Balance and Propaganda

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Dan Miller
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    says:

    This might be a little off-topic, but what’s wrong with EJ Dionne? He’s a liberal columnist so I could see you not agreeing with him, but he’s pretty bland and inoffensive AFAIK.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Dan Miller
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      says:

      @Dan Miller, Honestly, I don’t necessarily know what it is about him; I’m just not a huge fan of his.Report

      • Avatar John Henry in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @Mark Thompson, In the columns of his I’ve read (admittedly not a large sample size), he’s basically followed a paint-by-numbers approach. He states the Democratic case clearly; overlooks the strongest counter-arguments in favor of secondary or tertiary considerations; dismisses the caricature, and wraps up echoing the conventional wisdom among Democrats at a particular point in time. Now that particular style of Op-Ed is hardly unique to Dionne, and I’m not saying he’s the worst offender, but I’ve never read any argument from him that hasn’t been better expressed elsewhere, including the current column, which is articulates a point Yglesias has been making once a month for years.Report

  2. Avatar Koz
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    says:

    Come on. You probably don’t like it, but Andrew Breitbart is a credible source. EJ Dionne has to protect the guild.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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      says:

      @Koz, Breitbart’s actions have repeatedly revealed that he is not, in fact, a credible source. The fact that, rather than acknowledge his errors, his response to the Shirley Sherrod situation has been to, in effect, double down says quite a bit about his credibility.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Everything Breitbart has published has turned out to be true. The Sherrod thing was somewhat out of context but that got corrected soon enough anyway.

        No, Breitbart has credibility to spare, and the people who are complaining about it are the ones trying to run a game on the rest of us.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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          says:

          @Koz, “Somewhat out of context”? Read that first line he wrote in that original post: “In this piece you will see video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee …”

          Plenty of people could have and should have seen that there was more to this video than met the eye, yet Breitbart (assuming he’s telling the truth about not having the full video) pushed ahead with it anyway. It is at a minimum reckless, and that kind of reckless reporting without fact-checking absolutely undermines his credibility. That he now insists – despite the clear language of his original post – that it was always only about the NAACP’s supposedly indefensible reaction only further undermines his credibility. When one is caught in an error but wishes to be deemed credible going forward, one does not respond by doubling down on the error.

          Moreover, there is some serious cognitive dissonance involved in arguing that Breitbart is, on the one hand, entirely credible but, on the other hand, the Administration acted improperly in firing Sherrod on the basis of Breitbart’s work. Either he’s credible and the Administration was thus right to take him at his word, or he’s not credible and the Administration was wrong to take him at his word.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson
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            says:

            “Moreover, there is some serious cognitive dissonance involved in arguing that Breitbart is, on the one hand, entirely credible but, on the other hand, the Administration acted improperly in firing Sherrod on the basis of Breitbart’s work.”

            Not at all. Breitbart’s disclosures have all held up as facts, even where they have been repudiated in interpretation or argument. And it’s been the facts that Breitbart has brought to light that have made him controversial.

            And that’s what’s embarrassing for EJ Dionne or President Obama, that they can’t keep a lid on the facts and can’t control the narrative that flows from it. And Dionne’s op-ed is essentially a cri de coeur to try harder.

            That notwithstanding, it’s not exactly clear what Sherrod got fired for, except for being temporarily inconvenient for the President. Whatever it is, it’s not Breitbart’s responsibility.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, What important facts did Breitbart expose with this story that are important regardless of the spin you put on them? What (accurate) narrative developed out of this (non)story?Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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              says:

              The Sherrod speech wasn’t necessarily important, but it was a fact.

              The immediate narrative that came out of that was that an Obama Administration government employee was abusing her position to adversely affect some white farmers’ interests.

              That narrative wasn’t accurate (at the very least highly misleading), but Andrew Breitbart doesn’t control the narrative either as we’ve found out.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, Might I suggest that, without a reasonably accurate interpretation, a news source cannot be credible. Might I suggest that the facts that a journalist chooses to make (or not make) part of a story are a tremendously important part of whether that journalist is to be viewed as credible.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, More to the point, might I suggest that the value of any communication (and journalism is nothing if not a means for the widespread dissemination of facts) lies entirely in its ability to provide reliable analysis? If one simply states, without any analysis, every single fact that they observe, is ultimately providing no information whatsoever.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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              says:

              I disagree. The difference between fact and opinion is crucial, and the first responsibility of the journalist is to relay facts. I don’t believe that journalists shouldn’t also relay analysis or opinion as well (as you point out they are often inseparable) but I can’t think of a single journalist I trust enough to serve as my personal gatekeeper and censor and certainly never EJ Dionne.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, Just looking around at this moment, I am quite confident that I can describe several hundred, perhaps several thousand facts about my current surroundings. If I provided you with every single one of those facts, I will have provided you with nothing whatsoever. In order to convey my surroundings to you, I need to pick and choose which details are important, and which are not; I need to likewise choose which details are relevant and which are not. Depending on the details I choose to describe, I can intentionally lead you to any number of conclusions about my surroundings. Only a handful of those conclusions (ie, interpretations) will be accurate, even if the facts I’ve provided you are all accurate. If I provide you with accurate facts, but the facts I choose to provide you (a function of my opinion as to which facts are important) suggest a vastly different conclusion than the reality…..well, I’m not a credible source. Certainly, I’m not a source worth paying any attention to.

              That’s what Breitbart has done here – he has chosen to describe facts that guarantee (whether intentionally or unintentionally) his readers will reach wildly inaccurate conclusions about those facts.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, I should add that it is not only important which fact I select as being relevant, but it is also incredibly important how I choose to present them and organize them. If I write “I sit in my chair and see the ocean’s waves crashing on the beach. There is a book in front of me open to page 212,” I am conveying accurate facts that would lead you to believe that I am sitting on the beach reading a book open to page 212. But if I say “I am reading page 212 of a book, which contains a picture of the ocean’s waves crashing on a beach,” I am conveying precisely the same facts but leading you to draw far different (and far more accurate) conclusions about what I am doing.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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              says:

              Well yes but some facts supply their own narrative. Other facts obviously don’t, like what’s on page 214 of your beach reading. But for the former the essential service is to disseminate the facts. And even if you don’t like it, that’s what Andrew Breitbart has done.

              As it applies to the whole Shirley Sherrod business, frankly I’m unsure how important the whole story is in any event. Frankly, I don’t recall hearing anything about it until after she was fired.

              But, for me at least, to the extent that we care about this story at all, it goes substantially beyond pejorative characterizations of Shirley Sherrod and the rebuttals to them.

              Clearly, Ms. Sherrod carries quite a bit of race-consciousness, and given what’s happened to her family no one would blame her for that. But she’s working for the USDA and you’d like to think there’s at least one part of the government that operates without racial beancounting but this episode is a decent clue that there’s not.

              The most disappointing thing for me was how much of Ms. Sherrod’s conception of her job (and the defenses of her) are tied up in racial issues. And from what I can tell that doesn’t depend on what part of the video you see.

              And from this pov, Andrew Breitbart is really a small part of the story, except that his contribution was required in order to talk about the whole thing in the first place, and that’s what he should be praised or criticized for, depending on the overall worth of this story in the public view.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, So, it is your position that a supposed journalist who consistently reports facts completely out of context, and indeed reports those facts for the precise opposite proposition that they stand for is a “credible” source whose reports, narrative, and positions are worthy of equal time on a news program as one would provide to a news source that consistently reports facts in context and provides reliable analysis?

              Or is it perhaps more valuable that news agencies strive to report facts in a manner that allows the consumer to reach accurate conclusions? Knowing that analysis of some sort is inherent in any news story or decision to choose a story as newsworthy, is it perhaps more valuable that news organizations strive for reports with good analysis than that they strive for some sort of artificial balance that places good and bad analysis on an equal footing?

              By the way: might I suggest that, at this point, it is the Right that is looking to insert race into every single possible story, and that it is the Right that has become completely and utterly obsessed with race?

              And it would be nice if you actually acknowledged at some point that the very clear, very explicit point of the story that was misrepresented by Breitbart was that she has learned to see past race and that seeing past race is something that we all must do? I’m guessing the answer to this question is “no,” because that would mean acknowledging that St. Breitbart is wrong.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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              says:

              “And it would be nice if you actually acknowledged at some point that the very clear, very explicit point of the story that was misrepresented by Breitbart was that she has learned to see past race and that seeing past race is something that we all must do? “

              The point of the story meaning our takeaway given what we know about it so far? I haven’t acknowledged that because I think this story has a different point, which is why I’m uncomfortable with most of what I’ve read, here and other places.

              First of all, given what’s happened since the video has been released and the resulting food fight, I don’t believe for a minute that Ms. Sherrod sees past race. I do believe that Ms. Sherrod is capable of treating the races fairly in her capacity as USDA whatever.

              On the other hand, her new idea, that we can do class manipulations instead of race manipulations and everything’s kosher, I don’t accept either though I understand it’s not as aesthetically repulsive as the race issues.

              And like I mentioned before this has very little to do with Breitbart except that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk about it, for good or ill, if it weren’t for what he did.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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              says:

              “Or is it perhaps more valuable that news agencies strive to report facts in a manner that allows the consumer to reach accurate conclusions? “

              I dunno. I actually prefer “We report, you decide.”Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz
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              says:

              “So, it is your position that a supposed journalist who consistently reports facts completely out of context, and indeed reports those facts for the precise opposite proposition that they stand for is a “credible” source whose reports…”

              I don’t accept that this characterization necessarily applies to Andrew Breitbart. Whether it does or not, we’ll find out soon enough.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz, “We report, you decide” has a lovely appeal, doesn’t it? But again, there is no such thing. The idea that Fox News (or really any other news organization) is in any way shape or form an unbiased, just the facts ma’am kind of operation is absurd. Again: it is entirely a judgment call as to what facts get reported as relevant in any given situation, and depending on the facts that get reported there will be an infinite number of conclusions drawn.

              That the Right is circling the wagons to pretend that Breitbart did nothing wrong here – even as a journalist – and that this in no way, shape, or form reflects on his credibility is nothing short of pathetic.

              I don’t know how to put it more clearly than this: If I tried to do what Breitbart did here in my real life job and it was determined that I did so with knowledge of the facts and context, I would almost certainly get sanctioned. But apparently, when a purported journalist on the Right does it, it makes him a credible source.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson
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            says:

            Also I don’t mean to change the subject but did you check out Kris Kobach’s cover story about the Arizona immigration law story at National Review?

            The world doesn’t seem to be treating your preemption theory very well.

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/22/AR2010072201548_pf.htmlReport

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Koz
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          says:

          @Koz,

          The selective quote that he published was about as honest as excerpting “Amazing Grace” to say “I once was lost,” full stop.

          A decent person would have apologized. It’s embarrassing to watch someone try to excuse this behavior. Would you like me to quote you likewise in the future? I bet I could find some doozies.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            “The selective quote that he published was about as honest as excerpting “Amazing Grace” to say “I once was lost,” “

            I don’t think so.

            #1. depends on what he got access to first.

            #2. story goes beyond getting retribution on Ms. Sherrod.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Koz
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              says:

              @Koz,

              Note I did not say that he was the one perpetrating the initial dishonesty. He might have been, for all I know. But the best that can be said of him is that he didn’t do his homework, and then he refused to admit later on that he was wrong.

              Anyway, I’m just going to quote you on this point and be done. You write,

              I… think so.

              I love it when two sides can agree.Report

    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Koz
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      says:

      @Koz,

      Please list three stories he was right on.

      Because his two biggest were dishonest and disgusting. I refer to ACORN and Shirley Sherrod.Report

  3. Avatar Koz
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    says:

    And Quin didn’t even mention (as he could have and Erik noted in the other post) that it’s not Breitbart’s fault that Sherrod got fired.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    It is sort of weird how so many people take “unbiased” to mean unable to make any judgments whatsoever. To my mind, overcoming bias is a matter of bearing it in mind and considering other points of view; not refusing to ever exercise your own judgment. But I often hear people describe it as such.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      I think unbiased is overrated anyway. I think a journalist should be unbiased, or comprehensively and scrupulous with facts. Stacy McCain and Robert Novak fit the latter category, and in their case at least I think they have built a reputation for being careful with facts largely because nobody would ever dream of thinking that they were unbiased.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Koz
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        says:

        @Koz, Unbiased is, ultimately, impossible as the reporting on any subject – and even the decision to report on a particular subject – requires a determination of which facts are important and how to present those facts.

        Yes, good, credible journalism is comprehensive and scrupulous with facts. This is precisely why what Breitbart did (and has consistently done) should leave him without any credibility as a reliable news source.Report

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