July 8, 2022

"How do you know who’s in bad faith? Like, what’s my faith? You’re sort of looking into people’s hearts..."

"... and saying, 'This person who disagrees with me, they’re not mad at me because I got something wrong, they’re not mad at me because they think I’m too liberal, they’re fundamentally in bad faith.'"

Ben Smith challenged Taylor Lorenz, quoted in "Taylor Lorenz grilled over claims that critics are acting in 'bad faith'" (NY Post)(video of a long interview at the link).

Lorenz's babbling non-answer is so inane I couldn't decide whether to accuse her of being in bad faith or confess that I no longer knew what "bad faith" even is:

“You can tell the difference between someone who disagrees with you and someone who is not operating in good faith... Based on the nature of their question, right? For instance, if they’re coming to you in an honest capacity, and saying, ‘Hey, I noticed X-Y-Z,’ you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll take your feedback... On every story I write, I hear lots of different perspectives … but if somebody is coming at you and is making personal attacks, they’re misrepresenting you, they’re kind of actively participating in networked harassment … retweeting people who are not there for constructive criticism.... I think you can tell the difference between constructive criticism and not-constructive criticism.”

How can you tell if someone's in bad faith? You can tell... I think you can tell....

Is she saying that if criticism feels aggressive, it's in bad faith?

"Bad faith" has an entry in the OED. It's defined as "Intent to deceive; insincerity, dishonesty; faithlessness, disloyalty; treachery." Do Lorenz — and Smith — even understand the term? What's bad faith about being especially vigorous and mean in criticizing someone whose politics you oppose? What's bad faith about a personal attack? It is what it is. What's the deception?

In existentialist philosophy, "bad faith" has special meaning: "self-deception practised in order to avoid absolute responsibility for one's own actions." Ben Smith graduated summa cum laude from Yale. Wouldn't it have been cool if he had taken Taylor Lorenz down a Jean Paul Sartre rabbit hole?

From the Wikipedia article "Bad Faith":

In his book Being and Nothingness, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre defined bad faith (French: mauvaise foi) as hiding the truth from oneself. The fundamental question about bad faith self-deception is how it is possible. In order for a liar to successfully lie to the victim of the lie, the liar must know that what is being said is false. In order to be successful at lying, the victim must believe the lie to be true. When a person is in bad faith self-deception, the person is both the liar and the victim of the lie. So at the same time the liar, as liar, believes the lie to be false, and as victim believes it to be true. So there is a contradiction in that a person in bad faith self-deception believes something to be true and false at the same time. Sartre observed that "the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know the truth in my capacity as deceiver, though it is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived," adding that "I must know that truth very precisely, in order to hide it from myself the more carefully—and this not at two different moments of temporality ..."


RideSpaceMountain said...

In medieval and Renaissance Europe there was a device known as a 'scold's bridle'. This often took many forms, but it was an iron frame placed on the head usually ending in some kind of contraption or metal cover denying the person's capacity for speech.

Taylor Lorenz is a perfect modern candidate for this device's revival. Strap it to her head, put a vegan leather harness on her, and let Johnny Depp know that she's available. Then watch the magic happen.

Kevin said...

“but if somebody is coming at you and is making personal attacks, they’re misrepresenting you, they’re kind of actively participating in networked harassment”

She’s describing the Washington Post.

MadisonMan said...

"They're acting in bad faith" is the cousin to calls for civility, i.e., civility BS. It's always the other person acting in bad faith, and it's often used to defend something stupid you've said.

dbp said...

There is the existential form, as described by Sartre but I think most people practice bad faith on a much shallower level.

The most common kind I've come across in debates is that one's interlocutor argues on grounds that they do not themselves consider valid. I had a long and fruitless debate some months ago about the Constitutional merits of Roe compared to the obvious violations of the 2nd Amendment by various states. At the end of it, his "arguments" left in tatters, he sputtered, "Well fuck the Constitution, we should just throw it out"! He never cared about the Constitution at all, it was just something he thought I cared about. That's what I think of when I think of arguing in bad faith.

A similar thing happens fairly frequently, except they (who are not religious) assume that I am. The Bible means nothing to them and when they lose, which they always do, since they usually have only vestigial knowledge in that area, they "It's all superstition anyway" you.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I think Sartre would be among those who would say: many modern people want the benefits of nihilism--the freedom from the old, restrictive moralities--but they can't really face the consequences, so they come up with self-regarding bullshit that may be just as silly as anything taught by the medieval Church. The search for bad faith only in others, not in oneself, would be a great example. Cross-examining hearts and minds in others--obvious similarities to the McCarthy hearings, and before that religious persecutions of various kinds.

Jamie said...

Based on the nature of their question, right?

Oooooh, I hate this construction! All the grown-up kids seem to use it. Stick a "right?" on the end of your unsupported statement to make it sound self-evident, axiomatic, a postulate everyone's already agreed on. Then, anyone who questions your "right?" statement is obviously speaking in bad faith.

Balfegor said...

It's ironic to hear Lorenz talk about "bad faith," and I suspect this is why Smith pressed her a little -- she's a glorified internet troll who mostly gins up stories in bad faith, and her former coworkers probably know that better than anyone else.

Ann Althouse said...

""They're acting in bad faith" is the cousin to calls for civility, i.e., civility BS."

Good point! I'll add the tag.

"It's always the other person acting in bad faith, and it's often used to defend something stupid you've said."

If only they took Sartre seriously.

Jefferson's Revenge said...

I do not underhand why she is still employed. Really, what purpose does she serve? What does she actually do? Social media blah blah blah. She seems to be a commentator without a brain. No thoughts or insight. Just a reflexive regurgitant of cliches and grievances. What value, other than embarrassment, does she actually bring to her employer? Why does she get a paycheck?

It's now to the point that I look at some of the people on the left in total bafflement. What world do they inhabit? Don't they see the continual damage done by their policies or worse, don't they care as long as someone puts a microphone in front of their face or likes them on-line?

PJ said...

I think you can tell the difference between constructive criticism and not-constructive criticism.

It seems that to Ms. Lorenz, good-faith criticism is by definition meant constructively, in the sense that it is meant to advance the interests of Ms. Lorenz. Note that the opposite of constructive to her is not destructive but merely not-constructive. So those whose criticisms are motivated by their own interests or by abstractions like truth are in bad faith, even if they are merely indifferent to the interests of Ms. Lorenz. The experience of deception arises from the presumption that good-faith (constructive) criticism must be intended to benefit Ms. Lorenz, so all critics are implicitly representing that they have that intention.

Bob_R said...

A few weeks ago I tried to figure out what Lorenz had done to land gigs at the NYT and WaPo. It's interesting. There are no big stories, no breaking news. Just this detailed knowledge of social media. She brags that she spends every waking moment on the web. I think she has literally driven herself insane. It's like a wine critic who becomes an alcoholic.

Ann Althouse said...


Those are excellent examples of bad faith. The deception is that you get caught up in a debate with this person who is pretending to share common ground with you, but they don't really share that common ground, and if your efforts pay off and you're winning, they are never going to agree. They'll just walk away. If they were honest, they wouldn't have wasted your time.

Hunter Biden's tax payer funded Hooker said...

How is this person in the media?

Oh right - oh right. Garbage media is a revolving door for woke hacks and self-absorbed BS agenda pushers.

daskol said...

Bad faith is a good band name

Temujin said...

OK, I'm going to be up front and state that I'm coming at them both with personal attacks. But I'm being absolutely sincere. Ben Smith and Taylor Lorenz are like the Mercedes and BMWs of bad journalism. They are the standards for why journalists have a poll approval number around that of a roundworm. As bad as Taylor Lorenz is, Ben Smith's history is far worse. He is the prototype propagandist posing as a journalist. A dealer in lies and half-truths who, like many on the left, seem to get promoted when found to do bad work. From Buzzfeed to the NY Times, his reputation is remarkably bad, yet he keeps on serving it up.

Here's a clip of Ben Smith 'interviewing' Tucker Carlson. I love how Smith states "let's not use labels on people" then calls Tucker a White Supremacist in the following sentence. Smith is the standard for abusive passive aggressiveness. He'll throw the worst kind of dirt on people, then back off and act as if nothing at all was meant by it. He's lower than whaleshit in my book. And not from this interview with Carlson, but from a career of creating and spreading BS and lies that have as their only goal, damaging as many as it can, then acting haughty about it.

Ben Smith & Tucker Carlson.

TML said...

This post reminds me of another thing people say that's "unanswerable." And that phrase is, "Don't be so defensive." It's one of the most enraging, cheap, dishonest things to say, and people feel that it scores points and makes them look superior. I'm honestly baffled by its use and have personally never encountered a situation where it even made sense in context. It's also usually snarkily deployed. I do not take people seriously who use it. It's a pathetic way to stop someone responding to something they disagree with.

James K said...

What's bad faith about a personal attack? It is what it is. What's the deception?

There's a point she could have made about ad hominem attacks, but she's too stupid to make the distinction, and evidently think any strong criticism of her work is a "personal attack," even if the criticism is objectively valid. Typical millennial snowflake.

Lurker21 said...

Sartre looks like he's too caught up in his own paradoxes. Given the difficulty of knowing or being sure about the truth in many situations, "bad faith" is something like a constant human companion. The kind of radical honesty existentialists admired isn't possible in the real world. Sartre himself was in bad faith when it came to the Soviet Union and to his own behavior. He was conscious of the "truth" or of one major aspect of the "truth," but denied it to himself and others.

Lorenz is arguing in bad faith herself. People who agree with what they assume to be her ends, will tend to find nothing wrong with her means. People who object to her behavior are likely to be people who don't share her ideological orientation. Attributing their criticism to their political beliefs, rather than to her own actions, is arguing in bad faith.

tommyesq said...

but if somebody is coming at you and is making personal attacks... said the person whose only defense to critics is personal attacks on the faith, or lack thereof, in their hearts.

Aggie said...

"Lorenz's babbling non-answer is so inane I couldn't decide whether to accuse her of being in bad faith or confess that I no longer knew what "bad faith" even is...."

Of course you know what 'bad faith' is. Taylor Lorenz is the walking personification of it, a live synonym of bottomless reinforcement.

Howard said...

Bad Faith claims are variations on the Strawman crutch. Excuses are for wimps.

Iman said...

Bad faith Ben Smith has no standing to engage with the idiot Lorenz.

These people must think Americans have very short memories.

Michael K said...

Blogger Iman said...

Bad faith Ben Smith has no standing to engage with the idiot Lorenz.

These people must think Americans have very short memories.

Exactly. For example.

The "Replacement Theory" that Smith thinks is "white supremacist" is actual Democrat policy stated clearly a few years ago before Hispanics began to turn Republican.

John Judis and Ruy Teixeira first promised that “white America” would soon be “supplanted by multiracial, multiethnic America” in 2002. Back then, their argument, summarized in their book The Emerging Democratic Majority, was surprising and controversial. But over the following years, it quickly went mainstream.

Until it didn't.

MayBee said...

I'm with the others who cannot understand why she has a job-- a big job.

robother said...

I get this mental picture of Sartre, standing in front of a mirror, losing an argument with himself. But who knows how many SS occupiers he crippled by sowing Existentialiste self-doubt? After 4 years of hanging out in Parisian boites with Sartre, no wonder they couldn't set the place on fire as they left.

Two-eyed Jack said...

Temujin rightly points to the Ben Smith interview with Tucker Carlson.

Smith repeatedly asks insulting questions and then talks over the answers. That is an interview in bad faith, where the interviewer is both soliciting answers and suppressing them.

Sartre is right that Smith knows exactly the answers that he does not want to hear. Each question is, thus, a lie.

Wa St Blogger said...

It's been my experience that most people would rather be seen to be right hat to actually be right. By that I mean they focus on winning the encounter, rather than seeking the truth. They have their established position and then look to put you in your place by almost any means necessary if not through logic then by dismissing your sources, and eventually dismissing you by labeling you (racist, sexist, etc.)

J Melcher said...

Ann tells @dbp " Those are excellent examples of bad faith. "

Strongly Agreed. Though Guns and Abortion debates appear SO OFTEN in public media that it would be a wonder if those topics did not provide excellent examples of ALL forms of argument, valid or not.

There's an odd asymmetry between "good faith" and the quasi-legal term "bona fide" versus bad faith. Like, does the purchase offer actually have sufficient financial backing? Does the expert have academic credentials? Is the chain-of-custody secure? Incomplete bona fides aren't "BAD faith".

Wa St Blogger said...

*would rather be seen to be right than to actually be right

Michael said...

Lorenz is just a horrible person churned out from the horrible person making Ivy League.

Narayanan said...

faith is an almost synonym for loyalty
Trump asked Comey about his loyalty : he must have sensed the bad faith in FBI director.

Michael said...

They have not read Sartre but they think they know the word existential. And fling it around and toss it into every word salad that they deliver.

Joe Smith said...

She is Harris-level dumb.

It always amazes me how people this mediocre can rise to positions of influence.

Arlington Quidnunc said...

Claim: Taylor Lorenz is a Bulverist, and that's why she says what she says!
"Lewis wrote about this in a 1941 essay,[2][3] which was later expanded and published in 1944 in The Socratic Digest under the title "Bulverism".[4][3] This was reprinted both in Undeceptions and the more recent anthology God in the Dock in 1970. He explains the origin of this term:[5]

You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it "Bulverism". Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father—who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third—"Oh you say that because you are a man." "At that moment", E. Bulver assures us, "there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall." That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine is "wishful thinking." You can never come to any conclusion by examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant—but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must first find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.

— C. S. Lewis, Bulverism"

Inquiry said...

The most common kinds of bad faith arguments I run across are burden of proof games. This usually takes the form of a debater arbitrarily holding his opponent to a much higher standard than he is willing to submit to or in some other way biasing the debate by playing with the rules. If there are good reasons for the difference in burdens this isn't a problem, but when the reasons are faulty, arbitrary, or nonexistent, it is bad faith.

On one memorable occasion I argued with someone who treated "you can't prove a negative" as sacred canon. He made a negative claim then insisted that the full burden of proof was on his opponents.

Jupiter said...

"I think you can tell the difference between constructive criticism and not-constructive criticism."

Well. If someone tells you that they hate your filthy, lying guts, that might be considered not-constructive. But then again, maybe you should clean up your filthy guts, and get them to stop lying. Right?

Scott Patton said...

Ann Althouse said... at 8:01
"they are never going to agree. They'll just walk away. If they were honest, they wouldn't have wasted your time."


Narr said...

It seems obvious to me that Taylor Lorenz resembles VP Harris in her talent for garnering positive attention and protection from powerful men.

Now, why would that be?

She's an ignorant skank ho, just like Harris.

Achilles said...

Civility Bullshit is a form of bad faith argument.

It is making the other person abide by rules that you yourself refuse to follow.

effinayright said...

daskol said...
Bad faith is a good band name

I saw Bad Faith open for Blind Faith at the Fillmore back in 1969.

tim maguire said...

Bad faith is something that emerges through repeated attempts to engage honestly. It is a process of elimination diagnosis. Most commonly, someone makes an accusation, the accusation is reasonably refuted, and then the original commenter simply makes another accusation or badly mischaracterizes the statements of the refuter and resists being corrected. At some point, bad faith is the only possible explanation.

To paraphrase Patterico, for the 2nd day in a row, on his anatomy of a conservative talking to a liberal:

Liberal makes unsupported claim A
Conservative uses facts and logic to show that A is not correct
Liberal ignores the response and makes unsupported claim B
Conservative uses facts and logic to show that B is not correct
Liberal ignores the response and makes unsupported claim C
Conservative uses facts and logic to show that C is not correct
Liberal claims A

Quaestor said...

Taylor Lorenz says criticism makes her think about suicide. However, it is bad faith to make that claim without a good faith suicide attempt, which gives me PTSD really bad. (sniffle-sniffle)

Mark said...

Here is some bad faith, in the sense that Biden's "faith" is bad:

In his remarks on his pro-abortion executive order, he urged people "for God's sake" to vote for candidates that will support killing prenatal babies and prohibit laws to protect all human life.

Invoking God to promote your evil, telling people to support evil for God's sake, is one of the worst types of bad, that is, evil faith.

What a vile, disgusting, revolting little man.

Howard said...

Achilles heel is his unceasing reliance of bad faith ad nauseum. He uses it instead of saying "because shut up".

Lem Ozuna from the Braves said...

I’m at my sisters in Tampa, they have cable and CSPAN carried this media get together, or whatever. I watched some of it. I lost interest.

rcocean said...

Bad faith is most obvious in the political realm. People, usually leftists, will argue that the constitutional principle supports their position. Or that majority rule will agree with their position. Or that patriotism or what's best for the USA agrees with their position.

The bad faith is they don't care about the constitution, or patriotism or "Majority rule" since they will argue the opposite it benefits them.

The greatest practicisioners (Sic) of "Bad Faith" were the Communists. The Bolshiviks regarded words as weapons, to be used when they didn't have the enough guns to impose their will. They would decide which slogan, or which set of words, was best for them RIGHT NOW, and help them seize or stay in power. They would pretend to be Russian patriots, lovers of free sppech, tolerant of Religion, sympathetic to peasants owning land, or the exact opposite. The only true motivation was helping the communist party seize and stay in power.

That is "Bad faith".

realestateacct said...

Arlington Quidnunc
Bulverism is a wonderful addition to my vocabulary.