Monday, December 28, 2015

Do Righteous Indignation and Hyperbole Persuade People?

             After writing over one hundred painstakingly researched and edited journal articles I wonder whether I’ve made a woeful error.  These days it seems that righteous indignation, bombast and stretching the truth captures attention, headlines, grant funding, status and gravity.  I feel foolish for emphasizing empiricism and full documentation.

            Yet again the Wall Street Journal reminds me of what I should be doing: identifying villains and saviors in the telecommunications policy world.  Today L. Gordon Crovitz vilifies President Obama, FCC Chairman Wheeler and the FCC.  See http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-obamanet-overreach-1451259176.  He claims that this triumvirate has so burdened and regulated the Internet that it “now [is] known as Obamanet.”

            So using Obama as a prefix provides a not subtle signal that another “curtains for the free world debacle” has occurred.  Already there’s an Obamaphone, which Mr. Crovitz and his colleague believe is available for free wireless telephone service, despite the fact that a bilateral consensus has supported universal service funding for dozens of years, and service is limited to low income applicants that can prove they qualify for subsidized (not free) service.

            Why does Mr. Crovitz resort to such hype when he could identify real flaws with the FCC’s Open Internet Order?  He would rather vilify and convert a rumor into a fact than generate arguments on the merits.  Apparently Mr. Crovitz knows the President personally directed Chairman Wheeler and the 2 other Democratic Commissioners to change legal strategies for justifying limited Internet regulation.  Of course Mr. Crovitz offers no verifiable evidence.  Instead, he implies that it is an absolute given that the President intervened.  News flash: the Executive Branch regularly participates in the FCC policy making process and an entire agency within the Department of Commerce (the National Telecommunications and Information Administration) serves as the President’s advocate.  Apparently, the President can’t issue statements and create videos favoring a desired policy for the FCC to take.  I’ll remember this the next time a Republican President tries to use his Bully Pulpit to influence decision making by an independent regulatory agency.

            I cannot help but wonder whether opponents of Messrs. Obama and Wheeler might achieve greater impact if they relied on facts and used inside voices.

2 comments:

Jeff Herr said...

From last Friday's WSJ opinion page:

From T.S. Eliot’s essay “The Perfect Critic” for the literary journal Athenaeum in 1920:

"The vast accumulations of knowledge—or at least of information—deposited by the nineteenth century have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when every one knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts."

Greg Swanson said...

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
― Stephen Hawking