Democrats & Liberals Archives

Drawing Conclusions

If you draw a line from the New Journalists to many of the current crop of writers breaking out on editorial pages everywhere you will find a sharp rise of irredeemably inaccurate conclusions. From the Sixties onward the flow of information in our society has come full circle. What was once an accepted strategy of the writers of the Left, during Vietnam and for a short time thereafter, drawing unconnected conclusions, is now the purview of the Right. When an overwhelmingly large body of evidence regarding some kind of consistent behavior on the part of a politician or other public figure is assembled a lot of conclusions might follow. It ought to largely depend on the body of material evidence what the conclusion that was drawn might be, but it does not. Not for the Left in the sixties and not for the Right in current times.

I always winced when my contemporaries on the Left drew conclusions from information that led nowhere near the conclusion drawn. Make no mistake, there was great journalism then as there will be now, but a substantial body of work done by journalists in those days often missed the point. Today the same prospect exists any time that I read a piece written by a voice of the right. Then I read rants against Nixon and his advisors, in particular Kissinger. Now I read rants against any Democrat running for office anywhere in the nation. Then the left was disputing the validity of the war in Vietnam, now the Right is defending the validity of Preemptive war and particularly the war in Iraq.

On Saturday 1/24/04 David Brooks of the NY Times wrote a piece about John Kerry. This particular hatchet job was momentous only in that it celebrated Kerry’s rise in status to frontrunner in the Democratic Primary race. But in its similarity to other pieces done by the Noveau Reich writers of the Right it excelled. It took quotes out of context from a list of Kerry’s speeches over the years and drew the not so startling conclusion that he was speechifying. Then Mr. Brooks took John Kerry to task for not leading. Never mind the fact that the sum of the quotes posed Kerry to the right of w, our erstwhile President. Never mind that those quotes are drawn from speeches with no contextual connection except the fact that they were uttered by the same man over a political career of decades. They obviously make Kerry a speechifier, not a leader by virtue of the fact that they exist.

I find it interesting that the NY Times is the purveyor of this early attack on the Democratic frontrunner. Perhaps the idea of a left-leaning press is slightly exaggerated today. If you take the large outcropping of Anti-Dean sentiment in the media since his emotional speech at the end of weeks of hard campaigning in Iowa. And you add it to the attacks on Kerry, which are obviously queued up for release during the next week, you will find it hard to identify the press as leaning anywhere but right. It seems to me the “Would you want this man’s finger on the button?” crowd miss the point that Dean’s message is that peace is better than war. The consistency that is a hallmark of small minds assails me when I hear such statements raised as if they were legitimate questions. If Dean is dangerous at the button, what of a neocon President whose only apparent reaction to war is to want another one so he can keep proving his strength as a leader?

But of course I digress in regard to my second mission here which is to raise the question of how many pieces you can spot over the next week that pick up the theme that Kerry is a “Speechifier”, not a leader. This proposition is clearly posed as an immunization against his eloquence, which no one has accused this President of to date. All that can be said of w is that with proper prompting he reads a speech well enough. Of course at the same time the question of Kerry’s liberal leaning politics will be raised again and again in order to carefully label him as damaged goods. By the way, how did the very term “Liberal” become an epithet in a leftward leaning press?

Not to belabor the points I have made elsewhere, what best serves the interest of the people in our nation is journalistic content that allows them to draw their own conclusions. Converting information to knowledge is best done by the individual citizen. It is the attempt of editorial writers to convert knowledge into wisdom that I find particularly enchanting when it is done well. That goal, achieving wisdom, cannot be done with false facts or falsely drawn conclusions.

When polarization of the public becomes the goal of editorial writers they fail in the premise of their craft. At best the premise should be that they are seeking wisdom for the purpose of attaining enlightenment of some kind. Becoming a propagandist is easy in polarized times, I have a hard time resisting that and certainly sometimes fail in my own writing. However, if the editorial writers who focus on making their polarized point over distilling their knowledge into wisdom ever succeed in finding wisdom it is by accident. That is evident particularly in the case of those who never look behind the curtain of their own prejudices for the small man or woman hiding there. God bless you all and keep you safe in your search for wisdom, it is always elusive, but never prejudiced.

Posted by Henri Reynard at January 26, 2004 9:48 AM