Intellectual Dishonesty

Conor Friedersdorf wants to ban several conservative talk hosts from news programs cable news networks on the grounds that they consistently prove themselves to be intellectually dishonest, intemperate partisans whose very approach to public discourse is deeply destructive of it.” This strikes E.D. Kain as “reprehensible” because “Intellectual dishonesty is not something you can scientifically pin down. One man’s intellectually dishonest pundit is another man’s political mentor.”

Conor has therefore offered a means of operationalizing and coding for intellectual dishonesty:

a) factually inaccurate statements, b) misleadingly edited audio clips, c) misrepresenting the views of political opponents, and d) using obviously fallacious reasoning

He suggests that Rush Limbaugh does one or all of these things in virtually every three hour show and is therefore obviously intellectually dishonest.   Maybe so.  Then again, virtually every pundit who is controversial enough to be repeatedly invited back on television does all of those things (save perhaps for the audio clips) as a matter of course.  So, application of this rule — presuming the coding is done by people unsympathetic to the pundit — would essentially eliminate the entire pundit class from appearing on television.  Which may be a good thing!

The basic format of television “debate” programs promotes and rewards intellectual dishonesty of this type.  The “Firing Line” model of intellectuals blathering on back and forth on a single topic for an hour is long dead.  In the modern era, TV discussions are brisk, loud, and pit black vs. white with no grays permitted.  Analysts who fail to make bold, decisive judgments without a lot of pesky caveats simply don’t fit in.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. odograph says:

    My comment would be that the discarding of the Fairness Doctrine has had unintended consequences.

    People silo themselves and come to accept report of Death Panels, etc.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Never mind what’s been selling,
    It’s what you’re buying.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    If we banned those who “consistently prove themselves to be intellectually dishonest, intemperate partisans whose very approach to public discourse is deeply destructive of it” from talking head programs they’d have nothing to show but test patterns. Note that much that’s in that characterization is subject, not objective, and one man’s partisan hack is another’s zealous advocate.

  4. Shlok says:

    The problem with the intellectually dishonest is that they’re amplified 100x on TV and radio.

    Goal should be to equalize the playing field. None of these guys have any real claim to more legitimacy than any blogger.

    It’s going to happen anyway as everything moves online, may as well accelerate it.

  5. odograph says:

    You guys listen to BBC4 lately?

    They have a three part formula: listen to both sides and then cut through the bullshit.

    Our media skips the third step. Except, oddly the comedy network,

    Or look at Hannity. Could it be any more obvious when he picks old, weak, possibly ill Combs as his foil? Could he debate a liberal who looks physically strong? Not on FOX, that’s for sure.

    No one defends the reasoned processp

  6. One Fine Jay says:

    Firing Line? Hmm, I recall a parody of the McLaughlin Group show a long time ago where the crotchety guy would always interrupt a speaker with “WRONG!” Now, that was funny.

  7. hcantrall says:

    Isn’t this that slippery slope people are always talking about? If you don’t like what they’re saying, don’t listen. I don’t attend church for this reason – I’m not buying it so I ignore it. What the hell happened to just minding your own damned business and live your life. If the guy down the street wants to watch Hannity foam at the mouth and restate the same talking points all night, that’s his business. There are plenty on the left that do the same thing, they’re just not all fired up at the moment because their people are in power! Where the hell is Cindy Sheehan and those types, they were all over my tv just a couple years ago. Move along people.

  8. Steve Plunk says:

    Why so concerned with talking heads when every politician fits the description. We can turn off the radio or TV but those liars in office make decisions that effect our lives daily.

    This is misplaced, partisan anger. Journalists need to get back to what matters and what matters is a corrupt government.

  9. Maggie Mama says:

    For one end of the political spectrum free speech seems to be a one way street.

    It has been said that “truth fears no questions.” Therefore, if Democrats are telling the truth, why do they fear questions from Rush and Hannity.

    Are we not to believe Senator Byrd who said “the truth will emerge”?

    I am very uneasy about a political party that attempts to silence opponents across the board.

  10. DavidL says:

    It would not be fair to call Barack Obama intellectually dishonest, because Obama is no intellect. Yet Obama is constantly make fasle assertions about healthcare bills which has never read, and denying his previous statements.

    Obama denies he supports Singlepayer when is said in what 2007 that Singlepayer was his objective. Obama denies the charge of deathpanels when his healthcare advisor advocated them. Then Obama campaigned for President as if he were a moderate.

    If honesty to to be the new citeria, bring it on.

  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Ode, read section 1233 of HR 3200 then explain there is no death panels. If you think Rush lies, prove it. That is the challenge he offers. As opposed to the sitting President who recently said he has made no deal wtih drug companies yet one exists, which was a lie and the claim AARP supports his health care plan. I watched a spokesman for AARP deny that claim. How many times must Obama lie before you accept he is a liar? Or dose that make any difference to you at all?

  12. DavidL:

    I just love people who criticize Obama’s intellect in almost unreadable prose.

  13. odograph says:

    I’ve read it Z, it is online here:

    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3200/text

    ‘(hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following:

    That means, Z, a conversation between one of us and our doctor (practicioiner). No one else is in the room. There is no “panel.”

    Republicans agree that such conversations are good. Sarah Palin backed them when she was governor.

    They are bad now because … Democrats want them. That’s all. And that’s enough to bring out the fear brigade.

  14. odograph says:

    hcantrall says:

    Isn’t this that slippery slope people are always talking about? If you don’t like what they’re saying, don’t listen.

    That’s what gets you “siloing.” You are protected with just what you want to hear, and if that group gives you Death Panels, that’s what you believe.

  15. I have a compromise: we continue to allow dishonest commentators on TV panel shows, but we require them to be labeled honestly in the lower thirds.

    So you could still have Pat Buchanan, but his tag in the lower third would read, “Nazi Wannabe.” Or Ann Coulter could be on, but you’d have to label her as, “Former Man.” Sean Hannity? “Angry Midget.” Rush Limbaugh? “Racist Junkie.” Alan Colmes? “Spineless B-tch.” Chris Matthews? “Tourette’s Sufferer.”

  16. just me says:

    Well I am not fan of TV shows or radio shows where two sides scream, fight, and obfuscate. I have, over the years, seen enough of them to know there would pretty much be nothing on TV news networks or AM radio if this was applied.

    That might be a good thing, but in the end who cares. What tends to bother me about these proposals, is that they are usually made to shut down those you disagree with-and in and of themselves end up being intellectually dishonest.

  17. Phil Smith says:

    I’m amused by those who think that they have a good excuse to censor speech, or a good formula. But that’s all – amused. They’re deserving of no greater attention than that.

  18. a) factually inaccurate statements, b) misleadingly edited audio clips, c) misrepresenting the views of political opponents, and d) using obviously fallacious reasoning

    By this definition, wouldn’t pretty much all political comedy be banned as well?

  19. kth says:

    Nobody has a first amendment right to appear on CNN, so there really isn’t a question of censorship here.

    Also CNN seems to have taken to heart that exhortation from Jon Stewart to “stop killing America” (or whatever the exact phrase was). They’ve really gotten away from acrimony, at least as much as they can and still debate politics. But they don’t live on trash-talk the way they did in the Crossfire days. So they may just feel that talk-radio personalities don’t really reflect the tone they are trying to set.

    I don’t know if CNN’s assemblage of party hacks, wise owls, and think-tank clones is ideal, but it’s better than the wrestling matches that Crossfire used to consist mainly of.

  20. odograph says:

    I’m amused by those who think that they have a good excuse to censor speech, or a good formula. But that’s all – amused. They’re deserving of no greater attention than that.

    I never endorsed censorship, Phil. I said let both sides speak, and then get someone who plays the proxy of a “reasonable listener” to cut through the BS.

    Someone needs to represent us, because when Lefty says “you’re lying” and Righty says “no, you’re lying” people will have no way of deciding. Not unless you just want them to pick “their side.”

    Points of fact must be established before differences in philosophy can be argued. This childish game of muddying facts is … to borrow a phrase, killing America.

  21. PD Shaw says:

    Nobody has a first amendment right to appear on CNN, so there really isn’t a question of censorship here.

    That’s intellectually dishonest. Congress can’t pass a law tommorow preventing Republicans (or anybody for that matter) from appearing on CNN with the justification that nobody has a right to appear on CNN.

  22. Gustopher says:

    I’d just like the networks to show a little bit of common sense and ask follow up questions, or at least put things in perspective.

    For instance, whenever Dick Morris appears as a pundit, the interviewer could say “and now, for the opinion of someone who hires prostitutes for toe sucking…”

  23. kth says:

    PD, it may have been unclear from the OP–click through the Friedorsdorf and Kain items (both fine right-of-center blogs, btw), and you’ll see that they are discussing CNN’s decision not to invite talk-radio hosts to appear on their programs.

    No government involvement in that decision, hence no censorship.

  24. Fog says:

    As ugly as things are, as angry as I get, I still don’t believe there is anything to do about it. I may be naive, but the “free market of ideas” is a messy place, with a ton of garbage, and hookers, pimps and drug dealers on every corner. But this is the way it must be, since I trust no one to decide for me exactly what is, or is not, honest. As much as the situation sucks, it’s still better than all the alternatives. If you hear or read something idiotic, it’s your duty to speak up.

  25. Drew says:

    Bravo! OFJay.

    Separately, you don’t have to tune in, people.

    In an uncharacteristically weak moment which can only be described as a close variant of self immolation I watched almost all of the Rachel Maddow show last night. I was left slack-jawed.

    People watch this?

    Its a free country. (at least for a while yet) I won’t be visiting again soon.

  26. […] James Joyner: The basic format of television “debate” programs promotes and rewards intellectual dishonesty of this type.  The “Firing Line” model of intellectuals blathering on back and forth on a single topic for an hour is long dead.  In the modern era, TV discussions are brisk, loud, and pit black vs. white with no grays permitted.  Analysts who fail to make bold, decisive judgments without a lot of pesky caveats simply don’t fit in. […]

  27. PD Shaw says:

    kth,

    The word “ban” connotes to me censorship (my dictionary defines it as “to prohibit, esp. by legal means”), but if that’s not what he’s calling for then I was intellectually dishonest.

    I find the concerted desire to shut-down undesirable speech to be rather creepy, but I’m a classical liberal in these regards, not a conservative.

  28. hcantrall says:

    No Odograph – I do not believe in “death panels” I don’t care if Sarah Palin says it’s in there or not, the idea is absurd. I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say “siloing” and only hearing what I want to hear. I’m not completely stupid and can read and comprehend (usually). So I don’t need people to tell me what I think.
    The fact that many people believe the ridiculousness that is spewed daily on both sides of the isle I guess is the proof that Bill Maher, as much as I dislike him, is correct about Americans.

  29. Phil Smith says:

    “I never endorsed censorship” – but you feel somehow compelled to defend yourself when the topic is raised, even though no names are used. Lady MacBeth has a message for you.

    FWIW, I was responding to the use of the term “ban”, which typically implies some sort of sanction. Not you in particular. If you feel that it applies to you, I recommend a little introspection.

  30. Shlok says:

    The censoring stuff is the wrong way to go about it. The point is not to bar people from participating, its to create a free market of ideas.

    Because it is not afree market of ideas right now.

    (Barriers to entry for participating in television and radio media are very high. That’s the side of the problem that needs fixing.)

    Like I said, those mediums will die over time anyway, online video is a free market, as are podcasts. Might as well accelerate it if we’re going to talk about serious things in the mean time.

  31. […] banning talk show hosts who are consistently intellectually […]

  32. Dave Schuler says:

    Barriers to entry for participating in television and radio media are very high. That’s the side of the problem that needs fixing.

    Is that really still the case? That may be true for broadcast media but I’m not sure it’s equally true for cable.

    From what I see on cable it’s not getting on that’s hard, it’s getting an audience.

  33. sam says:

    @Drew

    I won’t be visiting again soon.

    Promises, promises. Oh, wait, you were talking about Rachel’s show. My notsobad.

  34. odograph says:

    Hcantrall, I’m pointing out where people who believe in DP get it.

    No Phil, I was just pointing out that there were non-censors above, like me. Congrats for freaking out though.

  35. PD Shaw says:

    I’d like to know the extent that the cable news programming is paying for the journalism. In other words, if Sean Hannnity and Keith Olbermann were kicked off the air (or forced to pretend they’re McNeil and Lehrer), would we have less journalism or more?

  36. sam says:

    But seriously, folks, who gives a flying carnal knowing what this or that ditz says on cable TV? Do we really think that, as a result of something said ditz says, somebody’s mind is changed? Really?

  37. Wayne says:

    Let’s do away all media. They all fall under those rules and not just the news media. How about all the “news” organizations and newspapers who claim we were in a quagmire during the Iraq invasion because parts of the military took a pause to resupply? How often do they get facts wrong? Quite often. As already stated President Obama has been caught with telling lies. How much of the Manmade Global warming crowd have been caught telling lies? A great many of them. How often on a show where a man is shown incapable of doing laundry,

    Let’s cut to the chase. Connor and many liberals are losing the debate and want to silence the opposition. They think if you don’t think like they do then you are intellectually dishonest and stupid. Any fact that doesn’t support their position is false. Any interpretations unlike their own are wrong.

  38. Phil Smith says:

    You really ARE protesting too much, odo. Quit while you’re behind.

    PD, does either Fox or MSNBC produce any actual journalism currently? Well there’s your answer.

  39. steve says:

    “if Sean Hannnity and Keith Olbermann were kicked off the air (or forced to pretend they’re McNeil and Lehrer), would we have less journalism or more?”

    You put Olbermann and Hannity in the same sentence with the word journalism. I assume you are trying to be funny? OK, I have not watched either for a long time, maybe they have changed, but not by what I read. At any rate, the pundits will not change, they make too much money telling lies and riling up the true believers.

    Steve

  40. G.A.Phillips says:

    I just love people who criticize Obama’s intellect in almost unreadable prose.

    lol, Harry we are not all nerds, nor do we all have teleprompters(Have you ever seen Darthum without his?)
    and in your exception an Adam like manstorish prototype body with the fully functioning brain and devastatingly good looks and wit to match.

    Being inept at spelling good and forming paragraphs, I do protest. If I was serious about writing say maybe a book I would higher a nerd to edit it for me.

    What I think I understand going here is a bunch of people talking about people they know little about and comparing Apples with lumps of donkeypoop.

    You put Olbermann and Hannity in the same sentence with the word journalism.

    Good example, one is a Conservative talk show host, one is a less then half*** wannabe reporter who should have staid a sports caster, something he was good at and new something about, He was one of my favorites, now not so much.

  41. odograph says:

    Phil, the title of this thread is “Intellectual Dishonesty” and I’m calling you on it.

    You said:

    “I’m amused by those who think that they have a good excuse to censor speech, or a good formula.”

    I said:

    “I never endorsed censorship, Phil. I said let both sides speak, and then get someone who plays the proxy of a “reasonable listener” to cut through the BS”

    You came back to say that since I say I’m not for censorship, I must really be for it after all.

    Intellectual dishonesty, not to mention simply stupid.

  42. PD Shaw says:

    Hmmm… Phil Smith said he was referring to “Not you in particular,” Odograph.

    Intellectual dishonesty.

  43. G.A.Phillips says:

    Goal should be to equalize the playing field. None of these guys have any real claim to more legitimacy than any blogger.

    The Goal should be to stop ******* with free speech, no porno pun intended.

  44. floyd says:

    [lol] Whew! Thanks! That’s the funniest article I’ve read in months!
    The truth is…. well, never-mind![lol]

  45. odograph says:

    Selective quotation is a tool of intellectual dishonesty, PD:

    FWIW, I was responding to the use of the term “ban”, which typically implies some sort of sanction. Not you in particular. If you feel that it applies to you, I recommend a little introspection.

  46. PD Shaw says:

    I already admitted “I was intellectually dishonest” yesterday.

  47. Phil Smith says:

    You came back to say that since I say I’m not for censorship, I must really be for it after all.

    I never said anything of the sort. I pointed out that you find it necessary to defend yourself against charges that were never leveled at you. That you continue to do so just shows that you still don’t understand the first rule of holes.

    You took the discussion from the general to the personal. Intellectually dishonest? No. You’d have to demonstrate something approaching intellectual awareness first.

  48. Joe Camel says:

    Actually, if it were not for the Internet today, no one would have any means to get to the truth. If one even remotely believes the print or TV media today, well..sorry to hear that. One does not need be a genius to get to the facts, he must just go look for them. Issue is most people are brain dead, drunk, stoned or just flat out don’t care to be informed, on both sides of the discussion. Seriously, want to take a poll on who many people have ever heard of this site? Most can’t even tell you who the VP is.

  49. odograph says:

    There’s no hole Phil, that’s what makes this funny, and a secure position, from my end.

    You made up this “Lady MacBeth has a message for you” stuff out of whole cloth, in an empty game of intellectual dishonesty.

    I mean, no one here thinks I support censorship. I’ve never suggested it, but you want to play it as if I did.

  50. G.A.Phillips says:

    “I never endorsed censorship, Phil. I said let both sides speak, and then get someone who plays the proxy of a “reasonable listener” to cut through the BS”

    I do it…..

  51. McGehee says:

    Actually, Stormy, I think those rules would put an end to “journalism” as we know it.