Last Friday, Micheal D. Shear posted an article on the NYT blog, The Caucus, about Jon Stewart’s devastating bit in which he played clips from the present and far past of Republicans using the same words and phrases to describe their approach to governing if elected. (link to blog post and comments)
It was a funny bit. Eileen and I watched the show and found it entertaining. All politicians claim to have fresher better ideas than their opponents.
As I often do with online articles and blogs I scrolled through the comments on the article. I’m interested in reading online comments even when they are extreme and cryptic.
Usually most comments on any news blog agree with or violently disagree with what they have read. This is partly, I think, because of the phenomenon I read about a few years ago. Readers (and viewers and listeners) tend to not realize their own bias or they also tend to not perceive a bias when it is one they agree with. What they are reading (watching, listening to) just seems sensible to them.
If, on the other hand, they disagree with what they are perceiving, they are quicker to “see” bias whether it is there or not.
I like reading comments (and letters to the editor). It interests me most when I am convinced that the writer is a real person writing from a real point of view (as opposed to a manufactured persona to put forth some kind of “framing” or someone writing and committing the common errors of bad logic or even just plain dissembling).
One commenter on the NYT blog linked above, judithod of Minnesota, pointed out that one could do the Jon Stewart bit with Democrats as well. This caused me to think a bit. Very likely she is correct about this.
Another commenter (who obviously did not agree with the blog or appreciate Jon Stewart’s humor), Steve W from Ford Washington, began his comment this way:
Oh! How clever of you to run a snarky piece on a comedian rather than even a peep about the explosive tesimony of the former Head of section for the voter rights section of the Department of Justice who today in sworn testimony, testified about deliberate subversion of justice at the AG’s shop and subsequent cover up that goes to the top in the Department of Justice and possibly the White House.
What in the world was this guy talking about? Who was he talking about?
In my spare time (hah!) between then and now, I poked around until I had a better understanding.
When I start trying to find out if information is true on the web, I look very hard at the web sites themselves.
I found a fairly balanced article on the Christian Science Monitor web site: New Black Party Intimidation Case: Bombshell for Obama?
I also looked through some obviously inflammatory biased writing just to try and understand what the commenter was trying to say.
One of them linked me into the Southern Poverty Law Institute: Feds investigate dropping of Panther Case
I have been a long admiring of this organization, so I give them a lot of credibility.
In my research I ran across a lot of articles from Fox news which seemed to contradict what I understood about the situation. Then I found this: Fox whopper: DOJ said Voting Rights Act wasn’t violated in New Black Panthers case | Media Matters for America
I recently heard Jimmy Carter (okay, okay, it was on Jon Stewart’s show) say that Fox news basically does nothing but distort information. This report reminded me of his comment.
Anyway, it looked to me like the Steve W of Ford Washington was incorrect to suggest a bias was showing in the NYT choice to run an article on Stewart’s goofy comic bit in the face of serious, serious charges against the Obama administration’s investigation of civil rights violations.
It turns out that Christopher Coates, the man who testified and was mentioned by Steve W, was himself the possible victim of what is described (framed?) by angry white people as “reverse discrimination.” If you scroll down in the Media Matters link you find Christopher Coates did a complete turn around from being an ACLU supporter to a “member of the Bush team” at DOJ after he had been passed over for a promotion for a black colleague.
Also, this morning I clicked on the Steve W commenter link on the NYT and found that he is a prolific angry guy in the links and comments on the NYT.
I blog about this not so much about the content but to point out that if one wants to find out a bit more information about something, the web is only helpful if you are careful and smart about what you are reading.
This of course includes the NYT.