Pseudo-objectivity

Lex’s blog had a comment on the Post’s unwillingness to offer more than a standard defense after a reporter was unfairly attacked on the letters page. My response:

Exactly. Maybe they don’t need to respond to every letter, but I’d love to see newspapers institute an “Ask the Editor” chat. Folks might complain when they’re confronted with the facts, but it would be an honest exchange of ideas that would make people read.

The nutshell: Newspapers should never print what they know to be false without challenging it with the facts. It doesn’t matter if the falsehood is uttered by a letter-writer or the president.

Seems to be an obvious point, but our notion of “objectivity” these days is the postmodern one in which all points are equally valid. Baloney.

Perhaps now that governments are so good at doing end runs around the media, newspapers can ditch the “paper of record” philosophy and speak the truth instead. That was the most hopeful conclusion of my grad school project; the others are much more pessimistic.

Messes in the ivory tower

The rise in “conservative” campus activism has a few flaws, of course. First of all, there’s little evidence that a student’s political views influence his or her grade. (Granted, I’d be skeptical of any such claim because it’s all too easy to find a scapegoat for the occasional “C.” Hey, I did it at Duke.

Secondly, a lot of these clean-cut young kids are simply shocked to find opinions that don’t fit in the convenient worldviews handed to them by their parents, ministers and compliant media. Views that are common in academia are invisible in the rest of American society, which you could either take as an indictment of the “ivory tower” attitude on college campuses or further evidence of this country’s rampant anti-intellectualism.

But most of all, I’d say that even the most hysterical socialists I’ve ever encountered (including an unrepentant communist who pined for her days in the USSR) are more tolerant of others’ opinions than the “God, country and the GOP” crowd that seems to be gaining power these days. These aren’t your nice little fiscally prudent policy wonks or even your smarty-pants libertarians. (Of course, this strain has held some sort of power for decades, anyway. I vaguely remember being taught in middle school to hate left-leaning British politicians because their lineage could be traced back to Marx, just like those godless communists who were going to drop the bomb on us any minute now.)

But after taking a deep breath, it occurred to me that I didn’t mind these folks being around on college campuses. They probably don’t even understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, but neither do many of the gender-studies crowd.

Besides, the ultimate justification for journalism is that watchdogs are necessary. If these folks fill a watchdog niche, so be it.

Washington sports in the tank

Sad, sad loss for the Redskins last night. Undeserved, too. They had the Dolphins beaten. Even up to the very end, they were in good shape. They got a crucial defensive stop down 24-23. So take the punt near midfield, drive 20-30 yards and kick the winning field goal. Piece of cake.

So then ex-Redskin Matt Turk punts far better than he ever did in Washington, and Patrick Johnson can’t cope with it. And now they’re 4-7.

The Capitals are much worse, struggling through a difficult year of sort-of rebuilding. Like the Redskins, they have the further indignity of being shredded as underachievers by the national media. It’s particularly unfair for the Redskins, who are a couple of lucky breaks away from 6-5 or 7-4 even with a couple of injuries on a thin offense.

Then there’s D.C. United, which can’t quite put it together and has a handful of players who make it difficult to be a fan. The Freedom won the WUSA title, but will they ever have a chance to defend it? The Mystics have fans, but no players.

I’m told there’s an NBA team downtown, but I don’t pay attention to such things.