Monday, August 12, 2013

On the muddying of sacred waters

Sometimes, reading old opinion pieces can be instructive. In November of last year, Dylan Byers of Politico took a sneering look at Michael Hastings:
The second thing to know about Hastings is that he has no problem using public platforms to address personal vendettas. Shortly after calling CNN's [Barbara] Starr "a Pentagon spokesperson" last night, he noted that "she's covered my work before," to which Piers Morgan replied: "Just because she's written some naughty things about you doesn't make her a spokesperson."
No, but being a stenographer to power might do the job. As Chris Hayes has noted, when Starr publishes a leak, she doesn't get into trouble -- because her leaks benefit her government sources.

Back to Dylan:
The third and final thing to know about Hastings is that he considers himself something of a gonzo journalist. His gut instinct is to cause trouble. At a time when the mainstream media seem more cautious than ever, that can be extremely refreshing. If you believe that journalists are supposed to call bull when they see it, then Hastings is your man. But to those who believe journalists shouldn't be advocates — either out of ethical concerns or practical ones (it's not always effective) — Hastings is muddying sacred waters.
If Dylan Byers were to die mysteriously, how many people would care?

Not that there's any chance of that. There's no need to take control of a car belonging to a guy like Dylan, because guys like Dylan are already under control.
The ethics of institutional professionalism cause people to keep themselves under control. Working with a group requires that you avoid anything controversial and avoid taking any risks and, except in very circumscribed situations, avoid attracting attention to yourself--avoid anything that might possibly wind up reflecting poorly on the group. You always have to think about how your behavior will reflect on your colleagues, your partners, and your clients.

What are you saying, snug? Noncontroversial groupthink is a good thing?

Good and bad depend on who's judging, and on what criteria. My intention was to decry the inhibiting effect of professional ethics--but, since you mention it, of course I was not considering the potential consequences of a complete disinhibition.
Ah. I see now. "Requires" threw me off. Perhaps I would've understood had you said "leads you to avoid" instead of requires! I thought you were boosting that groupthink pressure, instead of decrying it!
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