This is a blog about politics. Those are the first six words of the “About this blog” section on Charles Pierce’s blog over at Esquire, and since I’ll never be able to write as well as him, I figured I’d start out by blatantly stealing something that he wrote, and it probably won’t be the last time.
So, anyway, yeah, there will be a lot of politics at this blog, but there will also be other stuff, like global warming (nothing political about that!), policy (which is the point of politics, after all), aeronautical engineering (as one of us is an aerospace engineer), video games (as another one of us, me, is a video game engineer), the law (we have two lawyers too!), sports, and whatever else we feel like writing about.
We named this blog somedisagree because there is an alarming tendency for members of our free press to append these two words, “some disagree,” to the end of what are often verifiable statements of fact, as if the failure to note the existence of people who deny verifiable facts betrays a lack of balance that must be avoided.
Consider this sentence: “Millions of scientists, professional and amateur astronomers, navigators, and explorers offer definitive proof that Earth is round.” Hmmm, kind of wordy. Shorten that to: “Scientists claim Earth is round.” Now add, “Some disagree.” Boom! Balance!
This phenomenon used to be considered lazy journalism but is now considered so ordinary that recently the public editor at the New York Times asked his readers whether newspapers should be “Truth Vigilantes”, his words. He meant whether journalists should perform the revolutionary act of following up on verifiable statements of fact offered by subjects of their stories. Or, in other words, should journalists practice journalism. (Also, a tip of the hat to the resourceful blogger who registered the domain name truthvigilante.com the next day. I missed it by literally hours!)
It is not, and will never be, a goal of this blog to be balanced.
Which isn’t to say that we would never have, say, a guest post by someone who fundamentally disagrees with us about something. In fact, I sincerely hope that we do. Nor does it imply that we will always be in agreement with each other. The other guys are often wrong.
What we will not do, however, is entertain an argument with someone who is merely being contrarian or is plainly denying the facts behind an issue.
The easiest example of this is the debate around Global Warming. It is a matter of fact, easily verified, that the overwhelming consensus of scientists agree that the earth is warming and that this warming is caused by human activity, specifically the increased output of carbon into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began in 1850.
We welcome a discussion from conservatives, moderates, and liberals on exactly what kind of policy would best address this, including even the possibility that we should adopt no policy at all. What we will not do is engage in a debate as to whether it is true that the scientific consensus agrees that the earth is warming and that humans are causing it. Save the oft-debunked stories about letters signed by 30,000 scientists declaring Global Warming to be a fraud. Save the stories, again debunked often, that volcanoes dispel more carbon in a single eruption than all of human activity within a year.
(As an aside, if you are honestly unsure about what to believe about Anthropogenic Global Warming, there are some fantastic websites that explain the physics behind it, and deal with the challenges of honest — and important! — skepticism. A good one that I know of is grist.org, and I highly recommend it. Dealing with the skepticism around Global Warming and explaining the physics behind it is one of their goals, not ours.)
So while we don’t consider balance, solely for its own sake, as a goal of the blog, we do consider reasonable and spirited debate a goal.
Other goals of this blog include giving us an outlet for all the things we want to rant about on a daily basis. Also, we’d like to find ways to work in the phrase, “Up with which, I will not put” into a post every so often. We just like it. One of my own personal goals will be to always use the word “media” in its correct plural context (as in, “the media are” instead of “the media is”), something that very few people ever bother to do correctly or even realize that everyone else is doing wrong.
Finally, we hope to point out false equivalences, phony balance, and the usage of phrases such as “some disagree” and “others say” from media sources that purport to be factual.
Journalism is supposed to be about accurately reporting facts, so that informed citizens can better exercise their responsibilities in a democracy. It shouldn’t value balance over objectivity.
Of course, some disagree.
Wiesman, January 20th, 2012