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.