Monday, August 13, 2007

Other news of the world

Beagle already said all there is to say about Karl Rove leaving, which of course is today's big news (so far).

But I want to mention a couple other things other bloggers have said that intrigued me.

1. Glenn Greenwald links to, quotes, and discusses one of those staggering right-wing blog posts in which the author actually asserts that if we don't throw every resource we have (this includes suspending any and all freedoms Dear Leader deems necessary) at the threat of "Islamofascism," then Osama bin Laden is going to take over the country, force us all to convert to radical Islam, and make us live under a caliphate where--well, I'll just quote the Roger Simon post Glenn links to.
"Because if we lose and fall under religious law, there not only will be no gay marriage, there will be no women's rights, no freedom of the press, no basic human rights, not even – as in the case of Iran – any music."

I honestly hope I do not have to explain why it's so stunning to me that anyone could seriously believe this is a risk. The "Islamofascists" (god I hate that term, which manages to be unfair both to Islam and fascism) have no army, no measurable political support here--no means of taking over even a local schoolboard, let alone the country.

I mean, I too think we should do what we reasonably can to stop them from killing people, but they're not Hitler or Stalin. And, might I add, we didn't suspend Habeas Corpus or submit to warrantless domestic spying back then, and yet, somehow, we never even came close to a Nazi or Soviet takeover. And those guys had, you know, the means to actually attack us with something other than suicide bombings, and ideologies that might have resonated with more Americans than living under sharia law. I don't see that getting any traction.

I realize that thinking that only they have the ability to nobly stare down the existential threat of our times makes them feel like GI Joe or something, but it's hard to imagine a more ridiculous worldview. I don't even know how to talk to these people. They're not being rational; they're thinking with a part of their brains that predates logic by hundreds of millions of years.

2. Kevin Drum wonders about the media's habit of reporting every issue as a "he said/she said" affair, even if one side is clearly and objectively lying. He points out that this means that the system, in practice, gives a heavy advantage to liars, as I pointed out myself in this 2004 cartoon.

But, Kevin also says he doesn't know what the solution is:

In theory, everyone agrees with this. The problem is, I haven't yet come across a single person who's proposed a workable solution. Who gets to decide whether an issue is still debatable? The reporter? But most reporters aren't subject matter experts. Would you trust the average reporter to take on this role on a daily basis? And even if we do believe reporters should be routine arbiters of the truth, how exactly should they express this? Flatly call things lies? Insert contrary evidence in their own voice whenever they decide someone has crossed the line? Something more subtle?

Well...look. I think it's simplistic to say there is any single answer that's "the" solution. Of course there isn't, and no one is ever going to come up with one, because the truth is a complex affair.

But clearly lines are already being drawn. They always are. We all joke about Bush claiming that up is down, but if Bush gave a speech where he actually declared that up and down were the same direction, in those words, reporters wouldn't actually report this as a credible claim and then say "some Democrats claim that up and down are opposite directions." If Bush claimed tomorrow that he was black, or that the earth was only seventeen minutes old, or that he could flap his arms and take off, reporters wouldn't treat those claims as if they had factual merit.

The "solution," then, is just for reporters to draw the line in a different place. They need to be more skeptical about things powerful people say, and when they know a politician is objectively lying to them, to report that that politician has lied. No, it won't be perfect. Yes, some lies will always get through. But in the last seven years, way too many easily-checkable lies have been getting through unchallenged. And we don't have to wait for someone to come up with a perfect everything-is-fine-now-forever solution to do something about it.

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