“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I was wrong / self destruction's got me again

I’m going to Jump into the Fray.

I found the second-ever retraction by the Amarillo Globe-Republican alluded to in George’s piece below to be bizarre in the extreme. For one thing, Les “Trial of the Century” Simpson’s strange notion that the newspaper doesn’t print complaints about businesses or “how [people] were treated by someone” isn’t even remotely true. Today’s Other Opinion page features a letter implying that Hooters girls are slutty Jezebels who corrupt young boys at Amarillo Gorillas games. I once published a screed in the paper in which I ranted about my health insurance company and called my district’s accountant a “bean counter”. The column was entirely anecdotal and, I suppose, unverifiable but that didn’t make it untrue. Dave the Wingnut’s weekly kicks in pants are exercises in petty complaints and borderline conflicts of interest.

And so on. Does Les “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” Simpson even read his own paper?

His claim that the newspaper doesn’t or shouldn’t publish anecdotes is similarly batcrap crazy. What on earth are the pit-bull-attack-of-the-day features if not anecdote? What are Jon Mark Beilue’s weekly columns about old men drinking coffee? What are Baxter Black’s ramblings about livestock? The newspaper doesn’t do any reporting. Cut out the opinionated rants and the anecdotal portions of the Globe-Republican and all you’d have are recycled wire stories.

Les “If I Did It” Simpson also takes the opportunity to bash bloggers:

But it is our job as a newspaper to produce information that is reliable and correct. You depend on us for that. That's why we are different from a blog on the Internet. We provide additional layers of fact-checking and verifying information.
Good media elitist! Here’s a biscuit!

Of course, he’s dead wrong about this, too. For mysterious reasons, the Globe-Republican has, in 2007, broken with long-standing tradition and apologized not just this once, but twice. The other time they attempted to do some actual reporting and screwed it up. They got a story about some chickens spectacularly, mind-bogglingly wrong. The story was so wrong that Dan Rather was forced to retire again. Chickens marched down Harrison Street, burning buildings and overturning police cars.

Okay, I hyperbolize the damage done by this horrible, nightmarish mistake, but, you see, that's why we are different from a corporate-owned Republican mouthpiece. We provide additional layers of snark and exaggeration.

We also critique stories, just like I’m doing right now to Les “bloody glove” Simpson’s freakish retraction. I try to get the facts straights in the anecdotal, opinionated pieces I write, but it ain’t my job to call five different people and verify everything. I don’t have a j-school degree. But I do have a degree that says that I know how to read critically and write clearly.

George is right about this one. There is a role for both the Globe-Republican and the Amarillo Independent. In a media class in the early nineties I wrote an essay in which I dismissed even the possibility of true objectivity in journalism. We’d be better off, I argued, if citizens just accepted bias as a reality and made informed decisions based on that knowledge. A larger pool of admittedly biased sources gets us closer to the truth than one biased source pretending to be objective.

Les “white Ford Bronco” Simpson is therefore misleading his readers when he casually dismisses the blogosphere. We have our role, too, in the marketplace of ideas. I wonder if Les “low-speed chase” Simpson is simply ill-informed or if he is instead cynically propagating information he knows to be false. If the official position of the Globe-Republican states that online discourse is worthless, than why does the newspaper maintain that toxic red-light district of ideas called TalkAmarillo?

I have no idea why Les Simpson chose to apologize for hurting the feelings of these particular organizations and not Hooters, or my (former) health insurance company, or any of the multitude of tree-huggers, bleeding hearts and artists that Dave Henry and Virgil Van Camp verbally abuse each week. If I had to guess, I’d speculate that his reasons involve golf courses, cigars and martinis. In any event, since his published manifesto is completely devoid of truth, we do know that his newspaper’s relationship with at least one local hospital is cozier than objectivity would demand, if such a thing existed. And, as a consequence, we know that any Globe-Republican reportage regarding health care is inherently suspect.