Constructive vs. destructive criticism
Posted by aogThursday, 02 October 2003 at 08:19 TrackBack Ping URL

I realized this morning that the standard claim of “constructive criticism” used by journalists to defend their statements in interviews like this [via Instantman] is fundamentally flawed. The interview cited is the infamous one where big name journalists admit that they wouldn’t warn a platoon of US troops about an ambush because that wouldn’t be good journalism.

Yet when called on that kind of perfidity, the response is frequently “someone has to look out for the bad things”. That’s true, but misses the meta-point of why does someone need to do that? The constructive criticism answer is, that by pointing out problems we can start to work on solutions. But this in turn presumes a favorable bias, where there exists a concensus between the doers and the watchers that the doers should succeed. The watchers point out problems so that the doers can do better.

Yet the sense that comes through in these cases is that American victory is completely irrelevant to these American journalists. The harping on mistakes is the end in itself, not a helpful corrective to improve the chance of American victory. The problem for the journalists, as pointed out by the Marine Colonel in the interview, is that they want to have no loyalty to their country while maintaning loyalty to themselves from the country (i.e., that the Marines would rescue them on the battlefield). Americans don’t like people to arrogate such priviledges so it must be disguised. The question to ask in that case is “qui bono?” which will distinguish constructive from destructive criticism.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Noel Thursday, 02 October 2003 at 12:07

AOG,

The military should reciprocate, and refuse to warn journalists of ambushes. We can’t have the military ‘manipulating events’ & ‘influencing the story’, now can we?

The sacred Wall of Separation between journalism & sanity must be maintained!

End of Discussion