The next to roll

From the Star Tribune: [Lutheran Reverend] Erdahl continues to favor ordaining gays and lesbians but recognizes that there are legitimate arguments on both sides. “We have room in the church for biblical literalists, and no one has kicked them out,” he said. “Can’t we also have room for those who say the Bible is more poetic or symbolic? I think we need room on this issue, too. We need to find a way through this. The real problem is legalism and those who say there is no room for anyone but people with my view. I hope we don’t go down the road the Methodists have gone down.”

Clearly he’d prefer the Episcopalian road of self-destruction. If people were hungry for literary criticism, they’d attend pretentious poetry seminars, not church. Can’t we have room for Christians who don’t believe the Bible? Can’t we have room for Christians who don’t believe in Jesus Christ? Can’t we have room for Christians who aren’t Christians at all?

The answer is no. That’s not legalism, that’s reality. Clearly Erdahl would have a major problem with anyone who would be so intolerant to say that his way is the only way. Who ordained this joker?

Clueless cons

Katherine Lopez writes on NRO: Sen. Mark Dayton says it was “antithetical to democracy” for General Meyers to have called CBS to ask them to delay the photo release in their news report (noting that much of the rest of the story was public info since January). Meyers said he had cause to worry their release could put our troops in danger. That’s antithetical to democracy?

I can’t believe that I’m defending Mark Dayton, but yes, K-Lo, having a military officer request that a free press not publicize something unfavorable to the military is absolutely antithetical to allowing the people who the military are serving have the information necessary to make their decisions. It’s not censorship – if the general forbade CBS, that would have been censorship – but the “cause to worry” bit is total nonsense. First, the story has already been delayed. Second, the fact that troops are still in Germany sixty years after the fact indicates that we may never see an end to the Iraqi occupation, so the general could plausibly use this logic to argue that the photos should not be released until all the parties involved are dead of old age. Not, of course, that we actually have a democracy, but that’s another issue altogether.

I have little sympathy for arguments that revolve around weasel words such as could, may, might and possibly. In free country, there must be a free flow of information. Americans are fine with our troops killing enemy combatants; most of us would rather see a thousand enemies perish instead of a single American soldier. But cover-ups, even in good causes, cannot be permitted. I note that no one, except for a few knee-jerks in the press, had any qualms about the officer who fired a gun next to the Iraqi in order to find out where an ambush had been laid. That’s not the sort of thing we’re dealing with here, and the administration’s defenders would be wise to accept that reality and deal with it.

If half your argument is based on bringing human decency to a place that lacks it, you shouldn’t be terribly surprised to find that this sort of degrading abuse blows a very large hole in your position.

The profession of puffery

The [Gallup] poll suggests that only 21 percent of Americans believe journalists have high ethical standards, ranking them below auto mechanics but tied with members of Congress. More precisely, the poll notes that only one in four people believe what they read in the newspapers. Chicago Tribune Editor Charles M. Madigan may have put it best when he offered this advice: “If you are a journalist, you should probably just assume that you come across as a liar.”

A 2004 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of Columbia University’s storied Graduate School of Journalism, underscores Madigan’s observation. “Since 1985, believability of the daily newspaper has fallen by a quarter, from 80 percent in 1985 to 59 percent in 2002,” notes the study, which includes data gathered by the Pew Research Center to form its conclusions. The study also points out that there has been a rapid decline in newspaper readership since the 1980s, with slightly more than half of Americans, 54 percent, reading a newspaper during the week. “The three television network news divisions and local news also saw significant drops from 1985, when they were all above 80 percent for believability,” the study reveals.

Why should anyone believe what they read in a newspaper or see in the news? I’ve been part of ten or twelve news stories at the local level, both television and newspaper, and on every single occasion, there were significant errors of fact. In the more recent cases, this happened in spite of my attempting to keep the details simple and straightforward. Once, I counted five errors in a little three sentence blurb.

Journalism too often combines ignorance with arrogance. It is a lethal combination, especially where the truth is concerned. If the details do not fit the reporter’s preconception’s, all too often he’ll simply ignore them or attempt to spin them in a manner that makes no sense. Journalism is not a profession, it is public relations for government and the two major political parties. The people I knew who wanted to pursue journalism as a career were far more interested in getting their faces on television than they were in any romantic notions of truth or world-saving. This is why I vehemently object to ever being described as a journalist instead of a writer. I consider it an insult.

I’m not a journalist and I never will be. As a technology entrepeneur, I work in the real world, more or less. Writing an opinions column is just something I do for pleasure. It’s not rocket science, and the fact that I’ve had any success at all only goes to show that Fred Reed was correct in stating that, for the most part, journalists are simply not all that bright.

Perhaps if newspapers would put the slightest attempt into making sure their journalists had even a vague clue regarding the subjects they’re covering, and removed people from writing about areas in which they’ve repeatedly demonstrated incompetence, those of us in the real world might take them more seriously. Don’t hold your breath.