Wednesday, March 1, 2017

More on Straussian communication matrices -- in retrospect, it's surprising it took us this long to get to the NYT

A few weeks ago we ran a post (followed up here) on the implications of Strauss on bullshit propagation.The prime example in both was the coverage of Paul Ryan.

Unless they are to stupid to breathe, reporters covering Paul Ryan have to know that he lies routinely, that he's not a world-class marathoner, that his tastes run less to domestic beer and more to $350 bottles of wine, that he was neither surprised nor disappointed when the camera crews show up to find him washing dishes at a soup kitchen. Journalists could still consider Ryan an honest man because they felt he was only lying to those below them on the hierarchy.

Even among the lied-to journalists, there were strata. There were those who didn't believe the humble everyman bit but swallow the rest. Then there were those who (having a rudimentary understanding of the numbers) knew that Ryan's budgets were profoundly dishonest, but they put those deceptions down as the compromises necessary to make the sausage. They too believed that he was only lying to those below them on the hierarchy, colleagues who lacked the sophistication to follow detailed budgetary discussions. Ryan was, after all, a serious policy wonk who cared deeply about issues like fiscal responsibility.

Of course, every bit of evidence we have indicates this is also a lie, that Ryan is a committed Randian who is willing to inflate the deficit like a birthday balloon if that's what's required to redistribute wealth from the takers to the makers.
Cognitive dissonance is a cruel mistress and hubris is a bitch. The New York Times has recently stepped up its game on the investigative side and has started turning in some truly extraordinary work. The analysis and editorial side, however, remains a disaster.  One of the flaws that has haunted the paper pretty since its inception is arrogance. No other American journalistic institution has more deeply internalized a belief in its own superiority.

Check out how Jennifer Steinhauer continues to cling to the myth of Rep. Ryan. [emphasis added]

Mr. Trump’s budget blueprint — which is expected to be central to his address to Congress on Tuesday night — sets up a striking clash with the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, who has made a career out of pressing difficult truths on federal spending. For years, Mr. Ryan has maintained that to tame the budget deficit without tax increases and prevent draconian cuts to federal programs, Congress must be willing to change, and cut, the programs that spend the most money — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Arrogant and wrong is a dangerous combination even in the best of times, and these are not the best. The paper is trying to deal responsibly with Trump, but to do so without admitting that they had been wrong about so much of the political landscape or owning up to the part their pox-on-both-their-houses reporting played in the election.

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