What propaganda fears above all is truth

Fascinating piece from the Belmont Club, which indicates how much further down the road the discussion on blogging and journalism has got in the US. It posits the argument that journalism (and blogging) should be judged by the truthfulness of its content, not the literary style or panache with which it is written. Or indeed which paper it is published in – become something of a false trail in Ireland.Wretchard takes a report from a journalist from the Independent, Patrick Cockburn:

Iraq is disintegrating. The first results from the parliamentary election last week show the country is dividing between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions. … The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-Western secular democracy in a united Iraq.

Then he argues:

It is totally irrelevant to question Mr. Cockburn’s motives, intelligence or literary style. The only source of legitimacy that matters is whether Mr. Cockburn’s journal of events is accurate. If Mr. Cockburn’s description of Iraq as disintegrating proves true then his tidings, however unwelcome, will not be propaganda any more than reporting the sinking of the Titanic was. But by the same standard, most of Bill Roggio’s work at the Fourth Rail and Threats Watch will pass muster as legitimate journalism in terms of accuracy, his lack of regular press credentials notwithstanding. Mr. Roggio has written many accounts of operations in Iraq which have not been contradicted by subsequent events. The clear mark of a propagandist is one who consistently misrepresents events, allowing for occasional errors which every human being must make. Track record matters. The reason that John Burns of the New York Times may be better regarded than Robert Fisk is because Burns has consistently proved the better observer of events. Moreover, the longer the retrospective, the better Burns looks.

  • DK

    There was a recent study that showed that a chimp throwing darts was as likely to get things correct as the vast majority of pundits – largely due to peoples objectivity intruding, especially in areas they are interested enough in to be a pundit.

    On a more fun note – Mick, why not set up a thread with people’s political predictions for the year for the 4 main parties and we’ll see in 2007 who is the best pundit!

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, I’m still working on my own. But I’m finding that it’s just as difficult to work out what (the f***) happened last year as it is predicting the future! If/when I get it finished it might act as a good starter for ten!!

  • Occasional Commentator

    It’s funny to see Vincent Browne go on about truth when his own article (the ‘false trail’ story above) is telling lies about Walsh’s and Myers’ remarks.

    Vincent said:

    “uninformed remarks by the former head of the University of Limerick, Edward Walsh, to the effect that generous welfare allowances were encouraging impoverished young teenage girls to get pregnant, and that the consequences of such pregnancies were criminality and social dysfunction.”

    Edward made two separate statements there. There is plenty of evidence for his second statement, that children of unmarried mothers are more likely to be criminals. We can argue until we’re blue in the face about what this means, but the fact is that it’s true. Edward was well informed in this regard.

    The more controversial statement is that welfare payments encourage pregnancy. Even though I’m not aware of any conclusive scientific evidence in favour of that view, I am also not aware of any evidence to the contrary. All I can say is that I wouldn’t be surprised if the rates of teenage unmarried pregnancy have been increasing along with the rates of welfare payments. Perhaps Walsh, being the former head of a university, has access to some good scientific evidence. It’s vital that everybody, like Walsh here, ask questions that haven’t been answered conclusively yet – how else would we ever do new research and gain new knowledge?

    In the absence of any scientific evidence it’s quite reasonable for there to be many views on a particular subject. Assuming the “politically correct” viewpoint is just as irrational as assuming the “politically incorrect” viewpoint.

    Taking all this together, it’s clear that Browne had no right to call Walsh “uninformed”. Browne just didn’t like what he heard so he decided to just tell as many lies about Walsh and Myers as he could. He made baseless accusations about their motives and background – just as probably will be made about me for writing this comment. I’m not going to fall into the trap of being forced to tell anybody my opinions on teenage pregnancies or other issues covered by political correctness, instead I’m going to force those who would defend Browne to do so based on logic and reason. Making (probably incorrect) guesses about my motives or opinions will not get us anywhere.

    Just because you’re right, or think you are, that doesn’t give you the right to tell lies.

    Remember that the issue of teenage pregnancy is not directly relevant. This issue is whether Browne and others should be allowed to make up lies about other’s motives just because they disagree.

    As for Myers, Vincent says:
    “It was a display of calculated, deliberate, carefully-constructed gross offence to unwed mothers and their children”

    No, it wasn’t. Browne is lying again. Myers thinks he is speaking the truth, and that is his sole motive. It doesn’t matter whether Vincent, I, or anybody else thinks that Myers is speaking the truth, instead we must all accept the fact that Myers thinks he’s onto the truth. He didn’t set out to offend anyone, he just wanted to speak what he thought was the truth and, quite rightly, he didn’t care if some people couldn’t handle his opinion of the truth.

    It’s truly pathetic, the state of debate in these issues. Blatantly obvious lies pass for professional journalism and it all serves to simply distract everyone from the real issues, condemning the unwed parents, ethnic minorities et cetera to further discrimination while right-on people like Browne beat their chest as publicly as possible.