October 5, 2019

The Rhetoric of Lecture

One should never assume that the opinions (no matter how learned) of academics are facts, knowledge, wisdom, or theory. Good academics don’t make these assumptions. Let’s call this “learned opinion,” i.e. opinion based upon learning and study.

One should never assume that descriptive statements or predictions about the world based upon learned opinion have a rock-solid connection to reality.

Learned opinion should be somewhat better than random opinion because, well, it’s learned (again, based upon learning and study). This is why journalists ask academics to be sources for news articles — their learned opinion or research (i.e. knowledge production) is a little better at getting to the heart of the matter compared to other sorts of sources. That, and academics are usually easy to get on deadline (expediency bias).

Let me make one more assertion about what “good academics” should think/do/be: Good academics should be comfortable with being spectacularly wrong — both in learned opinion and academic study.

Damn, was I ever wrong 🙂

You’re going to have to revisit this from Rhetorica by visiting archive.org because of the snafu last year that wiped out my entries.

OK, here it is: I thought the internet, its interactive nature, and open comment systems would lead to a robust and cogent civic discourse.

Ooooops. I should have given you a liquid/computer proximity warning. Sorry. I’ll wait while you get the paper towels.

Back then I was all about the differences between the rhetoric of lecture (old, 1-way media tellin’ it like it is) and the rhetoric of conversation (new, interactive media where everyone talks back to create pesky reality). The differences are real enough. But the assumptions and predictions I made based on these differences turned out to be, shall we say, spectacularly wrong.

This isn’t anything you haven’t read before. All of us in this particular game have been dealing with the 21st Century not turning out quite the way we imagined. Consider this a finger exercise on the keyboard ahead of, maybe, something else.

A couple of things as I consider what to do with Rhetorica now that the 2020 presidential campaign is upon us:

  1. I have renewed respect for the rhetoric of lecture.
  2. Comments are no longer a thing on Rhetorica — no matter what I plan to do with it — because, frankly, I don’t give a shit. I’m lecturing.
  3. You can contact me the old-fashioned way if you feel the need to respond.
July 4, 2019

Moving Forward; Preserving Rhetorica

Happy Fourth of July.

I am completely unable to get the archive file for all the posts to work.

So here’s what I’ve begun doing: Using archive.org, I am selectively re-publishing posts from the past.

That’s as good as it’s going to get.

UPDATE: I found a number of old posts had been marked as drafts in my last attempt to re-post from my archive file. I’m going to go through and publish them.

January 23, 2019

Nothing Is Ever Easy

You’d think with as much experience WordPress has at running a content management system that it would have a smooth process for importing content — especially backed-up content.

But, no.

Turns out the import system is full of problems.

Again, I’m working on it. All Rhetorica content still exists. It’s just going to be a bigger hassle getting it all back into place than I thought.

Stay tuned…

January 15, 2019

Working On It

I tried importing from my .xml backup file this morning with limited success. It seems most of the work is there, but it has been set to “draft.” No clue why.

I may go through and re-publish each entry.

I may try re-installing WordPress with a new database and then import the file.

Stay tuned…

December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas … and Yikes!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sadly, Rhetorica suffered a catastrophic event a few days ago. Still not sure exactly what happened. But, I do have a plan for fixing it. Luckily, I also have a complete back-up. I’m nowhere near the computer that holds the back up, so Rhetorica is likely to look like a bit sparse until the middle of January.

August 10, 2016

Why Yes, Yes He Did

The headline asks:

Did Trump suggest gun owners threaten Clinton or the Supreme Court?

Do you really need it in so many words?

Here it is:

While talking about Supreme Court nominees, Trump told the Wilmington, North Carolina crowd that there was “nothing you can do” about appointments if the Democratic presidential nominee were elected.

“Although, the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” Trump added.

A communications adviser for the Trump campaign later said Trump meant that “Second Amendment people” rally around him or vote accordingly.

Why this is poppycock: Why limit the rallying and voting only to “Second Amendment people”? Why not call on all GOP voters to do this. What’s so special about “Second Amendment people” that they should be singled out to stop Clinton from nominating certain types of judges. And, really, what good would rallying and voting do once Clinton  is in office?

But the really big giveaway is the “I don’t know” that punctuates his statement.

He doesn’t know what?

He knows; he’s verbally winking.

[Editorial note: I’m likely to be tougher on Trump this election — a little less “balanced” than in years gone by. I consider him dangerous. There’s no point pretending like “both sides do it” in 2016.]

April 18, 2003

Bollinger’s Statement

I didn’t expect anything earth-shattering from Lee C. Bollinger’s task force statement on journalism education at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. And I wasn’t disappointed. But I do think the thrust of his statement is important: journalists must be broadly educated:

That a journalism school is located within a great university, which houses an extraordinary amount of expertise on virtually any subject, means that it would be an intellectual tragedy not to ensure that students partake of the feast.

If at first this seems like common sense, don’t be fooled. I would assert that the majority of students in higher education miss this feast because they come to college focused on being trained for a job rather than getting an education. This situation may be particularly distressful in regard to the practice of journalism (necessary to the civic health of a democratic republic), which, to be done well, requires not only basic professional skills but the ability to think critically and in context. To achieve this, Bollinger believes journalists need

a functional knowledge of statistics, the basic concepts of economics, and an appreciation for the importance of history and for the fundamental debates in modern political theory and philosophy.

To this list I would add a deeper understanding of language and how it works from the disciplines of rhetoric, linguistics, cognitive science, and psycho-linguistics.

April 16, 2003

Journalist Demographics

Tim Porter, of the First Draft blog, has an excellent rundown of a new survey of American journalists. Demographics, specifically political affiliations, often arise in discussions of media bias. Porter says:

I hate the liberal-conservative press debate since it’s like arguing over the weather–and because I believe most newspaper journalists are reactionary (in the non-political sense) by nature, and therefore a root cause of newsroom stagnation. That said, the survey found that 37 percent of journalists identify themselves as Democrats, moving them closer to the national percentage of 32 percent. It’s the lowest number since 1971 (proving, perhaps, that the greatest Democratic recruiter in the last half-century was Richard Nixon).

Interesting reading.

April 1, 2003

Should the press root for victory?…

Debra Saunders says:

When mainstream journalists report both sides of racism–pro and con, with equal weight–or both sides of having a free press in America, then I’ll believe that American media don’t take sides on issues, and that there is at least a rationale for American media not rooting for U.S. troops to win in Iraq. But that day will never come.

She properly qualifies this statement by observing that there are many issues in which “thinking” Americans agree. I would add that cultural values constitute a part of this “thinking.” For example, there may be cognitive differences between racists and the rest of us, but there are certainly cultural differences. Mainstream journalists are part of a culture that repudiates racism (what to do about it is open to debate).

Can we apply this same thinking to coverage of war? Saunders makes an excellent case. But I am not persuaded because, for the most part, American journalists are not against American troops. And, from the bulk of the coverage I’ve seen/heard/read, they hardly seem against the war. They do, however, fulfill that watchdog function for which they rightly deserve praise.

I don’t want journalists to look the other way when tough situations arise just as I don’t want them to forget they are Americans. Being a good journalist often requires the ability to live with contradictions and irony.

April 1, 2003

Peter and Geraldo…

Howard Kurtz runs down the recent troubles of journalists Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera. You’ll also find many links to material on Arnett at Romenesko (scroll down). I have no comment on either case.

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