June 26, 2005

Unbelievable

I’ve been a news junkie of sorts ever since 1982 when I got my first paper route. I read the news every morning at 5:00 a.m. while rolling up papers with rubber bands so I could toss them on people’s doorsteps from the street.

I believed everything I read then. The newspaper was, to me, a precise, factual, and comprehensive record of Everything Important That Happened Yesterday. It didn’t even occur to me that anything in those pages might be inaccurate in any way or that anything important might be left out. I was twelve years old and the people who wrote for the paper were all-knowing grown-ups.

I don’t think newspapers have changed much in the meantime. Not really. Today’s media problems were yesterday’s media problems. I’m the one who changed.

Lots of people have changed since then. And not all of them changed from twelve-year olds to 34-year olds. They changed because their tools changed.

The Pew Research Center has been tracking how many people believe what they read in the press for at least the past 22 years. Here are the results. (Graphic stolen from Jeff Jarvis.)

Believability Graph.gif

The number of sources of information each person has at their disposal keeps going up. We can read newspapers in other countries now. We couldn’t before, at least not nearly so easily as we can today on the Internet. There are blogs, of course. And not just American blogs. Also Iraqi blogs and military blogs and Iranian blogs and politically iconoclastic blogs. I can “interview” people myself, people who live on the other side of the world, just by sending an email. There also is Google. How on Earth did I ever live and learn without Google?

I don’t even bother with my daily newspaper now. It’s not even valuable as one source of information among many unless I want to know what happened yesterday right down the street – which is usually not very interesting.

Daily newspapers have all sorts of problems that can and ought to be fixed. But even if every one of them were fixed I don’t think they would poll a lot better than they do now. They would still be only one source of information among many. With the explosion of information technologies, daily newspapers – along with every other possible source of information – will remain more easily fact-checked than they ever have been in history. That isn’t the fault of newspapers or journalists. That’s history’s “fault” and technology’s “fault.”

I would like to see newspapers strive to regain the 84 percent believability level they had when I was 14 years old. But I doubt they ever will. I will never be 14 again. And we will never again be in the fact-checking dark as we once were. 84 percent was artificially high. It was before The Times Online, before Instapundit and Atrios, before MEMRI, before Wikipedia, before Google. We can't go back.

UPDATE: Apparently, journalists themselves think journalists are less credible than they once were. Hilariously, though, only one percent - one percent - think blogs are credible. They probably aren't reading this guy.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 26, 2005 11:16 PM
Comments

I trust Michaeltotten.com to give me the opinion of Michael Totten, which I happen to enjoy reading.

The problem with newspapers is that they strive to remove bias from the frame, but instead the bias becomes dominant. The reporter is empowered to speak as an omniscient being with all the knowledge and the power to spin that knowledge.
The reporter is entirely the interpreter. S/he decides what facts are correct and which are not, who to believe, what to quote, etc.

Currently, the reporter is not our only source of facts. Google gives us the nitty gritty stuff that reporter editted out. But we all still read the opinion columns. In fact, I now read them a lot more than before.

Now that I can get the raw data, I'll read people (like michaeltotten) who have a better grasp on the stuff than I do when I don't want to become the world's leading expect on nuclear dumping in the Arctic, or something like that.

Possible vision for the media: a stream of published raw data, and a stream of interpreters critiquing, responding to, throwing out, and synthesizing what is available.

The problem becomes when a trusted interpreter in one area decides to start interpreting another area on which he knows little. That's when all the other interpreters have to gang up.

The perfect system of checks and balances? Or Soviet, Cuban, Saddam style perpetual monitoritng?

Posted by: lebanon.profile at June 26, 2005 11:39 PM

I actually think you're wrong on this -- the Leftist media bias wars, which we're now going thru, are likely to increase the standards of "news" reporting. And analysis, and speculation, and future forecasting.

The most interesting news will remain recent blood events (bleeds? leads...), for most folk -- but for news junkies, it will prolly remain The Future. Most news stories are about how what just happened "probably" (often unspoken) affects the future.

But inexperienced thinkers can easily mix news of the past and future speculations. I think (hope?) that future news will have better distinctions.

Honest bias explanations will be part of it -- and likely two or more viewpoints on the same important story. Roger L. Simon has already recruited you for PJ Media, hasn't he???

What is correct is that nobody will ever "believe" the "news about the future" as much as they used to. [Climate warming? Costs?]

[Lots on Jay Rosen's PressThink, as Jeff often references.]

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 26, 2005 11:43 PM

I think it is pretty cool that I can click on a link and read about Lebanon or read comments from an idiot socialist in Europe.

Lebanon.profile, I want to visit the country around the mountain, is it getting out of control or what?

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at June 27, 2005 12:12 AM

I think the lack of credibility is actually a good thing. A healthy skepticism about the news can be benficial in the end. It can make people look at different sources and evaluate things for themselves. I believe there is no media source that can accurately, or 100 percent, report on what has happened. So the best we can hope for is plurality of sources, and piece together what we think is true.

Sidenote: Michael, I enjoy reading your blog, and I am an American living in Beijing. I think I can be a valuable resource if you ever want to know Chinese opinion about anything. I also have a sociology degree from the University of Illinoisso I know how to do proper research. Just let me know if you want to tap this resource.

Posted by: Mr. Kovach at June 27, 2005 01:45 AM

I to am a news junkie from way back. I am sure everyone who posts here or reads political blogs can make that claim. My distrust of newspapers & MSM for that matter started looong ago and has increased steadily. I am at the point now where I only use MSM as a gauge for what the story of the day is but I don't respect their interpretation of events. What I have come to understand through new media is what Dan Rather refuses to admit and that is that ALL MEDIA IS BIAS. There is no such thing as unbias reporting it cannot be done. I have found that my liberal friends and I can look at the exact same event and agree on all of the facts but come to completely opposite conclusions on what those facts mean. I think rather than run away from our bias as if they were somthing to be ashamed of or some sort of weakness. Instead we should embrace our bias say this is my point of view which I have spent my entire life developing and I am very proud of it. Hi I'm Dan Rather, Liberal Democrat, and this is the news as I see it, courage. At least could respect that.

Posted by: joefrommass at June 27, 2005 03:35 AM

How To Lose A War

See this post that just went up at Blackfive re Tim Russet and Meet the Press and my comment below [edited]:

How To Lose A War

I just heard that Tim Russert on the Meet the Press (I'm paraphrasing) opened with "the American public is against the War on Terror and the halls of Congress are echoing that sentiment".

Is it that way?

Or is it that the media and the liberals are echoing the talking points of Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel etc.?

[...]

Read More

*****

We in the Blogos know differently. Unfortunately the American people don't. The MSM is poisoning the well. We all know the GWOT is not a war we can afford to lose. This is a war of ideas, ideologies, cultures, religion, and good vs. evil. We are kicking "butt" on the ground in Iraq. We are keeping the enemy off balance and causing it to consume resources it can't afford to lose e.g. there is probably a finite number of Saudis willing to blow themselves up for the cause. Grim is saying this is to be expected and is a good sign. We must also win the war of ideas . . . we have been weak at home on this message. No thanks to the MSM.

Unfortunately the main means the American people receive their news of the day is via the MSM. The MSM has abdicated its role to objectively report to the people. WE THE PEOPLE empowered the free press under the 1st Amendment to ask the tough questions, to educate us on important issues of the day, and to be a check on our government who WE THE PEOPLE choose to govern. A good agruement can be made that the MSM is rooting for the enemy and would have us loose this war in this vendetta they have against President Bush and his administration. They find fault and errors in everything they do. Without information/ education of the great risk we all face by this enemy in the GWOT, the American people have no stake in this war.

See this essay I wrote last year shortly after the Fourth of July:

FREEDOM - Thx to The Greatest Generation for Preserving It!

Link Here

The Blogos now has the power to bring this info/message directly to the American people. I agree with Hugh Hewitt we are in a transformational period as great or greater than Martin Luther's time of the Protestant Reformation when the invention of the printing press and moveable type wrested control of the filtering and interpretation of the thought, science, and theology of the day away from the aristrocracy and the Catholic Church.

We of the Blogos must now see this alternative information is reported directly to the American people so that they can decide for themselves what the truth is. Let them see for themselves what the bloggers from Iraq and Iran who have and are risking life and limb to report are reporting from the ground. Also what our brave men and women in uniform are also reporting via milblogs.

This is no Vietnam no matter how much the MSM may want it to be.

Blessed be for the Internet and the Blogos!

Ron Wright

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD

Dr.Zin (www.regimechangeiran.com) and the Iranian people need your help RIGHT NOW!

See the link at the end of this comment at Winds of Change on how you can help:

Help Dr.Zin and the Iranian people

Posted by: Ron Wright at June 27, 2005 05:59 AM

Tom Grey,
What USNA class were you?

Posted by: exhelodrvr at June 27, 2005 05:59 AM

As one whose contempt for the output of the MSM is now virtually boundless, might I say that 54% is a dangerously high figure.

That over half of the respondents still believe in the propaganda they get 24-7 from the formal information structure is not a particualry encouraging indicator. Well unless that 54% NEVER votes in which case they can believe in the tooth fairy for all it really matters.

This survey might be good news in historical context but frankly we probably don't have another 30 years in which to wait for media credibility to hit its deserved levels.

Faster Please.

Posted by: dougf at June 27, 2005 07:06 AM

In 1956 I was 14 and a shortwave nut - and a news junkie. There was Radio Moscow, BBC and Voice of America. Radio M and VOA were slugging it out ideologically in the cold war. The BBC was a paragon of neutrality in between. Then the Suez crisis came and the BBC's neutrality went out the window and, unlike now, they seemed to be foaming at the mouth with nationalistic fervour. Moscow turned it's attention to the imperialists dogs of Western Europe and the Voice of America emerged as the paragon of sweet reason and objectivity for the duration. During Vietnam I remember Cronkite's shift from pro to anti war and the post Tet shift of the MSM in general. Still it wasn't until March 2003 when I watched Australian TV and the BBC declare America defeated in that dust storm that I realised just how hopeless the MSM had become.

Posted by: Lgude at June 27, 2005 07:18 AM

Michael - I'd believe a reputable newspaper long, long before Instapundit or Atrios. Newspapers have procedures and ethics, and if they get something wrong, their careers are toast (just ask Dan Rather). Glenn Reynolds and Atrios get things wrong every single day. And beside, isn't their gig pretty much linking to someone who has an opinion about what another blogger said about something in a newspaper?

Most writing on blogs is at a high-school newspaper level (yours excepted, of course, but you've made a living with your words, most of us haven't). Blogs are either an on-line therapy session, or their a continuous and highly-personal letter to the editor.

So, while people's perceptions of the media as being less credible than they once were, blogs have an awfully long way to go before they gain the credibility that newspapers currently enjoy.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 07:27 AM

Me: ...or their a continuous and...

Case in point about the quality of writing. "...they're..."

Where's my damned coffee?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 07:29 AM

It's a mistake, I think, to view the drop in believability as indicative of some kind of new problem. They were never any more credible than they are now (probably less), they just had less competition to point that fact out.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 07:32 AM

Double,
As long as blogs quickly admit when they are wrong, they will gain in credibility. The good ones will do that very openly, within minutes, if errors are pointed out. The MSM will, at worst, go for months without admitting errors, and at best it will be several days, and then the admission to what was a front-page error is hidden 15 pages back, in small print. That is where the credibility loss occurs.

I think that needs to be viewed separately from the market loss, which is going to happen due to the increased availability of choices.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at June 27, 2005 07:55 AM

If I weren't subject to random wizz-quizes at work, I'd ask for some of what DPU's been smoking. Anyhoo, I gave up on the local dogtrainer years ago when between CNN & my shortwave the international news would be days out of date. Now they tend to be weeks out of date on local stuff & days out of date on national.

Posted by: Cybrludite at June 27, 2005 08:13 AM

Follow the money. Newpapers get their revenue from advertizing, the rest of the paper is just an enticement to suck in the public. This is sort of like movie theaters relying on the sale of popcorn and soda. As eyes move to the internet advertizing will follow. Newspapers are going to be in a world of hurt. So, the real long term question will become how to fund the acquisition of news for that small part of the public that are international news junkies. Hmmm. How does Yon pay his way?

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 08:43 AM

I agree with the poster who said that 54% is a shockingly high level. I would have thought (and hoped!) it to be far less--perhaps 30% or so.

Yes, it's true that we now have the ability to fact-check, and many alternate sources of information to counter the press. But I also think the enormous growth of the use of the anonymous source since Watergate has been a pernicious influence on the MSM and its credibility. Like a crack addict, once they have tasted of the forbidden fruit (forgive the mixed metaphor!), they can't seem to stop. When an entire article reads like a gossip column, how can the piece have credibility?

Posted by: neo-neocon at June 27, 2005 09:03 AM

Yup, and it is not even necessarily bias.

A major issue has always been having reporters report on things they don't understand. They tend to screw it up...

Growing up, just about every computer related story I've seen was shallow and/or got it wrong. As far I've heard from friends with other areas of expertise (pilots for instance) they media get things wrong related to their field/s too.....

Posted by: Thomas at June 27, 2005 09:18 AM

Effective today, I no longer have a daily subscription to a newspaper. Ever since I was 16 I had daily home delivery of a major local newspapers (usually the LA Times, with a few periods of subscription to the OC Register here and there).

The biggest problem with the paper is that, every morning, most of the news stories I care to read about never included any new information. I had already read the breaking news the night before, plus commentary from Glenn or Tim or you -- AND I may have spent about an hour or so arguing about the significance of said news story. About the only thing a paper is still good for is coupons.

Posted by: Sean P at June 27, 2005 09:32 AM

Following the money a bit more, notice how few reporters are in the field. For that matter, notice how few newpapers there are today. One hundred years ago there were some seventeen major newspapers in NYC, today about four -- the NY Times, the NY Post, the NY Daily News, and the Village Voice. I think there is a lack of competition and diversity, and no longer enough money to keep knowledgeable reporters scattered around the world. Indeed, I first gave up on the New York Times because of the lack of coverage, not because of bias.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 09:44 AM

Michael,

It's been about 11 years since I last subscribed to the Oregonian. If I find myself wanting to look for something, a quick stop by "The Ship Inn" will give me free and unfettered perusal of both the Oregonian and the local daily newspaper. It's free, and I can enjoy it with a pint of half-and-half.

Back in 1982-83 the Oregonian had one of the finest financial pages in the US. The editorial staff was balanced and you knew that the guy covering Salem, while a hopeless geek, was looking for the Truth. To search for the Truth, you have to be a Skeptic. Skeptical of both parties and all the players.

Since there seems to be a consensus that we live in a land of milk and honey there is no longer a need for skepticism. What we read in the Oregonian is how what we're doing is right. And how it's necessary to oppose those who disagree with us.

Fortunately, they still report on the Beavers. Most of the time. And if you're a Duck, they'll cover everything. (By the way, I can't stand listening to LL on 750. What a blowhard.) So, where do I go for statewide info? It's nice having your own news director.

Posted by: OregonGuy at June 27, 2005 09:56 AM

LIES, ALL LIES!!!

A majority of Americans reject claims by the Bush administration that the insurgency in Iraq is weakening and are divided on whether victory over the insurgents will have a major impact on terrorism elsewhere in the world, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

. . . Barely one in five Americans -- 22 percent -- say they believe that the insurgency is getting weaker while 24 percent believe it is strengthening. More than half -- 53 percent -- say resistance to U.S. and Iraqi government forces has not changed.

The Post-ABC poll also found that few Americans agree with Vice President Cheney that the insurgency is in its "last throes." That claim, which Cheney made recently in an interview with Larry King on CNN, has been repeatedly challenged by critics of the administration's Iraq policy and defended by Bush officials.

. . . As with virtually every facet of the Iraq issue, deep partisan divisions were reflected in views of the current state of the insurgency. More than a third of all Republicans -- 35 percent -- said the insurgents were growing weaker in Iraq, compared to 13 percent of all Democrats and 19 percent of all political independents.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/27/AR2005062700270_pf.html

I beg to differ with WaPo that this is a partisan divide. Independents and Democrats know that the Bush Adminstration has been mendacious from the beginning on Iraq.

And when 65% of Republicans no longer believe a Republican Administration, that is not a sign of a partisan divide - that is a sign of an amazing consensus.

Let's turn the numbers around so they make sense - 65% of Republicans, 81% of Independents and 87% of Democrats do not believe the insurgency in Iraq is weakening.

Only in the strange world of the Media does such a result represent a "partisan divide."

posted by Armando

Posted by: NeoDude at June 27, 2005 09:58 AM

I agree completely with double-plus. Whereas no one should ever "believe" what they read in a newspaper (as being some sort of objective truth), that goes doubly or triply so for blogs.

Where on earth does anyone get the idea that bloggers are somehow immune, or even just less susceptible, to the normal human failings that infect mainstream jounalists? At least journalists are taught, and many sincerely aspire to an ethic of fairness. That they fail to live up to that ethic on a distressingly regular basis is simply a function of their limitations, as subjective humans. At least a fair percentage of them try.
Far far fewer bloggers even try to transcend their biases and limitations. Most are pure advocates - spewing forth the "truth" as they see it. That is not journalism, it is opinion-mongoring. A wonderful and valuable contribution to a free society, imho, but lets not pretend that it is something it aint.

Another factor in the decline of media believability is the fact that most readers are increasingly far more interested in hearing news that validates their own assumptions, rather than learning anything new about the world, or considering different perspectives.

I dont think newspapers should be "believed", and certainly not bloggers, but neither should one fall into the trap of reflexivly "fisking" (applying your own self-justifying spin to) every news story that rocks your little boat.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at June 27, 2005 09:58 AM

Isn't it slighty ironic that the linked blog article in Michael's update is entitled "Ink-Stained Retches"?

The correct spelling would be "Wretches". Oops.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 10:17 AM

Karl Jr.,

I'm glad to see someone on here defending the status quo. All those amateur revolutionaries and radicals out there in the blogosphere just can't do the job of trained and certified professionals.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 10:34 AM

I'm glad to see someone on here defending the status quo. All those amateur revolutionaries and radicals out there in the blogosphere just can't do the job of trained and certified professionals.

One of the more endearing qualities of the bloggosphere is that it doesn't encourage reasonable disagreement. Most people would rather engage in snarky demonization of those they disagree with rather than argue the actual points brought up. It's fun and easy.

Wait, did I say "endearing"? I meant "sucks dead goats."

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 11:17 AM

Posted by chuck at June 27, 2005 09:44 AM

"and no longer enough money to keep knowledgeable reporters scattered around the world. Indeed, I first gave up on the New York Times because of the lack of coverage, not because of bias."

I think the idea of the 'professional reporter' is the problem.

I'd rather see experts in particular fields trained to be reporters... Then you could have accountants explaining Enron, pilots doing aircraft related segments, lawyers explaining court related items.... et cetera...

Posted by: Thomas at June 27, 2005 11:17 AM

DPU: Isn't it slighty ironic that the linked blog article in Michael's update is entitled "Ink-Stained Retches"?

Ha, ha, yes it is. And that blog is a blog at a professional political magazine - arguably a part of the "MSM" itself. (Oh, how I do dislike that acronym.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2005 11:23 AM

I'd rather see experts in particular fields trained to be reporters... Then you could have accountants explaining Enron, pilots doing aircraft related segments, lawyers explaining court related items.... et cetera...

This often how it happens, though. Usually financial writers have training in economics or business, technology writers have experience with that, lawyers write about legal matters, etc. Although good "generic" journalists are also trained to consult with multiple experts in the field being reported on.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 11:26 AM

Posted by double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 11:26 AM

"This often how it happens, though."

Not often enough IMO. :) Seriously (not to be snarky), I know a lot of reporters and they just studied journalism...

The experts (that I know in media) tend to do opinion shows (not news reporting…).

Posted by: Thomas at June 27, 2005 11:36 AM

Wait, did I say "endearing"? I meant "sucks dead goats."

Only live goats, please. The does are OK, but the bucks in season are a bit much, especially if you get downwind.

I do find the whole role reversal thing amusing. The progressives are hanging on to the status quo like their lives depended on it, and in some sense they are probably right. Nobody likes to see their power fade away. I don't think either side has any particular attachment to change, but everyone with position and influence likes to keep what they have got.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 11:44 AM

The progressives are hanging on to the status quo like their lives depended on it, and in some sense they are probably right.

Having the opinion that the MSM is more reliable than a guy with an opinion and a blog is scarcely "hanging on like their lives depended on it", Chuck. See my note about demonization above. Again, it's possible to disagree with others and argue the salient points without sucking dead goats.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 11:58 AM

Chuck,
Where on earth do you get this "defending the status quo" meme? I dont see how my words, or anyone elses, resembles such a characterization at all.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at June 27, 2005 12:04 PM

Demonization? Goodness, DPU, I just noted the point of the posting and put it in a larger context. But why are you hanging on to this as if your life depended on it? Sucks dead goats? Such language! And from a gentle progressive soul.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 12:07 PM

This resonates with something I pointed out last week:

Journalists are not scientists; they don't gather evidence and then draw conclusions. They draw conclusions and then go looking for evidence to prove them. That's not because they're bad people, that's just the nature of investigative journalism. So which conclusions they're trying to prove becomes very important, even if they are truly committed to objective, fact-based reporting. One would hope that despite going after mostly stories that serve a liberal agenda, they would at least dispassionately require a high standard of proof in all cases. But as we've seen, they often fail to meet even that lowered standard of neutrality; they not only report from a liberal bent, they do so eagerly enough that they'll often allow themselves to be duped with less-than-convincing evidence on major stories, while ignoring counter-evidence. As Orwell might have put it, in the eyes of journalists some facts are more objective than others.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 12:15 PM

Karl,

At least journalists are taught, and many sincerely aspire to an ethic of fairness.

Compare and contrast:

Far far fewer bloggers even try to transcend their biases and limitations. Most are pure advocates - spewing forth the "truth" as they see it.

The parting shot:

but neither should one fall into the trap of reflexivly "fisking" (applying your own self-justifying spin to) every news story that rocks your little boat.

Note the snarky "rocks your little boat".

Now, you may even have a point, but overall you are supporting the legitimacy of the current news media as against the blogosphere. I didn't say you were wrong, I said you were supporting the status quo. Which is what the newspapers are.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 12:16 PM

Demonization? Goodness, DPU, I just noted the point of the posting and put it in a larger context. But why are you hanging on to this as if your life depended on it? Sucks dead goats? Such language! And from a gentle progressive soul.

Gentle? I think you're confusing me with some other DPU, Chuck.

But to try and swerve back onto the road the discussion was going in, is there any form this discussion could take where a suggestion contrary to your opinion could be phrased that wouldn't be considered to be "hanging on to this.. etc"?

If so, could you tell me what that phrasing would be?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 12:18 PM

double-plus-ungood,

I have to disagree with the "demonization" idea. Most blogospheric debate does rise above "Bush = Hitler" or "Dem = Traitor."

Now, maybe you consider pointing out that Dems oppose school vouchers or that Bush relied on faulty intelligence to be "demonizing." But it's hard to construe such fact-based "demonizing" as a negative.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 12:20 PM

TallDave: They draw conclusions and then go looking for evidence to prove them.

This also describes most political bloggers. And lawyers. And Glenn Reynolds is both.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 12:21 PM

Bloggers are generally pundits who aren't supposed to be objective, and don't proclaim their inherent superiority on the basis of such objectivity. Journalists are, and do.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 12:23 PM

But to try and swerve back onto the road the discussion was going in

We hotrodders like to cut the corners and pass on the shoulder.

where a suggestion contrary to your opinion

And my opinion would be?

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 12:24 PM

And lawyers are explicitly paid to be advocates.

My point is that journalists haven't been living up to that "objectivity" ideal.

I think we'd be better served by journalists who openly admitted their biases, but remained true to the facts. What have now is a silly charade. Does anyone think there's a snowball's chance in hell that Mary Mapes or Dan Rather vote Republican?

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 12:25 PM

Now, maybe you consider pointing out that Dems oppose school vouchers or that Bush relied on faulty intelligence to be "demonizing."

No, it was more the commentariate I was referring to. I've been spending less time here at Michael's blog comment section recently because it's too hard to have actual discussion of issues. Any contrarian opinion is quickly magnified and distorted, and it ends up being a waste of time. Well, a waste of my time at any rate.

Problem being that individuals of either political stripe with something to say that exceeds "nyah nyah" tend to be driven off by the catcalls and rude noises, and the discussion degenerates further. It's not that big a deal, as there are several political blogs around that have strict rules of conduct on the comment section (Obidian Wings being a good one), and this kind of nonsense isn't tolerated. The result is that it's possible to hear and even be persuaded by arguments from the other side, and the possibility that your own arguments will be heard and understood (although not necessarily agreed with).

MJT's blog would be a good candidate for such discussion because of his moderate political position, and his consideration of both sides of the political question. But most discussion degenerate pretty quickly here. Sadly.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 12:36 PM

Bloggers are generally pundits who aren't supposed to be objective, and don't proclaim their inherent superiority on the basis of such objectivity. Journalists are, and do.

We may be talking at cross-purposes here. I agree with that, and I read blogs to get opinion, and occasionally facts. But I rely on mainstream journalists to provide factual information. I also agree that all journalists are biased in some way, and the stated objectivity is both impossible, and provided as a writing style rather than real.

But at the same time, there are checks and balances that serious journalists must adhere to, or pay heavy consequences. Bloggers have no such checks and balances.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 12:40 PM

Some of the "credible" reporting from the blog Michael linked to (from a couple of weeks ago):
-------------------------
Getting our soldiers back home remains the primary end, and this latest articulation of the plan clearly is working. The example of the Iraqi police illustrates this best.

Mosul started the new year with almost no police. Today, police stations are being built "like a westward expansion of forts," according to LTC Erik Kurilla, commander of 1-24th Infantry, who has seen much of the hardest fighting in Mosul. "As we get one police station going, we are already working on the next." The enemy is no longer free to congregate on street corners, smoking cigarettes and intimidating citizens.
-------------------------

Yesterday, a trio of bombings (including one at a police station and another at an army base) killed more than 30 people in Mosul. An article in the Los Angeles Times said that "Authorities in the ethnically mixed city have shut down all but three police stations out of fear of attacks."

Now, what's interesting is that this reported fact doesn't contradict what Michael's "credible" blogger says -- it's just that the blogger threw in so much spin and cheerleading rhetoric that it sounded like a lot more police stations have been established.

Incidentally, the LA Times has another story today about the de facto Islamic rule that has been established in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city:
-------------------------
Unmarked cars cruise the streets, carrying armed, plain-clothed enforcers of Islamic law. . . . Shiite religious parties now control both the streets and the council chambers. And though Basra has not suffered the same level of bombings and assassinations as major cities to the north, the trade-off for law and order appears to be a crackdown on social practices and mores that were permissible under the secular, if repressive, regime of [Saddam] Hussein.

. . . A local businessman who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal compared the current strict rule to life under Hussein.

"The same thing is happening now," he said. "During Saddam, we had the secret police. Now it's coming again. If you say something bad, they shoot you in the night."
-------------------------

I mentioned this problem (which has been developing since 2003) in a thread here about a week ago, and despite being avowed "news junkie" and ostensible foe of Islamic extremism, Michael seemed completely unaware of it.

Seems like Mr. Totten's judgment of what constitutes a "credible" news source could stand some revising. Because the sources he's paying attention to now are leaving him ignorant.

Posted by: Swopa at June 27, 2005 12:41 PM

"Journalists are not scientists; they don't gather evidence and then draw conclusions."

I think that is exactly what journalists do.
And it is not what scientists do. Science is all about testing ones hypoptheses - conclusions arise as a result of those tests.

"They draw conclusions and then go looking for evidence to prove them."

That is what bloggers do. There is a role for that, and it can be enormously useful. Does anyone doubt that the Powerline people had long since concluded that Rather was an anti-Bush hack? And that they probably were looking constantly for evidence that could support that? So they finally found some, and had a great story.
But I doubt anyone would claim that they were reluctantly "forced" to their conclusion by the evidence, after a fair-minded evaluation of his career.

"That's not because they're bad people, that's just the nature of investigative journalism. "

I dont think we share a common understanding of what journalism is.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at June 27, 2005 12:42 PM

Does anyone doubt that the Powerline people had long since concluded that Rather was an anti-Bush hack? And that they probably were looking constantly for evidence that could support that? So they finally found some, and had a great story.

Indeed they did, but two points about the Powerline scoop - most of the work of debunking the memos came from other bloggers, of both the left and the right. Powerline took on the job of being bushmemogate clearing house, and reaped a lot of the credit for the story.

The other point is that since then, Powerline seems to raise a ruckus and ballyhoo about something being fake every three weeks or so. In every case, faithfully linked to by Instapundit, it has turned out that the "fakes" have proven to be genuine.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 12:50 PM

Yes, I agree about Powerline. They are rapidly turning out to be prime examples of the "stopped-clock phenomenon". And this is a site that is often held up as an example of some of the best of the "reporting" blogs. As bad as the "MSM" can be, it aint that bad...

Posted by: Karl Jr. at June 27, 2005 12:55 PM

"Authorities in the ethnically mixed city have shut down all but three police stations out of fear of attacks."

So how many police stations are there all together in Mosul? Why is it if someone tells me it's four, I wouldn't be surprised?

Posted by: mika. at June 27, 2005 01:03 PM

Double plus ungood

What is the point in making comments about spelling errors??? "They're" is a perfectly good word. Are you trying to say that "Bloggers" have no education, thus the expressed opinions should be dismissed as ranting??? Hope not, there are many very sharp characters writing informed postings.

Posted by: gene at June 27, 2005 01:05 PM

Gene - was correcting a mistake in my own posting. Used "their" when I should have used "they're".

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 02:40 PM

"I think that is exactly what journalists do.
And it is not what scientists do. Science is all about testing ones hypoptheses - conclusions arise as a result of those tests."

Ummm, actually, scientists observe the world, then propose theories that explain the observed data. Theories are never "proven"; they are supported, or they are refuted. (And of course, a theory that is "wrong" can still be useful in special cases, i.e. Newton's theory of gravitation works just fine until you get into some pretty esoteric situations.) Science doesn't draw many conclusions at all, and when it does it stops being science.

Which is, by the way, why the idea that Creationism is science is so stupid; it's not so much that Creationism is wrong as that it in no way incorporates the scientific method.

To tweak you just a bit more Karl Jr. (and let me make the hypothesis that Sr. wasn't named Rove) Marxist economics is often presented as a "science", but it suffers from the same fatal flaw, to wit: basic assumptions may never be questioned. In that regard Creationism and Marxism are two peas from the same (non-Mendeleevian) pod.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 27, 2005 03:16 PM

Does anyone doubt that the Powerline people had long since concluded that Rather was an anti-Bush hack? And that they probably were looking constantly for evidence that could support that? So they finally found some, and had a great story.

Again, people seem to miss the point -- bloggers don't pretend to be objective. That's the difference. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes do. It's a lie, a transparent, shameless, dishonest lie.

They will never, ever be as objective as they claim to be. They should stop pretending.

Journalists are not scientists; they don't gather evidence and then draw conclusions."
I think that is exactly what journalists do.

It's what they're supposed to do, but don't.

And it is not what scientists do. Science is all about testing ones hypoptheses - conclusions arise as a result of those tests.

Exactly my point. Journalists don't test their conclusions, they look for and report the facts that reinforce their pre-chosen conclusions, and ignore those that don't fit their preconceptions. It's a natural human tendency that I run into constantly in computer science. It's hard to find people with the intellectual honesty to really test stuff they've written, to try hard to break something they build and find the flaws in it.

The only check on this is for people to admit their biases up front, so that the worldview that frames their reporting acts as context. If we were open about Mapes and Rather being ardently Left, their forged documents would have been subject to greater skepticism.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 03:24 PM

.Mark Poling: Marxist economics is often presented as a "science", but it suffers from the same fatal flaw, to wit: basic assumptions may never be questioned...

Actually, all economics is presented as science, not just Marxism. And they all suffer the same flaw, in that economies are so complex that anything that could adequately model them is equally complex. For all his faults, Marx did a reasonable job of documenting Capitalism, which was his primary work, and was one of the first to say that societies formed themselves in ways that facilitate their economic needs. Marx did less well on predicting the final outcome of the economic forces at play in his time. Actually, he pretty much completely missed the boat on that one, which makes the USSR's claims of "scientific socialism" so much more idiotic, as Marx's predictions that the dictatorship of the prolatariate would come into being in the most heavily industrial nations, possible Germany or Britain, and looked on Russia as an agrarian backwater.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 03:31 PM

That should probably read "tend to ignore." I'm not saying they totally ignore basic facts, just that given a finite amount of words in an article, they're biased toward reporting those facts that reinforce their worldview over those that don't.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 03:33 PM

All I want from journalism is data. I don't mind news analysis that is labeled analysis; then I can take the writers underlying hypotheses into account and adjust for them if I don't believe them to be valid. But I can't abide "journalists" who think they're saving my fragile ass from some evil I just can't understand.

"Fake but accurate" won't cut it anymore.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 27, 2005 03:33 PM

I agree, Marx has gotten a worse rap than he deserves. He would have been horrified by what Stalin and Mao did with his work.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 03:34 PM

TallDave: I agree, Marx has gotten a worse rap than he deserves.

I dunno about that, TallDave. Sure, their hearts were in the right place, and they were reacting to some of the most horrible excesses of the unbridled capitalism of the era, but I think Marx's ego got in the way of a lot of stuff, and he and Engels were obviously in love with their own revolutionary theories, as indicated by the heavy-handed drama presented in pamphlets like The Communist Manifesto. Like "A spectre is haunting Europe." Wooooo, scary.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 03:40 PM

Does anyone doubt that the Powerline people had long since concluded that Rather was an anti-Bush hack? And that they probably were looking constantly for evidence that could support that? So they finally found some, and had a great story.

I seem to recall that Buckhead was the one on the lookout. A reader sent an e-mail to the guys at Powerline drawing attention to Buckhead's post on FreeRepublic. But seriously, does anyone believe that Rather is not a partisan Democrat? The timing of all the articles on Bush's TANG service that came out at the same time as the 60 minutes show is still a unexplained wonder of the universe.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 03:48 PM

DPU -

"Michael - I'd believe a reputable newspaper long, long before Instapundit or Atrios. Newspapers have procedures and ethics, and if they get something wrong, their careers are toast (just ask Dan Rather)."

That would be Dan Peabody Rather, right?

Given an award for reporting on a story that had been publicized six months earlier by the the DoD, but had no legs until photographs surfaced that could be used to damage the administration.

This award coming AFTER being caught out attempting to perpetrate a fraud aimed at affecting a national election - under the mantle of "responsible journalism".

I don't think that a Boy Scout leader or Priest convicted of child abuse would be given any Excellence In Service Recognition Award after being convicted.

And media has procedures and ethics. Sure, bud. Sure they do.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 27, 2005 04:15 PM

Mark said
"All I want from journalism is data."

There is still a media slant with just providing data, for example what data are they leaving in and what are they leaving out. Media bias lies not just with those reporting the news but also and more importantly with those who decide what news gets aired and printed. There are numerous examples of this it almost boggles my mind. There have been a lot of comments lately about Americans losing faith in our ability to win the Iraq war. Those who really understand the dynamics in play, know that when the media presents the American public with the daily bad news on Iraq and ignores any progress being made. This wears on the publics support for the war. Most Americans have never read a blog and are not interested enough in the war to do the research necessary to gain a real understanding of what is happening in Iraq so they depend on MSM to feed them the information which may be accurate but very incomplete.

Posted by: joefrommass at June 27, 2005 04:16 PM

<i.And media has procedures and ethics. Sure, bud. Sure they do.

Well, they do, Tmj, and no amount of sarcasm will change that. The fact that the memo fiasco effectively ended Rather's career, and may well sink Sixty Minutes should prove that. You violate journalism ethics in the way he did, and a long and successful career comes to a shattering halt. Compare that to the enormous number of factual errors that Powerline enjoys on a regular basis and still gets a "Blog of the Year" award. From an MSM magazine to boot.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 27, 2005 04:22 PM

Mark
"actually, scientists observe the world, then propose theories that explain the observed data. Theories are never "proven"; they are supported, or they are refuted. (And of course, a theory that is "wrong" can still be useful in special cases, i.e. Newton's theory of gravitation works just fine until you get into some pretty esoteric situations.) Science doesn't draw many conclusions at all, and when it does it stops being science. "

Actually, except for some semantics, this is consistent with what I said. Or most of it is.
They propose "hypotheses" for the most part - theories are complex sets of hypotheses. And yes, they are refuted or supported - this is what I was referring to as the testing process. But I disagree about conclusions - it is not bad science to reach a conclusion (even if it cant achieve absolute proof) when a hypothesis is consitently corroborated. I think we all accept, as a conclusion, that the earth spins on its axis and revolves around the sun, to note an obvious example.

As for Marxism - there are a whole mess of testable hypotheses in Marxist theory that are amenable to scientific evaluation. That the ones with guns in "Marxist" countries dont allow such evaluation is not a rap on the theory, as such. There have been plenty of economists who test, argue and dispute the finer points of Marxist theories - not that it all amounts to much of course.

DPU
"Marx did less well on predicting the final outcome of the economic forces at play in his time"

Shall we have some fun?
I agree with later posters that Marx would probably not have been too thrilled with what came about in his name in USSR and China. He never envisioned communism in such countries - it was to come about in the most advanced capitalist countries. And it wasnt ever about the implementaion of a top-heavy inefficient and oppressive bureaocracy - it was about the "withering away of the state". Perhaps it is the case that modern conservativism, with their hostility to the state - the wish to reduce it to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub, are actually the agents of bringing about Marx's original vision. "Dictatorship of the proletariat" have any meaning in the context of the current assault on the role of the judiciary in safeguarding the rights of minorites from the dictatorship of the majority??
I dont know if Marx envisioned that democracy in these advanced capitalist countries would be the vehicle for his vision of a natural evolution - but maybe he had the general framework right??

(Its actually a lot easier to type than to talk with ones tongue on ones cheek...)

Posted by: Karl Jr. at June 27, 2005 05:44 PM

Hey Karl Jr

you're either trying to dazzle us with brilliance or baffle us with bullshit... And by the way which Marx are you refering too Groucho or Harpo?

Posted by: joefrommass at June 27, 2005 05:53 PM

DPU -

A shattering halt would have been Dan hitting the bricks in front of Black Rock carrying two moving boxes, led by one rent a cop and followed by a second. And a statement of responsibility issued by CBS.

There was neither.

And the standards of evidence, credibility, and accountability on display in the subsequent saga of Mr. Rather - supposedly ingrained in journalism - would be apropos at a TV sale being held out of the trunk of a car parked in an alley.

He is still on the books at CBS. Standards. Not.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 27, 2005 06:17 PM

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 27, 2005 10:00 PM

Neodude,

What's up with the Communist Manifesto?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2005 10:05 PM

I think what people forget about Marx, is that...his critique and analysis of Capitalism and society have been the most bare-bones and is the natural view most people have of Capitalism...even pro-Capitalist folks end up sounding like Marx when they begin describing Capitalism...his theory describing the evolution into communism was half-baked ... I mean that...Engel’s was the one in charge of that...but his description of Capitalism was right on mark.

Marx keeps getting number 1 philosopher in the United Kingdom...

Posted by: NeoDude at June 27, 2005 10:18 PM

Ha! Marxism and the Beach Boys. Wrong year, wrong decade, wrong century. Marxism is dead, bury the dream fucker.

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at June 27, 2005 11:06 PM

Neodude: his description of Capitalism was right on mark.

Karl Marx: The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation.

Whatever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 28, 2005 01:52 AM

MJK, you're different because you have a self-honesty rarely seen in MSM types: you junk conventions when they don't fit the facts, rather than junk facts that don't fit the conventions.

Have you ever been to Capitol Hill? Have you ever thought of covering the reporters who cover national politics? I would enjoy reading your reports, and I think you would enjoy writing them.

Posted by: Solomon2 at June 28, 2005 04:18 AM

I'd rather see experts in particular fields trained to be reporters... Then you could have accountants explaining Enron, pilots doing aircraft related segments, lawyers explaining court related items...

Ah now, come to Washington, D.C. and you will see that some prospective reporters don't get hired precisely because they already know about the subject! There seem to be two reasons for this: 1) they can't explain their specialty to the public, and 2) the editor fears the independence of such reporters.

Sometimes such people do get hired. I know of one case, someone hired to cover alleged wrongdoings at the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. She uncovered no controversies and said everything was a-ok.

Naturally, she was fired. Who wants to read dry stuff about Probabilistic Risk Assessments, anyway?

Posted by: Solomon2 at June 28, 2005 04:51 AM

Totten,

He is describing consumer society to a tee.

Even your men Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol can a agree to that.

Why do you think the early Neocons hated liberalism.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 28, 2005 05:41 AM

NeoDude, serious question here: do you see Marxism (either ideal or applied) as a Liberal construct?

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 28, 2005 09:09 AM

Liberalism and the Enlightenment go hand-in-hand. One could argue capitalism was born from Liberalism. (The editorial board of The Economist call themselves Liberal Tories). I think Marxism is more a child of the Enlightenment, more than liberalism.

I think many "scientific" Marxist believed liberalism would be “evolved” out of the bourgeoisie, as communism begins to take hold.

There has always been a debate between the early Marx (evolutionary, humanist, liberal and democratic) and the later Marx (revolutionary, scientific, the vanguard, deterministic).

Western Marxist and Socialist/Social Democrats have always maintained their liberal/progressive/pluralistic beliefs. However, revolutionary Marxist has rejected liberalism and pluralism as remnants of bourgeois society.

Marx did not create Socialism/Communism. Marx came after them, what he did was systematize them.

I think many Europeans, Canadians and Australians must look at this latest anti-Liberal wave in Capitalist America as a bit schizophrenic.

Did any of this make sense?

(It’s been awhile)

Posted by: NeoDude at June 28, 2005 10:22 AM

that should raed

I think Marxism is a child of the Enlightenment.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 28, 2005 10:25 AM

Here goes Kristol's reasoning to suppoert the Religious Right:

Splitting the Republican Coalition

Kristol described the current Republican coalition as consisting primarily of two main strains: economic and social conservatives. The economic conservatives are anti-state and the social conservatives are anti-liberal who view liberalism "as corroding and subverting the virtues that they believe must be the bedrock of decent society." He believes that the differences between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives produce "tensions" between the two groups. Kristol's long range view is that the social conservatives represent "an authentic mass movement that gathers strength with every passing year."

http://www.socialdemocrats.org/miller.html

Posted by: NeoDude at June 28, 2005 10:35 AM

I just had a discussion with my boss...he argues that I am full of shit and that Marxism is a child of Modernity, and the great-grandchild of the Enlightenment.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 28, 2005 10:38 AM

Did I miss an answer in all that?

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 28, 2005 07:39 PM

Yes. He said he didn't know.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at June 28, 2005 07:53 PM

Thanks.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 28, 2005 07:59 PM

lol,

No, Marxism isn't a liberal construct...Capitalism is.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 28, 2005 08:12 PM

Actually, I'd buy that. Thanks Neo! I'm not a Nazi, I'm a Liberal!

I feel so much better now....

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 28, 2005 08:24 PM

Sorry for that, gentlemen:

Here's something that looks good.

I. MARXISM VS. LIBERALISM
Marx argued that liberal individualism only established formal rights and liberties while allowing material inequalities that make those rights and liberties meaningless. For instance, we are all have a right to take a Caribbean cruise every year. But since few of us have enough money to do so, that right is meaningless. Having enough money to exercise that right makes that right worth something. Hence, the worth of a right consists in having sufficient material conditions to exercise it. But liberals have often denied that supplying the material conditions for the exercise of rights is a matter of justice. So, marxists complain, the equal rights established by liberalism are worthless.
This criticism, by itself, does not apply to Rawlsian liberalism, which attempts to make formal rights meaningful through the Difference principle. The question, then, is what does marxism have to offer over and above Rawls?

The answer is, I think, its opposition to private ownership. Marxism is obviously directly opposed to capitalism. By "capitalism" we will mean an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production. This does not mean that marxists are opposed to personal possessions. Rather, it is private ownership of capital that they oppose. But why? Perhaps they believe it is unjust.

http://web.missouri.edu/~philrnj/marx.html

Posted by: NeoDude at June 28, 2005 08:28 PM

Sigh. Capitalism provides a positive incentive to expand the means of the means of production.

Over the course of two generations, my family has gone from sharecropper status to upper middle-class, which means I've seen five continents. And it's been a blast. (We've even had union members in the lot of us.)

If you want to think in analogies, Capitalism is Calculus to Marxisms' Algebra. (Marxism never gets past the old zero-sum falacy.) The pity is of couse that algebra is easier to understand if all you want to understand is how to stick it to The Man...

Which is why a lot of engineers become Libertarians, I suppose...

Ciao.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 28, 2005 09:01 PM

OTOH, Neo just provided a valuable service. Either he represents the soul of the Democratic Party, or he doesn't. Until the Democratic Party can answer that question, Rove's remarks are open to debate.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 28, 2005 09:32 PM

Neodude, the social conservatives exist because people like you create them.

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at June 28, 2005 10:04 PM

The fundamental problem with democracy promotion strategy for the Middle East is that democracy makes little sense without liberalism first. Democracy does not beget liberalism where it does not already exist. The elections in January were wishful thinking to the contrary--let's rush democracy, because it'll be self-sustaining. The first elections for Iraq were in the long run meaningless--will they have a second election, especially if US troops leave?

over heard at D Dezner's

Posted by: NeoDude at June 29, 2005 07:16 AM

Some things to bear in mind, with journalists (and I'm one) --

They're essentially idealists. (Yes, they are.) But they instinctively crave the process of "cutting to the chase."

Like anyone else, they hate to have their carefully crafted worldview shattered by reality. How they react to this crisis is the measure of them -- and whether they should be trusted -- and whether what they say possesses the ring of truth.

They react in one of two ways --

1) Report the facts -- but give them spin.

2) Report the facts. Regardless.

That is all there is. It's the E=mc2 of journalists, from the first papyrus-inking scribe to today's (for the most part) self- and culture-destructive weasels.

Trouble is, back in the papyrus days, as now, humanity tends to use them as a barometer. Most people can't surf the curls of world events -- no time, no energy, no ability -- they want to trust those who can do so, and who want to do so for everyone's benefit.

In the papyrus days, you could fool all of the people all of the time, for a LONG time. (And, I think, that was the reason why we haven't progressed as fast as we might have, but won't digress.) Nowadays, the loop has tightened considerably. People are finding out much more quickly -- though not as quickly as we'd like -- that the Emperor has no clothes.

In a disgusted-yet-saddened way, I do pity this last generation of journalists, trying to influence events using smoke and mirrors with no substantial basis. Sure as God made little green apples, they've written their own (and, unfortunately, many others') death warrants, even as I write this.

But ... well ... if there IS a hell, man-made or divine, I'm meanly glad to know they'll set up housekeeping one of these days, and not in the too-distant future. One of these days, there will be no corner safe enough in which for them to hide. Information is traveling faster and getting sifted more finely. The writing is on the wall.

By all means, keep on tearing off the Emperor's "clothes." This is the only way to speed up the end of that horrible blight on knowledge.

But don't despair. Better days are coming.

:o)

Posted by: Yankette at July 1, 2005 12:00 AM

Marx is full of crap -- because ALL property is "private", in the following sense:
decisions about the use of that property are made by individual human beings.

The "Private property" of Capitalism recognizes this authority and responsibility honestly. Marxism, like all collectivisms (all too often including Christian thinking of economics), attempts to claim that "public property" is a viable alternative. In fact, such property is controlled by gov't -- meaning by those humans with decision making power in the gov't.

Either a system honestly recognizes who makes what decisions, or it is dishonest about it. Marx is dishonest -- and reality makes dishonest systems function poorly.

The Aid to Africa is relevant here -- most aid for the last 50 years has gone into the pockets of corrupt gov't officials; naturally it not only fails to support development, such aid actually supports further corruption and makes honest development more difficult.

Capitalism is the system of peaceful, honest, agreement based cooperation between humans, oriented at creating wealth. Fighting poverty without creating wealth is worse than useless.

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Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
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Jihad Versus McWorld
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The Sunshine Warrior
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Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
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England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn