Saturday, August 22, 2015

"news" without data

Once, perhaps ideally, "news" was envisioned as the gathering of facts from which the reader or viewer was free or invited to reach his or her own conclusions.

Nowadays, perhaps too broadly, "news" is more likely an aggregation of conclusions from with the reader or viewer is required to sift out (based often on little or no data) the facts.

Consider the political candidates.
Consider the Department of Homeland Security.
Consider a well-entrenched religion.
Consider the fellow perched on the bar stool next to your own.

Not everyone packing a pistol is necessarily a criminal.
Not everyone packing a pistol is necessarily NOT a criminal.
Not everyone with a college degree is necessarily smarter than someone without one.
Not everyone lacking a college degree is necessarily less intelligent than someone with one.
Not every brown man with a black beard and a copy of the Koran is likely to blow up your 7-11.
Not every brown man with a black beard and a copy of Koran is necessarily benign.
Not every soldier is a blood-thirsty infidel dog.
Not every soldier is a benign peace-bringer.

It may be easier and more comforting to live in a world of conclusions, whatever they are. The social warmth is gratifying and supportive and human. It is a loving arena.

But the world of conclusions is also lazy, frightening, dangerous, vain, cruel, gullible and a host of other things that are ugly to a man or woman wishing to ascribe some sort of beauty and decency to life.

None of this is black-and-white or either-or, of course. There is often a willingness to collect some data in support of laws, for example, that put people in jail without a chance to face or defend against the charges laid. Ask the fellow on the next bar stool and the two of you may end up congratulating each other for your willingness to collect data and reach 'considered' conclusions.

Yup ... people are pretty decent and caring.

Right up to the moment when they are not.

No reason to give the moments when they are not a nudge or the kind of nourishment that goes with warming, unsubstantiated and lazy conclusions.

If people commit what are currently called crimes, lock 'em up or change the laws.

But the fact that they might commit a crime is part of the human terrain -- not a conclusion worthy of self-affirming and smug action.

Or that's sort of my conclusion at the moment.


  1. Save me from sorting and sifting. I'm lazy.

  2. OTOH, Donald Tramp is always and eternally a jackass.

  3. Judith -- LaRochefoucauld observed appropriately -- if perhaps with too much smugness -- "the intelligence of the mass is inversely proportionate to its number." I always thought of that as accurate but often cringed at the imagined exceptions attending on it.

    PS. I do hope things are going well in your household ... hale, hardy and not too hot.