June 20, 2008

Today I celebrate the one month anniversary of Jack’s last question (Passing off retired general pr flacks as objective military analysts is not unlike passing off 'on-message' partisans as objective reporters, no?) by answering it.
Indeed, Jack, the first thing is not unlike the second thing; they are extremely similar except for the fact that one thing is true while the other isn’t. The presuppositions in the question are not acceptable to me (nothing I’ve ever said would suggest otherwise) and I do not “assume the premise” that the New York Times is passing off ‘on-message’ partisans as objective reporters.
I see three separate propositions that you apparently buy into and take as given; that NYT reporters are “on-message partisans” (they are not what they may seem), that NYT’s goal is to have their reporters perceived as “objective”, and that NYT is engaged in the deceptive scheme of “passing off” so-called journalists as something that they’re not. In the past, the arguments that we’d email to each other would usually come with reasons to support their conclusions, consistent with the old adage “he who asserts must prove”. The burden of proving the assertion is yours to carry but at the moment, there is no good reason to accept your claim about the NY Times.
Not long ago you were presented with information that rebutted your thesis that Jacoby of The Boston Globe must be either 1) a disguised propagandist for Big Oil or 2) a moron. Your response was to repeat the moron part while continuing with your sardonic tone, when really you would have been better served by either 1) retracting your complete argument against him or 2) simply remaining silent. The episode makes me wonder if I’m engaging with someone who will admit it when the commitments that he holds are shaken by good counter-arguments. Jacoby complained that ethanol mandates would lead to unintended consequences. Your reply had relevance to Jacoby’s complaint yet it was not evidence which could in any way refute what he was claiming (hence the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi). I explained this and you did reply but it wasn’t much of an answer.
I sense a common theme here; reporters, when they write or don’t write what you think they should, do it because they have an agenda. To sell newspapers ? Don’t be naive… it’s to push a private interest or political ideology. This, along with stupidity, seems to be your working assumption about reporters and what motivates their actions (call it Occam’s Razor In Reverse or Inference to the Most Nefarious Explanation). But strong allegations should require strong evidence and I welcome you to provide it. I just hope that you consider opposing views seriously with the idea that changing your mind on an issue was at least possible, as opposed to a staying "on-message" no matter what the evidence suggests.

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