Extra Cranky with a side of Self-righteous

I know I’ve not been writing all that much, but if you’ve noticed the reading list on the sidebar,1 you know I’ve been reading.

My news source of choice is BBC. It’s great to hear about what’s happening in the world with minimal opinionizing, and I find they do a great job of focusing on worthwhile information while ignoring junk stories. And they have a configurable website. What’s not to love?

No, the real problem comes with people who give their opinion. You know—everyone.

Granted, my primary reading of late (Slate, Mother Jones, GOOD, AtlanticWire) is often going to clash with my conservative-leaning values. I knew that going in.2 Still, I love me some SCREED and Political Gabfest. And they’ve figured out things like RSS. Mostly.3

What I don’t love is the false sense of truth. And it keeps popping up in obvious ways. (These examples come from my last few days’ reading. And in every case, I agree with the basic idea the author is unsuccessfully attempting to promulgate.)

  • Promoting a pet idea at the expense of common sense. Worried about the lack of sex ed in China, Michelle Tsai points out in her article “government concern over ‘unhealthy’ entertainment means that at the movies, you rarely see actors do anything more than kiss” and mandatory screening software blocks porn. So, porn is good sex education?
  • Employing false logic. Here, Kate Sheppard says a coloring book “explains that coal is a major source of electricity (without, however, noting that it’s not the only form of electricity).” Um, “a major source” means there are other sources.
    Noting they wash their coal, the author self-assuredly asks, “Actually, it kind of undermines the idea that coal is clean if it has to be washed, no?” And you are dirty since you shower occassionally, no?
    (The best part? These fallacies are an attempt to attack a coloring book published by the West Virginia Coal Association that favorably casts the industry. Clearly, they should be telling children they—and the kids’ whose parents work for them—are vile and repulsive. After all, Sheppard thinks they are (while using their coal to power her computer). See previous point.)
  • Engaging in the word-twisting you’re attacking. Check out how David Corn loses all grasp of reality while responding to a naysayer.4

Don’t worry, I won’t go on—because these crude attempts at “smart, fearless journalism” aren’t actually the point.

See, the title isn’t about them. It’s about me.

I’m actually concerned because I can’t let these things go. When I read flagrant stupidity, I get all enraged and lambast them for hours in very realistically-imagined emails. Sometimes, I even write less-inflamed comments. And, of course, I don’t leave the offending articles sitting open on my computer, lest Binbin be poisoned by them.

I’ve always wanted to be a change-maker. The potential for change is what attracts me toward law, management and public policy. I’m a tweaker. Necessary improvement is an obsession-inducing elixir. I’m getting jaded. Futility shuts me down like a direct lightning strike on a fusebox. Seeing exactly how broken our change-inducing systems are, therefore, presents a nasty conundrum: it first feeds the urge to dig in, then leaves an aftertaste so nasty I swear off the possibility of allowing my name to be in any way associated with it.

Maybe it’s a good thing I’m teaching English in China without regular internet access, not hobnobbing with power-players in my final year of law school.

  1. You haven’t. I track this stuff. But it sounded good, anyway. Should you wish to follow along, check my shared items page or subscribe to my recommended reading via RSS.
  2. If you’re wondering why I read sources more liberal than I… 1) I like to think I can honestly consider ideas I don’t agree with. 2) Most conservative sources a) ignore or mindlessly deny environmental and social-justice issues I’m interested in and b) can’t write or reason their way out of the simplest of syllogisms. Give me honest, if disagreeable. If I’m missing something good, let me know. I’ll check it.
  3. I’m looking at you, Atlantic.
  4. Sure, the citation is exaggerated. But the point is that those who don’t do something don’t effect change. And that non-participation can be taking a wrong side. And perhaps that an argument from silence is—what’s it called? Oh yeah, fallacious.