A Defense of Journalism

There is some salty language briefly. It is included because it is how some people talk. Skip it if you’re offended. There’s lots of content here.

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Edward R. Murrow

Don’t Be Defensive

I’m always going to remember sitting in my techie friends small office bedroom, on the big medicine ball, serving as the only available guest chair. There was no bed. Simply a hammock and two high powered PCs. I’m always going to remember it because it’s damned quirky.

I’ve been meaning to learn Java since I found out about it around 2007. I didn’t have the knack for it, but I’m stubborn, so I still have that goal on the back-burner to this very day, a full decade later.

I’ve made some modest progress, over the last couple of years towards that end. I’m a writer so I’m a narrative guy (Learn through/Thrive on: stories), so careful reading, and lots of web queries on background info were my go to.

Slowly but surely, through lots of notes on the free tutorial provided by HWS, and Niemeyer & Leuck’s: Learning Java; I’ve been able to absorb enough basic principles to where I don’t feel completely lost, as I feed bad code into NetBeans.

It was my geeky reading habits, and the opportunity to exchange off-color jokes that found me in the strange little blue room.

We were having a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of various programming languages.

There was a stack of programming manuals on the desk. I asked about C++ and the book. And then somehow, the conversation turned to the creator of the language, and author of that particular volume: Bjarne Stroustrup.

O he’s a little bitch.”

I thought this odd.

“That book…it’s …he’s just…”

I really didn’t have a comment. But not for any nobler reason than sheer ignorance.

“He’s just such a defensive little bitch.”

“How so?”

“It’s just he goes on and on…just complaining…he’s almost whiny…like I can’t stand it. You shouldn’t have to explain why something is good, he just comes off as super insecure, it’s a pain in the ass to read.”

“Well,” I said as my writer’s sympathy kicked into high gear, “critics are assholes, often dishonest assholes, dishonest partisan assholes, and I bet a buncha C Nazis were giving him hell, I don’t think addressing criticisms and misunderstandings is defensive.”

“Eh…yeah…but the way he does it. It’s just…cringy. You should just make something so good that you don’t have to explain why it’s good.”

“Yeah, but what if ya did, and a buncha schmendricks picked it apart, and just painted a totally inaccurate picture of it…”

“Yeah, I get that, but it’s just not as good of a book as it could have been if he wasn’t so fuckin’ whiny. And like…you should make something so good…that no one can say shit about it. Period.”

This conversation went on for a while, it is one that I’ve committed to memory, as it’s indicative of a certain attitude that needs addressing. It is an attitude that I find to be common among techies, medical professionals, and business-people. It’s a certain overdeveloped minimalism that breeds error, haughtiness, and hypocrisy.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words’

My friend isn’t stupid. The idea that you can create something that’s unassailably good, was just a result of the hyperbolic way we talk. If such a thing as perfection existed, I think that human beings would still find ways to fault it.

What I found staggering about my conversation is that, there was that element of ‘you shouldn’t have to explain things.’

It’s a very Fordian sentiment. In fact I think that Henry Ford once said ‘Don’t Complain, Don’t Explain.’ (Or maybe it was his grandson.) It’s a very assembly-line sort of hyper-utilitarian thinking.

Its cousin is: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’

Well, to be sure, running off a cliff is a very loud action. But nonetheless, methinks you’d much prefer, even the briefest word of warning over your brave action.

A large chunk of what I do is explain things. It’s a significant part of how I intend to make my bread and butter. So, you can see why my jimmies have been rankled enough to produce an entire article, combating this utilitarian philistinism.

That is precisely what I’m doing by the way: combating. I am by no means being defensive. This is an offense. To war!

You see, you self absorbed, day to day, little worker bee drone constantly banging into my garden window with cries of: ‘Talk is cheap!’ No… you’re not as noble as my little honey farmers.

You’re the little aberration of the industrial revolution known as a Morlock, you’ve kidnapped my comically aryan Eloi wench, and I’m the Time Traveler about to dash out your brains.

Why Can’t Americans Teach Their Children How To Think?

I’m as tired of trendy anti-Americanism as any other former Colbert fan. Yet still… Prematurely jaded, know it all, get to the chase utilitarianism is very much an American problem. To be more accurate it is an Anglo problem.

We Englishmen (And yes…Vinny, Morty, and Vlad you’re Englishmen too. Language is culture I’m afraid.) share a common history. We were the most successful children of the Industrial Revolution. It along with the limey penchant for sarcasm, snark, and preening are why sloth and self absorption are at such spectacular heights.

This is why even in the presence of nearly universal education, access to unprecedented amounts of food and shelter (for a spectacular number of folks), and more free time then ever we are still Eliza Doolittle.

GON!

I bet you don’t know what I’m referring to do you?

GON!

What is Pygmalion or it’s back to $7.25/hr, you harridan!

GON!

I bet you haven’t even seen the film, much less bothered with Shaw.

GON!

Back to the gutter with you wretched urchin!

To be honest, I’m not terribly bothered if you aren’t familiar with a very camp movie, about a very old play. It’s just that GON! Is the sound I hear when someone questions the value of thinking.

Imagine a cockney girl trying to say ‘Go On.’ I believe they’re called ‘chavs’ these days. Think of ‘GON!’ Resonating through little piggy, upturned, English noses. Imagine the vocal fry and shudder.

Ghaughowwn!

GON! Is the fizzy pop you get when you bottle provincial arrogance, hot air, and sloth. It’s stupid and proud of it!

What’s up with water. Why should I care?”

GON!

I don’t have time to read. I focus on the important things!”

GON!

I’m an educated man.”

GON!

Well the expert panel said…”

GON!

Talk is cheap.”

GON!

What’s the bottom-line?”

GON!

I really could go on, but in the interest of you hearing something more substantive then my colorful kvetching, I shan’t.

Do Complain, Do Explain

Sorry Henry, old chap, but I must be so decidedly contrarian as to turn your phrase on its head. In fact I’m considering making it the motto of The Fractal Journal. I do believe that America was founded on complaints against out of touch toffs. And I’m willing to bet, that you’d be very eager to have your lawyer, be able to explain, in exquisite detail, that the model-T patent is yours alone.

Absolutely everything requires an explanation. It may not always have to be verbal, but there will always be some sequence of information that an organism is aware of, and comprehends. Comprehending is really silent reading or explaining of a situation to yourself.

The Zen statement: ‘That is a rock,’ is only Zen and profound because the Zen practitioner has trained himself, to allow the universe to explain itself to him.

This is why I find it entirely bizarre, that people are almost proud of their sparse vocabularies, their short attention spans, and their disinterest.

Ennui is only sexy when experienced by young French women. If you aren’t a twenty something bombshell painting in Paris just stop it. You’re bloody annoying.

 

Why be proud of handicapping your capacity to be human? It is the greatest gift of mankind to be able to perceive, explore, and take joy in knowing.

 

Why do we instruct writers to dumb things down for readers? Rather than instruct readers to aspire to possess a more nimble mind and vocabulary?

Explaining and comprehending takes time… and we have to go before the mall closes!

Pity.

Explanations are so very intrinsic to being. They are such interesting things. What is a song or symphony but an explanation of the unspeakable?

I think it may be easier to convince you that explanations are worthy things. It may be harder-going promoting the merits of complaints. No one likes a complainer.

Actually, it’s quite easy. Disdain for those who complain is silly. Complaints are simply the explanation for why something is wrong. When you are criticizing someone, merely on the grounds that they are complaining, you are complaining about complaining. How deliciously self defeating.

SO WHAT IN THE SOLEMN HELL DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH JOURNALISM?”

I can just hear the Engineers and MBA’s seething. Yes, see he has no utility! There’s no bottom line. This article doesn’t do anything. It’s just pretty fluff.

Well, my hypothetical pedants, for all your mechanical brilliance, and shrewd sensibilities you’ve failed to grasp that this entire article is a machine with shrewd purpose, built stringently to spec.

In the span of a mere five pages, ‘I’ve been a traveler of both time and space,’ exposing the liabilities and structural defects, that have led to the decay and disdain of journalism, through the power of the mighty literary device. (Several literary devices TBH. But ‘mighty literary devices’ sounds daft.)

Journalism has value. This is because journalism, when done properly, is simply an interesting way to tell the truth. Telling the truth in an interesting way has intrinsic value. It has intrinsic value because the truth not only sets us free but allows us to: invent, to build accurate models, and cultivate effective strategies and behaviors for surviving, and getting the hell along.

That’s precisely what I’ve done here. I’ve covered a current trend in public sentiment and explained why it’s destructive. I’ve done so in a way that is much more entertaining than if I had merely created a bullet point list, with links to various studies, on the correlation between IQ and vocabulary, and journalism’s role in keeping businesses and governments accountable.

“Ah!” Cry the number crunchers, “But that is where you’re wrong. We’d be much more interested in seeing those!”

Ok,

Sure, it showed a correlation of verbal intelligence and IQ but verbal intelligence is still intelligence. You need to understand things to be intelligent.

Hmm, that last site reeks of GeoCities, but apparently the source is valid. Better link:

These are real world examples of how journalism positively effected society.

This last link is a detailed analysis of the various effects and complications of journalism and media on society and perception.

Happy?

Liars. You don’t want to read that. Especially the highly sciency pubmed study. Because it’s boring. And not only that but it disagrees with your Weltanschauung. The only thing people hate more than being bored, is being bored as it slowly dawns on them, that their beloved ‘science’ (Science is great. ‘science’ isn’t.) is against them.

Total vocabulary has the highest correlation (0.8) with overall IQ of any individual measure of intelligence.

Stings don’t it? Knowing that word wise people are just as intelligent as number savvy ‘hard nosed realists.’ It’s almost like reality has a qualitative as well as quantitative aspect. Whodda thunk it?

Finding important topics, getting an accurate grasp on them, and then presenting them in an interesting light is an art and science, that I am delighted to participate in and champion.

I here consider all Morlocks slain and the merits of journalism thoroughly upheld. Offensively!


Financial Journalist Mark Melin gives examples of journalism’s positive impacts on the Keiser Report: the relevant discussion starts at minute 22.

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