Journalism as Entertainment: the danger of journalistic demagoguery?

Joseph Raymond McCarthy. Español: Este persona...

Joseph Raymond McCarthy. Español: Este personaje público norteamericano, fue uno delos más criticos contra el comunismo coartando las libertades en E.E.U.U. y haciendo de la persecución politca y de los recorte de libetades una de sus máximas. Encarceló a no pocas personas por tener un pensamiento contrario al suyo, acusandolos de poco patriotas o de traidores, uno de los máximos “democratas”. Français : Joseph Raymond McCarthy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Snowden revelations appear to have ushered in a new age of journalism or at least highlighted a trend that dominates the social media journalism. The trend is that news stories are treated like entertainment scripts. The Snowden revelations seem to be managed like a script similar to television programmes like Lost, Homeland or 24, where plot devices keep the audience focused on the next bombshell. How the story is promoted and advertised almost becomes more important than its content. In this approach, journalism becomes like political theatre. The revelations are used for political purpose. Joe McCarthy was infamous for his use of “sources” for political theatre. He drew attention to his cause and stimulated audiences with his claims that “he had a list of Communists”. The audience was held in a state of heightened anticipation. They had to wait for the next revelation, when the Communists would be unmasked. Leaving aside the rather ugly effect of such political theatre, we have to ask whether journalism that becomes public theatre serves the public interest.

In each story, the journalist decides when and how to disclose documents. The decision is made to suit their purposes and the public must wait for the journalist to decide what is important for them. Yet, if that revelation will influence their relationship with the government, is such behaviour democratically responsible? The public are denied the opportunity to examine the evidence for the claims. The public are caught in a journalistic Catch-22. They cannot see the documents to hold the journalist or the government to account and the journalist must act responsibly and not disclose all the files. The public can only react to what the journalist has provided. If the journalist’s evidence only supports the harshest claims, how will the public know if that is accurate, true or its context? Is this in the public interest? When stories are managed like scripts, journalism can become public entertainment.

All writers want to keep their audience interested in the story and journalism,  like the entertainment industry, relies on its audience. They are not simply disinterested academics producing scholarly works. They are promoting a commodity that is bought and sold. However, the internet audience is not captured like a physical newspaper captures its audience. You may read other stories because you have bought the newspaper. On the internet each story is like a miniature newspaper and must compete for attention. If a journalist uses anticipation to serve their interests, does the line between self-promotion and promoting the public’s understanding, the public interest, begin to blur? Who benefits if the journalist manages gradual leaks to create a larger audience? Until all the documents are released the public are left uncertain as to whether the public interest is being served by the journalist. They, like McCarthy’s audience, are in danger of being seduced by journalistic demagoguery that serves a private interest masquerading as the public interest.

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About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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7 Responses to Journalism as Entertainment: the danger of journalistic demagoguery?

  1. I don’t understand; didn’t Snowden show that journalists have been used by governments to spread untruths? And didn’t Glenn Greenwald perform a great service to readers who are actually interested in natural rights and individual liberty? He showed that the government had been lying to the pubic by using the media so I cannot be sure why you seem so upset at a tactic that has the biggest impact. And isn’t journalism just business? Isn’t it driven by ratings rather than any search for truth? While I am not all that experienced at these things it looks to me that journalists, historians, and commentators are rewarded when they try to sell to the public the story that their government wants told even if that story is a total fabrication. And while Joe McCarthy was a terrible man wasn’t he right about communists working for the FDR administration?

    • Charles,
      Thanks for the reading the blog and the comments.
      I am not sure how to respond. I would be grateful if you would clarify how Snowden showed that journalists had been used by the government. My understanding is that he extracted, stole, NSA documents describing its approach to surveillance. I was unaware he took anything relating to the way the government or a government agency works with or briefs the media. If so, I would be grateful for a link.

      I am not sure what service Mr. Greenwald performed. I know he has sold a lot of books and received a lot of publicity, but what service did he perform? He told us that the NSA works well at its job and is not as good at protecting itself from employees who become disloyal. Aside from showing Americas’s opponent’s the scale, complexity, and the comprehensiveness of the NSA’s surveillance, I am not sure what service he has performed.
      I am not aware that the government lies that often if at all. Individuals may lie, or be placed in a situation where they have to lie to avoid breaking the law but that is hardly the government lying to the public. In what way has the government lied? The government’s first and fundamental repsonsiblity is to keep the public safe. If it cannot do that task, no other tasks or responsibilities are possible.
      I am not sure I was suggesting that journalism was a search for truth. If I gave that impression, I apologize. Philosophers search for the truth, I am not aware of any journalists who are, or who purport to be, philosophers.
      I guess that all people want to believe certain myths and people want myth makers to help them understand themselves and the world. In those cases, the mythmakers can make money.
      I suppose Mr. McCarthy was right about communists, after all he was able to gain some traction in his work. As Alger Hiss explains because of Whittaker Chambers we do know there were communist spies at work in the US government. But, ask yourself this question “What better way to discredit the anti-communist movement than to encourage someone like Joe McCarthy?” I suppose such a strategy would seem far fetched and impossible to achieve, but it does make you wonder.
      Thanks again for the comment.
      Best,
      L.

      • First of all, thank you for responding. I went on your blog because this commentary was assigned to my grade 11 English class and I wanted to know a bit about your background and where you were located. Please keep in mind that I agree with you that journalism should be concerned about truth more than anything else. But we live in a place where news providers compete for attention and that requires strategies that you or I might not like very much.

        You argue that the Snowden leaks are a lot like Victorian serialized novels or the TV programs that copied that approach. To keep readers interested a journalist or editor relies on hooks and cliffhangers that will ensure that the next instalment will be looked at. If that means more people get to see the story and pay attention to it why would that be wrong? Isn’t that the job of a journalist in the first place; to inform as many people as possible?

        The next problem is not from your commentary but from your response. You claim that, “I am not aware that the government lies that often if at all. Individuals may lie, or be placed in a situation where they have to lie to avoid breaking the law but that is hardly the government lying to the public.” This is entirely true if you are trying to say that a group cannot act and that all actions are taken by specific individuals. But I am not really sure that you are saying this because I do not think that you are making the methodological individualism argument. Actually, if anyone is using the methodological individualism angle it would be Snowden and Greenwald, not their critics.

        In the last two years I have had to read a lot of material for my history and civics courses. That material makes it clear that government (or the people who release information on behalf of the government) lie all the time. Bush lied about Saddam Hussein and his WMDs. Clinton lied about Muslims being thrown into abandoned mines. The first Bush lied about Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators. Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin attack and about the Dominican Republic invasion in 1966. Even his defenders admit that FDR lied about being surprised at Peal Harbour. Wilson lied about the Lusitania, Belgian nuns being raped, and Belgian babies used for bayonet practice. And before you start talking about conspiracy theories fooling some stupid kid let me point out that most of what I am writing about is not a secret but well documented. Let us take the WW I example. In his memoirs that were published after Wilson was dead and the war was over Colonel House wrote about his secret agreement with Britain. Many military leaders and politicians who took part in the deception or quite in protest because of the deceptions confirmed these facts in their writings. Government documents also showed that the Lusitania was a warship and when the wreck was discovered a few years ago the divers found evidence of an explosion from inside the ship because of the ammunition. Just a few books and commentaries on the subject are listed below. I used the Ralph Raico essay on Churchill for an assignment last year. It covers the lies very well. If you want to hear the lies about Saddam just use Google and look up the video of Colin Powell talking about mobile weapons labs and chemical weapons. After that read the information about what Saddam’s son-in-law told the CIA when he defected about the destruction of the chemical shells that the US had provided during the Iraq/Iran war.

        Another problem that I have with your comments is the claim that it is the “government’s first and fundamental responsibility is to keep the public safe.” If that is the case why does the American government arm and train terrorists? How does it help Americans if their government supports a tyrant abroad and its spy services tell foreign governments which moderate leaders are a problem for them? The people who attacked New York on 9/11 were Saudis who were upset that the American government was helping the Saudi government against its own people. If you want to blame bin Laden wasn’t he supported by the CIA? Didn’t Taliban leaders meet with the Reagan White House representatives and didn’t they meet with Bush in 2001 just before the attacks? My dad says that if you add up all of the costs for the wars that are not in the budget, the Pentagon budget, the VA budget, the money that the Department of Energy gets for the nuclear arsenal, NASA gets for military spy programs, the CIA gets for the drone programs, the NSA gets to spy, the CIA gets for funding activities abroad and for the drone program, the money that goes to pay the interest on debt taken to fight previous wars you have a number that is about equal to all of the personal tax revenue. How does driving the country into bankruptcy make Americans safer? Should the American taxpayer pay to defend Japan, South Korea, Germany, or Italy?

        I need to finish my 200 word comment on your commentary so I will have to move to the Snowden/Greenwald part quickly. Snowden showed what we all know. The government has certain journalist ‘friends’ who are given special access and leak stories that the government wants to get out. The federal government is not alone on this. If the New England Patriots or Toronto Maple Leafs want something to get out they have one of two reliable reporters that can be counted on to ‘break’ the story. Local politicians, celebrities, business leaders, etc., also have their pals that will get out a story in exchange for extra access. Even I know this and I am still in high school. Someone with more experience can think of many more examples.

        My argument is simple. Snowden showed that reporters who were critical of the government were targets of NSA spying that access journalists do not have to worry about. When I hand in assignments I know that some teachers will give better marks for students who tell them what they want to hear even if it is not logical or wrong. That does not end when you get older so if you want to get ahead you have to think about going along with what you are supposed to do. Because Greenwald is a left wing writer he gets attacked by the conservative press as a traitor and collaborator. Because Snowden is a libertarian who is an advocate for peace and questions war propaganda he takes serious shots from both the left and the right.

        I am sorry that I misinterpreted your comments about journalism being about truth but let me point out that I think that you are right when you say that “people want to believe certain myths and people want myth makers to help them understand themselves and the world. In those cases, the mythmakers can make money.” Where you live you have a very competitive market where newspapers are having a hard time and need to do lots of things that would have been considered inappropriate a few decades ago. The ones that survive make it because they give the readers what the readers want. That puts the readers in charge because they vote with their spending power every day they make a choice about which paper to pick up and read. So if you want to blame somebody you might want to look at what the readers want instead of the journalists.

        As for your question, “What better way to discredit the anti-communist movement than to encourage someone like Joe McCarthy?” I think that the answer is complicated. There is always a better way to get what you want and McCarthy clearly used the wrong strategy. But evil people like Mr. McCarthy choose what gets them more attention and more power, particularly when they are upset at the way that they were treated by the collectivists in the previous administration. Yes, he was a very bad man but he followed a lot of other bad men.

        I have to go and sleep. If you don’t mind I will make some general suggestions that might be of interest to you. One of the lecturers that I like a great deal is Paul Cantor. He has a free lecture series called Commerce and Culture on iTunes if you are interested and is the author of a number of pretty good books, including the very interesting, Literature and the Economics of Liberty: Spontaneous Order in Culture. My dad tells me that it is the first book of a new type of literary criticism and that it is starting to have an effect in the field. His lectures are great and very useful for a writer like you if you are looking for a topic of interest. You can download the lectures from iTunes by going to the store and searching for Paul A Cantor. The book can be downloaded for free at the link below as an ePub or PDF format.

        The other person you might want to listen to is Ralph Raico. His lectures series, History: The Struggle for Liberty is also available for free at iTunes U and is one of the best I have heard. I use it as the basis for essays in some of my courses because he presents many references that are easy to find. If you are also interested, his book, Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, is worth a look. While you may not agree with everything he says, he backs up everything with references to original material. Like Greenwald, I have to be careful when I use some of the material because without a lot of references most of my teachers will reject it because it does not fit the traditional and superficial narrative that we are taught.

        One last bit before I go. I think that Greenwald makes clear the same point that Antigone made when she tells Creon that there is a higher law than his even though he is the king. He believes in natural rights and individual liberty and will not sell out liberty for the promise of a bit more security. You might wan to think about that when you use him as an example because it is very distracting. Like lot of kids I like Ron Paul and his message. Most of us understand natural law arguments and will side with those that defend our liberties against big government war promoters that would take away those liberties. That means that even if many of us might disagree with Greenwald’s economic policies we would certainly stand with him when he attacks the Bush and Obama warfare and police state activities. Because we have a certain lens through which to observe the world we see things a bit differently than you might. While we might be wrong if you want to be a good journalist you might want to try to understand that view.

        Thanks again for the response. It helped me write the commentary so I am hoping to get at least a B even if my teacher does not like my critique.

      • Charles,
        Thanks for the long response. I would suggest that the art of writing is in revision. Less is more as they say. The esssays of Francis Bacon or Montaigne offer a guide that you might find of use. I also suggest Joseph William’s Style: Towards Clarity and Grace.
        I have edited out the links and images as they took up a lot of space.

        I am intrigued that my blog was assigned for class. I hope it was of interest and use. I am not sure what you mean when you say news providers compete for attention. I think it is that they compete for attention for advertisers rather than for their news. However, that is a subtle point that moves us away from the central issues.

        I was suggesting that Greenwald is displaying a technique that is as old as the Victorians and the idea of the tabloid press. One could say his approach is as old as the Sophists in ancient greece. In any case, he is a journalist and not a thinker. I do not mean that as an insult nor would Mr. Greenwald consider himself a thinker. He is a writer and a provocateur and he succeeds in both. As a rigorous thinker, he lacks the skills, insight, or understanding although he has never pretended to be one. The reason I mention this is that his writing is less about an intellectual argument so much as an emotional one. Why look at nuance or subtlety when you can package moral outrage? His arguments are shallow and derivative and reflect the political winds upon which he sails.As long as he remains a good sailor, he will succeed. You may wish to consider if you are being informed, provided something for you to decide or if you are being encouraged or rather given what you must think as it may fit the audience’s pre-conceived notions. An artist can pander to an audience and flatter them. Few can do it while instructing them and staying true to themselves. That requires a certain skill and restraint that Mr. Greenwald lacks.

        In terms of lying you may wish to consider Hannah Arendt’s essay On Lying in Politics. It is superior to the other work you mentioned. Governments rarely lie refers to the idea of liberal democracies. Yes, totalitarian states lie, they are based on a lie, while liberal democracies are based on trust and thus are not as likely to lie. Please note that not telling you something is not the same as lying. No one gets elected saying they will raise taxes, they get elected by their promises to provide benefits. They leave it to the voter to find out those costs. Moreover, as lies can easily be found out, it is rare that they occur. I am leaving aside the screaming of political pundits and the chatter on twitter where people claim “They lied”. Invariably, this means “I disagree with you, you are a liar”.

        I will leave aside the reference to methodological individualism because it is not relevant to the discussion.

        I would hope that you read widely rather than selectively in you your history. Have you read the original documents presented by Bush or Clinton rather than what others tell you they have said? I strongly recommend that you return to original sources as much as possible because all writers, including me, will mediate an issue or filter it to serve their purposes or the purposes of their argument. Some will be clear about this and others will be dishonest about it. Finally, some will do it with subtlety to draw their readers to a certain conclusion. On that point, I strongly recommend you consider Strauss on Persecution and the Art of Writing. It is very challenging but it repays repeated and careful reading.

        On LBJ, my dissertation dealt with his statesmanship, I do suggest you get hold of the FRUS volumes (These are the Official State Department Volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States and contain key declassified documents on the decisions and policies.) so you can see source material on the decisions. They are eye opening and they show you history has a complexity and nuance that most people miss. I will break it to you that Bruce Cummings does have an ideological approach to his work. He has a bias. As long as you know that, you can read others to balance that bias.

        On Churchill, it is useful to go to original research rather than what people are writing third or fourth hand. http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/myths/myths/he-let-coventry-burn

        I am not sure if you understood the source of my comment. It is found in Aristotle’s Politics. I would suggest that training “terrorists” has everything to do with keeping the republic safe. However, a small policy is not the same as taking an overall approach to keeping the community safe, which is found in all the policies. “We come together for live and stay together for the good life”, which suggests the second responsibility, broadly speaking, is to ensure the common good or the common welfare. Just as the USCON mentions that responsiblity. As an aside your question relies on a rhetorical device called “begging the question”. I appreciate that you may be developing your understanding of rhetoric as you begin to learn about the world, but it is important to develop a self-awareness of the rhetorical techniques you use and apply and consider where you learn them. One must remember saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” As Machiavelli might suggest, keep your friends close and your friends closer.

        I am not sure Snowden showed us what we already know. As for showing us special journalists, I do not think he did that so much as indicate the concern that Wikileaks was a foreign threat to US. As for the government leaking or briefing, it just has to hold a press conference to make its points. I am not sure it needs the subtlety you are suggesting. Moreover, that is not really for hte NSA to do as it is for the political operative within an administration to do as that is more a political role and the NSA is not, by its nature, a political organisation in the way the White House is. To put it directly, the head of the NSA is not elected.

        As for conspiracies, you may wish to consider the novel, the tears of autumn.

        I am not sure any journalists were targetted because as administrations change, the reporters who have access change and personalities change. Too many people change in these jobs to have an institutional enemies list or friends list.

        As for your teachers wanting to hear you repeat back to them what they know, I doubt that is the case. You have to demonstrate mastery or understanding of the material rather than an ideological position. If you simply quote or cite one ideological source and claim it as a truth, like Rand Paul or Lew Rockwell or Hayek, you will misunderstand the assignment. The challenge is to understand that each of these creates a cave or exists within a cave or tribe. Once you see the various caves and tribes you can start to compare and contrast to see what they argue and why. Just as Plato is not correct about everything and neither is Aristotle so both must be read and reconciled but that is for you the reader to do or you can rely on someone else’s synthesis, but you have to know that it is someone else’s synthesis. If you accept the synthesis as the truth, you will live within the cave beneath the cave rather than trying to determine whether you are in the cave that opens to the sunlight. (On the cave metaphor see Plato’s republic).

        Just to let you know, Mr. Greenwald started his career as a very strong Bush supporter. He supported the first war. As I mentioned he is an adroit political sailor and he trims his sails to suit the wind and tides. He is now a severe critic of the US as that is what is in fashion and that is what pays. Perhaps he may return once the winds and tides change. As for Snowden, I fear he does not know who or what he is. He believes that Americans do not want to live as Locke suggested, lives of comfortable self-preservation, but wanted the hard challenges of virtue and freedom. However, virtue and freedom require war so if Snowden is seen as an advocate for peace he does not understand what he says or he is not an advocate for peace. He cannot have his cake and eat it too. 🙂

        On the idea of myths, you may wish to consider Ernst Cassirer’s work. He proves challenging and presents different view of Europe and Philosophy that is now, sadly, gone or relegated to a historical epoch although it may have been appropriate as it existed in a less coarse age but one that was destined to be consumed by the technological monstrosity that the modern state has become. The Myth of the State is worth a read.

        Please consider that there is a world beyond Ludwig Von Mises. Enjoy a youthful visit to his works, but then consider whether you want to learn about the world or learn about what other people have to tell you about the world. Libertarianism presents a simplistic view of the world and is based on a watered down version of ideas discussed and debated in the past. It does not offer a lasting understanding of the world or as a way to live so much as a political position within a particular debate.

        Just as an aside, Antigone may not have been right to appeal to a higher law. Just because she appealed to it did not mean that her appeal was valid or that Creon was wrong. Consider that Creon, as the rightful king, may have been correct to apply the law and Antigone may have been wrong to challenge his rule. Moreover, the highest law may not be the divine law that Antigone appealed to. I strongly suggest you read the play and decide for yourself and consider why you would side with Antigone and reflect on whether that is your preference, Mr. Greenwald’s preference, or simply the preference your society, community, and peers recommend for you.

        As a final point, the reason why a teacher might suggest a source might not be useful is that it might not be a good source. There is a world of difference between a referenced work that is peer reviewed with solid scholarship and argument, and one that is written by an ideological hack trying to sell books and posture for profit. The goal is to learn how to think rather than learn how to posture. The two can often be confused and confused by teachers, but most teachers do a decent job of trying to disentangle the two. Popular culture, for its own purposes may confuse them to encourage individuals or people to be shaped in such a way that makes them better consumers than citizens.

        Good luck with your assignment, I hope it went well. You may want to consider my other essays on Snowden, they are called Snowden, Manning, and Tsarnaev: is the only difference a pressure cooker (Part 1 and part 2).

        Yours sincerely,
        Lawrence

  2. “I am intrigued that my blog was assigned for class. I hope it was of interest and use.”

    It was of interest to me. And I think that my teacher likes the way you write, which is why it was assigned.

    “I am not sure what you mean when you say news providers compete for attention. I think it is that they compete for attention for advertisers rather than for their news. However, that is a subtle point that moves us away from the central issues.”

    I think that this is simple. Advertisers care about ratings so it is very clear that if I wanted to make money in news I would need as many viewers as possible. Paul Cantor had an interesting observation in his lectures. He pointed out that most of the great ancient writers and playwrights were popular entertainment in their own day. Shakespeare was the product of a very competitive market in England. Even the ancient Greek writers competed for prizes and recognition. The plays that survived were the most popular ones, which also happened to be the best ones. We think that writers are worse now only because all of the crap that was written before has been lost to time.

    Everyone talks about the poor Victorian writers but they were not exactly poor. Dickens was rich and created a massive industry because of his popularity. In one of his books you can see an illustration that shows a crate with the Guinness label on it. Dickens was into product placement before Hollywood because he was such a good businessman. And let us not forget what the market did for women writers. In England they could make a nice living when opportunities for similar earnings were not available to women.

    “I was suggesting that Greenwald is displaying a technique that is as old as the Victorians and the idea of the tabloid press.”

    I agree. But what is wrong with that? Greenwald considers the growth of the police state very dangerous and wants as much attention as possible to the illegal acts taken by the NSA and the Obama administration. He actually comes from the left side of the political argument so you can’t argue that he is some type of Bush supporter. Actually, Republicans hate him ever more than the Democrats.

    “The reason I mention this is that his writing is less about an intellectual argument so much as an emotional one.”

    His job is not to be editorializing but to shed light and investigate. He did this well because he broke a very important story that has the War Party up in arms. The information that he revealed made it much easier for those who make strong intellectual arguments to have backup for their positions. To many of these people the risks that Greenwald took made him a hero.

    “His arguments are shallow and derivative and reflect the political winds upon which he sails.”

    Arguing for individual liberty and against the Police State is not shallow. Those arguments are based on natural rights principles even if Greenwald does not apply those principles to economic issues. It takes courage to take a stand against such a powerful enemy and for that Greenwald is to be admired.

    “In terms of lying you may wish to consider Hannah Arendt’s essay On Lying in Politics. It is superior to the other work you mentioned. Governments rarely lie refers to the idea of liberal democracies. Yes, totalitarian states lie, they are based on a lie, while liberal democracies are based on trust and thus are not as likely to lie. Please note that not telling you something is not the same as lying. No one gets elected saying they will raise taxes, they get elected by their promises to provide benefits. They leave it to the voter to find out those costs. Moreover, as lies can easily be found out, it is rare that they occur. I am leaving aside the screaming of political pundits and the chatter on twitter where people claim “They lied”. Invariably, this means “I disagree with you, you are a liar.”

    I disagree. Bush lied the US into the Iraq War. Johnson lied it into the Vietnam War. Almost every war that the United States government has taken part in was based on lies. Do you really think that the Spanish American War began because the Cubans sank the battleship Maine in Havana harbour? How convenient that the newspapers sent dozens of reports to capture the unexpected act of war. Do you really think that the Lusitania was not carrying ammunition or that the Germans, who had purchased ads in the papers warning Americans not to travel on British flagged ships like the Lusitania were to blame when the ammo that was being carried blew up? Do you still believe that Vietnam attacked the US navy in the Gulf of Tonkin? If you don’t then you know that governments lie.

    And let me point out that both Bush and Obama lied about the costs of their programs. The Gulf War did not cost $55 billion as the Bush government claimed. And Obama’s cost estimates for his health care programs are also way off. Every government lies with every release of any statistical report. My dad showed me how the economists use models to change the results in unemployment, GDP, and inflation reports. That make them useless and one of these days when the manipulation can’t continue we are going to have another crisis, probably just as I am looking for a job.

    “I am not sure Snowden showed us what we already know. As for showing us special journalists, I do not think he did that so much as indicate the concern that Wikileaks was a foreign threat to US. As for the government leaking or briefing, it just has to hold a press conference to make its points. I am not sure it needs the subtlety you are suggesting.”

    The government needs the consent of the governed or it loses power quickly. Every president and prime minister knows that. That is why so much money is spent on PR and propaganda efforts. That is why governments provide so much funding for historians and public intellectuals. Kids know this. That is why Ron Paul gets thousands to show up for his speeches while Romney and Obama had trouble drawing flies and packed audiences with their own party members. Those kids know where they stand on the Greenwald/Snowden issue and they are not on the government’s side.

    “I would hope that you read widely rather than selectively in you your history. Have you read the original documents presented by Bush or Clinton rather than what others tell you they have said?”

    I always use the original documents. The problems is that my teachers don’t like that. When you point out where Lincoln said that he would not end slavery or where he thought that blacks should be sent back to Africa they get upset and tell me to read the historical interpretation instead, even when some of the material was discovered after the books that they use were published. When I read original material I conclude that men like Wilfred Laurier or Grover Cleveland were great leaders and most of the people that I should think of as great leaders should have been shot for war crimes. I find it sad that Obama can be so outraged by a football player hitting his wife but thinks nothing of approving missile strikes that kill innocent children every day.

    I am sorry but I think that we are talking past each other. I am a big fan of natural rights theory and cannot justify giving up freedom just so that some people can get rich from war and the growth of government. I will never collect a government pension because governments are absolutely broke and will run out of money sooner rather than later. I don’t want to be a slave because old people promised themselves benefits that they never paid for fully or were stolen by the same government that I am supposed to trust to look after my contributions. I don’t like the idea of going out to fight foreign wars against people who are trying to free themselves of a corrupt government that we are supporting. I don’t think that Canada should be in NATO because there is no USSR to fear any longer. If anything NATO is stirring up trouble because it has nothing to do. I don’t see why we support an embargo against foreign products to protect our industry but claim that we must have sanctions that do the same thing. I am tired of listening to fools who know less economics than I do when I know that there is a huge amount that I need to learn to just be competent. Did the Nobel Peace Prize really go to Obama? And how were most of the Nobel Prizes for Economics or Literature get selected. Does anyone think that William Golding was a good writer? Or that Paul Samuelson, who was writing about the superiority of the Soviet planning system until the late 1980s, deserved to win the Nobel for Economics? It looks to me that if you want prizes and recognition you need to support more government, more taxes, and less freedom. If you want to become hated write against war and for personal freedom.

    “Please consider that there is a world beyond Ludwig Von Mises. Enjoy a youthful visit to his works, but then consider whether you want to learn about the world or learn about what other people have to tell you about the world.”

    Mises is way too hard for me and too much of a big government guy for my liking. I like to stand on principle when I can and use logic to see where that leads. That leaves me to people like Bob Higgs and Murray Rothbard, not Mises. I like them because they are clear writers and do not use ambiguous language to hide the fact that they can’t defend their positions by using logic and sound premises.

  3. Sorry. I forgot to thank you for the recommendation of Style: Towards Clarity and Grace. We have a copy of it hanging around but I have not had much time to look at it. Thanks again.

    • Charles,
      Thanks for the comments. I need to understand something. When you say that you cite original sources, did you discover them yourself or you cited the original sources after someone directed you to them?
      I am referring in particular to your Lincoln comments. Did you come across these in your general reading on Lincoln or when you were reading someone else who suggested it to you?
      In either case, did you consider the context for the comment? The context provides an insight into why Lincoln said them. Did you investigate why Lincoln might have said them and whether they served a purpose within that conversation or discussion and if it is taken out of that context diminishes or distorts their meaning?
      When you considered what they meant, what did you take to be their meaning? Do you suggest that Lincoln did not like blacks, or that he wanted to get rid of them, or that he secretly loved slavery?
      If you have not thought about Lincoln’s context or meaning, both of which help us to understand the quotations, what were you trying to do by referring to them? I was wondering if you shared the same or a different intent from Lincoln?
      I would suggest that Lincoln’s statements offer an insight into statesmanship and therein political rhetoric, which is something missing from today’s journalism, for the most part, which makes demagogic journalism so dangerous.
      I would be grateful to find out more about your understanding of Lincoln.
      Thanks
      L.

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