09.30.2009 0

Anita Dunn on Neil Armstrong Journalism

  • On: 10/23/2009 09:46:20
  • In: First Amendment
  • by Victor Morawski

    Asked to participate as a panelist in a Conference on Media Fact-Checking recently, White House interim Communications Director, Anita Dunn, offered the following ostensibly humorous metaphor on the conference topic:

    “I would tell press secretaries and candidates to be prepared for what I called Neil Armstrong journalism, which was candidate A says the moon is a cold, hard rock, and candidate B says it’s a hunk of green cheese. And the coverage of this event is candidates trade charges on makeup of moon, but no one ever picks up the phone to call Neil Armstrong to say, hey, weren’t you there? Which one was right?”

    Warming to the subject, she offered her “concern about fact checking becoming a substitute for actually looking at the arguments.” What she meant by this crystallized for me when I looked at a video of her explanation of why Barack Obama, when making rounds of the Sunday talk shows several weeks ago, specifically avoided Fox News.

    She told a CNN reporter Obama had pulled out of a planned Fox interview when he learned that Chris Wallace was going to fact-check President Obama and other administration guests before their appearances on his show.

    Now let me see if I have this right. Barack Obama wanted the opportunity to go on all of the Sunday talk shows a few weeks ago to offer his best arguments for why the moon is made of green cheese, unhampered by the inconvenience of little things like ‘facts.’ And, the ever-vigilant Ms. Dunn was afraid that Chris Wallace might not play ball— that he might just pick up the phone and make that call to Neil Armstrong. So, Fox News was dropped from the list.

    As a logician, I might remind Ms. Dunn that an air-tight, valid argument will not properly prove its conclusion to be true if one of its premises is false. Yes, Anita, truth does matter—not just the glib coherence of one’s arguments.

    Finally, in this connection, I cannot resist a comment on Ms. Dunn’s stated affection for media-controlling, mass murder Mao Tse Tung. She recently said, “My two favorite philosophers are Mao Tse-Tung and Mother Teresa.”

    Now, one might legitimately question how any supposedly sane person can pair the repugnantly violent Mao with the saintly Mother Theresa. And, the answer may well lie in something that Mao-pal Uncle Joe Stalin knew all too well, and was poignantly illustrated by the balloon boy incident: The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of a million persons is a statistic.

    I’m confident that Ms. Dunn was filled with emotion by the possible horrible death of one child who may have fallen hundreds of feet from an experimental balloon. But, she blithely ignores the inconvenient fact that her personal icon Mao was responsible for the deaths of up to 70 million Chinese.

    I once read an anecdote by the philosopher Bertrand Russell concerning when he met with Lenin in the former Soviet Union. He related the chilling effect it had on him when Lenin bragged about how he had aroused a group of peasant farmers so much by his rhetoric that they took their wealthy land-owning employer and strung him up from a nearby tree.

    Perhaps this chilling recounting by Lenin of the death of one person brought home to Russell what statistics never could do. Would that an armchair socialist like Anita Dunn could just sit for a few minutes with a Chairman Mao and hear him tell her a similar story. Short of that, perhaps, she could just ask someone at Fox News for some of their archival footage on the matter. Or, knowing her, perhaps not.

    Victor Morawski, a professor at Coppin State University, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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