A Serious Question

Yesterday I had a follower express disappointment in a position I took on someone’s post about the White House press briefings. I answered his concerns but I’m not sure I connected because I’m pretty sure that what I offered as a factual response may not have made it through his emotional filters. This presents the opportunity to discuss what I see as the single largest problem in America today; Emotion vice logic. Polarization seldom develops along factual lines being almost always caused by an emotion or emotions re things we think we believe.

You’ve all heard or read my position re belief in that perspective is predicate to perception and perception determines response. So those of us who think of ourselves as liberals cannot see the good in an idea advanced by someone we term a conservative. We just can’t because to do so would be to betray our class, in this case class being the group of thinkers to whom we cling. We talk about liberty and equality as if they were the same thing. They decidedly are not and in our heart of hearts we know that practically speaking all men are not created equal. One only need to look to the sports world to understand that; or to medical school or fighter pilot or, you get it. But that does not stop us from demanding equality for all and from using that demand as a measuring stick against which we supposedly hold up all ideas in our Republic. Yet, in my opinion, that measuring stick isn’t always of the same length. Sometimes it seems much shorter or longer depending upon the subject we’re addressing.

The for example here is where we get our “Facts” upon which we supposedly base our logical positions. It used to be that a journalist would report the Who, What, Where When, How and perhaps the Why if it was a quote from the perpetrator. Seldom were adjectives used like horrific or terrible or stupid or et cetera. Those were reserved for attention getting headlines. The articles themselves were straightforward pieces of reportage. No opinions were expressed by the writer nor was the reporter credited for the piece. The only places you saw names in a newspaper was in the banner of ownership and on the OP-ED page where clearly labeled opinion pieces were printed. Now, however, we are bombarded with not news but opinion. Our newsreaders subject us to constant opinion. Each has what seems to be a personal agenda influenced by her/his own background and political beliefs. They make little effort to appear the disinterested observer and very often are more the makers of news than the reporters of same.

SO what makes a newsreader that smart? In fact, what makes many of the experts they bring on to backup their already stated positions that smart? The honest answer is nothing. The newsreaders are just that, they read the news but now it isn’t news but opinion and then they ask “their” experts to confirm their opinion. Note I said their experts for the next stage up from newsreader is expert. This has become a job title in and of itself and they all fall into one of two categories, liberal or conservative. Those whose news leans right employ the conservative experts, those who lean to the left employ “liberal” experts. Now I learned from almost fifty years experience in the military and intelligence worlds that an expert is generally someone from more than fifty miles away who carries a briefcase.

I cringe when I hear a newsreader mispronounce the name of a third world city but there they are, acting as an expert on something with which they’ve had absolutely no experience. I double cringe when I hear a State Supreme Court Judge opining on the legal complications of the espionage act; or a former ambassador to Sierra Leone talking about the intricacies of interactions between tribal groups in Sudan. Just because he was an ambassador in West Africa does not make him an expert on tribal affairs in East Africa. See my point? But many will accept the offerings and opinions as facts. I’ll give you an even more specific case. Many of the “CIA” experts opining on things left the Agency as mid-level employees who would not have had access to a great deal of material nor would they have achieved the experience level of expert in an area. One notable CIA expert was forced out of the Agency because he had problems with the truth, but he became one cable network’s go to guy on all matters in foreign affairs and his opinion became gospel among that network’s newsreaders. The average viewer will then take this information and quote it, using it to defend their oft emotion laden positions. Yet to the trained observer these “Facts” are nothing more than regurgitation of popular myth spiced with adjectives to make it seem new and improved.

If we do not learn to think for ourselves and become able to avoid allowing our emotions to drive us, we are that nation of sheep to which Thomas Jefferson refers in the Federalist Papers. Do your own research, put aside that which you think you believe because people “like you” believe it and have told you it is true. Remember the rest of that quote: ” A nation of sheep will have a government of wolves.”

2 thoughts

  1. As the person to whom refers in his opening paragraph, my problem with Tony’ s original post, which he repeats here, is his broad brush criticism of an entire profession. Seldom are professional experts really expert,; they are just talking heads. And I do not consider anyone on TV or Cable news to be journslists. I cringe over the same mistakes Tony refers to. But the discussion began over the comments of a well respected print journalist now retired whose opinion piece I had shared. This led to a comment, almost a rant, from Tony about all journalists being frauds. To which both the journalist and I responded defending the profession. There are many frauds and simply news readers out there, but as an intelligent person, I had hoped that Tony would agree that not all journalists were propagandists. I seem to have failed in this. On opinion pieces and op eds, I read both sides – you got to know how your enemy thinks to be able to contest in an educated way. In my view, reading the NYT and WaPo and WSJ gives you a pretty good view as to what is going on in the parts of the world that most affect our lives. I think Tony would and has disputed that. And that is the essence of our disagreement.

    1. Kim, I do not think all journalists are frauds; I just don’t think they’re journalists. There are still some real journalists out there but they do not get the press that the “opinion givers” get. I think that sometimes the NYT nails it and that other times the only thing it nails is the hands and feet of its targets of derision. I abhor the use of anonymous sources. Imagine if you or I had sent something to the White House and told them we couldn’t provide background or corroboration on the sourcing but NYT, Fox, CNN (especially CNN) are always reporting ‘highly placed officials,’ or a source who would know. But we who are expected to consume this information are not allowed to know who that source is and therefore what validity may be in his/her information. The use of anonymous sources isn’t journalism, it’s ambush politics. Besides publishing something without corroboration isn’t a good idea. If there were some form of actual accountability in the media world I wouldn’t have many of the objections I throw out there, Alas, there isn’t. When we can establish some sort of accountability for the media I will drop my objections so long as that accountability process is used.

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