Part 1—Also, an apt rumination: As MSNBC did it again; as Maureen Dowd went there again; as many liberals played the fool again, thrilling to a “revelation” (Anderson Cooper) which didn’t exist from a highly unreliable source:
As all these pitiful moments occurred, the New York Times ran an interesting rumination on page 12 of Sunday Review.
By way of contrast, Dowd’s column—it was much longer than usual—had been placed on page 1 of that section. She was discussing the way Bill Clinton engaged in oral sex with a 23-year-old federal employee in the mid-1990s.
But then, what else isn’t new?
Predictably, the Times had rushed that column onto the Sunday Review’s front page. On page 12 of the same high-profile section, a political scientist from UCLA was talking about the American press corps, including the pathetic new branch of same which is being relentlessly hired and fired by the suits at MSBC.
On the surface, Michael Suk-Young Chwe wasn’t directly discussing the press corps. He was discussing the problem of bias—of so-called “confirmation bias”—in the world of science.
“Science is in crisis,” Chwe said. This is the way he started:
CHWE (2/2/14): Science is in crisis, just when we need it most. Two years ago, C. Glenn Begley and Lee M. Ellis reported in Nature that they were able to replicate only six out of 53 “landmark” cancer studies. Scientists now worry that many published scientific results are simply not true.Funny that! A great deal of our modern journalism is also “simply not true.”
That doesn’t stop our “journalists” from repeating such claims. Often, they do so for years at a time, often as a group.
In his page 12 rumination, Chwe kept discussing the world of science. We kept thinking about the press corps. Here’s why:
Why is a lot of our science “simply not true?” In his second paragraph, this is what Chwe said:
CHWE: A major root of the crisis is selective use of data. Scientists, eager to make striking new claims, focus only on evidence that supports their preconceptions. Psychologists call this “confirmation bias”: We seek out information that confirms what we already believe. “We each begin probably with a little bias,” as Jane Austen writes in “Persuasion,” “and upon that bias build every circumstance in favor of it.”But so it has gone for decades now, all across the mainstream press corps. And so it now goes among the self-regarding baboons who constitute the new work force at orgs like MSNBC.
So it has gone for many years in the world of conservative talk. According to Chwe, whose thesis isn’t new, so it is going in science.
In his rumination about science, Chwe discusses the “selective use of data.” Our journalists rarely bother with data, which they regard as boring. Instead, they engage in selective presentation of images and claims, many of which they have simply invented.
They people their tightly scripted tales with familiar characters: The best friend from high school; the fancy hotel. The 21-year-old intern; the dog which was strapped to the roof of the car.
They assess the character of public figures by their wardrobe selections. Lamar Alexander’s plaid shirts; Bill Bradley’s extremely old shoes, which revealed his sterling character. Al Gore’s boots and suits, his polo shirts, the height at which he hemmed his pants. The number of buttons he wore on his suits; the fact that one suit was brown.
They discuss the type of cheese a candidate puts on his cheese steak. They complain about candidates’ beverage choices—Obama’s selection of orange juice, Gore and Shriver’s Perrier.
They make up quotes and pretend people said them. They puzzle over pointless events from candidates’ high school years. (Such events may be real or imagined.)
They complain that Kerry went wind-surfing, that Obama didn’t know how to bowl! Haircuts have been a favorite topic, especially if they involve an airport delay which never happened.
David Broder invented a trick—asking candidates about the price of a gallon of milk. He also invented the claim that Candidate Muskie cried.
Years later, he copped to that invention. Within the guild, his colleagues knew that this confession must never be discussed.
In all these ways, our journalists, like Chwe’s scientists, “focus only on evidence that supports their preconceptions.” In the case of our journalists, the “evidence” on which they focus has often been dreamed up.
We’ll look at several parts of Chwe’s rumination as the week proceeds. For today, let’s consider two more points raised by the Pacific-12 star.
What should science do about its problem? “To deal with the problem of selective use of data, the scientific community must become self-aware and realize that it has a problem,” Chwe sensibly says.
That is never going to happen with the guild we describe as a press corps. As we told you more than a decade ago, the mainstream press corps controls the press.
It controls what gets said about itself, something no other sector can do. With a very few exceptions, your favorite career liberal writers have agreed to disappear the process we are describing over the past several decades.
(As everyone knows, discussing the problems we are discussing is a route to a quick career death.)
That said, we note a bit of unintentional humor in Chwe’s piece. We refer to his use of Austen’s novels as a source of ideas about the problem of prejudice—of confirmation bias.
Why was Chwe’s use of Austen amusing? Out on page 1 of the Sunday Review, Dowd was stroking herself again about Bill Clinton’s blow jobs. She lives to talk about these events. Few other topics can satisfy her vast emotional needs.
Funnily, though, Dowd enjoys citing Austen too, especially when she is driving her favorite portrait of Major Dem Politicians:
In 2004, she decreed that “Mr. Kerry is Pride.” Quoting a statement he hadn’t made, Dowd compared Kerry to Mr. Collins, “Elizabeth Bennet's pretentious cousin in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ ”
She dragged in Kerry’s offensive wife, always a favorite move.
Four years later, Dowd stated a similar conclusion about Candidate Obama. “Obama bears a distinct resemblance to the most cherished hero in chick-lit history," the obsessive pundit opined. “The senator is a modern incarnation of the clever, haughty, reserved and fastidious Mr. Darcy.”
We’d call that a “selective presentation of [images],” the desire to “focus only on [images and claims] that supports their preconceptions.” We chuckled to see Chwe discussing Austen yesterday in this context, even as Dowd was out on page 1 reliving her ten favorite blow jobs.
Chwe went on to discuss ways for science to heal itself. As he did, MSNBC had fired yet another staffer—or at least, it said it had—for the latest act of tribal race-baiting. Meanwhile, many liberals thrilled to the revelation which didn’t yet exist.
As Chwe discussed the world of science, we kept thinking of the wider public discourse.
In a New York Times news report, a high school friend was suddenly back—a high school friend who didn’t exist.
Dowd was back with a much older tale. It too had also involved a famous faux character—another of the invented figures who have made a relentless sick joke of our non-scientific lives.
Tomorrow: MSNBC does it again