Economics.org.au as a Daily News Site
This website is updated many times a day, so readers will never miss any important news item. This is your one-stop shop for all your news needs. In other words, this site is only updated to occasionally point out that the same old predictable thing is still happening and that there is no news.
Theory and Practice/News/History
Many people are obsessed with gaining all the “latest commentary” and “breaking news” of “current affairs”. Happenings are dismissed as mere happenstances, history of only historical importance, incidents as purely incidental and theory of no relevance to practice at all. They do not realise that events are meaningless without a theory to interpret them with. Events illustrate theory, they do not set it. Cause and effect cannot be observed, only movement can be. The reason they date newspapers is so that different editions can be told apart. If they repeated the nightly news every day, or for the equivalent day from last year, then the only complaint you are likely to get is that the female newsreader keeps wearing the same clothes.
Objectivity and Transparency
Straight journalism is opinion columns from secondary writers. It is often thought that the reporting of facts and facts alone is the role of straight journalism, but, as we have established, facts are totally unintelligible without a theory to interpret them with. Whether the journalist knows it or not, they are almost always using some theory, no matter how poorly, even intentionally poorly, thought out. For example, to say that a politician spoke on behalf of the people, or that he represents them, is a very sophisticated and, in fact, incorrect line of reasoning; yet it always seems to pass as inconsequential and obvious. What journalists and newspapers ought to do is state the theory — i.e., premises and deductions — they are following upfront, so that neither they nor their readers are under any additional delusions. Otherwise, as now, when they do identify broken promises, hypocrisy and contradiction, it counts for nothing; for they do nothing about it except complain; they do not earnestly take it any further, for they have no theory to take it any further with. Whenever they do take it further, it is accidental rather than deeply thought out, so no ideological legacy is left.
Reasoning is important. Newspapermen pretend to preach this, as they often speak of journalistic ethics; but, unfortunately, they seem to think it justifies choosing not to use theory, and allowing criminals to get away with fraud, theft and murder, and that is all. I acknowledge the dangers of defamation, but also who those deserve to be defamed. If I call someone criminal, I will show my reasoning. If my reasoning is shown to be incorrect or unproven, I will own up to it and pay the damages. A journalist or publisher who does not have the confidence to publish their views and reasoning should change careers or keep silent; they should not state the popular and uncontroversial position for its own sake, under the guise of truth and journalistic ethics. People are often criticised for acting in the same way, when they have a gun to their head and their families lives at risk, as most journalists choose to; yet these journalists are generally treated as if their behaviour is appropriate, even honourable. Newspapers exemplify, rather than report and address, the crimes and vices of society. Newspapers are part of their surroundings; they do not differentiate or distinguish themselves in any way.
Framing the Debate
Extremes are often within fixed parameters in debates. This is not an example of making a debate simple; it is an example of making a debate simplistic or overcomplicated. The two party system does this. It pits relative goods and bads against each others and limits the debate to within those false extremes. It serves no purpose except securing the current political situation. Most political analyses prolong this with their lack of initiative. They also often believe that if they were to go beyond the popular extremes they would be less likely to be effective. Those who are afraid that their views will be dismissed because they are so extreme should stick together rather than give up, giving the examples of each other as their reason.
Popular Novelty of the Ignorant
The more ignorant one is, the more novelties experienced. Hence, the newspaper. Written by ignorant people for ignorant people about ignorant people.
In our age it is something special and distinguished if you are not a writer or don’t write much.
Illustrative Supporting Quotes showing that this has been said before
- Marcus Aurelius — “Evil: the same old thing. Whatever happens, keep this in mind: It’s the same old thing, from one end of the world to the other. It fills the history books, ancient and modern, and the cities, and the houses too. Familiar, transient … Look at the past – empire succeeding empire – and from that, extrapolate the future: the same thing. No escape from the rhythm of events. Which is why observing life for forty years is as good as a thousand. Would you really see anything new?” [Meditations, bk. 7.]
- King Solomon — “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” [Eccl. 1:9-10.]
- Fisher Ames — “This country is said to measure seven hundred millions of acres, and is inhabited by almost six millions of people. Who can doubt, then, that a great many crimes will be committed, and a great many strange things will happen, every seven years? There will be thunder showers, that will split tough oak trees; and hail storms, that will cost some farmers the full amount of twenty shillings to mend their glass windows; there will be taverns, and boxing matches, and elections, and gouging and drinking, and love and murder, and running in debt, and running away, and suicide. Now, if a man supposes eight, or ten, or twenty dozen of these amusing events will happen in a single year, is he not just as wise as another man, who reads fifty columns of amazing particulars, and, of course, knows that they have happened?” [Works of Fisher Ames, ed. W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983), pp. 13-14.]
- Thomas Jefferson — “I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live and die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas[!] the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables … [T]he man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details [of the great facts, as supplied in newspapers] are all false.” [The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Adrienne Koch and William Peden (New York: The Modern Library, 2004), p. 532.]
- Thomas Jefferson — “[A]dvertisements … contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” [The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. XII, ed. Paul Leicester Ford (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), p. 110; see also p. 113.]
- Henry David Thoreau — “If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, — we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.” [Walden and Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau, ed. Brooks Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library, 1992), p. 89.]
- Friedrich Nietzsche — “Behold the superfluous! They are always sick; they vomit their gall and call it a newspaper. They devour each other and cannot even digest themselves.” “Watch them clamber, these swift monkeys! They clamber over one another and thus drag one another into the mud and the depth. They all want to get to the throne: that is their madness — as if happiness sat on the throne. Often mud sits on the throne — and often also the throne on mud. Mad they all appear to me, clambering monkeys and overardent. Foul smells their idol, the cold monster: foul they smell to me altogether, these idolators.” [Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Penguin, 1978),p. 50.]
- Herbert Spencer — “Table-talk proves that nine out of ten people read what amuses them rather than what instructs them; and proves, also, that the last thing they read is something which tells them disagreeable truths or dispels groundless hopes. That popular education results in an extensive reading of publications which foster pleasant illusions rather than of those which insist on hard realities, is beyond question.” [“The Coming Slavery,” in The Man Versus the State (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982), pp. 50-51.]
- Henry James — “[J]ournalism is the criticism of the moment at the moment.” [Picture and Text (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), p. 117.]
- G.K. Chesterton — “If the journalist had more culture, he would not retire into an academic cloister. On the contrary, for the first time he would really come out of it. Nothing is more fastidious than ignorance.” [The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, vol. XXIX, ed. Lawrence J. Clipper (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 385.]
- H.L. Mencken — “The fact, for example, that John D. Rockefeller had more money than I have is as uninteresting to me as the fact that he believed in total immersion and wore detachable cuffs. And the fact that some half-anonymous ass or other has been elected President of the United States, or appointed a professor at Harvard, or married to a rich wife, or even to a beautiful and amiable one: this fact is as meaningless to me as the latest piece of bogus news from eastern Europe … It gives me neither pleasure nor distress.” [A Mencken Chrestomathy (New York: Vintage, 1982), p. 162.]
- H.L. Mencken — “[Editorial writers are] engaged endlessly upon a laborious and furious discussion of transient futilities … wholly unconscious of the underlying political currents … [T]he puerile combats of parties and candidates [are] scarcely … distinguished from a mere combat for jobs … What is printed in the newspapers … acres and acres of it every day, is dead the day after it is printed.” [A Second Mencken Chrestomathy, ed. Terry Teachout (New York: Knopf, 1995), pp. 373-374.]
- Albert Jay Nock — “[‘Newspaper-reading’] is as bad and debilitating a habit as one can form. Either one is or is not taken in by what one reads. In the first case, one is debauched; in the second, one is outraged.” [A Journal of These Days (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1934), p. 27.]
- Sinclair Lewis — “[S]uch a wealth of literature, worthy its twenty-four-hour immortality … [S]uch a spate of [newspapers,] it [is] a distinction not to publish one.” [It Can’t Happen Here (New York: Signet Classics, 2005), p. 284, ch. 29 and p. 75, ch. 9.]
- Garet Garrett — “There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.” “There are those who have never ceased to say very earnestly, ‘Something is going to happen to the American form of government if we don’t watch out.’ These were the innocent disarmers. Their trust was in words. They had forgotten their Aristotle. More than 2,000 years ago he wrote [in Politics, bk. IV, ch. v] of what can happen within the form, when ‘one thing takes the place of another, so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about revolution in the state.'” “[T]he New Deal went on from one problem to another, taking them in the proper order, according to revolutionary technic; and if the handling of one was inconsistent with the handling of another, even to the point of nullity, that was blunder in reverse. The effect was to keep people excited about one thing at a time, and divided, while steadily through all the uproar of outrage and confusion a certain end, held constantly in view, was pursued by main intention.” “The end held constantly in view was power.” “In a revolutionary situation mistakes and failures are not what they seem. They are scaffolding. Error is not repealed. It is compounded by a longer law, by more decrees and regulations, by further extensions of the administrative hand.” [The People’s Pottage (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1953), pp. 15-16, PDF@brilliantLvMI. See also H.J. Haskell, The New Deal in Old Rome (New York: Knopf, 1947), esp. pp. 237-241,PDF@brilliantLvMI; and James Henry Breasted, The Dawn of Conscience (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934), esp. p. 223.]
- Pitirim Sorokin — “Amnesia and the delusion of new discoveries represent a disruption of the historical growth of sociology and the related disciplines. In a sense they cancel a large part of the knowledge of mental, social, and cultural phenomena accumulated by the experience and study of many generations of observers and thinkers. Instead of permitting the easy learning of a verity already discovered, these ailments force many a researcher to rediscover it by long, painstaking, and costly research.” [Fads and Foibles in Modern Sociology and Related Sciences (Chicago: Regnery, 1956), pp. 19-20.]
Case Study: Yahoo.com
All this is equally applicable to the internet. The internet has done as much as the printing press for journalism: nothing good at all. Consider the following two passages:
When I thought of [the] human race in general, I considered them as they really were, Yahoos in shape and disposition, perhaps a little more civilized, and qualified with the gift of speech; but making no other use of reason, than to improve and multiply those vices, whereof their brethren in this country, had only the share that nature alloted them. [Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1961), pt. IV, ch. X, p. 298.]
My reconcilement to the Yahoo-kind in general might not be so difficult, if they would be content with those vices and follies only which nature hath entitled them to. I am not in the least provoked at the sight of a lawyer, a pickpocket, a colonel, a fool, a lord, a gamester, a politician, a whoremonger, a physician, an evidence, a suborner, an attorney, a traytor, or the like: this is all according to the due nature of things: but, when I behold a lump of deformity, and diseases both in body and mind, smitten with pride, it immediately breaks all the measures of my patience. [Ibid., pt. IV, ch. XII, p. 317.]
Better Uses for Print Newspapers than Reading
- Set alight and used to deal with ant infestations, as if featured in the film Umberto D. (1952).
- In the building of fire kites, as is explained in chapter 4 of Backyard Ballistics by William Gurstelle.
- For compost, as explained in Bill Mollison’s In Grave Danger of Falling Food.
- Don Nazario — “[W]hen I go into a bookshop and see all that paper printed, folded, and stitched together, and the streets inundated with newspapers day in and day out, I feel sorry for all those people labouring through the night to churn out all that useless print, and sorrier still for the deluded souls who feel obliged to read it every day. There’s so much written and published people will find themselves strangled by the monster that is the printing press, and they’ll have to suppress the whole of past history … [Most publications are] chaff, a trail of litter clogging up minds and buildings. When that times comes,” he added in a tone of voice I am bound to call prophetic, “the Caesar of the day will issue a decree to this effect: ‘The entire contents of all public and private libraries are hereby declared null and void with no value beyond that of their constituent materials. Chemical analysis having shown that wood pulp, seasoned by time, provides a magnificent fertilizer for the land, we henceforth dispose that all books, old and new, be taken to large municipal dumps at the entrance to every village, so that farm labourers can help themselves to as much of the precious substance as they need, depending on the amount of land they have to till.’ It’s coming, I promise you; and all that wood pulp will form vast deposit like guano in the Chinchas Islands, and it’ll be exploited by mixing it with other substances that accelerate the fermentation process, and transported by rail and steamer from Europe to the virgin territories that have never known literature or print or anything of the kind.” [Benito Pérez Galdós, Nazarín, trans. Jo Labanyi (OUP, 1993), pp. 16-17.]
Regarding the latest political idea, in brief …
A cloze passage should be developed for this purpose. I think this is a great start: http://economics.org.au/2011/04/singo-and-howard-on-knee-jerks/.