“What? Am I — a seeker of truth — just supposed to add it all up and divide by 2?”
—-Blogger Ann Althouse, stating nicely in her eccentric way what Ethics Alarms has been pointing out repeatedly….
…most recently in this post. Or this one. That being that there are no trustworthy news sources. None. And since there are none, a democracy that depends on an informed electorate has no way for the electorate to become informed. The news media, and journalists, are 100% responsible for this. It is deliberate, and that is why designating then as “enemies of the people,” while impolitic, is fair and informative.
Here is what Ann found that led to her question above:
Here‘s the list of the top political stories at Real Clear Politics this morning:
- “Uncovering Obama’s Surveillance of His Political Opponents” Lee Smith, NY Post
- “Why Trump Is Peddling Extra-Strength Conspiracy Theories” Jack Shafer, Politico
- “Judge Sullivan’s Bizarre, Politicized Order Is a Travesty”” Andrew McCarthy, NRO
- “Obamagate Is a Distraction From Bad News About Covid” Oliver Darcy, CNN
- “Was California Special Election Beginning of Red Wave?”Mollie Hemingway, Federalist
- “4 Reasons Opening Up Businesses May Backfire–and Soon” Brian Resnick, Vox
- “Comparing Florida and New York Looks Bad for Cuomo Deroy Murdock, FOX News
- “10 Protections That Should Be in Next Aid Package” Sen. Warren & Rep. Khanna, CNN
- “Forget Pelosi’s Boondoggle Bill–Take Taxes to Zero Instead” Steve Cortes, RCP
- “Trump’s ‘I’m Rubber, You’re Glue’ Campaign Plan” Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic
- “Trump’s Odds of Winning Are Higher Than You Think” Eric Levitz, New York Magazine
- “Stephanopoulos Just Wants the Tara Reade Story to Go Away” John Nolte, Breitbart…
And so on.
Ann’s complete list is at the link.
20 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse”
I believe there is a huge difference between reporting news an writing opinion pieces. All of the above except for the Lee Smith piece have titles that make it clear these are opinions not facts.
Given I did not read Lee Smith’s piece, but knowing his leanings I would treat read it knowing that he wants me to lean his way.
Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. You don’t need to add x +y and then divide by 2. You just need to approach opinion pieces with a critical eye. I dont need the publication to tell me ” what this all means”.
When I read just the basic facts without the writer using superlatives or critical adjectives to “flesh” out the story I will tend to use it as information. Opinion pieces must be supported with objective information and not have a bunch of holes in it fir me to consider it as a reasonable inclusion in my thinking.
Lee Smith’s piece is also an editorial/opinion piece.
I figured as much. The title however is not as obvious as the others.
“When a novelist has “something to say,” they mean a message. It has political connotations, or a religious message, or a moral prescription. It means “commitment,” as used by Sartre and other fellow-travelers. They are saying that the writer has a world view, a sort of truth that he wishes to communicate, and that his writing has an ulterior significance. I am against this.”
― Alain Robbe-Grillet
Robbe-Grillet pioneered a *new* way to write novels. His ideas was that the writer could step away and, somehow, just report *facts*. He is an interesting man and said interesting things, but is it possible — or desirable — to create a world where no *interpretation* goes on?
But then so does everyone have ideas, perceptions, a perceptual order, a way of interpreting life & existence, and values hopes longing will and all else.
I am interested in and made curious by Jack’s assertion that:
America is not a *democracy*. It is a unique system where the forms of democracy are held up, but it is not ‘the people’ nor even really their representatives that determine affairs. Anyone with two eyes can see that the term ‘democracy’ has become nearly meaningless. Or better said the use of the word is a type of ‘lie’. One uses the word, and one lies to oneself. Plutocracy, oligarchy — these are more accurate terms. And these now enter a phase where tyranny is manifesting itself. But what a unique form of tyranny! With the AI revolution just about to be implemented just imagine the possibilities!
The world we live in requires new interpretive efforts. Not the termination of interpretation. A new awakening of appreciation of values. A restructuring based in application of values.
While I agree that the Legacy Media cannot be relied on nor trusted, because it is compromised by those — the entities and corporations — that own the distribution-systems, the issue seems to be more that we do not like the sort of world that they like and desire to create. That *world* is, of course, an economic & political system in which, like in a Walmart, people have been reduced to agents of consumerism. At best they are of middling intelligence — intelligent enough to perform their allotted task at their work-station — and they must necessarily sufficiently malleable to be programmable when the various molding powers give them commands (persuasive suggestions).
But if one looks only at the surface (“there are now reliable news sources”) and does not consider that this present outcome had been engineered by business interests in collusion with financial and industrial interests, one has no critical material to work with. Just a complaint.
We live in a *world* — the dissident right calls it Clown World — where the entire system is compromised and serves functions that operate, in essence, against sovereignty in its most important sense. Who created this world? Please begin to tell the truth. This is a Postwar creation and it was created by *you*.
Who else? Aliens?
For God’s sake some honesty is called for.
A far more honest position is to begin to talk about personal complicity. And when that is honestly worked out then conclusions can be drawn about what alternatives exist, if they exist.
There is a whole world of people who are working in this interpretive-critical realm and they have been working since when this unique Hyper-Liberal system was presented and sold. They have been writing on these issues for 50 years and their ideas have been suppressed. But they are there. And now anyone can access their discourse.
The point about opinions that everyone has one is exactly the point about ideas and perspectives. Some have merit and some just stink. None have all the answers so it is incumbent on the individual to integrate other opinions into a cohesive theory which becomes your opinion. Those who ignore ideas only because they undermine their opinion are those whose opinions hold less value.
But the point — the real point in my view — is that indeed everyone does have an *opinion* (doxa) yet we are losing sight of *knowledge* (episteme).
Jack notices and complains that he can’t rely on those responsible for forming correct opinions cannot be relied on and fail at the task assigned to them. I do not see them as ‘failing’ necessarily. They are ‘operatives’, they are ‘hired guns’, they have a purpose, and their purpose can be investigated and defined. It is a very complex subject though, and one requiring analytical and philosophical seriousness.
So, Jack says that in our *democracy* we need a certain class of person to translate the events of the day to us; to select it, to describe it in reduced terms; to make it intelligible to us. But it seems to me that everyone should understand — I think that many do — that you cannot rely on the fox to get straight information about what the fox does. What the fox must necessarily do as the fox pursues his objectives.
By referring to ‘fox’ I refer — whether this is obvious to you or not I am uncertain — to deceptive narratives from deceiving sources. That is, their function is deception. Once one has understood this, and that these people deal in distortions of doxa for self-interested reasons (reasons that can be seen at times, and at other times that remain unseen and indecipherable), one is in a better position to proceed to define knowledge: what is important to know and what must be known.
To use the term ‘democracy’ is to use a fox-term. If one says this seriously one reveals that one has self-tricked, or agreed to be tricked. We live in very very complex systems that are the outcome of vast efforts to confuse, to trick, to distort, to influence, to channel, in essence to propagandize.
I believe that it is possible, both in theory and in reality, to arrive at knowledge. I also believe that opinion, if what opinion actually is is understood, can be seen for what it is. In one important sense opinion is laden or intertwined with sentiment and emotion. Opinion by its nature is bound up with sensation — feeling — and not with intellectual knowledge. If I believe in intellectual knowledge (intellectus combined with episteme) then I must believe that there is such a thing as real knowledge. And if I do believe in that, I also suggest, that I am expressing a belief in metaphysical categories. That is, knowledge is part of the eternal and the *real*; opinion and sentiment are part of the ‘contingent’ and the ‘mutable’.
Therefore, our object is to establish the proper base for examining our selves and the world we live in.
Now, I keep asking the question: What is going on in our present? I NEVER GET AN ANSWER. Why do I never get an answer? I am forced to attempt to answer my own question since there appears to be no one home! How long shall I knock on the door and yet the resident does not answer the door? You suppose this is an *insulting question* but I have no interest in insults!
The reason the resident doesn’t come to the door is because the resident is in a state of stupefaction:
A stunned or bewildered condition:
befuddlement, bewilderedness, bewilderment, daze, discombobulation, fog, muddle, mystification, perplexity, puzzlement, stupor, trance.
This connects — of course! — the the notion of America having been ‘dumbed-down’. If you use this term seriously, and if you are a serious person, you have to carry it forward to examine the consequences and the ramifications of cultivated stupidity, or stupefaction.
Mrs. Q recently revealed her sense of being insulted by the way I think and talk with the following:
Sounds like regurgitated talking points someone else made dressed up in your pandering long-winded “I know better than you fools” Alizia speak.
Sentiment and emotion get offended. Intellect and episteme do not! Offense is, in its way, an aspect of opinion: it is of a lower order. We DEFINITELY need to transcend lower orders of understanding. And if you (if we) believe that knowledge is a real thing, and is distinguished from mere opinion, it is our task and our responsibility to work through the definitions.
When talking with a bunch of egomaniacal old men I am very surprised that I — as a youth — have to chide them to put aside emotion and pique and focus only on IDEAS.
We are in the midst of a general cultural befuddlement. It is not that we cannot figure out through analysis what is going on, and what has happened to us — what has been done to us — it is that we recoil away from this project because WE ARE COWARDS. Our sentiments are so wrapped up in various, interconnected, dovetailing false opinions that we cannot arrive at knowledge. I have determined that the major block is fear and for this reason I use the term cowardice. Men should not be cowards. It is proper in a way that women show that side because they are always called on to make the safest choices. But men should be bold and decisive.
All that I speak about, and the *wall of silence* I receive as a reward for my efforts, is within these areas. And people struggle to understand! This is what I have come to — relationally — after 6 years of work here. And I cannot get people to engage at any honest level with these ideas. Amazing!
And just now I go to CNN for a distraction.
Opinion, fact, truth and future news meet for breakfast and come up with a way to state the obvious postured as informative:
“Analysis: Trump is appealing to Americans who have lost jobs not lives. And it may work”
Well, appealing to people who have lost their lives is pretty futile…
Hmm… I read that as lives of people they know rather than their own lives. It seems like the most likely intent, but I didn’t even notice the alternate literal interpretation.
“Well, appealing to people who have lost their lives is pretty futile…”
Worked for Chicago democrats for years.
Does Althouse know how to read RCP? Maybe so, but her quote leaves me in doubt.
Every one of the articles presented in the center section of RCP are always opinion/partisan analysis pieces. They are presented in roughly equal measure from both left/right perspective. So in answer to Althouse’s question, yes, add up and divide by two. That will get you the rough number of left-right articles, respectively.
All hard news articles are listed on the left sidebar, curated by category. Polling information is on the right sidebar.
RCP tries to be a non-partisan curator, but they come from a very slightly right-of-center/Libertarian angle. The careful reader will note that the perspectives are not quite perfectly equal, with the right being very slightly more prevalent, and the news sources a little less left-leaning than in most places doing curation.
RCP is worth reading just for the contrasts, and they do a fair job of curating the most popular/influential pieces of the day and and presenting them apposite each other. They don’t do this perfectly, but it’s close enough. If you’ll note, the opinions presented in the center are generally paired topically with one from one position and one from the other, usually in immediate proximity.
Your mileage may vary, but I think RCP gets the formula mostly right. In most curation sites, one side is completely ignored in favor of the other. RCP is the only one I know of that doesn’t have an overwhelming bias one way or another and tries very hard to present a range of opinions, presumably in order to allow people to read both sides and determine where they stand on the issues.
RCP is a multiple-daily read for me. They do a morning and PM update, with an additional update on busy news days like yesterday.
So what, though? Analysis is supposed to be based on facts, and those, indeed 90% of RCP pieces, are opinion pieces allegedly by individuals with some expertise and reason for us to pay attention. There are pure opinions, and there are arguments based on an assembly of facts. If two allgedly good faith, competent, fair analysts reach opposite opinions using the same set of facts, then that’s opinion, and we can judge the opinion based on the legitimacy and effectiveness of the argument. I they use different facts, then that’s what Althouse, and I, protest about. Read any two of those diverging pieces. They are using different “facts.”
And right back at you — So what? Are you saying you are incompetent to judge what is a fact and what is not? I hope not. Even experts disagree about what facts are relevant to their argument. Most of the time, you don’t see the facts disputed as much as the ones that favor the author’s argument promoted to more importance.
Even in cases where the experts disagree on the facts, that’s part of it. As we know, a lot of things declared “facts” are not actually facts, but accepted wisdom or widely-promoted theories. Sorting out fact from non-fact or which fact is more important is really the job of the reader, just like the validity of the opinion offered. The experts often can’t agree on which are “facts” and which are not, nor upon which facts are the most important. That’s impossible to curate away.
If that’s too much work for you and Althouse, well, I can’t see why that’s RCP’s problem. We must always not only judge an argument, but the validity of the facts upon which they are based and the soundness of the logic upon which the arguments are offered. There are relatively few “facts” in a political debate that cannot be disputed or rejected as a valid basis and substituted for something more suitable to the argument.
Your beef belongs with the authors, not with the curator. If you don’t like what is on offer, you can always look elsewhere. RCP never claimed to the the be-all and end-all of political fact or opinion, and doesn’t represent itself thus.
Was Althouse criticizing the curator? I sure wasn’t. Nor do I believe Althouse was seriously suggesting that she didn’t know what to do. Like me, she is qualified and usually able to make good judgments between what is fact and what isn’t. Most people aren’t.And in some cases—the Mike Flynn case is a perfect example, the lack of any objective perspective anywhere makes it difficult for even careful analysts to figure it out. Opinion paces should not be disinformation. Most of those on her list are.
One man’s disinformation is another man’s wise counsel. That’s the new rule. Where have you been? 🙂
Not my rule!
This is brutally evident in the reportage of the (claimed) disappearing-before-our-very-eyes URSUS MARITIMUS, currently being decimated by a ~ 550 % population increase since the 1950’s.
All you deep-pocketed hand-wringers, especially the well-heeled Other Bill; please: <bi>DONATE NOW
In the comment section in the Ann Althouse article, Amadeus writes:
Now that is something one can work with!
But I would have to modify ‘plausible story’. Here are the questions:
Are you sure you are a seeker of truth? What if you are actually and more truly involved in complicity with lies? With self-deceptions that involve deceiving others?
With false-assertions about your own nation? What is is, what it does? Who really runs it and controls it?
What about your own *goodness*, this notion that you are *the best people who has even walked the Earth*? What if this entire ultra-patriotic stance is an elaborate pose? a ruse? Part of the structure of lies?
What if you have been actively participating in the *system of lies* through which all that we now see developing, and gaining a grip, and asserting itself, what if through your complicity and your lies what if you are creating it and maintaining it?
What if you your self is actually a block to things improving and getting better? On what basis, in respect to what proof, must I believe your assertion that you are a solution to the problem and that the problem is not you but is in them: those, over there?
I just can’t believe that anyone would even say such things myself! Much less pose them as questions needing to be answered! The audacity! The hubris!
“Wake up and smell the coffee” my Aussie friend always says . . .
What is Obamagate?
Well, that’s a good question, and a complicated one, it seems. This guy explains it as well as anybody: https://libertyunyielding.com/2020/05/13/beyond-biden-brennan-and-clapper-how-grenells-satchel-tells-us-this-is-on-the-right-track/