Conclusions Should Not Be Made Lightly
I don’t say this lightly. I had a professor once who was deeply in love with fallacies and proofs and all that business, and as an academic exercise it’s incredibly tedious. It seems a cruel thing to wish on anybody.
But we can’t go on — we really can’t — with newspapers and blogs and don’t get me started on TV news that routinely uses declarative sentences and straight faces for flights of utter fancy.
I’ve actually floundered a bit as I write this post to pick examples. There are too many and they are too routine to raise eyebrows. It doesn’t matter what the topic is; you will find unsupported and inaccurate conjecture treated as plain fact in more of the coverage than not.
Remember, for example, a couple weeks ago, when Mitt Romney was headed off to Europe? Before he actually went there and started saying embarrassing things, the press coverage dutifully reported that “Mitt Romney will be leaving on a European trip to brush up his foreign policy credentials.”
That was the line and that was what got reported basically everywhere.
Which begs the question — what the hell about that conclusion struck the vast majority of writers and editors out there as provable fact?
The part about leaving for Europe, all right. Other than that, where are we getting our assumptions from? This will burnish his foreign policy credentials? Wonderful! How? I went to Europe for a whole semester and I’m pretty sure it didn’t qualify me to be President. I’m not saying there aren’t ways one could spend six days gaining valuable policy experience, but it’s not a neat if A then B given that going to Europe improves your foreign policy credentials.
And yet that was the narrative so that was the conclusion, never mind the facts. There’s no big scandal in this example — just a casual, routine willingness to cut corners and report assumption as proven fact.
This is everywhere. And it’s a problem. And so far it shows no signs of going away, so really all I can do is rant and rail a bit and then encourage all of you to read more carefully. Here, try an experiment:
Take ten minutes out of your day to fact-check the next news article you read. I’m not saying that everything in it will be lies and misinformation because the Zionist media conspiracy is out to control your mind, but I am willing to lay a fiver that it will contain some kind of unsubstantiated or incomplete conclusion presented as unquestioned fact.
If you want a challenge you can try it with The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times; for a more fish-in-a-barrel hunting experience try Politico or Slate or any of the Gawker family of blogs.
Go on and give it a shot — you can come back and let me know how you did in the comments. Feel free to share the link with us (a sneaky way to foist your favorite news source off on the rest of the world!).
Am I not loving and supportive of my reader community? Off you go, now. And read carefully.