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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Let's talk about conflation

Now, I haven't studied formal logic or debate etc., so I'm not an expert on all this stuff. Just putting forth my 2 cents. You can see here what wikipedia says about conflation. Now, perhaps there is a somewhat different term which is more apt to what I was describing earlier (bloggers/"conspiracy theorists" etc. lumped together as a group so that they can be dismissed), but for right now let's go with the word conflation as the best one I know of to describe this phenomenon.

Okay- here are some examples of it to my mind (sources included)

"On Friday, Truthout posted another story by the same correspondent, Jason Leopold, reporting that Mr. Rove had told President Bush and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten that he would be indicted imminently."

"The Rove attorney says he spent part of that day at the vet with his cat and that Mr. Fitzgerald was in Chicago. A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment.

The denials set off a round of blogging. One site said Mr. Leopold was the victim of White House disinformation. Another cast doubt on whether Mr. Rove's attorney took his cat to the vet."

"Mainstream news organizations say bloggers can say something is going to happen every day for months and then claim to be ahead of the pack when it does -- or forget about it when it doesn't. Bloggers complain that traditional reporters don't credit them for scoops when they are proved right." All from the Wall Street Journal

It seems to me that little distinction is being made here between Jason Leopold and your average Joe blogger. Hence, to my mind, conflation.

The next several paragraphs are quoted from an article called Conspiracy Theories Flourish on the Internet published by the Washington Post in October of 2004.


David Ray Griffin considers himself an unlikely recruit to what is called the "9/11 Truth Movement." The retired theologian, who taught religion for three decades at Claremont School of Theology, initially dismissed the notion that it was not an airliner that hit the Pentagon. But after visiting several Internet sites raising questions about the attack, he ended up writing a book. "The New Pearl Harbor," published in the spring, argues that a Boeing 757 would have caused far more damage and left more wreckage strewn around the Pentagon.

"There are reasons why people doubt the official story," he said. "There are photographs taken, and there is no Boeing in sight."

Suspicions formed as the Pentagon still smoldered.

For 2 1/2 years, the attack on the Pentagon has been discussed and researched by members of Knight-Jadczyk's online group, the Quantum Future School.

The group's talks formed the basis for articles in which Knight-Jadczyk argues that after the attack on the World Trade Center, eyewitnesses at the Pentagon were predisposed to see a large airliner. She believes that the Pentagon was attacked by a smaller plane and that members of the Bush administration were somehow complicit because it was beneficial for war-profiteers and Israel.

Interviewed by telephone from what she said is a 17-bedroom castle outside Toulouse, where she lives with her Polish physicist husband and five children, Knight-Jadczyk acknowledged that her group is considered "fringe."

Knight-Jadczyk, 52, a Florida native, has been a psychic and a channeler. She is now involved in experiments in what she calls "superluminal communication," which she described as involving "time loops" that would enable people to communicate with their former selves.

Knight-Jadczyk said she never imagined anyone outside her group would ever view "Pentagon Strike."


My beef here is that David Ray Griffin and Knight-Jadczyk (whoever that is) are being conflated or lumped together under the category of conspiracy theorists; since we can all read for ourselves what a "wacko" Knight-Jadczyk seems to be (reads the subtext), we can therefore dismiss Griffin as well, simply by association.

Okay, so what if you know basically nothing about U.S. print journalism and were reading an article which I wrote entitled something like: "Large circulation newspapers can't be trusted to report accurately on the facts"

In that putative article I write the following The New York Times said this (demonstrably incorrect fact, neglecting to mention the retraction made the next day, of course)
and then went on from there to give you several innacuracies reported in the National Inquirer. Get the idea?

Wait a minute, you might say, aren't you conflating when you refer to the MSM as an entity? Well, to a degree, yes. Let's look at the context. I'm a left/liberal blogger. If I had a readership, it would likely consist of left/liberal readers. I blog about things that other left/liberal bloggers blog about a lot. See, for example- here, here, here, or here

I am also thrilled when I am able to point out an example of good investigative reporting by the more mainstream press, as I think are the majority of other left/liberal bloggers. Most of us are more peanut gallery observers than anything else, but we are generally pretty discerning (and acerbic if needed). So, no I don't lump the NYTimes with the National Enquirer. Here's a bit of evidence to the contrary in terms of any tendency I might have to conflate the mainstream media. So I take issue with David Ray Griffin's name being mentioned in that article in that context.
If the author of that piece were actually to offer substantive comparisons of the two (Griffin and Knight-Jadczyk), their views, points, etc. in a compare/contrast manner (and change the title of the article, please), then I have no beef.
Get it? Also, if the author of the piece were a "conspiracy theory blogger" writing for an audience of other "conspiracy theory bloggers" I have less beef (though I doubt I would continue reading the blog beyond the point that I've quoted. Anyone who can draw that little distinction isn't worth my time to read (except as an excercise in setting an example of how to conflate/dismiss).

End of conflation diatribe.



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