"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Return to Authority?

Psychologists call this "projection."   The rest of us call it wishful thinking.   Here's David Brooks of The New York Times predicting that consumers of news and punditry will return to the very mainstream media they've been leaving in droves over the past ten years or so:

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, I think the audience has changed online. I think there's been a return to authority. You know, I used to read blogs, and you'd kind of be reading something interesting, and then the blogger would write, "Well, I've got to quit now. I'm going off to junior high." I realized I'd been reading a 12 year old.

But I think there has been a return away from some of that toward, whether it's online or in print, a return to quality. People who actually make the calls, who are not speculating, who are reporting. And I think there's been a return to that sort of stuff.

And so I'm a little more of the belief that the old media is going to continue. Look at e-books; they've hit a plateau. Look at online; it's hitting a plateau, I think. And so I think we're going to be stunned by how much of the old media, whether it's delivered online or not, is going to be around, as the audience returns to authority.

It's hard to even respond to something so muddleheaded.    Why, of course, people are "returning to authority" of papers like the Washington Post or the Boston Globe (just sold for less than 10 cents on the dollar of what they were worth 10 years go), or to CNN or network news (ratings plummeting), or to Newsweek (defunct) or Time (soon to be defunct) or The New Yorker (who cares anymore?).  

And the casual put down of bloggers... "I realized I'd been reading a 12 year old."   First of all... I don't believe that story.   I think it's a lie, made up so that Brooks can dine out on it at the toney cocktail parties in Manhattan he goes to.   Because he just happened on that 12 year-old blogger rather than looking at blogs like Powerline (all high-powered lawyers), Instapundit (a law professor), Legal Insurrection (a law professor), Hugh Hewitt (a law professor), or moi for that matter (Ph.D/lawyer).   Really.   This is the sort of statement that you could discredit on cross-examination in about thirty seconds, but it gets tossed off as a bon mot among the chi-chi crowd at the New York Times.

David Brooks' paean to "authority" is about as crystalline a version of why newspapers are dying as you could imagine.   Superior without actual accomplishment, pretentious without actual learning, ultimately it's just sophomoric.   Didn't Brooks ever take freshman comp, where they ought to have taught him that an argument from authority was a logical fallacy?

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