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Monday, April 27, 2009

Guide to the perplexed - How to spot Good and Bad articles

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/04/guide-to-perplexed-how-to-spot-good-and.html

The problem is that people are always looking for affirmation of their beliefs in what they read. Therefore, most people will rate an article or analyst as "good" if they agree with the positions of that analyst or article, regardless of whether or not the article in question has any truth value. To the list below, I would add many things. The first one, when you are writing an article or doing research, is to ask yourself if you are looking to find the truth and present it, or if you are only looking to prove a point? Are you going to publish the article if the findings do not serve your viewpoint? Are you excluding facts that don't serve your purpose? Have you thoroughly checked the facts, especially the ones that support your point of view?  

How to Be A Good Political Analyst and Not a Propagandist

 
The rise of Internet has brought new challenges both for writers and readers. Supposedly, a fine [sarcasm alert] publication like the New York Times or Guardian has sharp veteran reporters and great editors ("gatekeepers"). Thus, they filter out nonsense—well at least they once did long ago--and tell you what's most important to know about events. If you are reading these words, however, you know the system isn't working too well nowadays.

Enter the Internet. On the positive side, it liberates the creativity of thousands of people and provides a huge diversity of information. On the negative side, how do you know what's more likely to be true, whether you are a reader or a blogger?

This is, by the way, the kind of thing they are supposed to teach you in graduate school: how to evaluate sources, how to provide a scholarly balance, how to make it clear when you're unsure about something, how to throw out really good stuff that you doubt is accurate, and how not to say something is fact just because it agrees with your analysis or political preferences.

Alas, a lot of these skills or ethical principles have been tossed out the window and thrown under the bus. Large numbers of academics and journalists now believe there is no such thing as truth (or at least the most accurate possible representation of it possible) and that people should be told what's good for them rather than what's accurate.

For them, the purpose of universities is not to pursue truth and beauty but to "fight the man," wage revolution, or bring in the new Politically Correct, culturally diverse, post-national utopia.
Here's a good example of a very bad example.

A propagandist is not someone who merely has a point of view but rather someone who slants the facts to fit it that point of view rather than taking account of them by either explaining how they fit into the picture or modifying one's viewpoint. In short, they try to make all aspects of reality line up like a magnetic field. Naturally, this kind of simple explanation suits many people.

One aspect of this is to define who are the "good guys" and the "bad guys" and then assume that all their actions fall into these categories. This reverses the logical process. For example, many assume Israel is a bad guy. Bad guys do bad things. Bad guys commit war crimes. Therefore, Israel commits war crimes. Evidence becomes irrelevant.

Obviously, this process can be the same if one identifies Iran as the bad guy. Yet that country and its regime must be analyzed, especially because there are many choices for the government to make. There are also different factions which differ in strategy and tactics. And even then, the choices available may be the exact opposites.

For example, given the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq what will Iran's regime do? It could: A. Try to keep things quiet in Iraq thus encouraging the United State sto speed up its withdrawal or B. Heat up the violence to "show" that the United States is running away in defeat.

Even more important is to look at the interests which underlay actions. For instance, can Syria be split away from Iran? No one is qualified to discuss this issue unless they first take into account the interests of the Syrian regime and the benefits it would derive from either maintaining or abandoning the alliance. I happen to believe that the benefits of keeping the alliance far outweigh the advantages of breaking it, and note that the former are virtually never discussed in analyses assuming that the latter is obviously preferable.
 


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/04/guide-to-perplexed-how-to-spot-good-and.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.

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