Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Straw men 

Editor & Publisher has a story reviewing the controversy surrounding an Associated Press news article of last Saturday, "Bush Using Straw Man Arguments In Speeches." The original article is controversial because it is not labeled as opinion or even analysis, but -- in the view of Power Line and others -- is closer to either than hard news.

For my own part, I think these labeling distinctions are silly, and the mainstream media would do well to abandon them. News and opinion flow seamlessly together in all media other than newspapers, wire services and tiny corners of broadcast journalism, the last bastions of the old idea that the press should at least aspire to objectivity. Why not just admit the obvious -- that the failure to label everything as "opinion" or "analysis" is itself a deceptive trade practice. Who are we kidding?

Look no further than the Editor & Publisher article, which is one of those cringingly self-conscious second-derivative pieces that E&P specializes in: a review of the (first derivative) articles and blog posts written about an original piece of journalism. E&P describes the "straw man" arguments that George Bush allegedly uses more often than his opposition:
The story, posted by AP last weekend, cited the president's habit of using phrases such as "some say" or "some believe" when introducing a viewpoint that challenges his own. One example Loven noted was Bush saying "some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day." She also cited his recent statement that "some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."

Loven then contends that "hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions." But she notes that Bush, in presenting opposing views in such a "straw man" way, sets himself up well to fire back, often appearing in defense of his viewpoint or as an underdog.

"The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents," Loven writes about the "some" to which he refers. "In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position." She adds that "he typically then says he 'strongly disagrees' -- conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making."

All well and good. But then E&P quotes Moveon.org doing the same thing with neither comment nor irony:
On Monday, Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin called Loven's piece "a bold departure for Associated Press," adding that Bush's straw-man arguments are "extensive and generally unchallenged." MoveOn.org's Media Action sent an e-mail to media outlets urging support for Loven, claiming "some reporters take notes on what President Bush says and don't bother to research what is and isn't true. But the AP took a bold step this week and engaged in exactly the sort of strong watchdog journalism MoveOn Media Action members have been calling for."

Er, no. If the AP -- or Editor & Publisher, for that matter -- engaged in "strong watchdog journalism," it would have observed that George Bush's opponents are equally as prone to make straw man arguments. In fact, the press is so blind that they cannot bring themselves to observe that Moveon.org impeached -- and I used that term advisedly -- the thesis of the Associated Press's hit piece even as it celebrated it in a mass distribution email! How did E&P let that pass unnoticed? Oh. Wait a minute. Its article is labeled "news."

CWCID: Lucianne.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Mar 22, 09:14:00 PM:

I think he is out of his mind

Bush Pledges to Stick With It in Iraq  

Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?