Don’t know about you, but I’ve given up designations like right/left, conservative/liberal, right-wing/progressive.
I can’t properly identify myself by any one of those terms. I like to think I’m too complicated for knee-jerk labels. And I certainly do not choose what to read or watch by such labels.
When it comes to news, especially news about politics, I first gather the facts. Then I read and listen to opinions. Pre-consciously, but close to the conscious surface, I run those opinions through the fact filter.
I’m not locked into some conspiratorial theory that everybody lies or makes stuff up, but I do occasionally pick up errors. Usually they’re small errors. Sometimes, even when small, an error can suggest an attempt to influence a reader’s thinking along the specific current of the writer’s politics. But since I have the facts, I’m not going to be persuaded by an error deliberately inserted to influence my thinking.
And by the way I don’t know why anybody should be afraid of reading a political opinion that differs from his or hers. What does anybody think will happen? Brainwashing? Hypnosis? Nah. The worst that can happen is actually very good: you’ll get gut-offended by an opinion and, if you’re sane and smart, you’ll take the time to think through why you’re so irritated. Which, in turn, will build and deepen your own rational and intellectual strength.
(David Brooks is one of my favorite tools for strengthening my own logic. He’s kind of like a Nautilus circuit for my brain. How many times do I read one of his paragraphs and think, “Well, you’re heartfelt, David, but so damn wrong!” Or, as my late, wonderful Aunt Naomi used to say to my late, wonderful Uncle Saul, “Saul, you’re wrong, wrong, wrong!”)
All that is something of a tangent. It’s a tangent I’ve been meaning to explore but let’s get back to the point, which is how a writer will make an erroneous statement that’s worse than deliberately distorting a fact to influence my thinking.
What’s worse? Being nakedly, openly ignorant, and doing it with the imprimatur of a respectable political journal.
To wit, David French in a recent Times op page. His goal, as clearly stated in the title of his piece (see link, above), is to show us–and he’s sad about it, so sad–how and why Trump worshipers will never give up on their idol. He writes from Tennessee and talks about going to church and a conversation he had with a fellow churchgoer to prove his point.
But before that, he writes this (I’ve bolded the relevant sentence):
It’s an unfortunate truth that the Republican base not only accepts but also often angrily defends conduct from Mr. Trump that they would never, ever accept in a Democratic president. Forget this week’s news for a moment and take a look at the recent past. Would Republicans have stood idly by if Barack Obama fired an F.B.I. director during an investigation of the president’s top aides and then misled Americans about the reason? Would conservatives tolerate a President Hillary Clinton demanding that praying football players keep their religion to themselves, then calling for firings and boycotts if they didn’t comply?
Never mind French’s knee-jerk sleaziness in setting up President Obama and Hillary Clinton as the default displacement figures. I don’t believe French made his egregious error deliberately–although for many reasons I’d suggest he spend more time on Sundays watching football than going to church. Or he could have checked his facts before making this infuriating, dimwitted mistake.
Because he’s dead wrong, as pretty much all of us know. Football players aren’t kneeling to pray. They’re kneeling to protest, Mr. French. To protest civil rights abuses, being killed by cops for being black.
French, who is cited as a senior editor of the National Review — a conservative journal and here the designation is important — is thus discrediting his own magazine, as well as himself, and discrediting conservative journalism in general.
Here he is, a Christian political hack who’s so smug he doesn’t even bother to check facts before publishing in the New York Times.