With today’s Comment of the Day, Jim Hodgson weighs in on bad analogies as well as related matters. Bad analogies are a frequent topic here, and The Great Stupid may represent the zenith of bad analogies in our culture—at least I hope and pray it is.
My father, who, like me, was a lawyer who seldom practiced law, maintained that “everyone” should get a law degree, because the kind of critical thinking that law school teaches is no longer available in most colleges. (Once it was taught in grade school). One concept legal arguments rely on constantly are analogies. This is why I found Ruth Marcus employing such a wretched and irredeemable one in the Washington Post so depressing and infuriating. Striking down a vaccine mandate not supported by the law is inconsistent with the Court running its own operations with requirements that those who come into contact with the mostly high-risk Justices have to take very precaution is hypocritical? How? Why? Marcus is a Harvard Law School grad: she was taught better reasoning than that.
I see terrible analogies everywhere. Comparing Donald Trump to Hitler was ridiculous, but comparing the January 6 riot ( when “our government was almost overthrown last year by a guy wearing a Viking hat and speedos,” as Marco Rubio deftly put it) to Pearl Harbor was more ridiculous still, and the Vice President did that, more than once. Was making that idiotic analogy worse than the President calling limits on mail-in balloting the equivalent of Jim Crow laws? Or worse than claiming that enforcing the nation’s borders is “racism”? Actually, this might be a fun parlor game: “The Worst Analogy.”
Here is Jim Hodgson’s Comment of the Day on the post, “More From The Bulging “It Isn’t What It Is” File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus”…
Misleading analogies and false equivalencies are among the favored tools of today’s “journalists.” The Progressive Left and the media (but I repeat myself) have a clear agenda and it isn’t good for the republic. Forty years ago, I railed against the (comparatively mild) bias of news anchors; nowadays they look almost Fox News-ish by comparison.
Marcus and her ilk aren’t really trying to convince “searchers for the truth,” they are merely reinforcing the beliefs and attitudes of those in the “woke bubble” and reaching out only to the easily swayed. I spend a few hours most days reading a variety of news sources online, trying to get an accurate and more complete view of national and world events and issues than I find from any single source. I know not everyone makes this effort, and I regularly refer friends and family to articles and sources (including E.A.) that I think will improve their understanding of issues and events.
I sincerely hope that today’s so-called journalism does not stand uncorrected to become tomorrow’s history. As a student of American history, I realized a number of years ago that many “historians” and history authors do not go back to contemporary, original sources in their published works. It is common for some to cite a source that, when researched, is found to be wrongly quoted, taken out of context or in some cases actually contradictory to the point it was cited to support. I initially caught on to this when I read two texts on the same subject that cited the same source material to support opposing opposed positions. Going back to the source material I saw that one author had taken a few lines out of context while the other had used the full context of the cited work. I began looking for such errors and found that once some historian has written a “definitive” work on some historical subject, later writers will often cite the same footnotes in their own works in support of the same points, regardless of how inaccurately the source material was used in the first book. Obviously a good-faith effort at original research could have disclosed the problem. The more times a source document is used incorrectly or on pretext, the more entrenched the erroneous version becomes.
It is possible in some cases to trace the poor research repeated from one book to the next over a period of years. In effect “John” cites “Joe,” who cites “Tom,” who cites “Bill,” who cites “Sam” who got it wrong in the first place. With many of today’s journalists apparently reading from the same approved script, I fear that today’s journalistic misinformation and misdirection will evolve into an accepted but false history of today’s events.
8 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “More From The Bulging ‘It Isn’t What It Is’ File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus”
Very well put. Too often too many rely on simplistic reports and are unwilling to invest the time necessary to vet the information provided. Exacerbating this problem is the fact that when confronted with irrefutable facts that contradict their beliefs many cling to the false narrative so that they never have to admit being wrong.
Congratulations on this COTD.
Related to this, I got into an inline argument when someone suggested that FDR’s spending got us out of the Depression.
I suggested that the spending prolonged it.
When pressed by some for a “citation,” I produced several quotes from Thomas Sowell.
Those were simply dismissed as “revisionist history.”
The war got us out of the Depression. Does any historian dispute that?
The market did not even reach its 1929 height until 1954. The argument that FDR’s New Deal ended the Great depression is similar to Biden’s claims of creating millions of new jobs in his first 10 months in office. Had Hoover or FDR* pushed the Federal Reserve to provide liquidity to the banks along with reforming lending rules much of the Depression could have been avoided. With that said, FDR did prevent the growing resentment toward capitalism by the working class. The Wagner Act and other pieces of labor legislation help muffle the call of the communists.
If you look at a graph of the GDP beginning in 1929 through 1942 you will see that in 1932 before the New Deal was passed the economy hit the bottom of the trough and the trajectory was rising. Despite an upward trajectory, we continued to have double digit unemployment and multiple successive quarters of decline until 1942. It wasn’t until the factories started to crank out war materials and the unemployed became soldiers did the unemployment problems of the Depression dissipate.
Government can prolong or shorten the duration of a trajectory in the market. The question is whether the costs of not allowing the market to self-correct is worth it.
*Some reforms were made such as the creation of the FDIC but that was too little and too late.
Well, Jack, she certainly was no historian.
Though, now that you mention it, I may have my story wrong. Her assertion may have been that FDR’s spending helped the country recover from the Crash of 1929.
My response was that the spending did not help, but, instead, prolonged things.
The only good metric for evaluating whether fiscal policy was effective you have to do isolate gross private domestic investment from the GDP value. If it tracks slightly ahead or at the same time of the government action you can attribute the changes to the fiscal policy. When government pays for the Hoover dam or interstates it is not private investment but it will raise GDP initially through government spending and then multiplied through consumption expenditures. In order for this increase to be sustainable government has to keep priming the pump because the injection loses its potency through increased savings and purchases of imports. When stimulus payments were increased issued recently the effect was minimal because consumers retired debt or bought imported goods.
Thanks for the COTD, Jack!
I’m not sure what law school taught me. I did get a good B.A. in English before darkness descended upon by college and its faculty. I think the most valuable things law related I learned while practicing law, which is unlike law school. As an example: my sister-in-law is selling her winter home. She had some questions on a form the title company was requiring her to sign (at least that’s how she took it). I looked at the question that was confusing her and was confused as to what she should answer. I looked at the other questions and then at the entire document. It was a form for the title company to cover its ass in closing a 1031 exchange. I asked my sister-in-law, “Judy, you’re not doing a 1031 are you? You’ve got minimal capital gains on the sale, right? You’re just going to pay capital gains on the small profit and put the cash in the bank, right? As we had previously discussed?” She concurred. “Then don’t sign this document. It’s superfluous.” I think practicing law (twenty years ago, now) instilled this sort of “uh, wait a minute…” skepticism in me. But come to think of it, I had the same reaction to stuff that was being sold to me in Catholic high school by the then running rampant guitar mass brothers, at least one of whom was a pedophile. So, who knows?