Apparently Trump doesn't spell well, when engaged in midnight "tweets." Journalists, who think of themselves as part of the elite and for whom words are bread and butter, are appalled.

In spite of his wealth and formal education, Donald Trump most reminds me of the ordinary blue-collar guys I know. His approach to politics comes under a similar sort of criticism: he doesn't care very much about facts, and journalists are also all about facts. So they think he's an ignorant ass, as they think the blue collar guys are ignorant asses too. They're wrong on the merits about so many particular facts, demonstrably wrong.

What people miss is that guys like this are principled in a way that is sturdy and reliable. They don't care about the particular facts because they care about the universal principles. They have a principle that manufacturing jobs are what made America great, and therefore they want more of them. All the particular facts about a particular case you can muster aren't going to undermine that principle. ("The Carrier deal was not that great!") Their principles are what they believe in, and they're going to do what their principles tell them is right.

Given that principles are pre-judgments about cases of a certain type, they are in a literal sense prejudices. But when we say that someone is "principled," we don't mean anything negative as we do when we say that someone is "prejudiced." Normally it's taken to be quite a positive thing.

Nevertheless, it does present difficulties. You can't talk them out of doing what they think is right in a given case, even if it's not the ideal solution in that case, because they're not interested in particular facts about particular cases. They're governed by universals that stand above any particulars. Telling them that they're wrong about the particulars won't bother them because they don't care about the particulars at all. They have lasting ideas about the world and what right looks like, and that's where they put their faith.

It's a very different world from the one that journalists live in.


raven said...

I have encountered few journalists who seemed to have any grasp of facts. Even the basics ,what where who when and why seem to somehow evade their discernment. Most seem like SJW with a pulpit. A scurrilous den of hypocritical vipers, the lot of them, reveling in fanning flames of partisan discord.

Christopher B said...

I'm gonna believe jounalists care about facts when they start acting like they care about facts.

Grim said...

I am detecting a theme lately in which my criticisms of political opponents are refuted on the ground that they are not nearly intense enough.

I think if you asked a journalist, he or she would say that facts are what they're all about. Clearly, too, correct English (or whatever language they report in) is their stock in trade.

They're subject to confirmation bias as much as anyone, though, and very often end up reporting things that are untrue but easy for them to believe. But they would probably point out that they issue corrections, when that happens.

It's different from the guys down at the auto body shop. They don't really care if they're wrong about the facts, because they aren't making a decision based on the facts. They're making their decision based on principles for handling cases of a given type. The particular facts just don't matter.

David Foster said...

Universal principles and particular cases....see my post Uncle Henry, Charlie Kellstadt, and Donald Trump


Grim said...

The relationship between universals and particulars is a philosophical problem of great moment, Mr. Foster. Your article uses the terms "generalizations" (or sometimes "concepts") instead, but it's the same idea.

I suspect Trump to have hit upon several principles from watching politics since the Reagan era. He doesn't voice them, but they seem to include at least these:

* Manufacturing is the key to American strength.

* Trade deals are good if they create markets for American products, bad if they push manufacturing outside of America.

* America has had enough immigration for a while, and could use a period of digestion.

* A bigger military is a better military ('quantity has a quality all its own').

* You should always punish those who treat you like an enemy, and reward those who treat you like a friend.

There are probably others. What I suspect is true about him is that he is actually quite predictable once you have isolated the principles at work. It currently strikes the elite as chaotic because they really don't understand his mode of thought.

E Hines said...

But they would probably point out that they issue corrections, when that happens.

And when they do, they further expose their fundamental dishonesty. They bury those "corrections" deep inside their newspapers, rather than putting them in the same venue in which they made their error.

Even these carefully buried corrections are of the trivia: see, for instance, Ezra Klein's "correction" of his error in his statement that the Constitution isn't binding on anything and nobody can understand it because it was written more than 100 years ago. His correction? That the Constitution actually was written more than 200 years ago--no correction at all; his first characterization was correct. He ignored his error regarding the binding nature of the document. He also ignored his error regarding the understandbility of the document. Anyone who didn't sleep through their 8th grade civics class understands the thing. Although that might only be my opinion....

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I can see that journalists are extremely unpopular here.

E Hines said...

No, journalists and news reporters are highly respected. It's the pseudo-journalists and news pretenders who are held in contempt.

Eric Hines

raven said...

"It's different from the guys down at the auto body shop. They don't really care if they're wrong about the facts, because they aren't making a decision based on the facts. They're making their decision based on principles for handling cases of a given type. The particular facts just don't matter."

I disagree with this completely. My experience is that facts matter a lot to people who actually have skin in the game. Journalistic blather about all sorts of maybes and possibilities with no consequences is one thing, if your wrong, who cares? Get your brakes fixed wrong and consequences rear their heads right now. Journalists spin their crap and move on, never a reckoning in sight, unless it is over the top "Rather-esque" in nature.
And language? really? These are the pundits who burned Dan Quail for not knowing how to spell potato, but let Obama's "52 states" and Marine "corpse" slide? They are glib, facile, slippery, lying little weasels, with very occasional honorable exceptions.

If I can dig it up, I will post what a British Officer had to say about the press, in partition era India- it's not just a modern day distaste.

Grim said...

Get your brakes fixed wrong and consequences rear their heads right now.

Sure, but that's what they do for a living. I'm talking about how they do citizenship. They know they don't have all the facts -- the government keeps a lot of secrets, and they don't have a ton of time to spend on politics anyway. But they do have a rule to apply to cases of a given type.

Should the Navy be bigger or smaller? Bigger. It's been getting smaller since Reagan.

Should we have more immigrants or fewer? Fewer. We've had nearly-open borders for too long.

You don't need a mastery of the facts to reason this way because the principles are solid. Giving them 5 or 10 facts that point in the other direction isn't going to undermine their confidence in the rule, because the rule makes sense on its own terms.

Texan99 said...

My impression of Trump is also that he cares very much about getting ordinary people on his side, and is therefore inclined to care more about whether his message is getting through than about whether his statements will stand up to obsessive and hostile scrutiny. That's closely related to caring about the broad principle more than about the specific facts, so I guess I'm agreeing with Grim. I'd say the same about Trump's journalist enemies, though they're a bit more sophisticated and more strongly prone to CYA care and defensiveness. Nevertheless, with few exceptions, when they write about presidential politics they care at least as much about the ax they're grinding as about whether they're really getting their facts right.

There are times when Trump's enemies would conclude he is lying, but I probably would conclude he is refusing to get bogged down in what he considers to be irrelevant detail, with a healthy dose of not caring very much whether what he says is strictly true, because it's sort of the least interesting or important aspect of his message, as he sees it.

In the past I think this would have exasperated me more than it does now. I may have been worn down by the sad parade of milquetoast Republicans who were so afraid of the inevitable criticism of every word they say ("binders full of women"? really?) that their speech became all but empty, and they couldn't get elected that way, either, in part because the press shamelessly misrepresented them. If the voters are going to elect someone who feeds them verbal mush, I at least want one who picks a good cabinet and wields his veto power in a way I can stomach.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the strong push back on "journalists" is partly ideological. Is/was Dana Loesch a journalist? What about Jake Tapper? What about XXXX? If the journalists works for PJ Media, are they more or less a journalist than if they work for Reuters? I think the complaint here is that many journalists use their talents as a bully pulpit, not as a reasonably accurate repeater of factual information. The term journalists is then degraded and means something else in this context, and that something else is what is being criticized?

-Stc Michael

Anonymous said...

This article is by Dana Milbank. He is not a journalist, he is an opinion columnist, and the reason he is an opinion columnist is that readers of the Washington Post kept pointing out that his "news" stories were all opinion, all the time. His columns are typically entertaining and convenient for the Democratic Party at the national level, but no given fact in any of them should be accepted without independent verification.

He got the idea for this column from the irrepressible denizens at Reddit, who have been laughing about DJT's mistakes, particularly in his tweets. The Redditors have noticed that, if DJT makes a mistake in a tweet or in a speech, the press will cover it extensively, and inadvertently carry his message. About 3 days after the initiation of the latest kerfluffel, somebody will notice in print that DJT actually had a point, there. They started out calling it 4D Chess, and they have been raising the number of dimensions, ever since.

Milbank is attempting to counter that interpretation with the Democratic Party's story that DJT is now a Republican, and like all Republicans, astoundingly stupid, as shown by a collection of errors, some of which actually belong to DJT. Milbank has been in the propaganda business for a lot longer than the kiddies at The Donald, and he thinks he can win this game. I have my doubts. After all, DJT has already demonstrated his ability to punch through Milbank's beloved media curtain -- that is how he won the Presidency.


Texan99 said...

Yes, he's like a virus taking over their publicity machinery and making it crank out his message instead of theirs. They keep thinking their message--"This was crass, this contained a spelling error"--will tag along and supersede his, but his message is aimed at a broad class of ordinary people, TV-watching, "Apprentice"-enjoying people, and it tends to connect while their boring criticisms generally don't. Which is why, whenever they can, they revert to "He's Hitler, just trust us, you don't need the details."

I can't say how weird it is to have this process work in my political favor for a change. I'm used to technocrats who say boring, inconvenient things I technically agree with, while the press diverts all the attention to whether they put their dogs on a traveling crate on the roof of the car one summer, and want to cancel free beer in the commons.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think you are onto something WRT Trump's approach, and why journalists - including even many of those sympathetic to him - think he should care about this more. It's not 4D chess, it's cutting the Gordian Knot.

As for devotion to facts, journalistic types do have more of this , though nowhere near as much as they think. They operate in the same way that he does, but along different lines, and with no self-awareness about it. As with my analogy about decent musicians who think they are ground-breaking creative ultimately producing crap, or above-average IQ guys convinced they are geniuses actually performing at a level below their native giftedness, so too with journalists and objectivity. They know the concept, they know how to detect it, they could probably be very good at it. But when you think you're already A-1 Journalism Sauce, skilled in knowing when the rules can be bent, as a poet might, you actually become less objective. They know too many things that aren't so, and it interferes with their thinking.

As for this being more like blue-collar guys, I think it's largely true. The blue-collar guys I know tend to be first responders, psychiatric aides, cooks, housekeepers, waiters. They do lock in a set of principles and are hard to move off that spot. They don't entertain contrary ideas just for fun, though small modifications sometimes get through. Yet as above, it's not like journalistic types are entirely unlike that. Facts about charitable giving, racial differences in crime, educational interventions - all these are dismissed, forgotten, have no effect. They can entertain smaller modifications more easily - blaming Cheney instead of Bush under the force of some argument. But they are being supplanted by new journalists for a reason.