It’s Not Lying If You Believe It

August 28, 2012

What do you call it when you’re not lying exactly? Massaging the truth? Tickling its tummy in order for it to contort into a more agreeable shape? Dissembling?

A few years back, in 2005 to be precise, Princeton University’s philosophy professor emeritus, Harry Frankfurt wrote a quick read book on the subject called On Bullshit. In it, he attempted to draw a distinction between lying and bullshitting. While I won’t attempt a full score breakdown of his argument, it went essentially along the following lines.

To lie is to acknowledge that there is an objective, demonstrable truth to be told. A liar just chooses not to tell it, in order to deceive others, usually for some sort of personal benefit or to avoid accepting responsibility for something or as some sort of means to an end. You can’t handle the truth!

The bullshitter, on the other hand, does not even accept the possibility that a clear-eyed, verifiable truth exists. Frankfurt writes: The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality, and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “antirealist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry.  Further: It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth – this indifference to how things really are – that I regard as of the essence of bullshit.

So the next time somebody informs you that the media has a liberal bias, make sure not to call them a liar. They’re just bullshitting. They can’t help themselves.

Former Mayor Ford media handler and now full-fledged Sun-ista, Adrienne Batra was hard at it yesterday, pushing that bullshit rock up the hill. Actually, I lied—I mean, I was bullshitting. What Ms. Batra said was, “There is a media bias against conservative politicians.”

Never mind for the moment that she’s writing such sentiments in a major daily newspaper in the biggest city in Canada. Her more pro-conservative politician views mean, by a feat of monumental dissociative thinking, that she isn’t part of the media. Why? Well, the media has a bias against conservative politicians. Since she isn’t biased against conservative politicians, she can’t be part of the media. Done, and done.

Look at the newspaper landscape in Toronto. Granted, it’s a small sample size and from it I wouldn’t make a broad generalization that newspapers in this town have a conservative bias but it’s difficult to draw the opposite conclusion. The Toronto Star. The Globe and Mail. The National Post. The Toronto Sun. (Batra gives herself an easy out on that mark, saying in her article that this bias is more present in the U.S. than it is in Canada).

Even the recent example she uses of this bias in the States defies logic and much critical examination.

You see, Ms. Batra cites the media frenzy over Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s statement about ‘legitimate rape’. What’s all the fuss about, she wonders? Sure, his views on such matters could be kindly referred to as antediluvian but it’s not like he’s running for the U.S. Senate or anything. I’m sorry, what? He is. OK. But it’s not like the Republican party agrees with what are obviously his fringe views. I’m sorry, what? “[Todd} Akin co-sponsored every abortion bill supported by Ryan in the almost 12 years the two Republicans have served together in Washington.” And by Ryan, you mean the GOP Vice-Presidential nominee and possible one heartbeat away from being President, Rep. Paul Ryan?

Yep. Nothing to see here.

To Ms. Batra’s mind, if the media wasn’t so busy being anti-conservative it would’ve instead been covering a Minnesota Democratic politician who was pinpointed engaging in a little bit of toilet trade with a consenting adult. “Pretty outrageous,” Batra opines, “yet hardly a peep of anger – from anyone.” And by ‘anyone’, she means the anti-conservative media.

Democratic/liberal politicians are always getting away with these kind of sex scandals because the media’s in the bag for them. Bill Clinton. Eliot Spitzer. Anthony Weiner.

Impeached. Resigned from office. Resigned from office.

Imagine if a conservative politician were ever caught in flagrante delicto like that. Some poor family values type whose name pops up in the unofficial registry of a known house of prostitution. They’d be crucified.

Ladies and gentlemen, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. Still in office, 5 years after the D.C. Madam scandal. Your anti-conservative media at work.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you point these kinds of inconsistencies out to the likes of Adrienne Batra. For her, the media – the media that isn’t her — has a liberal bias. That’s an unassailable statement. Evidence and facts aren’t applicable. It should just go without saying.

Unless, of course, it needs to be said which brings me to the question of why she thought to pen this particular article at this particular time.

A little damage control from her perch at the Sun for the Republican cause, certainly. Writing off legitimate criticism and concern about the next possible Vice-President of the United States as nothing more than media bias against conservative politicians. Check. And also, a certain local conservative politician looks like he might be in for a bit of rough weather next week, answering in court allegations of conflict of interest. Legitimate? Nah. It’s nothing more than media bias against another conservative politician. Hardly worth paying any attention to.

It’s not lying if you actually believe it. No. It’s just being up to your eyeballs in bullshit.

bullshit detectorly submitted by Cityslikr


Tribalism

August 13, 2012

I spent some of the weekend reading about the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan. This morning, closer to home, I saw the Forum Research poll indicating that Olivia Chow would win a 3-way mayoral race that included Mayor Ford and sometime political candidate John Tory. There is a link between the two, trust me, although it does include some additional information.

In response to the poll numbers, a local political wag opined that no right of centre candidate would dare run against the mayor in 2014 and threaten to split the vote and allow some crazy left wing nutter to steal the election. (Not in those exact words, mind.) “Any independent rightie is a ‘backstabber’ these days,” it was suggested.

This isn’t a lone sentiment. As much as Cityslikr tries convincing you that he’s not indulging in Election 2014 speculation, I’ve overheard more than a few conversations about campaign strategy around these parts in the idle days of summer. The thought that any conservative minded candidate wouldn’t have the temerity to challenge Mayor Ford in 2014 is a pretty strongly held belief. For those trying to read the scattered tea leaves of the right wing mind, the conclusion is that party loyalty (and by extension, electoral viability) trumps good governance.

Does that necessarily have to be the case though?

Couldn’t a perceived moderate conservative candidate like John Tory, say, or going through the current councillor list, Michael Thompson, Karen Stintz, David Shiner for argument’s sake, sensibly argue that, while agreeing with much of Mayor Ford’s fiscal views, his implementation of them has been less than desirable? That his personal antics, his less than enlightened views on many social fronts are, in fact, a serious detriment to his budgetary plans? Yes, the theoretical moderate conservative candidate could argue, there are ideological foes at City Hall who are doing their best to trip the mayor up for purely ideological reasons but, in truth, he’s been his own worst enemy.

Would that be too far from the truth?

Mayor Ford is hurting the conservative brand here in Toronto and not making that many local converts at the provincial or federal levels either. What would be the drawback of marginalizing him with a push from the right, cutting into the less hardcore of his supporters while opening up the middle to a more competent conservative approach? Back in the day when he was just a lone wolf councillor from Etobicoke, conservative colleagues on council weren’t very deferential to Rob Ford. Now that he’s mayor, all’s golden?

For a potential conservative candidate not to challenge Mayor Ford out of some sort of fear of splitting the vote and allowing a non-conservative to become mayor is essentially saying that, regardless of how bad, ineffectual, harmful, extreme a right wing politician is, it’s still better than even the best liberal or left wing possibility out there. That’s simply blind ideological loyalty, putting the welfare of your politics before that of the voters. In the end, it’s only going to wind up hurting everyone except perhaps your opponents.

Which brings me back to Paul Ryan. At least, I hope it does.

Conservatism does not come in one colour. It does not automatically make a candidate fit for office. (And if you’re reading this and already in the middle of a rebuff response, spluttering something to the effect of, “But what about the leftards?! Same could be said about the Leftards!!”, you’re already too far gone to get the point I’m making.) Embracing the blue or the red or the orange simply because it’s the colour of your politics is just unthinking tribalism. It’s the death march to irrelevancy and, unfortunately, the collateral damage can take years to undo if at all.

— centrely submitted by Urban Sophisticat