Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Carter responds to his critics...the ethics of blogging...

While I've submitted three or so comments on Carter's reply to my criticisms, I think a more general reply is in order, and not only to Carter, but to address some of the nonsense I've seen in the blogosphere.

Now, I will admit, that as a moderate-prgressive, I will tend to see more egregious examples of violence to the truth from conservaties. I do see Atrios print retractions from time to time, and Josh Marshall is agonizingly circumspect at times. While Joe Carter himself has posted a retraction in his time, unfortunately, there fewer and further between than I think is warranted. And I think I know why.

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Carter writes "For bloggers to achieve a high level of credibility with the public, we must police our own and ensure that we are worthy of trust," and further down on as a comment Carter writes "In my opinion, there are two primary differences between the MSM and the blogosphere: we admit our biases and are open to being corrected by our peers. The blogosphere is only gaining a lead in the credibility department because the professionals will not step and follow our lead in those areas."

Now first of all, as I noted in a comment further down, a recurring theme on conservative, especially socially conservative blogs, is a simmering resentment against the "MSM," "elites," and, on blogs such as Carter's "scientists," as well as "liberals." If one's bias is against such groups, how in the name of anything moral and ethical can one say that one is "open" to being corrected by one's peers (presumably one's fellow bloggers)? In particular, Carter's bias excludes informed and professional opinion. So how can he be "open" when he excludes that to which he must be open to in order to correct himself? Now I'm not saying he has to believe anything a scientist says- I expect my physician to give me explanations I can understand and verify, though I lack a medical education. And so does my 74 year old mother from her physicians, and my mother lacks a Ph.D.

When I give an opinion on say, whether a paper is a well written proof, it happens to be because I have a great deal of experience not only reading proofs, but writing them myself. When I give an opinion about whether a journal article was fit for publication, it is because I have peer-reviewed articles for publication and written articles for publication. And when I have written that James Watt wasn't an enironmentalist despite what Powerline may write, it's because I was aware of what was going on in the 1980s.

All of that gives me a degree of gravitas that those of us who do not share that experience lack, which, as I see now, is precisely what is resented. Why people resent others telling the truth, ah, that is an interesting problem, as well as how to cure that resentment.

"Openness," and "bias" are contradictory unless one is open despite what will inevitably be one's bias. But Carter makes no claim in that regard. And as long as he does not, I cannot put him on the same ethical plane as those of who are willing to be open to having their biases challenged and will admit when their bias has led them down a cul-de-sac or to an error.

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