Sunday, September 21, 2014

There Is No Accountability For Being Wrong

I have to admit it was the headline that grabbed me.

Washington Is a Cesspool of Faux-Experts Who Do Bad Research.

As a librarian, this kinda pisses me off (per Conor, who's standing on the sidelines chewing the popcorn):

Drawing on nine years in the nation's capitol, Klein acknowledges one class of obstacles. "Washington is a cesspool of faux-experts who do bad research (or no research)," he explained, "but retain their standing by dint of affiliations, connections, or charisma." Sweet validation! I've often suspected that official Washington is populated by enough disingenuous, misinformation-spreading hucksters to fill an underground container of organic waste. No one has better standing to render this judgment than Klein, whose earnest, tireless embrace of deep-in-the-weeds wonkery is unsurpassed in his generation. He wouldn't assert a whole cesspool of intellectual waste product without having seen plenty of specific examples...

They're basically talking about the same set of experts who circle about the DC Beltway getting on the talk shows and getting into the think tank meetings.  They're the same idiots fear-mongering about foreign policy woes and the threats of inflation and wage increases would have against our austerity measures.  Klein and Conor are talking about the same idiots who get proven wrong - constantly, hi there Mr. Kristol - and yet even with a clear track record of failure keep getting invited back by the power elites and the media chains to sell even more faulty intel and questionable opinions.

Paul Krugman - Nobel Prize economist and someone who tends to do the research we librarians like - has been railing against the same faux-experts in the economic circles who keep obsessing over an inflationary threat that never comes: "The predicted surge in inflation has never arrived, but despite being wrong year after year, hardly any of the critics have admitted being wrong, or even changed their tune."

While Krugman worries about the effects that collective ignorance has on our economic recovery (or lack thereof), the thing he hints at but never openly states in that article is how those false predictors are allowed to keep shilling their bad advice. It's because those bad advisors have been in the Inner Circle of power in DC, and once you've been there your advice is always welcome, whether it's factual or not.

There is no accountability for being wrong.  The First Amendment as currently interpreted does not require fact-checkers and enforcement of sticking to the facts.  Whatever Fairness Doctrine we had as oversight for our media gave way to Anything Goes As Long As It's Not Libel (and even then libel is horribly under-enforced).  Journalism as a profession does not require much in the way of certification outside of a bachelors degree and even then it's not a requirement to get hired - just look at Sean Hannity, he doesn't even have a college degree in anything - and there's no association or bar or board of authority to govern how journalists or media outlets can behave.

Your plumber is better vetted than your TV news host.  And if your plumber does something wrong, he/she can lose his/her license.  If your TV news host does something wrong, he/she gets a freaking book deal.  If your TV news host keeps inviting a know-nothing or naysayer talking head who keeps getting the facts spectacularly wrong, that news host will get a contract extension because "it's good for ratings!"  /headdesk

As Raptavio notes on his Daily Kos blog:
With any semblance of real consequence for being so wrong (even willfully wrong) so consistently, there's little incentive for media outlets to pursue accuracy or integrity in their journalism -- and with the phenomenon of market share going to news outlets who present stories and analysis that reflect their audience's biases, this gives the media strong pecuniary disincentives to promote the values of fact-based reporting and instead to pander, irrespective of whether that pandering is grounded in reality.

Dear Beltway Media: stop interviewing (k)no(w)-nothing Senators and billionaire campaign blowhards, and start interviewing librarians and people who are, you know, ACTUAL EXPERTS on the topics being discussed.  You're not doing this nation any favors in your pursuit for ratings over BS.

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