Journalistic Unexceptionalism

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Psychologist Michael Hurd, writing some time ago about the American panic over Ebola, could just as well have been discussing almost anything else journalists have used or will use to ignite a widespread panic:

The reason so many Americans fall into a panic about things like Ebola is because they don't grasp why it's safer here than elsewhere. No, we don't know for certain that the outbreak of Ebola will not occur on a wide scale in America. But what we do know is that it's a lot less likely here, and lots of experience tells us this. And we also know that however bad it might get here -- with Ebola, or anything else -- it won't be nearly as bad as places, like Africa, where it was much easier for the disease to take off and spread.

Not so long as freedom, innovation, capitalism, and rational science remain as dominant as they have. If those things go -- then we will be in serious trouble, just like most of the rest of the world, and just like nearly all of human history prior to the last century or two.
Journalists, whom polls regularly show to be overwhelmingly left-wing, frequently mock/lament/predict the downfall of "American exceptionalism". By failing to apprise themselves of why America has been "exceptional" for so long, rather than assume it has been an accident or a myth of some kind, journalists may well be helping cause that downfall. As Ayn Rand once put it so well, this is supremely ironic, since many journalists see themselves as agents of positive change in the world:
The professional intellectual is the field agent of the army whose commander-in-chief is the philosopher. The intellectual carries the application of philosophical principles to every field of human endeavor. He sets a society's course by transmitting ideas from the "ivory tower" of the philosopher to the university professor -- to the writer -- to the artist -- to the newspaperman -- to the politician -- to the movie maker -- to the night-club singer -- to the man in the street. The intellectual's specific professions are in the field of the sciences that study man, the so-called "humanities," but for that very reason his influence extends to all other professions. Those who deal with the sciences studying nature have to rely on the intellectual for philosophical guidance and information: for moral values, for social theories, for political premises, for psychological tenets and, above all, for the principles of epistemology, that crucial branch of philosophy which studies man's means of knowledge and makes all other sciences possible. The intellectual is the eyes, ears and voice of a free society: it is his job to observe the events of the world, to evaluate their meaning and to inform the men in all the other fields. [bold added]
Facts matter, but so do ideas, since facts must be interpreted, even at the level of what to report. Most journalists regularly blow it in this regard, as exemplified by the Ebola outbreak of 2014.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected wording of one sentence.

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