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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Somewhere Between the Left and Right Lies the Truth

About a month ago, I wrote a piece that was itself a response by Huffington Post to criticism of Fox News. (I know say that five times really fast) The Huffington Post put up ten Fox News distortions and I challenged all ten. For the most part, the piece I wrote was accurate except for one of the ten. That was number 6. In number 6, there was a segment between Trace Gallagher and Bill Sammon in which they claimed that three portions, vital in their view, of the Patriot Act were about to be removed by the Obama administration. Huffington Post challenged that notion and linked to a piece written by Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute. I challenged Huffington and Sanchez and said that this was a matter of gray.

In fact, it isn't. After speaking to Mr. Sanchez, I wrote a follow up. In fact, only one of the three provisions was being removed and that provision had never actually been used yet. Why did I get it wrong so badly the first time? It's because I initially came in with the mindset that Fox News wasn't distorting and Huffington Post was trying to demonize them. I like Fox News and I find most criticism to be patisan in nature. I had a perspective and I tried to make the facts fit my perspective. I was in fact corrupt in my reporting. Fortunately, I was able to speak with Mr. Sanchez and get the real story and write a follow up.

Unfortunately, the nature of our media today is such that everyone starts with a perspective and then make the facts fit that perspective. On top of this, it's just as pervasive on the right as it's famously been pointed out on the left in the so called MSM. My own example is just one.

In fact, media is by nature corrupt when their agenda is anything but trying to reach the truth. If you are writing from the perspective of the right, then your entire perspective is perverted. You immediately see the left as your enemies. The best example of this is how the conservative media treated the SEIU protests of the banks. The SEIU protesters were referred to as "thugs". They were demonized, marginalized, and ridiculed. At the same time, the same conservative media treated the tea party protesters as heroes. One set of protesters are thugs and the other are heroes. Of course, that's a perverted perspective.

I saw this on display in full force on both sides during the aftermath of the mortgage crisis. The New York Times et al immediately perpetuated the narrative that unscrupulous mortgage brokers took advantage of unsuspecting borrowers and that's what caused the crisis. Meanwhile, the conservatives immediately latched onto the Community Reinvestment Act. Other liberal media immediately latched onto the concept of "deregulation".

In other words, the entire financial crisis, the most important story since September 11, 2001, became nothing more than a fantasy land for the media to apply their biases and create a narrative to fit those biases. It was all just too much for me who spent my time in mortgages through the boom and the crisis.

Back in 2005, I was in the middle of doing a loan for a borrower. I suggested that they not buy a property more than $125,000 because I didn't think they could afford it. That borrower nearly didn't work with me because they wanted to buy a property that was $150,000 and they didn't think I would do such a loan for them. I did convince them to work with me on the $150,000 property. I refinanced the same loan a third time earlier this year, plus several of their friends. It was also the last time I ever suggested a limit to a potential borrower. That may only be one story but I could spend three full blog posts recounting stories of borrowers getting themselves in trouble through no fault of their mortgage professional. The idea that the crisis was caused entirely because mortgage brokers took advantage of those that didn't know any better is an obscene distortion.

It's only slightly less of a distortion, however, than the idea that the CRA caused the crisis. If it did, it was the most Orwellian law of all time. I didn't hear about it until after the crisis when commentators, who closed exactly zero loans themselves, started blaming it for the crisis. I learned about the CRA from Wikipedia. That's because the CRA didn't apply to mortgage brokers. It only applied to retail banks. Yet, retail banks didn't get involved in sub prime. So, how does the CRA create the sub prime crisis even though it doesn't apply to sub prime? That's a fancy trick and an Orwellian one. That's because the CRA is 99th right after the lint on my shirt in responsibility for this crisis. It's a creation of this crisis in the minds of Sean Hannity, Thomas Sowell, and Thomas Woods, all three have combined to close exactly ZERO loans in their lives.

As for deregulation, well first, you have to have a specific deregulation to blame. Deregulation is a concept. In reality, there must be specific laws that were deregulated. Yet, there's never been anyone, short of Paul Krugman, that have identified a specific set of deregulations for the crisis. Krugman went all the way back to the beginning of the 1980's for his specific set of deregulations. That was yet another Orwellian trick. Some law no one had heard of that was repealed in the 1980's caused a crisis 25 years later.

(for my perspective on the crisis check out my white paper)

It's not just the financial crisis. That's just what convinced me that the conservative media was no better than the MSM, just more sanctimonious in their criticism. For eight yeas, the liberal media blamed Bush for everything from snowfall, to clouds, to the fact that the New York Yankees didn't win a World Series in a given year. Now that Obama is president, the conservative media is giving him the exact same treatment and they don't even notice. Is it really true that in nearly a year on the job, everything that Obama has done is wrong? Is it really possible? It's just as likely as the same being true of Bush.

I noticed that when the conservative media began to attack Obama mercilessly for his trip to Copenhagen for the Olympics. The conservatives set up a tails you lose heads we win scenario. Because he went, he was suddenly taking his eye off the ball. He was doing something extraordinary and unnecessary. Never mind the fact that every head of state for each of the four finalist cities was going. Never mind that he wouldn't even be there for a day. In fact, the whole affair was a non story that was turned into a story. We can even go back further. You all remember the Alabama Maersk. You remember how one of our snipers on orders from the Commander in Chief, shot three of them dead and we took the other prisoner and they're awaiting trial. Well, some on the conservative media still managed to criticize Obama on this point.

After four days of floating at sea on a raft shared with four Somali gunmen, Richard Philips took matters into his own hands for a second time. With the small inflatable lifeboat in which he was being held captive being towed by the American missile destroyer USS Bainbridge, and Navy Special Warfare (NSWC) snipers on the fantail in position to take their shots at his captors as soon as the command was given, the captive Captain of the M.V. Maersk-Alabama took his second leap in three days into the shark-infested waters of the Indian Ocean.

This diversion gave the Navy Special Warfare operators all the opening they needed. Snipers immediately took down the three Somali pirates still on board the life raft, SEAL operators hustled down the tow line connecting the two craft to confirm the kills, and a Navy RIB plucked Philips from the water and sped him to safety aboard the Bainbridge, thus ending the four-day-and-counting hostage situation

....Instead of taking direct, decisive action against the rag-tag group of gunmen, the Obama administration dilly-dallied, dawdled, and eschewed any decisiveness whatsoever, even in the face of enemy fire, in hopes that the situation would somehow resolve itself without violence — thus sending a clear message to all who would threaten U.S. interests abroad that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has no idea how to respond to such situations, and no real willingness to use military force to resolve them.

Let's think about this for a minute. All good guys are safe. All bad guys are dead or captured. That sounds like a good outcome. It sounds as though the Commander in Chief handled things just fine. Yet, there were conservatives that still criticized.

Of course, the liberal media is not immune from this sort of nonsense. Last week, Chris Mathews opined that there were no black people at Sarah Palin's book signing. There were, however, thousands of white people of all sexes and ages. Think about this. We have the first black president and Palin opposes everything he stands for and Mathews thinks its illuminating that no black people showed up.

The week prior he actually asked, in the context of Nidal Hasan, if it was a crime to contact Al Qaeda. Yeah, it's a crime especially if you're a member of the military. For two months in 2005, New York Times became nothing more than story after story about the scandal at Abu Ghraib. The MSM dedicated more than 100 stories to the launch of Air America. They've dedicated exactly two stories to the meteoric rise of Glenn Beck, and one was disparaging. You could count on dozens of Iraqi stories weekly from the MSM during the years of 2003-2006. Then, 2007 hit, the surge worked and suddenly that story didn't matter any more.

Did you know that the years 2003-2007 were booming for our economy? You didn't if you only got your news from the MSM. Did you know that President Bush opposed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research? You wouldn't if you only paid attention to the MSM. If that's where you got your news, you'd think he was against stem cell research. Not against funding it mind you, just against it.

The right isn't any better. The folks at Hot Air spent the last four years complaining about how the MSM selectively chose their headlines for economic news during the Bush administration. What does Hot Air do now? They pick and choose which financial data they report. Ed Morrissey has a nasty habit of reporting the WEEKLY first time jobless claims every three or four weeks. Once every four months or so he'll talk about the MONTHLY home sales numbers. That's right. What Ed will do is pick and choose which piece of economic data he chooses. How does he pick it? He waits for a bad one and talks about that. Sounds like exactly what he's been complaining about for four years.

Of course, Michelle Malkin is the poster child for this sort of journalism. The nexus of my beef with her comes from this attitude. (the story is quite long and so please read the link if you need the story) Michelle Malkin hates President Obama. She hates ACORN. She's convinced the two are inseparable entities. That's why Anita Moncrief was perfect. Anita Moncrief linked the two in a way that Michelle Malkin knew was true all along. That's why Malkin could care less that Moncrief committed theft, stole and was fired. It's why she could care less that it was only after Moncrief was fired that she "discovered" all this wrong doing. Michelle Malkin has a view of the world and she's determined to let the facts fit that view.

The right way to report is to get the facts first and then draw conclusions. Unfortunately, our media draws conclusions and then finds the facts to back up those conclusions. It happens because journalists have created agendas that they feel are more important than the truth. That's why newspapers bury stories. They don't want the truth out because the truth doesn't fit into their other agenda. The minute that journalists stop seeking the truth, they are, by nature, corrupt. Instead, they seek to reinforce their view of the world. Make no mistake, this happens on the left and on the right. Somewhere in the middle of it all lies the truth. Hopefully, there will be someone that seeks that.


Anonymous said...

This is why critical thinking skills are so important to be teaching our children. Nobody wants to believe the truth, everybody wants the truth to be what they believe. Its just that simple.

Well that, and people tend to only criticize fallacies they have a problem with.

Anonymous said...

Get the facts then post your conclusions, you say. I believe Tom Woods spends about 0.000000001% of his time discussing the CRA.

mike volpe said...

That's interesting because Woods makes it number 2 in his book, Meltdown, of things that he blames the crisis on.

So, I don't know how much time he spends talking about it but I do know where he places the CRA in relevance to the crisis.

CBI said...

I would offer a different perspective. It is not "somewhere between the Left and the Right lies Truth", but "there are those on the Left and on the Right who at times will depart from Truth."

In some cases it is a matter of wishful thinking: "this is my 'view of the world and [I'm] determined to let the facts fit that view.'" Other instances may be more deliberately deceptive, but that's always difficult to establish.

As noted by Anonymous1, critical thinking skills are important. Part of the application of critical thinking to life is learning who can usually be trusted to report "just the facts, ma'am", and who will embellish, obscure, conceal, or mislead.

This is not binary: even the most truthful may at times be wrong (perhaps in a known direction), and even the least may at times be correct (same qualifier).

In the Huffington Post v. Fox News example, Mike Volpe followed his expectation, based upon a critical reflection on historic experience. This proved to be 90% accurate. Ten percent turned out to be incorrect: he investigated, determined truth, and corrected himself.

We've all been hoodwinked (e.g., I accepted the initial Superdome reports uncritically during the Hurrican Katrina time), and that should give us pause. But I don't think truth's location is so much that it "lies between" as it is "who has the better record and makes a better starting place in my own search for truth".

We need a bit of humility, too: critical reflection will indicate that our own conclusions regarding the truth of something should be qualified with a reliability estimate, such as "I think it 90% likely that President Obama made a poor military decision regarding Afghanistan."

Postscript. Regarding the CRA. I usually find Thomas Sowell usually to be both knowledgeable and accurate. Mike has pointed out a possible area in which he failed. For me, that means that further investigation is likely warranted. Thanks for the new perspective!