Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Feigned Outrage, Vitriol, Calumny, and other Editorial Vices

So Feigned Outrage is getting back to its roots.  The inspiration for the blog title, of course, is the epidemic among politicians and editorializers of expressing horror at an action, bill, or statement that otherwise met with indifference or support when their side was doing it.  This particular form of hypocrisy causes those on the other side of the political spectrum to tune out the speaker and those on their side feed their own righteous indignation.  Civil discourse and the valid points that each side has to make are, in the end, the big losers.

But feigned outrage is only one kind of nuisance that invades political discourse.  Other culprits include:
  • Disingenuousness - we know the writer knows better, but makes a dubious claim supporting their argument anyway.  Includes sub-categories
    • Straw-manning: broadly attributing lousy viewpoints or policy objectives to one party or group when they don't actually have them
    • Same-brushing: assigning the most extreme viewpoints on one side to the mainstream of that side
  • Stating disputable positions as fact - including citing a study as proof, when the methods, scale, and assumptions used don't merit such certainty
  • Unnecessary invective - taking potshots at the other side (individual politicians, parties, or the entire half of the country that doesn't vote like them)
  • Assigning intentionality to failure - assuming the vilest of intentions when something goes wrong
Trying to parse the legitimate contributions of different viewpoints from the nonsense and rage quickly becomes exhausting and dispiriting, but retreating into the comfort of one's own reassuring echo chamber is self-defeating. 

So we're going to do the work for you.  Our mission:>
  • Call out the failings of leading editorials - specifically what's wrong and why, point by point, bringing clarity to the issue
  • Cull the important points from different sides so people can see the merits of opposing viewpoints without being bombarded with vitriol and obfuscation
  • Shame journals with high standards to keeping to them

What we know we can't do:
  • Persuade those who don't care about journalistic standards and just want to slander their way to victory
  • Make either major party tone down their rhetoric

We can't police every politician and newspaper.  We're going to start with those that purport to high standards and have a reasonable chance of persuading readers with different opinions.  We're going to start with some motivating examples.  Then we'll see where this goes . . .

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