Monday, September 13, 2004

A show about nothing?

Virginia Postrel, author of the Substance of Style (I'll read it someday...) has published a correspondence with a Democrat friend regarding Rathergate. Of interest to me was this last paragraph.
"So much of these peripheral debates now are about micro-points like this: Where, exactly, was Kerry on Christmas Eve (latitude and longitude, if possible)? Was he throwing medals or ribbons? Proportional spacing is one thing, but what about the kerning? This, if you'll remember, is how OJ won his criminal trial, too -- by atomizing the relevant arguments into obscurity. We'll lay out dots of truth for you to follow. Ignore that big picture over there, please. It's misdirection taken to a level that a magician would envy.

And what it all comes down to is a Seinfeldean nothing. I so hope the Kerry campaign isn't behind all of this. It would be such a waste."
Are these things really about "nothing"? I guess they are, in the political macro sense. But in the specific area of media credibility, I would have to say that this is a Big Moment. I do think the larger argument about quibbling over the micro is important, though, and her O.J. analogy is a good one. It does speak to a drift in our society toward insisting on finer legalistic explanations and justification for nearly any point in an argument. If even one "micro" point is shown to be invalid, then we throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is considered wise to be skeptical, but not to this degree. In history, this is called being an Idealist. Every point of fact must be explicitly incontrovertible or it is unacceptable. I'll stop need to go into a postmodernism rant, again.

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