Testimony and Advertising

by Brian on November 20, 2003

The response from various right-wing circles about the TCS brouhaha is either charmingly antique or extraordinarily naive. The position seems to be that we should ignore who’s paying the piper and just listen to the tune to see whether we like it. Arguments, they say, can be evaluated independently of the context they appear in. But this relies on views about the nature of testimony that don’t stand up to empirical or philosophical scrutiny. As Grice put it, communication requires cooperation, and since advertising masquerading as honest opinion is not particularly cooperative, it is unlikely to be communicative, but without successful communication there simply isn’t a presented argument to evaluate.

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Keeping Us Updated

by Kieran Healy on November 20, 2003

I wonder if we’ll hear again from that friend of Eugene Volokh and Kathryn Lopez that, well, maybe a few protestors turned out after all. Perhaps he or she will follow the lead of Iain Murray’s friend who has sensibly stayed some distance away from the protests so that he can truthfully say “it’s quiet around here again.” Meanwhile Iain’s wife suggests the protestors are inconsistent: “Were there protests like this during the height of the IRA terrorist attacks in London against the British government’s military intervention in Northern Ireland? … [I]f you’re going to protest a nation or group of nation’s ‘aggressive behavior’ towards a country or region that appears to support terrorism, shouldn’t you protest all such ‘aggressive behavior’?” I don’t know whether she’s aware of what originally provoked British military intervention in the North (it wasn’t because the IRA had bombed London). But I’ll have to leave it to others to explain the difference between (a) Efforts to capture or control terrorists living in your own country who bomb your citizens, and phone you up to say so, and (b) Invading a country which, though run by a universally reviled evil dictator, does not pose any credible threat to your nation or have any known links to the terrorists who attacked you.

Living in China

by Chris Bertram on November 20, 2003

A former student, himself living and working in China, emails to tell me about what looks like an interesting co-operative blog project: “Living in China”:http://www.livinginchina.com/index.shtml — definitely worth a look.

Istanbul

by Chris Bertram on November 20, 2003

Terrible, “terrible news”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3222608.stm from Turkey (for the second time in a few days).

Buzz from the Alternate Blogosphere

by Kieran Healy on November 20, 2003

Left-wing bloggers were put on the defensive today as a report in The Weekly Standard revealed that The Finland Station, a left-leaning website known for its political commentary and analysis, is in fact a wholly-owned subsidiary of DCI Group, a political consultancy paid to run “Astroturf” campaigns for the likes of the Sierra Club, the ACLU, the SEIU and Howard Dean. Articles from prominent left-wing bloggers such as Atrios, Chris Bertram, and Josh Marshall have been featured on TFS in the past. The Weekly Standard demonstrated that TFS often chose its issue areas based on the consulting deals its owners had made with various clients, timed articles to coincide with astroturf campaigns, and ran pieces by representatives of its clients alongside articles by freelance commentators — including well-known left-wing bloggers. For example, in conjunction with a campaign paid for by the Free Software Foundation, TFS printed a column promoting free software as the New Socialism. Such columns were then picked up and cross-promoted by the foundation without mentioning the flow of money between the parties.

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Addendum on TCS

by Chris Bertram on November 20, 2003

There have been some fairly furious reactions out there to the various postings by “me”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000848.html and others concerning “TCS”:http://www.techcentralstation.com/index.html yesterday, most of which don’t merit a reply. I would, though, like to invite those who have suggested that I’m reluctant to read or to link to sites which disagree with my own political beliefs to peruse my postings on CT (or earlier, on “Junius”:http://junius.blogspot.com/ ). They’ll see that their suggestion is misplaced. But I do see that my rather brief explanation of my unwillingness to write for TCS — “too right-wing for me” — was misleading. After all, if the Daily Telegraph offers me a column, I’ll happily accept. TCS, though, isn’t just a broadly conservative media outlet but a site that relentlessly pushes a particularly narrow agenda — “where free markets meet technology” — in a style reminiscent of “infotainment” or those articles you sometimes start reading that look like the proper thing but have “paid advertisment” discreetly tucked-away somewhere. And I felt that I didn’t want either to lend respectability to such an outfit or, conversely, to have my own undermined by association with it. (I’m still puzzled by the Curmudgeonly Clerk, by the way, “who opines”:http://www.curmudgeonlyclerk.com/weblog/archives/2003_11.html#000593 that my deciding not write for TCS reflects an “unhealthy politicization of personal decisionmaking”. Is there something wrong with allowing one’s values to inform one’s personal decisions?)

Outrage

by Ted on November 20, 2003

I don’t know how I missed this story.

– Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, is on the terrorist watch list. This is apparently because of his association with another terrorist suspect, who is currently in custody. Arar has denied any connection with terrorism.

He was traveling to Canada, where he’s lived for 15 years and has a family. He stopped in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where he was detained by U.S. authorities.

(Please do click through if you’re not familiar with this story.)

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A failure of imagination

by Ted on November 20, 2003

Today, Howard Kurtz quoted a story about the discovery of the remains of Howard Dean’s brother in Laos. He then commented:

I wonder if the remains would have been found if Dean wasn’t running for president.

I have been trying all day to imagine what Kurtz could have meant by that, but everything I come up with is ludicrous. Suggestions are more than welcome. (via Atrios)

Flack Central Station

by Henry on November 20, 2003

“Glenn Reynolds”:http://www.instapundit.com/archives/012601.php tells us that he just doesn’t get Nick Confessore’s “article”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0312.confessore.html on TCS’s connections with the Astroturf purveyors of the DCI Group. Reynolds says that he’s never felt pressure to write articles in a certain way, or on certain subjects. He then goes on to treat us to some ponderous sarcasm, effectively dismissing Confessore, Marshall et al. as conspiracy theorists. Now, accusations of conspiracy theory are a bit rich from someone who “bought into”:http://www.instapundit.com/archives/008089.php#008089 Den Beste’s crackpot explanations of European opposition to the war. But that’s a side issue. Reynolds (deliberately?) misses the main point of Confessore’s article. I’m quite happy to believe Reynolds when he says that he never felt any pressure to change his writing. But Confessore doesn’t say (or imply) that every article for TCS is driven by a corporate agenda. If Confessore’s insinuations are on the mark (and he’s amassed some fairly convincing circumstantial evidence to support his claims), one may easily imagine why a crowd of flacks might solicit articles from independent outsiders. They provide useful camouflage for the corporate shill-pieces that are written to order. To put it in terms that Glenn can understand, there’s a better than even chance that he’s been a “useful idiot”:http://www.instapundit.com/archives/006824.php. I wonder how it feels.

Government and Health

by Brian on November 20, 2003

For amusement I was traipsing through the OECD health stats for various countries, and I was stunned by one of the things that springs out of the data – health care systems that are government run or funded tend to be cheaper despite being just as effective in every respect, and more effective in some respects. I’m sure someone somewhere has analysed the data properly, but even a crude analysis suggests the empirical case for having a government run or funded health care system is quite strong.

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