Sunday, May 3, 2015

A principle to evaluate people's statements

Sar Shalom

I would like to formalize a principle that we should ask those covering the Middle East to use. Simply, if someone's interests are served by your believing X, whatever X is, then do not consider that person's saying X to be proof that X is true. This does not mean X should be dismissed, only that X should not be considered established without corroborating evidence.

Instead, what we have from the Very Serious media types is that any statement made that fits their pre-existing narrative is taken to be proof-positive that the content of the talk is accurate and any statement contradicting their pre-existing narrative, no matter how much corroboration is available, is to be dismissed. For instance, when Mahmoud Abbas declares that he is committed to two-states if only Netanyahu would yield what is his due or when Netanyahu says during a hotly contested campaign that there will be no Palestinian state during his term, those statements are proof that Abbas is committed to two states and Netanyahu is not, no further information needs to be checked. Similarly, when Netanyahu declares that his determination to stop a Palestinian state is conditional and he only questions the likelihood that the conditions for lifting his opposition would be met, or when Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif declares that eliminating Israel is non-negotiable, both statements are taken for bluster meant to distract from Netanyahu's true aims of dominating the Levant and of Iran's true reasonability.

The most recent manifestation of this phenomenon is Carter's declaring that Mashaal is interested in peace while Netanyahu is not. Carter reached this conclusion when Mashaal told him that he would be interested in Saudi Arabia's peace proposal (h/t EoZ). Did Carter look at any action of Hamas to reach that conclusion? Of course not! He simply started from the premise that all the Palestinians' demands are reasonable and as soon as he heard a statement fitting that premise, he considered his premise proven. The one question to ask Carter about his reasoning process is, "Did Mashaal tell you anything other than what serves his interests for you to believe it?"


  1. This is eminently sensible.

    In fact, it is basic as hell.

    For example, I know that I am biased. The people who tend to post here tend to be Jewish people biased in favor of the Jewish state.

    Would this be surprising to anyone?

    BUT I can almost always back everything that I say.

    No one is perfect, but for ex-Democratic President Jimmy Carter to suggest that a Hamas leader is a leader for peace while the Israeli leader is not is to expose an ideological blinkertude that is absolutely blinding.

    It exposes malice toward one side and a chilling emptiness toward the other.

    Has he forgotten that the Hamas charter calls quite specifically for the genocide of the Jewish people?

    Carter is an old fool who needs to be ignored.

    1. a chilling moral emptiness, I would say.

    2. Has he forgotten that the Hamas charter calls quite specifically for the genocide of the Jewish people?

      No, that hate-filled POS Carter has not forgotten this, he REJOICES in it!

      Carter, the only president who has been worse for Israel than Obama!

  2. In Carter's case the word evaluate shouldn't be used for his silly (and malicious) ideas. No, when it comes to Jimmy's b.s. "evacuate" is the more apt term, if you know what I mean. (He's a stinker.)

  3. What Carter says is largely as irrelevant as anything Hamas or Iran or al Shabab or any of the others say. It's simply not important any more than two people on the sidewalk looking at litter on the ground and one person says, 'let me pick that up and throw it away' while the other person says 'purple dragon mustard'. Ok maybe there's some kind of point in that bucket of crazy but so what?

    1. Agreed that all that matters is what people with influence have to say. The thing is that Carter has a following with the numbers that can influence those with influence. You are right that we should not accord any moral authority to what Carter says about the Middle East. We just can't be blase that no one with actual influence would accord any moral authority to his statements either.

  4. The fixation on Carter is missing the forest for the tress. Carter is just the most recent example of the phenomenon of accepting claims that fit the narrative and rejecting ones that do not no matter what easily available evidence suggests. For example, throughout Operation Protective Edge, virtually the entire MSM accepted Hamas' claims of civilian-to-combatant casualties with no need to check while dismissing Israeli claims to the contrary with no interest in incontrovertible evidence that would buttress one side or the other.

    A more important implication if the often repeated notion that Abbas is a partner for peace. The supposed evidence for this is that Abbas says he recognizes Israel's right to exist. My contention is that Abbas' interests are served by Westerners believing that he recognizes Israel's right to exist (as Netanyahu's interests are served by Westerners believing that he recognizes the Palestinians' right to a state). Since his his interests are served by us believing he recognizes Israel, why is his statement to that effect treated as definitive and not measured against his actions and his statements to those for who he has no interest in them believing he recognizes Israel?

    An example of a line of questioning following that logic would be if the last time Samatha Power was testifying before Congress, someone would have asked why more weight was given to Netanyahu's campaign statement that he did not foresee a Palestinian state during his term than to PLO Executive Committee member Abbas Zaki saying at an interview that the PA's recognition of Israel is purely strategic so that they can get help from the international community to destroy Israel.

    1. Here is a question

      How is it in the interests of the MSM to demonize Israel?

      What is the motivation?

    2. Mike,
      Is that a serious question?
      Because that's a whole thread's worth.
      You'd have to really take it apart.
      There are different elements.
      It would be interesting.

    3. I'm not sure that it is quite accurate to say that it serves the MSM's interests to demonize Israel. However, it is in the interests of some of the MSM's go-to sources to demonize Israel. The problem is that these sources manage to dovetail their demonization of Israel with the MSM's pet narratives, thus the demonization gets relayed through the MSM in the MSM's own voice without any fact-checking.

      What we need to challenge the MSM on is their dedication to protecting pet narratives from scrutiny.

    4. The MSM is not monolithic. For some outlets, demonising Israel is part of a political/ideological agenda. . For others, it is more that they are happy to do so because they are lazy, concerned only with easy black and white narratives, and, importantly, have discovered what is 'sexy' and, therefore, what sells.They are, like all companies, driven partly by the market.
      On top of that, they have a never-ending supply of pictures, footage etc to use. ( In stark contrast to the availability of footage coming out of other countries/conflicts.) Most of it arriving through very narrow sources. The AP agency based in London supplies the great majority of footage seen all around the world. There are concerns about how that operates. Rightly so.
      You should never underestimate how lazy much of the media's approach is. How little they actually wish to present a thoughtful, complex analysis of anything. And how little their audiences have an appetite for more sophisticated, nuanced reporting Especially when it might result in ambiguity, and a requirement for a great deal of background explanation and/or historical context. And time.
      They prefer to offer a simple 'story' that everyone can follow. Even if it is misleading, or simply untrue.

      As we have seen in recent months, "hands up don't shoot" is easier than checking facts or waiting for evidence. Much easier. And much 'sexier'. An instant 'Big story' which hooks viewers and readers. The more drama the better.

      It is, unfortunately, doubtful whether any challenge to " their dedication to protecting pet narratives from scrutiny"
      would make any difference. Sadly,
      that ship appears to have sailed

  5. I suspect that Abbas is no longer considered an entity by The Powers that Be. You don't have to be EU stupid to come to the realization that after a half century and less than zero forward motion that the PLO isn't serious, they aren't even serious about waging much of a war against Israel. The intifada was their high water mark and their single card to play. They can't suddenly pretend that someone's dog wandered on to the Temple Mount and now they all have to rise up in flaming idiot violence. No one, literally no one would waste their time believing it. He joined the ICC and now is facing his own charges as a result. The PLO is falling apart and if the Syrian war goes on much more it will fall apart. At the same time that thousands of so called 'palestinian refugees' have been butchered by ISIS and the very same people Abbas tries to get to help him.

    There is not going to be any serious effort from Obama or the EU to pretend to speak for the Arabs against Israel in these silly talks again. They tried that and not even the Arabs bought it. The world is moving on from the 'palestinians' and in a few years no one will talk to them or about them.

    1. I sincerely hope that you are correct, Trudy.

      I have never before heard of a people, who arose as a people, for the sole, exclusive purpose of undermining another people's sovereignty.

      If there is another example of this phenomenon in human history, I am unaware of it.

    2. Other than national Communist movements, there aren't any.