Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Work Is Hard Work

Megan McArdle's guest-blogger Julian Sanchez finally guest-blogs. He read a criticism of journalism and finds he does not quite agree. Sure, "he said/she said" journalism is bad, Sanchez says, but when the alternative is finding out the truth, what's a journalist to do? Abandon the tried-and-true for the difficult-and-new?

Bonus quote: "Otherwise, again, the individual journalist is sucked into making and justifying an evaluation about which groups are credible. "

We are especially impressed with this observation, since we often encounter this problem when dealing with "journalists" like McArdle, Sanchez and their ilk:
If the issue is even moderately complex and the relevant players are bright enough not to make easily falsifiable claims, there's no reason to expect any kind of ultimate general vindication, since partisans and activists will always be willing and able to devote more time to the question than harried journos.

Careful, McArdle, people are catching on to you.
Not getting it wrong in a he-said/she-said story, by contrast, mostly just requires that you transcribe accurately.

As Steven Colbert said so memorably, the press's job is to take down what they are told, run it through spell-check, and go home. Finding out the truth is hard, you might be wrong, and there are always more liars out there anyway. Just ask Julian Sanchez.

ADDED: Mr. Sanchez joins us in comments. He believe we are in agreement; I disagree.


Downpuppy said...

Julian did fairly well until he totalled his tricycle in the last paragraph.

Susan of Texas said...

If he didn't pretend to be a journalist, he wouldn't have to say stuff like "figuring out who is telling the truth is too hard."

It would be win-win.

jsanchez said...

It's almost cute how you don't get that we're making the same point.

Susan of Texas said...

It is your job to find out who is telling the truth and who is lying. If you are afraid of being wrong and unable to overcome tribal alliances you need to find another job. Your loyalty should be to the people who depend on you for honest information.

You've set up a false dichotomy of being a "he said/she said" reporter because you believe everyone or because you believe no one. The true dichotomy is finding out the truth versus not finding out the truth. When reporters don't do their job, the powerful get away with hurting the powerless.

You said, "Sometimes our delusions serve useful functions." That's right. They're there to protect you from truth that is too painful for a person to accept. The truth is, "It might yet be the case that we're so naturally disposed to tribalism that it can only be avoided by cultivating a self conception as a member of the Savvy Tribe."

When McArdle announced that reforming health care insurance would destroy drug innovation, she was wrong. She didn't go out and discover the facts and determine who told the truth and who didn't, and then lie about the results. She just assumed she was right out of tribal loyalty and ignored the facts when they were given to her by her commenters and critics. She then lied to cover up her lack of journalistic effort.

Because she, like you, was not hired to be a journalist. She was cast in a play. She was hired to reflexively support her "fellow" elite. That's the secret to great casting--and great propaganda. You don't find a great actor, you find someone exactly like the role they are to play and let nature take its course.

So no, we don't make the same point. You say, "What is truth?" I say, "Do your job or don't complain when people point out that you're not a journalist."

Downpuppy said...

Just a darn minute!

Was that really Julain Sanchez, professional writer, snarking at you because he didn't think you understood writing he was paid to do?

He really doesn't understand that part of being a professional writer is writing something understandable, not incomprehensible muck about avoiding tribalism by joining a tribe?!


Susan of Texas said...

I'm disappointed that Mr. Sanchez didn't just repeat what I said and inform his audience that it was impossible to know which of us is correct.

Downpuppy said...


You're on fahr today, ma'am.