The meta-view from meta-nowhere

Pseudo-objectivity about pseudo-objectivity

Jay Rosen coined popularised the phrase “the view from nowhere” (originally due to Thomas Nagel) to describe the default stance of political journalism in the US and elsewhere, often defended as “objectivity”. This is closely linked to the concept of the Overton window, which I wrote about recently in relation to the AUKUS nuclear subs deal

In essence, the “view from nowhere” amounts to treating all positions within the Overton window as equally valid, and providing neutral reportage about them. This may consist of repeating the arguments of their proponents, along the lines “the earth is spherical as can be seen from space” vs “who are you going to believe: a bunch of NASA scientists, or your own common sense, which tells you that it’s flat”. The second mode is “horse-race” commentary on the relative chances of the Flat-earth and Round-earth parties in political contests”. Views from outside the Overton window, such as “oblate spheroid” are simply ignored.

Now we have, in the Washington Post, an objective article about objectivity, by former editor Martin Baron. Baron spends a bit over 3000 words canvassing a wide range of views about objectivity. In the end, he decides it’s a good thing, but never brings himself to actually say what it is supposed to be.

Baron walks up to the edge of the question when he says

“many journalists have concluded that our profession has failed miserably to fulfill its responsibilities at a perilous moment in history. Their evidence is that Donald Trump got elected in the first place, despite his lies, nativism, brutishness and racist and misogynistic language;”

but never confronts the crucial fact that neither the Washington Post nor any other major newspaper ever ran a news story saying “Trump lies” or “Trump is a racist and misogynist” (even now he can’t quite bring himself to actually say the second, just that Trump used “racist and misogynistic language”).

So, was the refusal to state the truth about Trump in plain words a failure of journalistic objectivity or a perfect example of it?

At the end of this long, long article, we are none the wiser. But, at least every viewpoint within the Overton window {1} has been given an airing.

fn1. though not, for example, the view that this is what you would expect from capitalist media companies

Neoliberalism’s child

The latest Productivity Commission report marks the end of an era

That’s the headline for my latest piece in Inside Story I look at the rise and decline of the Productivity Commission as an advocate of radical neoliberal reform. It spans the fifty years from the creation of the Industries Assistance Commission, replacing the old Tariff Board to the present, a period that spans my entire adult life. think I have outlived neoliberalism, at least as an intellectually credible ideology. But I’m very tired

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The hierarchy of excuses

I’ve lived through quite a few financial crises, some local to Australia, and others global. Invariably, the first failures are those of obvious shonks (Australianism?) who would probably have failed anyway. Then there are seemingly reputable institutions that turn out to have been shonky. Then there are institutions that played by the rules, but it turns out the rules weren’t good enough. After that, no one is safe and the government steps in to bail the bankers out.Of course, ordinary people pay the bill.

So, I thought I’d get a headstart on listing the hierarchy of excuses, explaining why this isn’t just an inherently corrupt system, doing its inherently corrupt thing. Here we go:

*Silvergate: jumped up crypto bank, not really a bank at all
*Silicon Valley: mismatched assets and liabilities, classic mistake, also woke

  • Signature: more crypto, more mismatch, also Trump
  • First Republic: all these midsized banks misused the 2017 deregulation
  • Credit Suisse: turns out all those capital adequacy requirements could be gamed. And just to prove this, we’ll wipe out the bondholders who helped make the books look good, while bailing out the equity holders
  • TBC


A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

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