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July 09, 2014

Mollie Hemingway: The Media's Ignorance Has Become a Serious Problem

Fantastic piece.

The real problem is the arrogance that goes with the ignorance. Take Kate Zernike’s 2010 attempt at an expose of the ideas that motivate tea party activists that ran in the New York Times. She wrote:
But when it comes to ideology, it has reached back to dusty bookshelves for long-dormant ideas. It has resurrected once-obscure texts by dead writers -- in some cases elevating them to best-seller status -- to form a kind of Tea Party canon.

Who are these obscure authors of long-dormant ideas? She points to Friedrich Hayek, for one. Yes, the same Hayek who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974 and died way, way back in... 1992. Whose Road To Serfdom was so obscure that it has never been out of print and was excerpted in Reader’s Digest, that obscure publication with only 17 million readers. The article doesn't get around to actually providing any insight into these activists' philosophy and it’s probably a good thing considering that this is what she has to say about "the rule of law":

Ron Johnson, who entered politics through a Tea Party meeting and is now the Republican nominee for Senate in Wisconsin, asserted that the $20 billion escrow fund that the Obama administration forced BP to set up to pay damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill circumvented "the rule of law," Hayek’s term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of "personal ends and desires."

Oh dear. Where to begin? How about with the fact that "rule of law" is not Hayek’s term. The concept goes back to, well, the beginning of Western Civilization and the term was popularized by a 19th century British jurist and constitutional theorist named A.V. Dicey. It’s not an unwritten code, by definition.

I bolded that myself, because it's such a subtle stab of the dagger. "The rule of law," obviously, presupposes the law shall be written down, and that we shall not have an unwritten "rule of men and rule of social connections and secret understandings."

The whole idea is that the law shall be transparent to all, and knowable to all.

From this simple notion, the haplessly extremist Kate Zernike divines an "unwritten code."

The idea that this would be an obscure concept to someone says everything about Zernike and the team at the New York Times and precisely nothing about Ron Johnson or Hayek or that sector of citizens of the United States who retain support for the rule of law.

A few weeks ago, David Brat beat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a stunning upset. The media didn’t handle it well. You might say they freaked out. Among other things, reporters sounded the alarm about a phrase Brat used in his writings that, they said, suggested he was a dangerous extremist: "The government holds a monopoly on violence. Any law that we vote for is ultimately backed by the full force of our government and military." As National Review‘s Charles C.W. Cooke noted:

"Unusual" and "eye-opening" was the New York Daily News’s petty verdict. In the Wall Street Journal, Reid Epstein insinuated darkly that the claim cast Brat as a modern-day fascist. And, for his part, Politico’s Ben White suggested that the candidate's remarks "on Neitzsche and the government monopoly on violence don’t make a whole lot of sense."

Unusual, eye-opening, and non-sensical, perhaps, to people who had never studied what government is. But that group shouldn’t include political reporters, who could reasonably be expected to have passing familiarity with German sociologist Max Weber's claim that "the modern state is a compulsory association which organizes domination. It has been successful in seeking to monopolize the legitimate use of physical force as a means of domination within a territory."

I can't quote it all. She just brings up one case of ridiculous ignorance after another, that ignorance weaponized in the form of an arrogant put down, and then explains to these dummies where these "obscure" ideas come from.

Bonus points to her for having a subsection entitled "The Special Case That Is Matthew Yglesias."

Among forty-seven links to his risible ignorance of everything, she includes this gem: the day Matthew Yglesias discovered that the Everglades were not just an imaginary land made up for Burt Reynolds movies, but in fact a real-life swamp that resists urban development.

So just read the whole thing.

Thanks to @rdbrewer4 in the sidebar, and @willantonin.



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posted by Ace at 12:55 PM

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