Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Optics

Comment on a Drum Foser Twitterdebate Drum wrote For better or worse, politicians spend a lot of time thinking about how various audiences—supporters, opponents, undecideds, pundits, members of Congress, the media—will react to their proposals, and they shape their messages accordingly. If you're reporting on politics, you have to include that as part of the story, and optics is as good a word as any to describe it. I wrote a long comment below. Here I just want to note that "you have to" is a catagorical imperitative. Drum didn't write "If you want to obtain result X, you have to" which would be a hypothetical imperative. It is very odd to find a catagorical imperative in a paragraph which begins "For better or worse." I object to "If you're reporting on politics, you have to include that as part of the story," I had the impression that, given the first amendment, reporters could chose what to report. I think you are attempting to answer a question about what people should do by considering only facts and not values. This is a harsh claim, but I think I can back it up. Your discussion of what reporters must do includes no discussion of the proper role of journalism in society, no hint of an idea of what the point of being a reporter is. I will assume that their useful role is to make the citizens better able to make informed decisions. I claim that citizens would be more able to get what they want out of government if reporters reported only on policy proposals and evidence related to forecasts of the effects of the proposed policies. The question is what should be done. You say people will not decide based on evidence and specific proposals. You respond to a proposal to light a small candle by cursing against the darkness. I think it is possible for reporters to refuse to listen to campaign operatives (no one can force them). To report as follows "the X campaign released a press release which included claims of fact unsupported by links to independent sources" full stop. No mention of the content. Or "X claimed he would achieve a desirable result but provided no details as to how he would" full stop. This can be done. It is legal (note first amendment). Foser is talking about what journalists *should* do. In the debate, it is imagined that the whole profession is waiting for your advice. The argument that one newspaper or TV channel which did this would lose market share to the unscrupulous political rumor mongers is out of order. Your rule seems to be just because something is happening, and someone wants it reported, reporters must report it. But of course this rule can't be followed given world population. It is more nearly that powerful people want it reported so it must be reported. But I think it is that people whom reporters quote (off the record) want to be quoted (off the record) so this is the way things must be. I have a question (and a tiny shred of hope for an answer). What did you mean by "have to" in "have to include that" ? Not that reporters would die if they didn't, nor that they would be sent to jail. Was this "in order to do you job the best you can, you have to" ? This is statement about right and wrong and can't be addressed without asking what the socially useful role of journalism is. Or is it, you have to to keep your job, given the fact that your editor has to keep up circulation and people like to read that stuff. That might even be a true claim, but it doesn't respond to Foser's assertions about what journalism should be, which is quite distinct of what is the best we can hope it will be given reader/viewer tastes and competitive pressures. update: dangerous chemicals can cause synesthesia "chemical interests, creates particularly noxious “optics” "

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