September 26, 2002

Trust me, I know what I’m doing…

Michael Kinsley offers his assessment of Bush’s argument for war against Iraq. I want to avoid getting into a pro-con war argument here. Instead, I want to focus on a portion of the argument Kinsley offers. He says that because we lack information about how the administration is drawing its conclusions, we are not

“capable of answering the actual questions at hand: Is Saddam Hussein an imminent threat to our national and personal security, and is a war to remove him from power the only way to end that threat? So, we must do with a surrogate question: Based on information we do have and issues we are capable of judging, should we trust the leaders who are urging war upon us?”

Kinsley suggests the ulterior-motive arguments for war (revenge for father, “Wag the Dog”) are mostly “entertaining but silly.” He deconstructs the Bush arguments for several more paragraphs before concluding that:

“You would think that if honest and persuasive arguments were available, the administration would offer them. But maybe not.”

Let’s forget for a moment that war is rarely begun on the basis of sound and reasonable argument (honesty is often ignored, too, re: Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators). Kinsley’s conclusion is trumped by his own previous question. Arguments are important, but the information that supports those arguments is far more important. An argument without reasons (deduction) or examples (induction) is mere assertion driven by pathos and sold with ethos. Are we the people capable of judging whether to go to war based on the information we have? The answer is clearly: No, because we lack information. But that in itself is not necessarily an argument for or against going to war. A more important question Kinsley raises is: How much say can/should/do we the people have in decisions about going to war?

September 26, 2002

Daschle versus Bush

Daschle Angered By Bush Statement Everything in politics is, well, political–including Daschle’s reaction to Bush’s ill-considered remark. Wait…amend that…from a rhetorical perspective, Bush’s remark that the Democratic-controlled Senate is “not interested in the security of the American people” may only be deemed ill-considered if it doesn’t “work,” i.e. pressure the Democrats to support his version of the Department of Homeland Security. This remains to be seen.

UPDATE (3:06 p.m.): Bush backs off a little.

UPDATE (4:50 p.m.): Ridge stands firm.

UPDATE (6:22 p.m.): Timothy Noah has this to say.

September 26, 2002

Talent versus Carnahan…

Democrats happy with catch over fish story For those of you outside Missouri following the Senate race between Jean Carnahan and Jim Talent, you might find this item from the Kansas City Star amusing. I should say, however, as a Missourian and a sportsman, that this is serious business hereabouts. I’ve seen this kind of attitude before in the rich and powerful–an attitude that the fish and game laws apply only to us working stiffs. (Bias alert: I’ll be voting for Carnahan.)

September 25, 2002

Bollinger’s dream team…

What can Lee Bollinger’s dream team be expected to do? Many people are asking that question. Interesting reading. Check here and here for background.

September 25, 2002

TV “news” and journalism…

This article partially illustrates why I think “television journalism” is an oxymoron.

September 25, 2002

The land where bloggers live…

Here’s a partial transcript of a blogger-journalist roundtable discussion held at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism last week. Much of the discussion centered on the ethical questions involved in journalists running their own weblogs. I remain interested in the distinctions between journalism and blogging. Well-known blogger Rebecca Blood had this to say:

“I don’t believe the personal commentary you find on most weblogs is journalism. Some 99.99 percent of the weblogs I’ve seen, I don’t think you can consider them journalism. To my mind, there are journalistic standards of completeness, accuracy and fairness. Journalists tend to rely on sources. They do more than just give an eyewitness account of something, they get 17 eyewitness accounts to provide a complete story. I’ve been astonished at the stories I’ve read where reporters have talked about weblogs as journalism in a completely unskeptical way. Maybe I have an inflated idea of what a reporter does.”

I agree. For the most part blogs are not journalism, bloggers are not journalists, and reporters shouldn’t speak of blogs as journalism in uncritical or unskeptical ways. This is not to say that blogs are unimportant. Far from it. Blogs are no more journalism than, say, Tom Paine’s “Common Sense” was journalism. Blogs can and do serve a similar pamphleteering function in our society.

Journalist and blogger J. D. Lasica had this to say:

“To me, a journalist is anyone who is an eyewitness to events or an interpreter of events and who reports it as honestly and accurately as possible. Period. You don’t need to have the resources of The New York Times behind you. You can be a lone-wolf weblogger out there in the field with your Apple laptop, and when you blog an event you’re reporting. We forget the derivation of the word journalism: someone who keeps a journal. I agree with Rebecca that the vast majority of weblogs is not journalism, but a lot of it is. The people who were eyewitnesses to the events of Sept. 11 and posted their experiences online were engaging in first-person reporting. Almost every day I come across weblogs with a high degree of sophistication and focused information and analysis. There’s an entire arena of amateur journalism that’s being born through this phenomenon, and mainstream journalism would do well to encourage and embrace it.”

Lasica’s inclusive definition of journalism is certainly compelling. And I find myself agreeing with him about the reporting of events as an eyewitness. But I wonder about including those who interpret events outside the confines of a news organization. “Confines” is an interesting noun in this regard. Columnists and pundits are confined and constrained by news organizations. It is the organization–the institution–that creates the structure that makes ethical practice, and its enforcement, possible. When pundits break those constraints (e.g. Ann Coulter fired from NRO), they wander into a netherworld between journalism and entertainment. The blogosphere exists in part in this world, but I hesitate to put the pejorative spin on it because we bloggers belong in this space between ethically and professionally practiced journalism and entertainment. We exist in a popular, partisan, and ideological realm where the conversation is rough, pointed, unrestrained, and, often, beautiful. (via MediaMinded)

September 25, 2002

Are polls becoming unreliable?…

Dick Morris says telephone polling is no longer reliable because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reach a representative sample of Americans. At the moment, we appear to be in a period of uncertainty between the decreasing reliability of telephone polls and the increasing reliability of internet polls. Is this situation good or bad? Polls have become a intellectual crutch for politicians, journalists, and voters. I can’t help but think that an era of unreliability in polling might lead to a renaissance in critical thinking.

September 25, 2002

Kurtz quoting more bloggers…

While Howard Kurtz’s column this morning about the Harkin tape fiasco is instructive, what I find most interesting is that he’s beginning to quote an increasing variety of bloggers.

September 24, 2002

Google news portal…

I’ve had a link to the Google news site from my news portal for several months now. It was a news search. But, in the past few days, the Google site has become an automated news site “untouched by human hands.” Does this present a challenge to the top sites run by news organizations such as The New York Times and MSNBC?

September 24, 2002

Bush vs Gore on Iraq…

William Saletan offers an interesting political analysis of the recent Bush and Gore speeches on Iraq. I am working on a side-by-side rhetorical analysis of these two speeches plus the Bush UN speech. I expect to have them posted to Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2004 sometime on Friday. I’ll be sure to post a notice here.

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