January 12, 2012

The left blogosphere freaks out over its own inability to distinguish between hard to believe and falsifiable.

It's all pretty much summarized here:
New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane asked this morning “whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”
As was, I think, obvious to any calm, careful, competent reader, Brisbane was wondering about repeating assertions that politicians (and others) make about their thoughts and motivations, matters about which they have sole access. What can the reporter do? Insinuate disbelief? Pummel the newsmaker with pointless "Oh, really? Are you sure?"-type questions?

But left-wing bloggers acted like Brisbane had asked the head-slappingly stupid question "Should reporters care about truth?"

Brisbane sort of asked for it by writing "'facts'" — so I half-suspect he was setting a trap for the unwary. I'd like to ask him if he was trying to trick bloggers into paying attention to him. He'd probably say "Of course not. I was genuinely interested in what reporters should do about this pesky, recurrent problem." And then what would I say: "Oh, really? Are you sure?"?


BJM said...

But left-wing bloggers acted like Brisbane had asked the head-slappingly stupid question "Should reporters care about truth?"

Horse, open barn door.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that it would be too embarrassing if they really did report facts and fact checked what politicians said. Indeed, they could probably assign someone full time to VP Biden to report on his continuous whoppers. And, then, Nancy Pelosi and her many claims about hundreds of thousands of jobs created by shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars to political constituents and cronies and by massively increasing regulations on business.

rhhardin said...

Reporters should resist narratives, no so much facts.

Resisting a fact already accepts a narrative, but just questioning a detail.

The Clarence Thomas narrative 1 is that the form was unclear to him, narrative 2 is that he's as usual trying to hide his extreme bias.

Getting into Thomas's mind isn't in question.

The narrative comes from the opposition and the reporter.

When my neighbor misreports his taxes, I'm utterly uncurious about it. No spin is necessary, no narrative is necessary. I don't care about it.

That financial form is not sprung from a narrative of deception in the first place. Thomas's is.

David said...

Thanks for clarifying, RH Hardin.

Turns out that damn Clarence Thomas must be a liar.

He says he's conservative. But he's black, and blacks are Democrats. Thomas has been lying all his life just to get on the Supreme Court.

All part of his pattern of deception.

Anonymous said...

What he wrote was stupid. But the solution is not to play judge, but to stop all pretenses that reporters can be objective, neutral, unbiased, all knowing observers.

Reporters come from a group of hard partying, judgmental, biased individuals.

They may as well own it.

It's one reason I prefer blogger style.

We need reporters that will ask questions and dig up complete stories.

What we don't need our crappy journalists claiming to be above the fray and objective, and therefore unable to call a spade a spade.

In many ways, esp. w google, loud and proud yellow journalism is better than white-washed yellow journalism.

caplight45 said...

I think he is laying the groundwork for a new level of questioning for Republican candidates so that they can write their stories dripping with incredulity. The only "facts" that will be questioned are those offered by Republicans.

edutcher said...

The Gray Lady hasn't worried about the truth since the Gulf of Tonkin.

Why start now?

Toad Trend said...

Facts are stubborn things.

'Dubious' facts may still be facts, but have been tagged 'dubious' due to the fact that they don't fit the narrative or worldview of the reporting party.

Nuance is often just bullshit manufactured in an lame attempt to refute facts.

Brisbane strikes me as a master of nuance.

Writ Small said...

More fallout from the Politifact mindset: that it is the reporters duty to declare what is true and what is a "pants on fire" lie, even when it comes to things that are a opinion or one person's claim. Thus the idea of "death panels" becomes the 2009 lie of the year because the two-word phrase doesn't appear in the Obama legislation. Never mind that there are "expert panels" that will determine which procedures have the right cost-benefit ratios to be covered. The specific words didn't appear, so Politifact declares any use of the term is not just a dysphemism but a "lie." Of course, by this logic, to call the bill "Obamacare" is also a "lie" since that phrase doesn't appear anywhere in the law either.

How about the reporters write what they can determine for certain and let the readers decide what they think is a lie?

Writ Small said...

Now I just made the mistake of reading through the comments (now closed) over at the Brisbane NY Times piece. Holy crap, are Times readers really that dumb?

Reading through the comments felt like being at an Idiot's Anonymous meeting where one person after the other stood up, stated their name and declared, "Hi. I read the New York Times, and I am an idiot."

Not a single person I read grasped the meaning of Brisbane's piece. Just wow!

Kirk Parker said...

Writ Small,

Wow, the overwhelming majority of those people are insane.

Kirk Parker said...

I think this comment is my (dis)favorite so far:

"The fact that you even ask the question makes every single thing the NYT ever published now suspect."

Dude(tte), please please PLEASE tell me you're NOT just now coming around to this realization.

Bob said...

I think that of the four Public Editors that The New York Times has had, Brisbane has been the least willing to challenge the editors and powers at the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Every single example but one that a commenter on that story brought up as a "lie" that a reporter should expose, whether hypothetical or based on a real comment, used a Republican as the subject (either in general or specifically by name). The single exception used Barack Obama. But that commenter was careful to point out in a special note at the end of his comment that it was purely hypothetical and he only used it because Obama was president. Just in case anyone was worried, I guess. Because no Democrat, and especially Obama, has ever stood up and uttered a bald-faced lie ("I never heard Reverend Wright say any of those things."; "Bill Ayers was just a guy in my neighborhood."; "The Republicans made me refuse public financing for my campaign.")

rcommal said...

I looked at his example and instantly thought of saying, "OK to the first sentence, so long as the second sentence absolutely wasn't included--or, if it were to be determined it MUST BE included, axe at least the most obvious (leading, subjective) adjective from it."

I suspect my instant thought matters not a wit to him, or to you all, or to Althouse, for that matter.

Things tend to go as they go. Amen! If that were not so, what the hell would we do?

; )

Jaske said...

I find my local reporters working for "The Randolph Herald", (pay wall), are friends with the City Board politicians, and receive favors RE: private homes.

Lem said...

things are not what they seem..

Tropper and titus are the same person..

Bangalore.. really?

I'm pretty sure.
Trooper, titus, tits.

I cant believe I didn't see that before.

pst314 said...

edutcher "The Gray Lady hasn't worried about the truth since the Gulf of Tonkin."

You mean since the Ukrainian Famine.

Peter said...

Expecting reporters to distinguish between fact, unfalsifiable assertion, and not-a-fact is surely to ask to much of them.

We are, after all, talking about people who took "math for liberal arts majors." And you expect them to find fault with yet another "study" produced by an advocacy organization? Or the government's, or a politician's, assertion about poverty, or the national debt, or the economic viability of 'green' power??

You're talking about the New York Times, which will assert that if the average temperature in some location has increased from 37F to 39F it has increased by over five percent- and not realizing that if they'd reported these temperatues in Celsius the "percent increase" would be much, much larger. Or even realizing that "percent increase" in temperature is meaningless, unless you're using a scale that begins at absolute zero.

So, whether it's "Politfact" or the NYT, I'd prefer that reporters, er "journalists," just don't try too hard to figure out what's true and what isn't (and what is neither).

future toothless bum said...

It does look like a manufactured conundrum. Perhaps with the intended results. The first commenter was appalled that the Bush was allowed his vileness to exist. No mention of how Obama is reducing the deficit as promised.

And as the good editor implies, if Obama isn't apologizing for America, the alternative is he is talking smack about America.

"Guantanamo was not in keeping with US values" "I made the decision to close Guantanamo because I don't think it makes America safer." "...there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” "we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership."

Really there is no apology. He just believes that America sucks.

Stoutcat said...

Nah, reporters have no need to challenge those "facts" because they have a tool -- frequently used and widely understood by the cognoscenti -- which they weave all too unobtrusively into their articles, much like Hirschfeld would weave a Nina into each of his drawings.

From the article linked:

"...whether Clarence Thomas “misunderstood” the financial disclosure form when he failed to include his wife’s income...

No reporter ever has to "challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about”. All they have to do is use the "scare quotes" in a paragraph and all right-thinking people know exactly what's what. (And by "right-thinking" I mean, of course, "LEFT-thinking...)

It's the liberal use of scare quotes which lets lefties know who is to be believed utterly, and who is a lying sack of you-know-what.

jeff said...

"But left-wing bloggers acted like Brisbane had asked the head-slappingly stupid question "Should reporters care about truth?""

Left wing bloggers dont care about the truth, why do they care about reporters? Wouldn't they be concerned if reporters started reporting just the truth? Especially if the NYT did a 180 and starting reporting nothing but the truth?


"But left-wing bloggers acted like Brisbane had asked the head-slappingly stupid question "Should reporters care about truth?""

Why should they start now?

Mountain Maven said...

It's post-modernism, the new word for relativism, the new word for "there is no absolute truth, so the truth is what you say it is. We were taught this sheesh in college. Took me 10 years to un-brainwash myself.

caseym54 said...

“whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”

Isn't the answer obvious? "If they are Republicans." The NY Times reporters seem to understand this instinctively.