Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another View of the Cathedral

This tweet makes an important point:
Last night, on my Twitter feed, I watched as several journalists easily navigated through the bullshit that was being peddled by Masterson as he "denied" that Trump shared classified information with the Russians. I like to think I would have been able to figure this out on my own, but I'm honestly not sure. Certainly I needed guidance to understand the nuances.

This is an example of a skill that I imagine is actually not that hard to learn with practice. It's much like reading a contract or a law. You learn to recognize certain patterns, certain formulations, that repeat themselves over and over.

But plenty of people understood Masterson to be saying that the Washington Post was wrong. This is because his words strongly implied that conclusion to an ordinary audience. Therefore if you weren't accustomed to parsing statements carefully, you were easily led astray. (Masterson has, or had, a fair amount of credibility, so a serious denial from him would have meant something.)

Now it's important to note that even fairly smart people could be misled by this. Not because they're incapable of parsing a carefully worded statement, but because they assume that Masterson has enough integrity not to say something the literal meaning of which is opposite to (or at least starkly different from) the meaning that a normal audience would attribute to it. In other words, a lot of people have a "thick" conception of what it means to be truthful, at least when a "real" person (not a lawyer or a spokesman) is speaking.

Anyway I point this out to explain how different people's experience of a story like this can be. Some people were whipsawed by the night's events, but to a certain (dare I say "elite") audience, everything unfolded in a pretty coherent way. It seems like yet another class distinction in our society, not driven by income exactly, but by a certain facility for processing information.

Edited to add the following.

Inevitably, this happened:
I'm going to need to write some posts on anti-elitism. The thought I have right now is that a tremendous amount of mischief can be done by camouflaging idiotic prideful ignorance as some kind of egalitarian anti-snobbishness. I realize this is an utterly banal thought, but it seems pretty central to our political discourse these days, so I will mull it over.


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