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Monday, October 19, 2015

Good... and the conclusion would be?

Fredrik de Boer takes a few faltering first steps towards understanding the media:
People often think I instinctively hate political journalists and writers. This is not the case. I’m friendly with some, and a few I consider close friends. I dated a political writer and journalist for years. And I know many to be bright, committed, decent people. That’s why I find it so perplexing that the average professional political commentator is so deeply out of touch, and so unaware that they are. The only thing I can figure is that the professional necessity of being constantly plugged into the news cycle, particularly on Twitter, just gives people an extremely skewed vision of what politics means and is for most people.

What else to make of this piece by Jake Flanagin or this piece by Amanda Marcotte, both of which have the same absurd idea: that the biggest problem that Bernie Sanders faces, politically, is the online conduct of his biggest online fans. The biggest problem! A Jewish socialist from Brooklyn in the land of Reagan, and his biggest problem is a few dozen people on Twitter!

Let’s think about some likely Democrat primary voters. Like, say, a white woman who lives in the greater Cincinnati suburbs, who can’t get enough hours at her part-time job organizing records for a oral surgeon, and whose ex-husband can’t pay her child support because his only income is disability payments. Or a black bus driver in Maryland who’s worried about what’s going to happen to his pension in the next union contract negotiations. Or a Hispanic first grade teacher in Florida who doesn’t know if her school’s funding is going to get cut yet again. Or a retiree in Pennsylvania whose economic security is dependent entirely on Social Security and Medicare. Or a Laotian immigrant in the Bay Area who’s struggling to bring her mother into the country.

Now: which of these people, do you think, is going to vote based on the conduct of Bernie Sanders fans on Twitter?
See, that's just it. They're not "bright, committed, decent people". They're narcissistic, solipsistic, maleducated, and of barely above-average intelligence. They're also snobbish, tribal, clueless about any subculture but their own, and possess less self-awareness than the average rock.

Spacebunny and I once had dinner with a pair of legitimately famous journalists. I mean, one name you would recognize and the other is on a first-name basis with Hollywood's A-list. After dinner, she commented that she couldn't believe how shallow their knowledge was. And that's the dirty little secret of the media: they have a surface knowledge of many things and that knowledge barely scratches the surface.

Ask them about anything, from Swaziland to the internal mechanism of the Austrian Business Cycle and they will claim to "have heard of that". In their world, this passes for fluency, if not perfect mastery. There are few things I enjoy more than addressing a journalist who claims to speak another language in that language. It's like waving a cross in front of a vampire.

Labels:

56 Comments:

Blogger Daniel October 19, 2015 3:05 PM  

What I don't get is why they think it makes them look smart to demonstrate their ignorance so obviously. Smart people tend to say "I don't know" with some frequency. Why don't j-schoolers pick up on that habit?

Blogger Jourdan October 19, 2015 3:07 PM  

Vox, this is also true of our political elite here in Washington. My job brings me into close contact with some upper level folks in both the Executive and the Legislative branches. If you could only hear them talk! It's not like they are very bright, thoughtful people but blinded by ideology. It's that they're NOT bright nor thoughtful.

Some of my friends think I'm kidding when I say there is more thoughtful discussion on foreign policy on various internet forums than there is in the U.S. Government.

Blogger Dexter October 19, 2015 3:13 PM  

"They're narcissistic, solipsistic, maleducated, and of barely above-average intelligence.'

Don't forget the "evil liars" part.

Blogger Arborist (#0232) October 19, 2015 3:14 PM  

I don't claim to know very much about anything. But I can't have a real discussion about political affairs with anyone I know save two or three people. The more I listen to the great majority of those around me the more I realize that they have almost no real knowledge. I keep trying to increase my knowledge and understanding.

Blogger Alexander October 19, 2015 3:20 PM  

Or a Laotian immigrant in the Bay Area who’s struggling to bring her mother into the country.

It's a cute idea that immigrants only seek to increase their immigration footprint by a mere 100%.

It's also cute that it's not a problem for a Senator from a wealthy, all-white state to be in a party that seeks to utterly subvert the very electorate that put him in power.

The final coup de grace on this topic is the points being missed by a man named de Boer.

He was saying something about being blinded and clueless with skewed notions of fact?

Blogger Polynices October 19, 2015 3:23 PM  

I know our esteemed proprietor knows about it but for commenters who don't:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

It's amazing how many things make more sense after you know about it. Sorry, realized I couldn't edit and you can't post links. But that should be easier to select-cut-and-paste.

Blogger Migly October 19, 2015 3:27 PM  

Perhaps being a professional journalist is not so different from being a tax professional in the respect that one's skills have to be applied to a vast universe of different activities, and the people who have mastered those different activities nearly always have some agenda other than educating you about what they're really doing, because they don't want the professional to fully engage their skills. They want them to go away.

Blogger MidKnight (#138) October 19, 2015 3:31 PM  

"Shallow" yeah, and not self - aware.



Blogger David-2 October 19, 2015 3:55 PM  

@6 that's certainly one reason, but I think another major reason is slightly different than Dunning-Kruger: They don't think they can do something better than they actually can because they don't understand how difficult it is ... they think they can do something at all because they're in contact with, during the day, people who can do that thing.

Somehow in their mind the fact that because they can repeat, on paper or on video, what these people they're allowed to be with (for the purposes of their job) are doing becomes the fact, in their minds, that they themselves can understand and evaluate and judge those things (and, a corollary: therefore they themselves are as important as the people who are actually doing those things).

Blogger SQT October 19, 2015 3:55 PM  

I worked in both television and print when I was younger and found this to be universally true. Most of the problem is that the industry is driven by sensationalism rather than knowledge or conviction. And the people who work in the industry don't really care about the consequences as they pat themselves on the back for being so clever.

Blogger HardReturn¶ October 19, 2015 4:02 PM  

The term "savvy" applied to journalists in his post sounds like polite adjective for "doesn't really know much but don't have time to verify." Journalism stopped being about the 5 W's decades ago, replaced with "What did you think you saw?" and "How did it make you feel?" foolishness.
Years ago had dinners occasionally with career diplomats--same kind of "savvy"--so mired in crises du jour, busy coordinating narratives, and responding to the chattering class, that once you got past the diplomatic double-talk the shallowness showed.

Blogger Red Jack October 19, 2015 4:08 PM  

My oldest sister worked in TV journalism. She was on air during Gulf War I, and had to call me (a high school sophomore) to figure out just where Iraq was and who was fighting.

She actually got some recognition and an award for that piece.

You don't get hired in journalism if you're smart. It used to be if you looked and sounded good, you got the job. My sister got it because she could cold read a line better than anyone else, and do it with feeling.

Blogger automatthew October 19, 2015 4:18 PM  

Let’s think about some likely Democrat primary voters. Like, say, a white woman who lives in the greater Cincinnati suburbs, who can’t get enough hours at her part-time job organizing records for a oral surgeon, and whose ex-husband can’t pay her child support because his only income is disability payments. Or a black bus driver in Maryland who’s worried about what’s going to happen to his pension in the next union contract negotiations. Or a Hispanic first grade teacher in Florida who doesn’t know if her school’s funding is going to get cut yet again. Or a retiree in Pennsylvania whose economic security is dependent entirely on Social Security and Medicare. Or a Laotian immigrant in the Bay Area who’s struggling to bring her mother into the country.


No Freak Left Behind.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat October 19, 2015 4:19 PM  

The canonical example of this is Wolf Blitzer and Soledad O'Brien on Jeopardy. Wolf barely demonstrated enough knowledge to come in out of the rain, and Ms. O'Brien was only slightly more impressive...

Blogger automatthew October 19, 2015 4:20 PM  

Most of the problem is that the industry is driven by sensationalism rather than knowledge or conviction.

Sensationalism + Overton Slit = Journalism

Blogger automatthew October 19, 2015 4:22 PM  

Google affirms that I coined the term "Overton Slit". Look on my works, ye mighty.

Blogger Karl October 19, 2015 4:24 PM  

@6 some "elite" journalists do know about it. However, it gets treated similar to what Vox says above. They've heard about it, therefore they understand it, so it couldn't possibly apply to them.

A few googled examples. They know it exists, use it to explain other people's behavior, but are not able to determine if it applies to them. Salon article is somewhat interesting, and also wrong.
-------------

Bush tanked the country. Now the right's again running the show. Neuroscience explains incompetence of all sides

http://www.salon.com/2014/11/29/why_are_these_clowns_winning_secrets_of_the_right_wing_brain/

I'm not pretending to be immune myself. None of us is. But Obama's critics on the left don't have the kinds of myth-making, confabulating mega-machinery actively feeding their delusions that Tea Baggers and Obamaphiles have. It's easier for us to avoid commonplace errors of judgment precisely because we face a more hostile, unforgiving narrative environment.

http://www.openleft.com/diary/19262/why-did-rachel-maddow-ignore-lbj

Some deluded conservatives and libertarians may wish to live in an alternative reality where history never happened, but Keynes won and the Austrians lost. The right should get over it.

Ignorance about business, finance and economics is new to the GOP, which was once the proud party of big business and Wall Street.

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-the-mighty-republican-party-became-so-ignorant-2013-10

And Matt Lewis (aka Mr. Burn it With Fire) has an entire new book about it - Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections

In 1963 Richard Hofstadter published his landmark book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Today, Matt Lewis argues, America's inclination toward simplicity and stupidity is stronger than ever, and its greatest victim is the Republican Party.

Blogger Cail Corishev October 19, 2015 4:31 PM  

Smart people tend to say "I don't know" with some frequency. Why don't j-schoolers pick up on that habit?

They're not smart or curious enough to realize how much they don't know. A teacher of mine once said (quoting Aristotle): the more you know, the more you know you don't know.

Remember when Rumsfeld talked about "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns"? He was making a perfectly good point about how it's possible to know that there are things you don't know. For instance, you might know that the enemy has a nuke, but you don't know where it's located, so that's a known unknown, which you can take action on. It's the unknown unknowns -- the things you don't even know you don't know -- that are really dangerous.

But journalists fell all over each other laughing at him as if he were just babbling, because they didn't even understand what he meant. And they weren't curious enough to try to figure out what he meant. All they knew was it sounded funny, and he was on the other side, so that was enough to run with.

Blogger Hammerli280 October 19, 2015 4:34 PM  

I don't think anyone possessed of real expertise in any field is impressed with the common run of journalists. For me, it's especially amusing to watch them try to deal with either aviation or defense issues. Dumber than rocks, most of them.

Blogger James Dixon October 19, 2015 4:36 PM  

> Look on my works, ye mighty.

And despair. :)

> ...Tea Baggers ...

At which point I know I can safely ignore anything at all that you have to say. Thanks for saving me the time.

OpenID Steve October 19, 2015 4:43 PM  

Or a Laotian immigrant in the Bay Area who’s struggling to bring her mother into the country.

Or the Somali woman with 12 HIV+ kids that needs $2,000-$5000 worth of meds each for them to live with the disease, or the Hept C patients that eat a brand new IPhone a day's worth of drugs. Or the Drug resistant TB patient that averages $500k to treat.

Blogger automatthew October 19, 2015 4:45 PM  

James Dixon @20

It's the literate version of Shave and a haircut...

Blogger automatthew October 19, 2015 4:48 PM  

TWO BITS.

Blogger Groot October 19, 2015 4:48 PM  

To increase my tolerance, I've somehow gotten into the habit of thinking of people like dogs: They can be great people, loyal, friendly, good company, but with bizarre, disgusting habits, and almost incomprehensibly stupid. When taken out in public, they need to be leashed. Maybe we should, as a precaution, ensure that the politicians wear the Cone of Shame.

@16. automatthew:

We despair, Ozymatthew.

Blogger Daniel October 19, 2015 4:48 PM  

"Let’s think about some likely Democrat primary voters."

Check box stereotypes. Might as well call them Damaged-crats, the objects of desire for every mewling red-blooded cuckservative.

Blogger automatthew October 19, 2015 4:49 PM  

We despair, Ozymatthew.

Speaking of which, how's Sigyn doing?

Blogger JACIII October 19, 2015 4:54 PM  

"but Keynes won and the Austrians lost. The right should get over it."

Because in an endeavor whereby one seeks to model reality truth is second to consensus?

The idiot parade is in full swing.

Blogger RobertT October 19, 2015 4:59 PM  

I can vouch for the fact that most of the people on twitter are completely out of sync with public opinion as a whole. Silicon Valley is another overlapping cocoon. D.C. another. NYC another. Unfortunately, those get all the news coverage. You seldom see any references to Ft.Worth or Tulsa. They may as well be on the other side of the moon.

Blogger Daniel October 19, 2015 5:02 PM  

@18 Good example, Cail.

Blogger Groot October 19, 2015 5:02 PM  

@26. Ozymatthew:

"Gozer: Are you a God?

"Dr Ray Stantz: No.

"Gozer: Then... DIE!

"Winston Zeddemore: Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say 'YES'!"

Blogger Joe Doakes October 19, 2015 5:14 PM  

The author calls the US the Land of Reagan but only checks off Democrat constituencies that Bernie can't reach: single mother, disability recipient, retiree, union member, government employee. If this is Reagan's land, why isn't business-owner Joe the Plumber on the list?

It's great Fred is helping journalists with that mote in their eyes, but he might want to get his own plank looked at.

Blogger Anonymous October 19, 2015 5:24 PM  

I remember the first time I read an article about a topic that I had become fairly familiar with. I realized that the author was nearly completely clueless about the most basic facts of that topic.

My disillusioning conclusion was that every journalist was probably equally clueless about every topic. But I just lacked the familiarity to recognize it in most of them.

I've never read an article with the same reverence since.

Blogger CurlyQ October 19, 2015 5:31 PM  

"Most of the problem is that the industry is driven by sensationalism rather than knowledge or conviction."

Exactly. Had an infant patient admitted for abuse, thankfully it wasn't bad and the kid was expected to recover. Later that shift I received a call from a local sheriff stating he was calling to investigate a homicide, referring to the infant. I asked him where he had received information the kid had died (while simultaneously listening to his coos from across the hall), and he stated a local news department was prepping the story to air in a few hours. Many times these people don't even try to represent reality. They just make shit up.
And then people base their reality on said shit.

Blogger David-2 October 19, 2015 5:44 PM  

#32 - you're not the first person to notice that - it even has a name: "the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect" - see, e.g., Why Speculate.

Blogger David-2 October 19, 2015 5:47 PM  

@32 - let me correct myself - the "Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect" refers to the way people in general forget that journalists in their own subject are full of shit when they read articles on other subjects; that's explicitly what you say you no longer do. Nevertheless, plenty of people have noticed the disconnect between reality and what journalists "produce".

Blogger S1AL October 19, 2015 5:51 PM  

Joe Doakes - There's nothing contradictory there. This is the country that elected Reagan, and those are a section of the voters who are firmly in the blue camp. Of course, it's fascinating to me that he could make a list like that and not preface it with something about his lack of racism. He may actually be honest about the situation.

OpenID Steve October 19, 2015 6:49 PM  

Any bets this lowered die verse city?
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-16/goldman-sachs-said-to-dismiss-20-analysts-for-cheating-on-tests

The Ranking democrat on Growdy's Benghazi commit leaked the name of a CIA asset but media is blaming Growdy.

Joe Doakes - There's nothing contradictory there. This is the country that elected Reagan

Its also the country that imported the IQ bottom 1/4 of Mexico's population that would vote for more free stuff.

Blogger Giuseppe The Kurgan October 19, 2015 6:56 PM  

This is true. I also made the following observations.
I have NEVER personally been involved in a news story and read about it and seen even 20% of the story being correct. I mean we are talking completely wrong in most cases.

I have NEVER met a journalist who does not believe (and explain it proudly at the first opportunity) how we "all have our own truth".

I then goad them into some basic philosophy until they literally spell out that yes, all truth is relative. Again, this has never failed.

I then usually call them absurd hypocrites and liars to their face...causing a little stir and then volunteer them for having their head smashed into a coffee table and to deny the reality of the coffee table. I do it all "good naturedly" of course, so as not to appear as a raging psychopath, but to date, no one has taken me up on the offer. They also tend to point out I am being "too literal" to which I retort that reality is like that, and being journalists, so should they be...except they are not, because we have already established they are liars and hypocrites.

They usually stop conversing with me then and tend not to voice their opinions later when I voice mine. I call it a win-win.

Blogger ncartist October 19, 2015 7:24 PM  

17. Karl:
A victim of both the Overton slit (I think that that means he's f*cked) and the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Blogger Michael O'Duibhir October 19, 2015 8:20 PM  

"And that's the dirty little secret of the media: they have a surface knowledge of many things and that knowledge barely scratches the surface."

But they don't see it that way. That's because they're living in a world of fast food info, and they never take a break for a healthy meal of analysis based on in-depth, reasoned thought. But they like to feel that they are intelligent, and that's all that matters, apparently.

Blogger Trimegistus October 19, 2015 8:51 PM  

I worked for three newspapers as a copy editor, and I have to say that pound for pound, journalists are the most ignorant people I've ever had to deal with. None of the reporters and editors I worked with knew anything about geography, economics, statistics, or any of the sciences. They were ignorant of history, even history they lived through. And not a single man jack of them could spell.

They were all intensely gullible, despite an irritating cynical seen-it-all air. Tell a reporter you've got "inside info" and they'll swallow it every time (e.g. Dan Rather, for one).

The one thing reporters and editors did know was people's names: they always knew all the local and state politicians, business leaders, and especially all the other media people in the market. In short, print journalism was not much different from a junior high school girls' clique: full of ignorant people who think they know everything, obsessed with jockeying for status within their own hothouse world.

Blogger Badmojo October 19, 2015 8:52 PM  


I wife was a political reporter in DC for a few years - interviewed many names you'd recognize - and Vox's comment is 100% correct. The "deep article" that appears on Wednesday was lightly researched and written on Tuesday and assigned on Monday. Very few of them have any more than a passing background in their subjects.

I offered to brief them on certain topics and stopped once I realized they didn't really care to understand.

It's scary how clueless they are but people see them on TV or hear them on the radio and assume that they're a class above the rest of us. Not even close.

Blogger Cecil Henry October 19, 2015 10:21 PM  

ALL the media and its reporting is status display and reinforcement of the PC line.


The level of knowledge and interest is minimal-- yet no matter what the subject, those reporting assume the right to condescend to everyone.

Most news is not even produced with the question of truth in mind, but rather to confirm a point of view and force the facts to fit it.

A really contemptible lot.

OpenID Jack Amok October 19, 2015 10:52 PM  

The only thing I can figure is that the professional necessity of being constantly plugged into the news cycle, particularly on Twitter, just gives people an extremely skewed vision of what politics means

Gee, what caused all the skewed visions before Twitter came around? CB Radios? What skewed Walter Duranty's vision of communism, carrier pigeons? Morse Code?

I'm not sure how old Fredrik deBoers is, but he's more than a little clueless about the history of journalism.

Blogger overcaffeinated October 19, 2015 11:16 PM  

You have to wonder what kind of person decides to major in journalism and become a journalist.

The average salary for a journalist is 37,090 USD.

The projected 10-year growth is -13% (2012).

For reference, a truck driver makes 38,200 USD, a cop makes 56,980 USD, and an accountant makes 63,550 USD. None of these jobs require above average intelligence.

So I don't think too many people in the top 10% of their high school class are telling themselves, "I can make it as a journalist!" (That's not to say intelligent people make wise choices; the average IQ of a philosophy major is just below math/physics at 139 -- I can field any "ask a philosophy major" questions....)

But my point is the field does not attract intelligent people. It attracts obsessive ideologues.

Blogger FP October 19, 2015 11:33 PM  

Guys, are these rubber bullets? Can anyone confirm?

https://twitter.com/ryanjreilly/statuses/500981295359741952

Gotta give the huffpo dude credit though, he hasn't deleted the tweet.

Blogger Desiderius October 20, 2015 12:30 AM  

Star Wars trailer tonight on MNF. White female/black male leads. Shocker.

Blogger Aaron Baker October 20, 2015 1:33 AM  

The darkest hour is that before the dawn
____________________________
I'll give you recommend a game: FIFA 16 Coins

Blogger ScuzzaMan October 20, 2015 2:05 AM  

I wrote to the chief political journalist of the New Zealand Herald (roughly equivalent to the New York Times) to ask him why he simply repeated the bullshit spouted by politicians, rather than asking them some obvious questions in re their claims. His reply was that his job is to report the news: what politicians say.

Blogger sysadmn October 20, 2015 8:21 AM  

I recommend following deBoer's blog, if only for the spectacle of watching the Left turn on their own. He's a true believer, and offers thoughtful critiques of the Left's self-destructive behavior. Predictably, the response is rhetorical rather than dialectical.

Blogger Ryan October 20, 2015 8:22 AM  

Did Frederik de Boer play for Ajax/Holland in the 90s?

OpenID genericviews October 20, 2015 8:51 AM  

Journalism is a career people get after they select Journalism as a major in college, because they don't want to do anything with math in it. If they really wanted to be journalists, they could skip college and just start writing for a living, getting published wherever they could... just like people with journalism degrees do.

Blogger Were-Puppy October 20, 2015 10:05 AM  

20. James Dixon October 19, 2015 4:36 PM
> Look on my works, ye mighty.

And despair. :)

> ...Tea Baggers ...

At which point I know I can safely ignore anything at all that you have to say. Thanks for saving me the time.
---

Exactly.

Blogger Were-Puppy October 20, 2015 10:06 AM  

@21 Steve
Or a Laotian immigrant in the Bay Area who’s struggling to bring her mother into the country.

Or the Somali woman with 12 HIV+ kids that needs $2,000-$5000 worth of meds each for them to live with the disease, or the Hept C patients that eat a brand new IPhone a day's worth of drugs. Or the Drug resistant TB patient that averages $500k to treat.
---

Well, he did say Democrat primary voters :P

Blogger Were-Puppy October 20, 2015 10:10 AM  

@31 Joe Doakes
If this is Reagan's land, why isn't business-owner Joe the Plumber on the list?
----

I doubt JtP is a Democratic primary voter.

Blogger Were-Puppy October 20, 2015 10:21 AM  

@46 FP
Guys, are these rubber bullets? Can anyone confirm?

https://twitter.com/ryanjreilly/statuses/500981295359741952

---

Look like those cheap ear plugs to me.

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