May 31, 2005

like flightless birds....

Something that's really come to fascinate me is how many left-leaning folk I encounter who are unable to argue their views in a persuasive way. Mostly, I think, because they came of age in a world where leftish pieties were just taken for granted, and never criticized. They are like flightless birds that evolved on some island without predators. Their arguments are flabby, and they can't make a case. (This is especially common in my generation, who came of age at the high-water mark of Big Government Liberalism.)

As an example, Jon Carroll, writing in the SF Chron, has a goofy outpouring of self-pity for the poor journalists, under attack by "zealots." I'm just going to Fisk a small part of it...

...The media are under attack because we try to find stuff out...

No, you are under attack ("being harshly criticized" is a more accurate phrase) because you DON'T try to find stuff out. For instance, two journalists have recently accused the US military of "targeting" journalists. The criticism being made is that they have presented no evidence. If journalists really wanted to "find stuff out," they would be diving into these stories, looking for the facts. If true, it would be the story of a lifetime for some reporter.

...We are under attack because we say what we believe to be true...

Here's a crazy suggestion: Why not write only what you can demonstrate to be true, using evidence?

...(Even more annoyingly, we are protected by the Constitution.) We are a reality-based institution in a faith-based culture, and we are paying for it...

Don't whine about the Constitution, nobody's taking your rights away. Do you think you have a constitutional right to be immune to criticism? And "reality-based?" You were just saying that you write what you "believe to be true." That sounds like faith to me.

...Journalists die doing their jobs, which is more than you can say for lobbyists, TV commentators or corporate lawyers...

What's that got to do with anything? Soldiers die a lot more often, and nobody seems to be holding back in criticizing them. Actually, this sentence fragment is so peculiar one could do a whole blog-post on it. Let's see: Lobbyists and corporate lawyers. Everybody "knows" they are evil. TV commentators are lumped with them, so, they're also evil? Journalists are contrasted with these, so journalists = good? And which lawyers or lobbyists are criticizing journalists? ...I don't get the connection.

...The problem is that we are fair-minded. We know that we make mistakes. We want to get better...

This is a straw-man argument. Journalists are not being criticized for making honest mistakes, but for making dishonest mistakes. How do you tell the difference? It's not hard! Honest mistakes will be distributed randomly. Honest mistakes while covering, oh, say, Donald Rumsfeld, would on average be just as likely to make him look too good as to make him look too bad. See, that wasn't very difficult. And the other problem is, you don't get better. At least I haven't seen any evidence of it.

...The fair-minded have no chance against zealots...

Nonsense. In the realm of argument and debate the zealot has no intrinsic advantage; everyone must marshall facts and logic to support their case. In fact the zealot is often at a disadvantage, because he can't imagine that the other person's view has enough validity to be worth understanding. He is often reduced to name-calling and unsupported assertions, because he can't craft an argument. Hmmm. Who might fit that description around here.....

...Zealots lie because the ends justify the means, and we say, "Oh, gosh, we're going to investigate and strive and improve."

So, uh, how exactly have you improved? Or is that just something you say when caught?

... Are the zealots going to investigate and strive and improve? Of course not: They have an agenda, and the agenda does not include self-assessment. The zealots are working out of the Che Guevara handbook, friends...

All assertions and name-calling, with not a crumb of evidence to back it up. Journalism's critics are zealots, who believe "ends justify the means?" So where's the beef? Examples? Logic? Names? Facts?

Carroll's piece is not just flabby polemics, it's poor writing. He should have started with a shocking example of an actual "zealot" attacking journalists unfairly. Then maybe contrast with an actual journalist investigating mistakes, and "striving to improve."

(Thanks to Captain Ed)

Posted by John Weidner at May 31, 2005 8:32 PM
Weblog by John Weidner