Thursday, January 9, 2014

Objectivity and The New York Times – an editorial

Economic historian Gary North (pictured), a tireless champion of clear writing and clear speaking, analyzes some evasive language that The New York Times recently used in order to simultaneously display and obfuscate its position on “gun laws.” Dr. North writes, in part:

The New York Times adds this: “Sheriffs who refuse to enforce gun laws around the country are in the minority, though no statistics exist.” Let me translate: “We’re liberal. We like gun control laws, so we have decided to announce that anti-gun control sheriffs are in the minority. We will hold to this story until statistics exist to the contrary. We may decide to hold to it even after statistics to the contrary are available. It’s our call. It’s our newspaper. We get to do what we want.”

The Takeaway: Every newspaper has a worldview. Every newspaper. So does every writer: columnist, pundit, professor, consultant, blogger or whatever. It cannot be otherwise. But many writers are more honest than The Times on this point. Gary North is. I hope I am, too. For you, as a reader, the takeaway is to beware of writers who pretend to have total objectivity; that’s nothing but a narcissistic delusion. As you read, remember that the writer has a worldview; it may affect his writing heavily or only slightly. But always try to induce it (infer it from particulars) and then factor it into what you read.

See disclaimer.

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