Towards A Good Samaritan World

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Howard Fineman offers an inadvertent parody of the MSM practice of using anonymous sources:

I’m sitting here with a gloomy letter from Iraq, written by a high-ranking officer I cannot name in a branch of service I cannot name in a part of the country I cannot name. But trust me, because I trust him. Iraqis, he says, have no feel for or belief in the democracy we want to create, and our occupation is making them less, not more, capable of self-government.

Now really, Howard, why should we do that when we have the blogosphere? Why should we do that when we can click through to the Iraq the Model blog and read straight from a real live Iraqi we know and trust? Or we can go to his blogroll and link to Neurotic Iraqi Wife, Healing Iraq, Baghdad Burning, The Messopotamian, and dozens more Iraqi bloggers? Or when we can link to a lot of soldier-bloggers, such as Mudville Gazette, or Nato? Of course, all these sources have their biases, but so does Fineman.

There are two links in the chain of trust here: "trust me," says Fineman, and "I trust him." That there are two links automatically makes this less reliable than the one-link-in-the-chain information that we can get through the blogosphere. After all, Fineman might be mistaken in trusting his friend's letter. Maybe his friend's experience is unrepresentative. Maybe his friend is biased, because of temperament, because of personal reasons, or because of other views. And Fineman doesn't just quote the whole letter. No, he quotes it selectively, and puts a layer of his own views on top of it. Maybe there's good news in the letter that Fineman does not report, because he's against the war, or because he opposes Bush, or because he thinks this version of the story will maximize sales, or because his friends are against the war and he wants to please them. Fineman's second-hand take based on a letter is one source of evidence about the war. But it's not the only one, and it's not as good as many others that are readily available.

So I respectfully decline to trust Fineman, because he trusts his friend. It doesn't seem like good epistemic practice. I'll go to the blogosphere, take in the wide range of impressions it has to offer, and come to my own conclusions.


  • So the question is, would you buy a "perfectly good" used car through Howard from this high ranking officer?

    'Nuff said.

    By Blogger 49erDweet, at 9:37 PM  

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