[Marxism] David Moore responds to Joaquin Bustelo
jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Tue Aug 3 15:03:28 MDT 2010
On 8/3/2010 1:19 PM, Louis Proyect wrote:
> Joaquin Bustelo claims he "saw the original [Pew] poll and understood
> *exactly* what it represented ... a quite significant cross-section of
> 'news' media executives even if not a 'scientific sample.'"
I appreciate and what to thank David Moore taking the time to respond to
my post, and so energetically. David's response forces me to admit that
I'm not sure I expressed myself accurately or even adequately, as it
looks like I did not succeed in communicating my point to him.
So I think I owe him an apology, because he took up the Pew study from a
certain angle --how "scientific" or projectable were the results to the
larger population of news media execs, and those belonging to certain
organizations. And in that critique, he was undoubtedly correct.
I was frustrated by his failure to recognize what I view as the
"qualitative" truth (so to speak) of the Pew results. That whether the
true figure was a third, two fifths, half, two thirds or more, Pew had
succeeded in identifying and capturing the mindset and outlook of the
leadership of the dominant --or close to dominant-- wing of U.S.
journalism, and without doubt the wing that is dominant in outlets
considered "liberal" or "progressive" or even "objective" as opposed to,
say, FOX News and the New York Post.
I have to recognize that, while I consider this to be MORE IMPORTANT in
judging the "truthfulness" of the Pew poll, this isn't an area that
David Moore's analysis extended to. I counterposed my insistence to go
BEYOND "statistically significant" numbers to his critique of the way
the numbers were handled by Pew, and within that narrower but entirely
valid framework, David is right and I am wrong, and I wish I'd had the
clarity to see that when I wrote the original post.
I think to explain my mistakes as well as why I *still* think the
*underlying* points I was trying to make are valid, you have to
understand where I'm coming from.
I work at a major news organization in an editorial role. By accident or
fate or some combination of the two, a part of my role has been to put
together parts of election campaign and especially election
night/morning after coverage, especially aimed at the U.S. Latino
community. It's the more "qualitative" and "why" part, so to speak --
i.e. focused on things like exit polls, demographics and issues, rather
than the latest vote numbers on the tightest race or what it all means
for the next X years, though I do some of the instant numbers also.
As to how I wound up there, all I can say --as a devout member of the
Church of God the Utterly Uncaring-- is that "I was the victim of a
series of accidents, as are we all." But having got here by accident,
what struck me about the Pew survey of news execs is NOT that it was
statistically significant or scientifically accurate, but that it
captured the Zeitgeist in the journalistic "community," or a very
important layer of the "community." ("Community" -- a term which for
some inexplicable reason I find preferable to brothel although I'm at a
loss to provide any substantiation for the distinction).
Thus a sober assessment of my comments of David Moore's post does not
really negate the veracity of what he says: it is accurate. But I was
trying to highlight the TRUTH of the Pew poll in a different sense, or
dimension, in the sense of it capturing a very significant (and my gut
feeling says dominant) mind-set among the news media leadership. In
other words, my point is NOT that David Moore went too far or fell
short, but that (IMHO) it was more important to point out that there is
a dimension separate from the percentages and projectability of the poll
to a larger population that needs to be looked at in THIS case. Even if
it is not *quantifiable* in some "scientific" or "statistically valid"
way, the poll results are TRUE about a dominant --or close to-- current
in serious (OK, folks, stop laughing) US journalism.
In objecting to David Moore's critique of Pew's unscientific and even
unprofessional handling of the numbers, I now realize that I was
reacting to what came across to me as David Moore's throwing the baby
out with the bathwater, and this may have had little or nothing to do
with what he intended.
I base THAT conclusion (throwing the baby out with the bathwater) not on
an "objective" evaluation of sampling techniques but, on the CONTRARY,
on a completely "subjective" appreciation of the social layer being
placed under the microscope, which I do believe I am and have been in a
position to judge in this sort of way -- but there was no reason for
David Moore to have been in a similar position.
Thus, his criticism of the way the numbers are handled and what
significance is attributed to them viz-a-viz a larger population is
But from where I sit, it misses what is for me the heart of the matter:
the Pew survey (even if no highly accurate or even rough STATISTICAL
significance can be attributed to it) reflects a *social layer* and
social reality that is of some significance: this IS the dominant
mindset among a very important layer of the people that run the news
machinery, i.e., that are in charge day-to-day of re-enforcing bourgeois
political and ideological hegemony.
But even if I think that is the most significant side of the matter, it
was wrong from me to insist that David Moore should focus on it in the
same way, especially as my take on it went well beyond anything he was
claiming to address.
To illustrate the sorts of issues that I had in mind, that David Moore
wasn't addressing, let me cite an example that I just happened to notice
in today's news coverage. It is from CNN, which prides itself in being
"objective" and straight up the middle.
This is a web page story headlined:
"FBI highlights similarities between AL Qaeda, cartels."
With "cartels" referring to, not BP, Shell and the rest of the oil
mafia, but by what by all lights appears to be the winning side in the
drug war in Mexico.
But if you look at the fine print, the actual story, it turns out this
is NOT an FBI opinion. It is the opinion of ONE "special agent" --one of
12,000-- quoted anonimously in one article on one of the countless pages
of the FBI web site. The anonimous (and perhaps non-existent -- I say
that as an experienced "hack") agent is portrayed as making a comment
that is evidently off-hand, informal, obviously NOT the fruit of careful
deliberation after a rounded process of evaluation to calibrate the
precision of what's said, but on the contrary, simply an expression of
how frustrating it *feels* to be where this agent is putatively sitting:
"We think AL Qaeda is bad, but they've got nothing on the cartels."
And, yeah, when you read about drug cartel victims being decapitated or
having their corpses found with the hearts torn out of them, which are
things that have actually been reported in the last two or three of
weeks from Mexico, you can see why this agent said that, even if, coldly
considered and carefully calibrated, it doesn't really exceed crashing a
mostly-full civilian passenger jet into a high-rise building with
thousands of people inside.
But bravo for the FBI agent saying that, as it challenges the idea that
"we" are winning the drug war and opens the door to the truth: the drug
war is a war IMPOSED on Latin American countries that is utterly and
ruinously winnable anywhere outside the United States. And the US
politicisans are unwilling to fight in THIS way within their own
borders. They want all the "darkies" to do the heavy lifting.
The REASON the war is winnable is a simple matter of demand-supply
bourgeois economics. The *more successful* the "drug war" is in
restricting supply, the higher the price of drugs, and thus the greater
the resources available for defeating the "war on drugs," including
funds available to bribe the local constabulary.
I mention that last point because it should be remembered that the
status quo on drugs in the United States is IMPOSSIBLE unless the police
forces on all levels are *massively,* *thoroughly* and *completely*
That is the ONLY way it could be true that 15-year-olds entirely
untrained in the art of conspiracy and underground functioning could
find marijuana and cocaine suppliers that the police "can't find".
As long as American imperialist society insists on allowing gazillions
of dollars to be paid for drugs for recreational use, the market WILL
prevail in THESE kinds of societies, no matter how much "political will"
or how many "plan Colombias" are deployed against it.
BUT -- is it really TRUE that this one offhand comment by one unnamed
FBI agent consumed by the immediacy of his assignment on the border is
"objectively" and "fair and balanced"-ly worth all this coverage, not
just on the web, but throughout the day in CNN's "news" casts?
By chance my editorial coworkers and I were talking about that today and
the ONLY one who thought it was worth covering was the "supervisor,"
i.e., management's representative -- who did not really believe it
himself, he explained, he was just sure what the people upstairs would
want. Which they did. Of course.
And THAT is what the Pew survey captured and highlighted. It is not a
question of whether 30% or 70% would say yes to a question formulated in
a certain way, but ON THE CONTRARY how the political/ideological
stranglehold of the ruling class over the media is developing and
So --apart from my unfairly directing the critique at what David Moore
had written-- I stand by the substance of what I said. And I would also
urge David Moore to focus more on the production and reproduction of
bourgeois ideology, above and beyond the misdemeanors and felonies of
the Pew pollsters -- and Marxmail posters.
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