You Can’t Handle The Lie

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  1. I think your framing of the events here as Fiat News is entirely legitimate, and certainly in keeping with the longstanding beliefs I have seen written here over the years. I have no argument with the framework you present. I think, though, that it may be incomplete, or at least, it ignores or discounts an important element - there may be a point where the framework that advocates rejecting thse actions by labeling them Fiat News is legitimately challenged by the Paradox of Intolerance. I understand that this is not a clear case (are there ever any?), but there are elements here that IMO raise the issue:

    Tolerance involves respect for individual autonomy—the idea that people’s minds and lives can be different from our own. 
    Intolerance means not enduring what you dislike, and seeking to harm it, whether you’re persecuting someone, prohibiting a practice, or punishing a set of beliefs.
    But how do we determine the limits of what can be done, said, or believed? Should the expression of abhorrent views be legally protected speech? A madman arguing to kill all members of an ethnic group may be considered a repulsive extremist, but he or she could also become a political leader or even a head of state, even a democracy, with the power to enforce those ideas by convincing others, through their speech, to agree with them. How do we respond to this philosophical challenge?
    If we have a head of state, speaking in his official capacity, denouncing the expression of individual autonomy imbued in the right to vote granted to each citizen of the country, I believe one could legitimately claim this an example of intolerance. The press cannot, of course, forbid that expression at the point of a rifle. I suppose you might claim cutting off the speech does just that, but the fact of the speech occurring, and the contents of the speech have certainly not been repressed, banned, or stricken from our minds' record. Rather, I'd suggest the actions each of these networks took was not to ban the speech, but rather to stigmatize it, by calling it out as a lie, and refusing to grant it, not any airtime at all, but any more airtime. That's a salient difference. (Let me disclaim the USA Today actions here, as they are much closer to the "banning" than the "stigmatizing" end of things) If a network chose to ignore the speech entirely, a claim against that behavior would be entirely appropriate in my view. But a network showing the event, and breaking away after some period of time after the intolerant views have been expressed, is more in keeping with their responsibility to hold the powerful to account. Here, stigmatizing intolerant speech is exactly the prescription called for if you want to thread the needle that the Paradox of Intolerance presents.

    Toleration may seem like a cold and impassionate response to hatred, but tolerance requires endurance, not warmth. In a free society, we can’t imprison white supremacists or Nazis for merely articulating their beliefs. Treating such views with cold revulsion, however, is a strong strategy. Social shaming is a powerful tool, but we should be thoughtful in how we use it. 

    (Quotes above from )
  2. I usually agree with you Rusty but in this case I feel the opposite … only in an authoritarian regime should the media be forced to deliver the deranged dictator’s message. Independent and privately-owned media outlets should follow their own moral, ethical and journalistic codes and refuse to publish that which they believe is damaging to the republic or clearly false. Why should they willingly be a vector for the dissemination of obvious falsehood? We have Twitter for that.

  3. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Thanks, Brent! I think you may be inserting some words that weren’t written, however. There’s nothing written above that argues in favor of “forcing” the media to deliver any message at all. That would be Orwellian indeed!

    By extension, I don’t have an issue with publications having whatever editorial stance they favor, either. The only arguments I believe I made are:

    1.) These outlets don’t trust you to make up your own mind.
    2.) These outlets want to shape how you interpret and respond to facts.
    3.) This combination is indicative of the behavior of a principal acting in its own interest, not an agent.

    I think that’s a socially unproductive state for the media. I think it’s entirely OK for you to disagree with that, but I don’t think that I’m making any points other than the above.

  4. Yes totally fair. I guess I would interpret it not as “they don’t trust us with the lies” but “it would be irresponsible to broadcast the lies”. But I dunno… I get what you mean too. Thanks - always awesome prose and always thought provoking.

  5. I felt about this cut-away the same way I felt about Sen. Tom Cotton’s NYT op-ed. Letting a proto-fascist air their views in public is far better then letting them skulk about, and wink and smirk at their “fellow travellers” like they get the inside joke (“The Storm is Coming!”). In the end, I think that op-ed ages very poorly for Cotton who has greater ambitions. And the truth is he’s still the man he is, whether someone makes a moral editorial decision or not. If you have a policy of not airing discernible lies, let him have his time and fact-check in real-time or afterwards. If we are so scared that Trump’s bullshit will overwhelm some kind of perceived collective simpleness of America, then you need to ask yourself what you’re trying to salvage. If he stepped to a microphone and said “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Biden?”, is Joe Biden any less or more safe because the control booth at MSNBC et al clutches its pearls?

  6. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Good thoughts!

    I come out slightly differently on this, but I think you’re right to present it in gradations. I, too, agree that USA Today’s approach and that of the various networks differ in magnitude. I also think that presenting a clearly denoted editorial view - even a very bold, aggressive, critical one - would not only be appropriate but desirable.

    In fact, the capacity for a subsequent editorial response is such a clear and obvious remedy for all of the issues you describe that explicitly seeking to limit the exposure of the average American to primary sources on a topic of such self-evident public interest seems to me to perform practically no additional service to the viewer. It may, as Brent noted below, soothe the sensibilities or serve the values of the media outlet, but in the end, that is my primary point. I have no interest in media being compelled to carry anything, nor do I have any interest in saying that a news outlet ought not to behave as it deems fit given the values and predispositions of its personnel. I observe however, that in doing so, they cease to act as anything approaching agents of the people and begin to act as principals of their own account and with their own particular political and social aims.

    Said another way, I believe the people are fully capable of shunning intolerance, fraud and malfeasance, and that we are better served by a social structure which permits them to do that aided by a media which provides them information on the events of the world in as primary, unfiltered and unmanaged a form as possible. I do not believe that it is necessary or desirable for the media to take on a paternalistic role in ensuring that we adhere to their personal interpretations of what is just and tolerant.

  7. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I think that is an especially apt comparison, Trevor. While I am a bit cynical on all politicians, prior to the Times publishing that Op-Ed, Tom Cotton was one I would say I considered mostly pretty good. After I read that Op-Ed, I changed my mind. Dramatically. Diametrically. The sniveling pre-script added after-the-fact by the Editors was almost as distasteful, but for all that didn’t really change my POV on the NYT.

    I don’t think there are that nearly as many “on the fence” people who would have changed their mind about President Trump after that speech, but it’s a non-zero number. More importantly, Trump’s speech provides useful color, information and context for those who want to understand all of the other discussions we are having about elections, political division, etc.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Avatar for Kpaz Kpaz says:

    I would mostly agree with Rusty here. However, if the media had been consistently calling out DJT and the administration on their lies starting 4+ years ago, then yeah, air it and call it out post presser. But when they have done the fiat song and dance for this long, I think it finally got to a point where an adult had to step into the room. The bad news is they didn’t do it until it became clear he would lose. MSM fail. I didn’t see if PBS/NPR even carried it in the first place, anybody?

    Second, the media do not work for us. That is a narrative spun in journalism school. I should know, being a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism - Go Devils! We are the meal on the dinner table providing the eyeballs for the advertisers. Never forget that tender media consumer.

  9. Bravo EnochRoot! I agree.
    The fact these independent networks each made realtime editorial decisions to curtail (for once) the cooption of their live broadcasts should be applauded, not derided. Nothing he said was new news. He’s been claiming voter fraud for months (years actually), and he has plenty of access/airtime/communication options open to him. If the past 4+ years have taught us anything, it’s that he’ll continue using them to widen our sociopolitical gyre. So, honestly, of all the things to be writing about today, I don’t know why Rusty choose this The concern about not trusting viewers with unfiltered access strikes me as misplaced in this instance and context.

  10. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Hah, isn’t that the truth! Surely we are still permitted to dream?

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