The Science of Journalism

If I Had My Way
One Man's Opinion -- for what it's worth.


To: Glenn Greenwald - glenn.greenwald@theintercept.com

Cc: Doc Searls - dsearls@cyber.law.harvard.edu

From: Doug Skoglund - skoglund@pdmsb.com

Date: 16 Sep 2015 06:00 am CDT

Subject: 2015031 - Nice point, Glenn...

In your post about "Contentious BBC Interview..." you wrote:

There are lots of reasons why people prefer to focus on the bad acts of the Enemy Tribe rather than one's own. A big factor is strategic: when the focus of Americans is on the bad acts of Putin or North Korea or Iran or whatever Villain of the Moment is being featured or on the injustice of those places, their focus is not on the things they can actually do something about: the bad acts of their own government and the injustices in their own society. Constantly directing people's attention to bad things being done by other tribes is simultaneously distracting and distorting: it creates the impression that Bad Things (imprisoning journalists) are only done by Them, not by Us.

But at least as big a factor is a psychological one: humans intrinsically feel better when we are condemning others rather than ourselves. That's why bitter, judgmental gossip has long been a favorite past time: it's self-soothing to sit in critical judgment of others. There's a reason the Gospels has to remind human beings to "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye": it's precisely because the universal temptation is to ignore our own flaws since that's so much more self-flattering and pleasing.

None of these are absolute rules; some caveats are needed. There's a benefit from knowing about the acts of adversary governments. We want reporting on those countries as well, and journalists assigned to those countries do their job by highlighting the conduct of those governments. Nor should the bad acts of adversary governments be expressly denied or actively minimized, as that becomes its own form of deceit and propaganda. And then there are times when the bad conduct of other governments produces such great human suffering that collective action becomes both possible and justified, in which case focusing on it can be justified.

And I agree, wholeheartedly; however, are you not being hypocritical when you fail to apply that philosophy to yourself?? After all, you are the world's number one critic of journalist behavior -- how about your own??

Science tells us that the ultimate process to control unreasonable opinions is a little thing called "peer review" -- and I would emphasize that teaching is part of that peer review.

What we need is a web version of Dave Winer's "Flash Conference."

I've long felt that we need to be able to convene conferences that are timely, when news is happening and change is imminent. So many conferences are stuffy affairs with well-rehearsed positions, they're not as interesting as conferences on topics that are fresh, where the events have just happened or are still happening. When things are coming to a head, it's a good time to have a flash conference.

Dave, of course, is proposing a get-together, face-to-face meeting, while I am suggesting the web equivalent -- an open, honest, limited control, assembly of opinions -- a place where all writers must justify their writings to their peers and other interested individuals. Moderated discussions can not do the job, just look at the Sunday Talk Shows to see moderation in action.

BTW, you're a programmer, Dave -- Could you do such a program in Java Script??

To be continued (of course)

Doug Skoglund skoglund@pdmsb.com

I don't provide for comments since that is a system designed to control the communication process -- I do provide an e-mail address!! (Please put a [MYWAY] in your title to get my attention).

BTW, I am working on a replacement system -- and I sure could use some help.

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