Our bias

You might have noticed that this page criticizes conservative commentators far more than it does liberal ones. It does. Is this evidence of some kind of bias? Nope.

1. Bias has to do primarily with accurate presentation of fact. For this reason, newspapers can be biased in their presentation of facts, or in their selection of facts, or in the way they interpret factual disputes. Judges can be biased if they tend to accept the factual claims of one side of an argument over another. And so on. The basic question of bias, as you can see, relates to assertions regarding whether or not a certain state of affairs obtains. Since we are largely not interested in questions of fact, we can’t be guilty of this.

2.  Over the three years that we’ve been doing this, we’ve had the opportunity to get a pretty good look at the punditry in the major daily newspapers. We have pointed out numerous times in posts that for the most part, conservative columnists defend their positions with arguments. For this reason we applaud them. We also think that few liberal columnists argue as energetically as their conservative colleagues. Since the liberals don’t argue, you will find the conservatives strongly represented on our pages.

3.  We’re not a newspaper and we have no commitment to "balance." We find those accusations meaningless anyway.  Just because George Will cannot envision anything other than a moronic liberal interlocutor, doesn’t mean we have to go find a liberal who does the same thing.  Besides, we’d be hard pressed to find someone of George Will’s stature and influence who argues as appallingly as he does.  If you think for some reason that "logic" is "objective" and therefore the occurrence of fallacies or just poor reasoning is "balanced" between "left" and "right,"  then you ought to take a course in logic. 

4.  The failure of some particular argument of some particular conservative writer does not in any respect entail the liberal counterpart. It entails–if we’re right–only the failure of that particular argument.

5.  We don’t ask you do draw any conclusions other than the ones we explicitly make in the individual posts. If you think–as many often do–that those conclusions are unwarranted, then tell us. We take all thoughtful criticism seriously.

–The editors

22 thoughts on “Our bias”

  1. Ok. Sure. But clearly you are not reading Paul Krugman, whose arguments are nearly always ad hominems. Nor are your reading Thomas Friedman, who recently claimed the Arab Spring was due to the Beijing Olympics. Nor are you reading Maureen Dowd, who compared Tea Party members to horror movie villains. Instead you tortously deconstruct a George Will argument in an attempt to refute a point that is completely verifiable. Is it not the case that Obama's poll numbers are dropping and that liberal media members are frothing at the mouth? You are not correct that Liberals do not make arguments; provided you accept that the ad hominem is an argument (albeit a fallacious one).

  2. Friedman and Dowd both generally stink.  It would be wrong, not for their suckiness however, to call them liberals.  They don't make arguments for liberal points, and more often than not, they side with non-liberals.  In either case, Friedman is barely worth criticizing as an arguer and Dowd doesn't argue, she just observes and makes catty points.

    I'll also disagree with your assessment of Krugman, and I'll point out also that ad hominem arguments are not intrinsically fallacious. 

    You also seem to have some disagreement with some point of mine about George Will.  I'd recommend you take that up in the appropriate spot. 

    I'll also disagree that the phrase "liberal media" has any real meaning outside of the ideologically closed world of Fox News.

  3. Let's just quickly look at what Friedman actually says:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/opinion/02friedman.html?

    "We know the big causes — tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media. But since being in Egypt, I’ve been putting together my own back-of-the-envelope guess list of what I’d call the “not-so-obvious forces” that fed this mass revolt."

    One might say that Friedman recently claimed that "Arab Spring was due to the Beijing Olympics," I suppose, if you really really were so inclined. But what he really says is something else entirely:

    "THE BEIJING OLYMPICS China and Egypt were both great civilizations subjected to imperialism and were both dirt poor back in the 1950s, with China even poorer than Egypt, Edward Goldberg, who teaches business strategy, wrote in The Globalist. But, today, China has built the world’s second-largest economy, and Egypt is still living on foreign aid. What do you think young Egyptians thought when they watched the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics? China’s Olympics were another wake-up call — “in a way that America or the West could never be” — telling young Egyptians that something was very wrong with their country, argued Goldberg."

    I don't know whether Goldberg's view is defensible or not. I suppose one could do some polling to determine whether or not this was present in the minds of Egyptian citizens. But, I don't see that the view that Goldberg advances and that Friedman cites is obviously fallacious. It doesn't seem to commmit a post hoc propter hoc fallacy, which was what I was expecting when I read the tendentrious formulation you offered in the comment above.
    Now I'm no fan of Friedman's columns, I generally don't use up my free 20 articles on his stuff, and I'm sure there is a lot we could say about some of his bad arguments. But, we wouldn't say this, for the reason that it seems fairly obviously not what Friedman says.

  4. A lot of sophistry going on ’round here.

    Seriously, “ad hominem arguments are not intrinsically fallacious”? Yes, but when that’s what you’re relying upon for your argument, it IS fallacious reasoning.

    “Liberal media” doesn’t have any meaning outside “the ideologically closed world of Fox News”? Wow. So many problems in such a small space.

    To begin with, you’ve proven that accusations of bias against you have merit. What an egregiously and stereotypically partisan view you’ve taken of the most watched news channel in the nation, one shown by numerous scientific (and nonpartisan) studies to be quite balanced in its news coverage.

    Second, “liberal” has a widely accepted meaning in a context such as this. The actual words used were “liberal media members”. This is much like saying “liberal reporters”. This isn’t some special definition FNC or its audience invented. If you have a problem with the idea that there are liberal reporters, then you’ve got some extreme issues with denial. Furthermore, if you have a problem with the FACT that the members of the media in this country are overwhelmingly left-leaning, again, that’s on you. It’s not debatable in the least. It is proven by scientific polls; the reporters etc. admit it themselves! Finally, if you have a problem with the fact that the media coverage itself is, overall, decidedly to the left of the average American, again, the issue is with you and your refusal to accept documented facts and scientific studies.

    In any case, your attempt to dismiss the whole thing with a slam on FNC and a wave of the hand proves, once again, that people who run sites about fallacy are often quite prone to relying on it themselves.

  5. Well, the notion of the “liberal media” was an invention of Nixon-era conservative political operatives. It has continued to be used as a rhetorical weapon for suggesting that wildly and persistently minority views are in fact mainstream, but are merely marginalized by the “media.” It is and has always been a tool for ad hominem argument–little more despite reference to so-called “scientific” studies you invoke.

    When it is deployed by political operatives like Bill O’Reilly or Sarah Palin it rarely has any actual diagnostic or even cognitive content. It is merely a tool for emotive-rhetorical effect.

    The commentary pages of the major newspapers are not hot-beds of liberalism, but for the most part give an almost perverse place to conservative opinionators, despite their remarkably poor production (see, Safire, Brooks, Krauthammer, Will to name the most egregious).

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