Above we see police working crowd patrol at the Republican National Convention, which I’ve juxtaposed next to some Star Wars stormtroopers. As our police slowly get more militarized most people don’t seem to care, but I wonder how many convention attendees notice the irony of only caring about limited government when it’s helping people pay for healthcare. I had some small hope that the libertarian wing in the Republican Party might assert itself and fight against the perversity of “free-speech” zones and new war zones outside America and, now, within.
Earlier this year Dan Savage upset the sensitivity of our future journalists by exposing them to views that differ from their own. Afterwards, Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage and self-appointed nanny of Christian teens, challenged Savage to a debate. Here’s the result:
The moderator Mark Oppenheimer asks Savage and Brown if there “is any evidence that could come that would cause you to change your mind and your positions in any way?” That question is the benchmark of reasonableness, as I’ve argued before. Savage would change his mind if the harms outweighed the benefits.
I disagree with your experiential Karl Popper analysis in the first place with something like this because this is an area of first principle. This is an area of basic reason. It’d be like saying, ‘would you find evidence… what would convince you that a square could be a circle?’
So, no, nothing would change his mind. To Brown and many like him, it doesn’t matter whether depriving citizens of the right to enter into a legally binding relationship with the person they love causes harm to those people. It doesn’t matter if children of gay parents suffer if their parents can’t get married. Marriage equality ought not happen and nothing can (even in principle) change his mind, according to Brown, because marriage is definitionally a union between the two halves of humanity and changing it would “fundamentally damage” the institution. Here we have a revealing illustration of same-sex marriage opponents’ priorities. They care more about lexicographical rigidity than the wellbeing of actual people.
Almost everyone advocating a particular political viewpoint will get labeled as a partisan at some point. I often take the progressive side of many arguments and so, of course, I’ve heard I am a partisan Democrat. Amusingly, in college I heard from time-to-time that I was a Republican hack because I supported free trade and opposed affirmative action.
These types of criticisms can be very frustrating, but in a world where so many people are partisan hacks I can understand the impulse. I’m not going to lay out an elaborate how-to guide on differentiating partisanship and genuine agreement, but a good way to distinguish the two is by determining the level of honesty and originality.
Is the argument purposefully deceitful? Is it just rehashed from a political source without criticism or context? Media that represents an honest ideological perspective is appropriate; partisan media that acts as propaganda is shameful. Rachel Maddow is an honest left-wing commentator. Al Sharpton, on the same network, as a policy refuses to criticize the president… he’s a partisan hack. The latest example comes from The Weekly Standard and Fox News. They both decided to post the same misleading graph (tweaked to make seem original) they got from the Republican Party:
(via The Monkey Cage)
Ok, so we have one side of the ledger: Our supposed watchdog media uncritically disseminating graphs from one of our major political parties. Yet to be true partisan hackery it needs to be dishonest too. Is it?
As I was researching this I realized that Media Matters is making a similar point to me and helpfully drew the graph to scale:
It’s bad enough when the press gives hacks a platform; it’s a whole new low when they are the hacks.
It turns out science journalist, Jonah Lehrer, had been fabricating quotes and lying about it when questioned. Lehrer, it’s clear from the disclaimer on all his New Yorker blog posts, has also been recycling his own material without alerting his publisher or readers. I’m very disappointed by all of this. I disagreed from time-to-time with Lehrer, but I enjoyed his work enough to link him in my blogroll [now removed].
Lazy dishonesty has ruined the career of a promising young talent. In response, Sam Harris is offering his ebook, Lying, free for a week.