Watch out Kossacks for the internet! Getting your news on-line will be bad for you because
When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.
Actually watch out for Kristof wherever you find him - he seems to have spent too much time away from rational people...more below...
Kristof claims this because:
One classic study sent mailings to Republicans and Democrats, offering them various kinds of political research, ostensibly from a neutral source. Both groups were most eager to receive intelligent arguments that strongly corroborated their pre-existing views.
Now this is interesting - it's one of those things that sounds sciency, but is it? And isn't this a case for authoritarian filtered media? (Not to mention who guards the gatekeepers and all that.)
But granting the validity of this aforementioned "classic study" (what were the controls? the variables? personality types involved?) this certainly can't true for everyone. If it were certain memes would not propagate to enough people to have resulted in concrete actions and policies.
And, what makes Kristof think that his media disease doesn't apply to himself? Of course he does: his "Daily Me," though happens to want newspapers published on paper and delivered, with dominant viewpoints.
He even "admits" it:
Let me get one thing out of the way: I’m sometimes guilty myself of selective truth-seeking on the Web. The blog I turn to for insight into Middle East news is often Professor Juan Cole’s, because he’s smart, well-informed and sensible — in other words, I often agree with his take. I’m less likely to peruse the blog of Daniel Pipes, another Middle East expert who is smart and well-informed — but who strikes me as less sensible, partly because I often disagree with him.
Well, there you have it: Kristof admits he can't practice High Broderism on the net, because Juan Cole's facts beat Daniel Pipes psychosis!
I for one do seek out the strongest ideas and arguments from the opposition, whether it's political, religious, or social - I for one revel in discovering or inventing or deconstructing a strong position regardless of the side, one that is irrefutable. Call it idea engineering.
Let me give an example: there are less than 10 original arguments for the existence of a monotheistic god. Less than 10. Regardless of the intellect or persuasive strength of the source, there are less than 10 such arguments. You can find them all on the internet, and you can find them all refuted to an extent that you can either accept the refutations, or you can rely on your own subjective position as a human being- your own authority as it were, to accept the theists' arguments. You can get this all on the net. On the other hand, it is rare on the net to find truly honest portrayals of all theists by atheists and so forth. And you will never find the religion editors of either the NY Times or any other major paper truly raising the questions that atheists do regarding religion. The most famous one - he worked for the LA Times I believe - quit his job when he stopped being a Christian or something like that.
However, I admit I am in a minority. I bet most Christian or atheist apologists, except over many drinks, will admit what I just wrote above. People who blog at Daily Kos, even those of us who do not make the front-pages, are a minority numerically when it comes to America. We are money contributors, we are letter writers, we are activists. But let me introduce a term which is indeed overused in business: we at Daily Kos are thought leaders. Many, if not most of us enjoy idea engineering the same way pundits do, and some of us, doing it part time, are better than folks like Kristof. Hell, Kristof's colleague Paul Krugman is such that Kristof can't tie his shoes, and Krugman has to do professory things like traipse around the world picking up Nobel prizes and all that.
But thought leaders are a minority in society. Previously thought leaders in society could read the op-ed pages of the NY Times, or they agreed with Phil Ochs, Spanky and Our Gang and other acts from the 60s whose music criticized the high Broderism of the NY Times over 40 years ago.
In my own work, though, as an engineer, I guard against confirmation bias - the inclination to filter out those facts that do not confirm your opinion - constantly. I am trained in the scientific method, and have decades of experience doing it. If I allow confirmation bias to rule the day, or if I let a bad idea through the gate for any reason, I risk bad designs which will become inferior products, which will lose in the marketplace.
If Kristof or Broder or Mark Halperin some other pundit lets a bad idea through the gate ... well ... you've seen the results of that. And their denial about it, their lack of honesty is appalling. Ultimately, it comes down to an ethics issue, and the ethics of punditry's been wanting for decades. Now that newspapers are under severe competitive pressure, I'm sure that some publishers are asking their in-house thought leaders why they're on the payroll.
Nicholas Kristof is looking at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer situation (where they've gone to "all on-line" to save the horrendous costs of paper publishing) and he whistles past the graveyard of dead newsprint.
He has to come up with better opinions than I can, and I've had experiences in Asia (his "specialty") that he's never had, and can't have, by virtue of his own professional group of affiliation and by the curse of my own.
Finally, if you read my last diary, it praises Kristof. So that just shows you, as my barely literate grandmother might have said.
Nicholas Kristof faces what everyone in this economy faces, and frankly, I think he's a little scared.
Behind his column is the angst that any prospective job seeker or salesman faces; it is the angst of the supplicant whose benefactor asks the question: What have you done for me lately?
Well, Nick, What have you done for me lately?