Pry, Valiente, & ABC: A Study in Corrupt Journalistic Ethics
The following post is going to be addressing an article by Alyssa Pry and Alexa Valiente on ABC’s website, titled Women Battle Online Anti-Women Hate From the ‘Manosphere’. I bring this up at the start because the purpose of this post is three-fold.
1. To establish that the Fourth Estate – the journalists upon whom we rely to transmit an accurate picture of the world – is hopelessly corrupt. Not just incompetent (though man of them are that, too), but corrupt. Their intentional dishonesty is an existential threat to our civilization.
2. To discuss the challenges every journalist and writer faces, and the ethical demands one shoulders when he or she hits “Publish”.
3. To hold the two authors of that article to account, to show that they maliciously and intentionally distorted the truth. Their mendaciousness cannot be blamed on ignorance, incompetence, or laziness: they had all the facts going in, and they wilfully chose to distort them. I want this to be in the public record and the front page of Google: that Alyssa Pry and Alexa Valiente are dishonest, disreputable, and craven political hacks. I will demonstrate that this is not libel, but fact.
Let us begin by discussing Narrative and Integrity.
An essential aspect of one’s worldview is Narrative: you cannot have a worldview without one, and any fact disconnected from a Narrative is meaningless static. This doesn’t meant that you can choose your Narrative at a whim – ethics and personal integrity demand that you seek out the most accurate and honest Narrative you can define – but it does have some implications for how we process knowledge.
Let’s take History as an example.
The reality of History is centuries upon centuries of individuals making decisions culminating in discrete events: let’s look at WWII (because that dead horse could use another beating). The reality is that the war involved millions of people making millions of decisions, not just Hitler and Churchill calling the shots. History is not Sid Meier’s Civilization, in the same way that a map is not the territory. But if you tried to understand History in this manner, you’d get nothing but white noise; the human brain evolved to understand stories, not statistics, so the role of the Historian developed to identify the most accurate Narrative which pulled these millions of decisions together into a coherent whole.
Economics is no different.
The economy is the product of billions of individuals making hundreds of decisions based upon limited knowledge; the role of the economist is to make forecasts (“Consumers are bored with dark cola – let’s make it invisible!“). You cannot do this by studying each person; rather, you study the aggregate decisions, pouring through the mountains of numbers, until you find the ones that are relevant. My colleague Aaron Clarey (who also has some choice words about these ladies) is phenomenal at doing this; hypothesizing where he will find an interesting relationship, and researching the facts to test his hypothesis. Properly done, economics enhances one’s understanding of reality.
But it is still a Narrative.
With limited time, and limited processing power, we’re forced to simplify reality into stories – heuristics, if you prefer. And it’s inevitable, in this world which traces down to Quantum Foam, that your Narrative will never be perfect; there will always be a case where your narrative says one thing, and reality says another. It is the ethical responsibility of the Truth Speaker – be it a Historian, an Economist, or a Journalist – to confirm that the narrative interpretation is correct.
Sometimes they will fail – I’m sure I’ve been wrong with some of the events I’ve written about – but my track record has shown the integrity I preach. There’ve been a few events where a Breaking News Story, upon first glance, seemed to fit into my Narrative (Manosphere, Alternative Right, Reactionary, whatever you want to call it) but I did the legwork to confirm the details before I wrote about it, and occasionally I have confirmed that yes – it was a case of “Man bites dog” and we should acknowledge it as such.
Humble old me; writing for no pay on a blog, with no more responsibility than to my own conscience, and I will go to the effort to fact-check and report what I find, rather than simply “giving the audience what it wants.” Irony quotes, of course: I have enough respect for my audience to give them the truth, rather than presume to know what they “want” to hear.
How often does the mainstream media – with their paycheques, advertising revenue, and access to politicians and scientific journals – do this? To ask is to answer.
The reason I brought up Narrative is to demonstrate that many of their failings are forgivable. For instance, can you honestly blame them for their over-emphasis on domestic violence towards women? Aside from the obvious and innate human reasons to focus on it (greater sympathy towards women, men being stronger, et cetera) a cursory study of the evidence seems to support that Narrative. As I’m sure you know, most of this evidence is fabricated or distorted by dishonest feminists, supported by lobbying dollars, but this is the fault of the feminists, not the media. While I want them to dig deeper, I’m no utopian; human failings will always be with us. You cannot have Journalism without Narrative, and no Narrative will ever be perfect. Discourse is a necessity.
I don’t blame them for failing to notice the non-obvious. What I blame them for is a failure to do basic fact-checking.
Everybody, at some time or another, has read a news report on something which directly involved them, the industry they worked for, or a topic which was a pet hobby. Without fail these reports strike us as profoundly idiotic, with the reporter failing to do basic fact-checking, and refusing to ask tough questions. I won’t bring up the times I’ve witnessed this myself – I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader – I’d rather point out that, if they’re wrong about stuff you do know about – and haven’t bothered to contact anybody who could answer the question intelligently – what else are they wrong about?
And why are you letting that garbage into your head?
Less Wrong has this to say about Cached Thoughts:
There was a wonderfully illustrative story which I thought I had bookmarked, but couldn’t re-find: it was the story of a man whose know-it-all neighbor had once claimed in passing that the best way to remove a chimney from your house was to knock out the fireplace, wait for the bricks to drop down one level, knock out those bricks, and repeat until the chimney was gone. Years later, when the man wanted to remove his own chimney, this cached thought was lurking, waiting to pounce…
As the man noted afterward—you can guess it didn’t go well—his neighbor was not particularly knowledgeable in these matters, not a trusted source. If he’d questioned the idea, he probably would have realized it was a poor one. Some cache hits we’d be better off recomputing. But the brain completes the pattern automatically—and if you don’t consciously realize the pattern needs correction, you’ll be left with a completed pattern.
As H.L. Mencken once said, “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.” That may have been a slight exaggeration in his time, but it’s an absolute certainty today. The mainstream media has utterly failed in its task to educate the public, sliding down the greasy pole of democracy; they’ve gone from Truth, to Popular Opinion, to Ideology. The first is righteous. The second is lazy. The third is downright evil.
So what about Pry and Valiente? Are they evil or just lazy? Let’s look at their hatchet job.
The article starts with a picture of our good friend Anita Sarkeesian:
Quote Reads: “Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic and blogger, campaigned on Kickstarter to raise funds for a web series on the roles of women in video games and told ABC News “20/20” that the attacks from the “Manosphere” were swift.”
This qualifies as both a Narrative failure and a laziness failure: while I’m sure you already know the truth about Sarkeesian (and have probably heard it so many times that you’re sick of it), from a “Journalistic” standpoint she’s managed to position herself as an authority, and the simple-minded are prone to trust any and all authority. So Pry and Valiente are simple minded; no surprise, given what they studied in University. But are their sins greater than mere Sloth?
Their article (“their” article – why does it take two people to write less than 500 words?) is long on rhetoric and short on substance. In addition to Paul Elam, they quote liberally from the SPLC and the aforementioned Sarkeesian. To give you a taste:
Elam claimed it’s not anger but satire and social commentary. “What I do is reflect and study what the attitude is in the culture,” he told “20/20.” “I am not creating the problem, I am documenting some of it.”
But experts like Mark Potok, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, believe this rhetoric is problematic. “The Manosphere is an underworld of so-called men’s rights groups and individuals on the Internet, which is just fraught with really hard-line anti-woman misogyny,” Potok told “20/20.”
Upon first glance this is the nothing more than the shoddy, half-assed journalism we’ve come to expect. But what’s interesting is what they’re not reporting. From Paul Elam’s response:
One, Elizabeth Vargas, when she interviewed me in New York, was overtly hostile. She avoided the issues doggedly, quoted me out of context repeatedly and indeed insisted that she was the arbiter of whether my satire was satire, even the satire that I took the unusual step of informing readers was satire when I wrote it.
Schnee also engaged Editor-in-Chief John Hembling in a phone interview. Four of our female writers were brought in to that call, and Schnee refused to even acknowledge their questions about why 20/20 was not interested in the opinions of women who write for the site.
And then there were the follow up questions emailed me today by 20/20 production assistant Alyssa Pry, mostly having to do with site finances and wanting employment particulars on my girlfriend.
This incredibly insightful article wasn’t a five-minute, late-for-deadline, gotta-find-a-quote hack-job that these two ladies put together; rather, it was a thoroughly-researched and dishonestly-quoted hatchet job. ABC had the resources to get the information – they had plenty of writers (both male and female) from A Voice For Men trying to give them the actual story – but rather than write the “surprising” truth, they choice to distort it to advance a political agenda.
Diana Davison had this to say in ABC’s comment section:
Alyssa Pry, Alexa Valiente, ABC, and 20/20: you are mendacious, lying scum, who have no business calling yourselves Journalists. How many years, now, have you been consciously and intentionally lying to us? For how long have you preferred a manufactured truth over reality? What sort of rationalizations do you use to justify yourselves? And how much longer do you think you have, now that we’re figuring you out?
Because that’s the real story here: that we’re figuring these people out. Read any comment section in any online newspaper – the heavily edited and censored comment sections – and voices speaking out against the mainstream narrative dominate the conversation. Each year, we hear about another newspaper going out of business because the public is figuring them out for what they are. More and more, people are turning off the talk-radio, and tuning in to alternative media podcasts. Every dog has his day… and for these two bitches, their days are numbered.
The Scifi mottos are right: the Truth is out there, and you can’t stop the signal.