of being very hard to disprove due to being so damn fuzzy in its claims.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 11:25 AM
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||

Our brave new world. From the Borders CEO's e-mail to customers regarding the company's Chapter 11 banktrupcy:

eBook libraries are perfectly safe. Our partner Kobo will continue to provide access to all eBooks purchased through Borders, and continue to sell eBooks to Borders customers.

And people wonder why I like my paper books.

||>


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 11:35 AM
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And people wonder why I like my paper books.

They do? They must not be thinking very clearly!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 12:05 PM
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This is only a problem with DRM-locked ebooks (as with DRM-locked music). I'd buy more licensed ebooks if they didn't insist on selling a defective product.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 12:16 PM
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In context, I don't think Shearer meant anything more by "Facts can be unreliable" than "Something can be in the category of things that I'd call a 'fact' rather than a 'theory', and still be doubtful or untrue".

James, read charitably, was endeavoring to explain journalistic "objectivity" regarding evolution vs. creationism by exploiting the inherent uncertainty in any claim of fact. This is the idea that I'd like to explore with him.

Read uncharitably, James was trying to divert the conversation away from its point, which was to discuss under what circumstances it's appropriate for journalists to make determinations of fact in the face of political controversy. I'd like to explore that one, too.

If only there were someone here who could clear up exactly what James intended.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 12:21 PM
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311: This isn't worth pressing, but you misunderstand me. I don't mean that Time is in a different category, as in it's not what liberals complain about. I mean, that in the world of actually explicitly political magazines, it's not clear that the market for conservative journalism is larger than the market for liberal journalism. And it's not just The Nation: I added the New Yorker to that, and there's other magazines. These are not "small magazines", as I understand that term, either. They just aren't mass market (possibly former) weeklies.

To get to the argument that magazines like Time and Newsweek are the way they are because there's some larger market for conservatives than for liberals, you have to show that the market outside of the political magazine market skews conservative, and I haven't seen that evidence. Instead it just looks like a version of the, "well, this is a conservative country, what do you expect" argument.

Also, I do think magazines have influence because (some of) their readers and a few of their writers, have influence. The New Republic, in particular, seems to have influence way beyond it's circulation numbers.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-17-11 12:33 PM
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