Monday, February 4, 2008

What It's All About

The intro page to a blog I have recently discovered is actually one of the most cogent and concise critiques that I've read about the current media situation. The NonSequitir really nails down what political punditry needs more than anything:

While run-on sentences, comma splices, split infinitives, and other such grammatical minutiae may rarely make appearances in the best of our nation’s dailies and weeklies, and a small but growing class of press watchdogs help to correct errors of fact (pointing out bias, factual omissions, and distortions), a more perilous corruption lurks under the clean surface of the printed page: specious reasoning.

The political media is in the business of persuasion. It generally falls to the columnists, the editorialists, and the pundits to draw inferences from the facts, to argue for opinions, and to persuade the readers by the strength of their reasoning. But, for their arguments to be of any value, for their reasonings to command our assent, they must not only have a clear basis in fact, but more importantly, they must have a cogent logical structure.

It is, thus, one thing to have one’s facts straight and one’s sentences grammatical, but how one alleges that the facts are connected is often simply ignored as outside the realm of the editor’s responsibility: A matter of debatable opinion, they say, let the reader sort it out. Let the reader judge the author’s arguments.

Errors in grammar may produce laughable incoherence, errors in fact produce fiction, errors in logic, however, produce simple nonsense. Unlike grammar and facts, logic is not a matter of debate: Reasonable people cannot, in fact, disagree.