Monday, December 16, 2013

objectivity ... again

Today, in email, it was fired across my bow once more -- an argument for "objectivity."

"Objectivity" is defined by an Internet dictionary as:
-- a state or situation in which something is based only on facts and evidence
-- the ability to make decisions based on facts rather than on your own personal feelings or beliefs
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then there is a high probability that it is a duck, irrespective of the perceiver's political preference, love life, religious affiliation, or strongly-held conviction. 
There is a good deal to be said for keeping personal matters out of serious, issue-based discussions. All anyone has to do is look at the blogosphere to see how frequently personal persuasion out-shouts (and often corrupts) factual assessment. It's pretty thin tea to assert that just because I like or love or detest or am appalled by something it therefore must be right or wrong or just or unjust. Tantrums don't clarify much.

But there is another side to this coin. Keeping personal opinion at bay can sometimes be elevated to witless height and "objectivity" can be used to camouflage an unwillingness to take responsibility. Not owning up to a personal tantrum or bias is probably as bad as wallowing in it.

Who chooses and orders the facts, after all? Who chooses the words? Whose perception is in play and can that perception honestly be called "objective?"

In the world of reporting I enjoyed so many years ago, "objectivity" was a touchstone. It took me several years to acknowledge that reporting objectively might be a goal, but it was entirely unattainable. The best anyone could hope for was to be objective-ish. Keeping things at a cool distance was a good idea in serious discussion, but asserting a lack of involvement based on that distance was both ludicrous and cowardly.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck I will put my money on the fact that it is a duck ... but that's just my money.

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