Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Read for Fun: Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite

I was in a bookstore one day several years ago and I saw this book near the counter. I picked it up on a whim and I only got around to reading it late last year. This is non-fiction so I can't use my usual method of analysis but I will still assign a grade.

Disclaimer: I'm deliberately avoiding the politics and issues that he talks about in his book because they are irrelevant to my blog. I'm only interested in the logic of his arguments and the evidence he provides for his arguments.

Mr. Goldberg makes a lot of good points. For instance, when he states that "The New York Times has a bias" he provides the following explanation.  This is the idea that people of a certain stance started working for New York Times during the 60s, a couple rose to high positions within it over time, and valued pushing their goals more than being objective. Now the paper as a whole is different than what it used to be. I find this to be within reason; certainly the big wigs in a media company can drastically change the culture and output of such a company.
Then, Mr. Goldberg asserts, because the New York Times is the "paper of record", other media outlets play Follow The Leader. I can also see something like that happening from seeing similar articles across many papers across several months. This is just one example where I think he has a point.  If he's right about half of his total arguments then that would point to a problem in general media. However, his personal problem is that he lacks professionalism and this undermines all of his arguments. Again, I will only show a sample of examples.

The first sign of a lack professionalism: trashing reviewers.
In this book, he writes at length about reception of his first book, which covers the same idea of a political bias in general media. In short, a lot of people thought poorly of it and expressed these opinions. The subject is certainly relevant but given his lack of professionalism it looks like he's trashing his reviewers and throwing a tantrum about media outlets that didn't give him the coverage that he wanted. This is what you call an "Author Behaving Badly".

The second sign of a lack professionalism: creating straw men

He talks as if the anger from his former co-workers regarding his previous book is because they're upset that he's exposing their bias, puncturing their bubble, etc. However, I do not find that to be the case. When you say things like "sell their children into prostitution if it meant getting more air time" (page 221, the start of the chapter "liberal bias? Never mind!") anyone would be angered. In addition to this, when referring to them he creates a straw man to make them look bad; a na├»ve, pampered, stuck-up elitist who claims to be smart but doesn't know anything at all and believes their audience is a group of unwashed, simple-minded hicks. It sounds like he just didn't like or didn't agree with his former co-workers and is venting frustration with name calling.

The third sign of a lack professionalism: reliance on anecdotes

His reliance on anecdotes is also a strike against his argument, regardless of what point he is trying to make. If someone can't verify his sources and information then he might as well be making it up. Sure one could argue that the people he's talking about would never admit to their bias when asked to verify, and it is a good point. However, it also allows Mr. Goldberg to say whatever he wants because it can't be properly cited. It's basically gossip.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite" a C

Click here for the next book review (request): Kingdom Asunder

Click here for previous book review (for fun): Killer Angels

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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