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Monday, November 14, 2005

Sympathy v. Extreme

Posted by: Hammer / 4:00 PM

Writing for Agape, Stephen Crampton tries to convice us that the mainstream media's inveterate liberal tilt is affecting its coverage of the Alito nomination:

It is no secret that the mainstream media lean left. Their coverage of everything from natural disasters to political campaigns to war is increasingly influenced by the bias of the reporters and news organizations themselves. This slant is sometimes easily discernible, as in the television networks' coverage of the Bush/Gore presidential election. At other times, the slant is more subtle.

I've read the Daily Howler for years now. Bob Somerby has presented exhaustive, compelling evidence of the pervasive anti-Gore bias in the mainstream media during the 2000 election. Crampton's assertive assumption is plain wrong. But it gets worse:

But that is precisely the point: the left-leaning bias is so deeply ingrained it manifests itself even when a reporter tries to be objective. And for that very reason, the danger is all the greater. It affects our opinions without our even knowing it is there.

Ms. Holland referred to a prisoner rights case in which Judge Alito found against the prisoner below, while Justice O'Connor ruled in favor of the prisoner on appeal. Ms. Holland opined that Judge Alito has thus been "less sympathetic" to inmate appeals. Once again, we are subtly led to conclude that the loss of Justice O'Connor will be profound, and Judge Alito will not adequately fill her shoes.

But is sympathy a virtue for a sitting judge? I want a sympathetic ear from a friend hearing my woes as much as anyone, but when the law is clear I do not want a judge swayed by sympathy in favor of my opponent and against the plain language of the law. It is the role of a judge to apply the law without favoritism or partiality. Sympathy, then, is not a judicial virtue, but a vice. In the context of the courtroom, sympathy clouds the mind and confuses the analysis. Justice demands objectivity, not sympathy.

We start with the word "sympathetic". An imprecise word, to be sure. A sympathetic judge is one more receptive to an argument or a point of view. It means a judge who tends to agree or be in accord with a legal argument or a position of a party to a proceeding. Judges are people with histories and backgrounds. Some judges are more sympathetic to the rights of women; other judges are more sympathetic to the rights of a fetus. The term itself is not perjorative.

Crampton says that the mainstream media is liberal because it favors the sympathetic O'Connor. He then takes this word and applies the more common -- but inaccurate -- definition to explain that sympathy among judges in wrong. In his clearly conservative view, then, judges should be unsympathetic. So, following Crampton's interpretation, the liberal journalist is praising Alito for displaying an appropriate judicial quality, which is evidence of the journalist's liberal bias.

It boggles the mind.

A final point. I strongly disagree with Crampton's point. I've highlighted and provided for you the paragraphs that I find most objectionable. Crampton doesn't provide his readers a similar courtesy. Although be surrounds 17 words or phrases in quotation marks, the longest quotation is 3 words ("outside the mainstream"). None of the quotes provide any context. It's impossible to know from the article which quotes are actually taken from the AP article. Most importantly, the word "extreme" appears in Crampton's article 4 times, 3 times within quotation marks. The word "extreme" does not appear at all in the AP article Crampton decries.

3 Comments:

Use agape as a noun and as an adjective in the same sentence.

By Anonymous Spotty, at 10:59 PM  

You mean like: Reading Agape often leaves me agape?

By Blogger Hammer, at 7:43 AM  

Christ I am sick of the legend of the SCLM. I just wish they (the media overlords) realized that due to their pandering to the right, my only sources for news on TV are Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart. Those are the only two I trust anymore.

By Anonymous Jerjo of Adderall, at 8:26 AM  

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