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Political information and how to judge it

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Due to the letter I had posted in the letters column of the Inky, a right-winger I had been communicating with plus two other right-wingers all sent me emails to comment on what I was saying. The conversation in all three cases got around to the housing bubble that had burst on George W. Bush's watch, and so in all three cases, I referred them to Paul Krugmans' reprinting of a graph showing that, no, the housing bubble didn't just arise from Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/the Community Reinvestment Act/etc., but was instead a broad-based bubble. One responded by asserting that one of the measurements Krugman was using to measure "Commercial Real Estate," was actually a measurement that often included Housing prices. I went to the link and showed him "Nope, the specific measurement Krugman uses covers precisely and only what is traditionally thought of as 'Commercial Real Estate.' " Another one told me interesting, but irrelevant and beside-the-point stories concerning his family and their experience trying to buy a house during the bubble years. Ultimately, none of them were able to show that Krugman's point was in any way invalid.

The interesting point was that all three of them came down to the same bottom line. Krugman wasn't credible because he was a partisan. Krugman wrote articles with a very specific viewpoint, therefore, he couldn't be trusted. One of them accused Krugman of being a liar, but didn't provide any examples, so I didn't bother trying to follow that up.

A short time later, I ran across a piece by a head man of "The Village" (Lefty blogger term for the traditional media press corps), David Broder. Now Broder has been known far and wide for many years as a man of the center, as a moderate, as an objective journalist. Presumably, all three of the right-wingers I was exchanging emails with would have identified Broder as a columnist whose word could be trusted.

In this piece, Broder got very, very angry. He stomped his feet and got all red in the face and accused several Congresspeople:

As President Obama delivered his first formal State of the Union address, the reigning journalistic cliche described the "angry, frustrated electorate" he confronts. If you want to know where this anger should really be directed, look at the Tuesday Senate roll call and focus on the 22 Democrats, 23 Republicans and one independent who combined to scuttle what one sponsor has called "the last, best hope" to avert a catastrophe.

Broder was angry because the Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NM) had come up with a useless, silly gimmick of a plan (Yes, President Obama endorsed the plan and commended it in his State of the Union speech) to freeze spending in a few categories. Note that the blame here is bi- or non-partisan. Both Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame. Would the plan have averted catastrophe? Nonsense. But note Broder's paragraph previous to this:

Of course, this being the 21st-century Senate, it meant defeat because of a failure to command the 60-vote supermajority the opposition now always requires.

The "need" for a 60-vote supermajority has nothing to do with this being the 21st Century and absolutely everything to do with Republicans putting their party above their country and obstructing absolutely everything. Isn't this obstructionism just a tad, just a smidgen more important than some silly gimmick of a plan? Not according to Broder, but then Broder has to maintain his "centrist" and "moderate" credentials. You see, Republican obstructionism cannot be blamed on both parties. Broder can't float above the conflict and blame both sides, so he can't blame the party that's truly causing gridlock in the Senate and slowing down The People's Business.


What are the consequences of this "centrist" approach? Unfortunately, the public ends up being very poorly informed. Only 32% are aware "that the Senate passed its version of the legislation without a single Republican vote" despite the fact that the public as a whole is very interested in the debate. Again, it's very important to remember that this information blackout is due to the fact that this is a partisan fact. Only one side is to blame. There's simply no way to blame both sides.

So my approach to information is not to say "Who says it?" but to ask "What is the quality of the information?" After all, if Sean Hannity says "The sky is blue and the clouds are white," what are ya gonna say? "Why no, that can't be true, Hannity's a liar"? You'd look like an idiot.

 

http://www.prawnworks.net/

PN3(Ret), USN, 1991-2001. Done a number of clerical-type jobs. Computer "power user," my desktop is a Windows machine, but my laptop is an Ubuntu Linux. Articles usually cross-posted at http://www.prawnblog.blogspot.com Personal details at (more...)
 

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