Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:
I will say one thing about journalists collectively: we will never, ever change people’s minds about the media except by practicing good journalism. So arguing – and even apologizing – is kind of useless and counterproductive.
I still think that some journalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters at the time. I think that some journalists were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at.
I believe I can be of assistance here.
Speaking for myself, it was simple to conclude that the Bush junta was lying about something.
First, I listened. I listened to the words and how they were strung together. I listened to who was talking and what was being said. I listened to a lot of spokespersons saying the same things over and over, knowing that people who try to persuade are doing something completely different than people describing facts. Salesmen and sociopaths persuade.
Second, I thought over what I’d heard. This is a crucial step in the process of forming an opinion, often overlooked. I mulled over not just what was said but what wasn’t. I considered what it would mean if what I heard were true, and what it would mean if it weren’t. I pondered what would be the possible actions, probable outcomes and who might benefit from them. I thought over what I was intended to conclude and why anyone would want me to conclude that. I even wondered why someone seemed so desperate for me to agree and fall in line. That, to me, is usually a tip off that someone’s getting his or her prevarication on.
Then, because I had the luxury of distance, time and no pressure, I did some further mullin’, ponderin’ and considerin’. It further helped that after 9/11, I didn’t piss my pants, develop a pathological fear of olive skin or take a paycheck from a conservative source, so I was free to surmise without ideological interference or goosebumps. I listeneded and I thinked. Then I decided the Bush people were lying.
Funny: during that entire presidency, this process never failed me.
Cross-posted at Brilliant @ Breakfast.