The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘Let-Me-Tell-You-What-to-Think’ and Other Conventional Wisdom Tricks

Posted on | January 24, 2012 | 21 Comments

Many months ago, Ace of Spades erupted in a fury over an “objective” mainstream media news story: Stop telling me what to think!

I’d love to link that memorable post, but archive searches on Ace’s site are difficult. The point he made, however, is that some journalists have an obnoxious tendency to assume readers are too stupid to spot their attempts at the “Jedi mind trick” of constructing a narrative framework within which carefully selected facts are construed in such a way that only one (narrowly biased) conclusion is possible.

You usually only notice that trick when (a) you’re sufficiently familiar with the facts to know that the selection and emphasis are not exactly neutral, and (b) you don’t share the writer’s narrow bias.

While this Let-Me-Tell-You-What-to-Think stuff is particularly annoying when it occurs as reporting, the same kind of sneaky highhandedness can also be observed in some opinion writing.

Being an expert at Neutral Objective Journalism, as well as the Future U.S. Ambassador to Vanuatu, I have grown weary of the way some of my fellow conservatives — as well as certain RINO squishes who may or may not be named “Jazz Shaw“– have portrayed the 2012 Republican primary campaign. According to some people, the only plausible presidential candidates are Name Brand Frontrunners, preferably governors or former governors like Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry or Mitt Romney, although other candidates may pass the plausibility threshold if they have sufficient national “name ID” and proven fundraising ability, such as Newt Gingrich.

Like I say, you don’t notice this kind of favoritism if you share the bias for Name Brand Frontrunners, but my own partiality toward long-shot underdogs makes me keenly aware of how some pundits — who may or may not be named “Jazz Shaw” — routinely ignore candidates like Rick Santorum, whose keen appreciation of South Pacific diplomatic expertise is just one of his many fine qualities.

By artificially limiting the discussion to a predetermined two-man race between Romney and Gingrich, a pundit who may or may not be named “Jazz Shaw” engages in Let-Me-Tell-You-What-to-Think journalism, and unless you happen to have a specific reason to notice this omission, you might not even realize that you’re a victim of the Jedi mind trick. (Ron Paul supporters also probably don’t have much use for a pundit who may or may not be named “Jazz Shaw.”)

A quite similar venture involves Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, who would have you believe that “Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour” comprise “the GOP A-Team” who should have run for president but didn’t. Therefore, Stephens tells you, Republicans will lose in November, and deservedly so.

OK, so who is Bret Stephens, who knows so much better who should be the Republican candidates than does anyone else? Well, according to Wikipedia (caveat emptor), he was born in 1973, which means he was in seventh grade when I began my journalism career.

While there are probably lots of older pundits who share Stephens’s elite biases, I get pretty damned irritated when punk kids volunteer to do my thinking for me.

And anybody under 40 is a punk kid in my book, especially if he’s an overprivileged alumnus of St. Grottlesex. Nothing worse than a preppie who thinks he’s smarter than God Almighty Himself.

Elsewhere on the presidential campaign front, I notice via Memeorandum that Newt may need some cheese to go with his whine:

Gingrich won’t ‘allow’ moderators
to silence crowd at future debates

The Hill

Gingrich Threatens to Skip Debates
if Audiences Can’t Participate

New York Times

Gingrich on Debate’s No-Clapping Rule:
‘Media Doesn’t Control Free Speech’

CNS News 

Watching the debate last night, it took me a while to catch on to the fact that NBC had strictly prohibited audience applause, which was one reason why Newt’s trademark red-meat rhetoric didn’t seem quite as persuasive as it did when he was getting standing ovations in the South Carolina debates last week.

Was the no-applause rule a form of bias? Of course. But you only notice (and object to) bias when it is a bias you don’t share. And because this bias disadvantaged Gingrich, then it indirectly helped Rick Santorum, whose keen appreciation of expertise in South Pacific diplomacy is but one of his many excellent presidential qualifications.

UPDATE: There is nothing wrong with bias, by the way, so long as you don’t try to hide it. If you’re for Newt, or if you’re for Mitt or Ron Paul, just say so and then your readers will understand why you’re so viciously and unfairly prejudiced against Rick Santorum. And if you want to do P.R. for your favorite candidate, why not just reprint his campaign press releases?


Sarasota, FL — While former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Congressman Newt Gingrich bickered over their checkered past, the reviews are in and Rick Santorum stood head and shoulders above his competition.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post said: “But if Santorum is in a political no man’s land, he didn’t show it last night. While he got far less time to speak than either Romney or Gingrich… Santorum made the most with what he had.
As he had done in the debates last week, Santorum repeatedly attempted to lump Gingrich and Romney together as Obama-lite while presenting himself as the genuine conservative article.
In his best answer of the night – and the best overall answer from any candidate all night – Santorum detailed the apostasies of Gingrich and Romney on health care and climate change before adding: “They rejected conservatism when it was hard to stand.”
And from Twitter, influential opinion-makers said:
Ari Fleisher (@arifleischer) “Good and effective shot by Santorum on the tea party’s origins and newt & mitt’s support for the bailouts.”
Dick Morris (@DickMorrisTweet): “I think the big winner is Rick Santorum.”
Phil Klein (@Philipaklein): “Santorum nailing it on Iran. ‘It would be reckless not to do something’ if they’d get nukes otherwise – exactly!”
Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight): “Santorum wins debate in the penalty shootout phase.”
Dana Loesch (@DLoesch): “Digging this Santorum answer.”
Andrea Tantaros (@AndreaTantaros): “They rejected conservatism when it was hard to stand.” – Santorum on Newt and Mitt. Great answer.
To learn more about former Senator Rick Santorum, please visit

See there? That’s not so hard to do, is it?


21 Responses to “‘Let-Me-Tell-You-What-to-Think’ and Other Conventional Wisdom Tricks”

  1. htowt
    January 24th, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

    We Republicans are a cranky lot.

    If Bret thinks we are incapable of picking the correct candidate, well then, let’s show him!

    Go SARAH!

  2. AMartel
    January 24th, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

    The “no applause” rule is bias against Republicans in general.  It most obviously works against Newt and RonPaul, who both know how to work an audience.  But it also works against Mitt and Rick, because they need to learn how to work an audience, and fast.  It works for Democrats because it makes for a boring and stupid debate and protects the Palace Guard from criticism.

  3. Quartermaster
    January 24th, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

    I know you are unbiased and forthright in your writing because you have no vested interests or offers of pay offs in the form of Ambassadorships.

    Frankly, of the bunch we have now, Santorum seems the least insane. Newt has not been our friend since ’94, and Romney never was. Paul is all over the board, even in his areas of greatest strength. I wish we had some rally good people standing for POTUS, but, alas.

  4. AngelaTC
    January 24th, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

    who would have you believe that “Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour” comprise “the GOP A-Team” who should have run for president but didn’t. ”

    Uh, Haley Barbour?  That thar’s a pretty bold stance these days.

  5. Charles Martel
    January 24th, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

    Well, let’s see.  They say Rick voted for earmarks (lots and lots of them), against right-to-work and for no child left behind.  And, I have a sneaky suspicion he would have voted for the various bailouts if he’d had the chance.  Also, he endorsed the loathsome Arlen Spector.

    Yet all the above counts as nothing compared to his “keen appreciation of expertise in South Pacific diplomacy.”  Go, Rick!! 

  6. K-Bob
    January 24th, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

    Hmmm.  I guess these aren’t the droids we’re looking for.

  7. Gingrich Morphing Into a Ron Paul, Barack Obama Hybrid Regarding Debates « Catholic Bandita
    January 24th, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

    […] Stacy McCain says the raucous debate audiences help Santorum. He’s lying because he wants an ambassadorship. […]

  8. richard mcenroe
    January 24th, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

    I’ve seen Rick Santorum with a live audience; he does fine.  In fact, Stacy posted the videos here.

  9. richard mcenroe
    January 24th, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

    YO, Chuck, earmarks were how bidness was done in Congress back then.  Hell, even Ron Paul loved him a bunch.

  10. richard mcenroe
    January 24th, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

    And you know what you got in Pennsylvania coal mines?  SERIOUS union members.

  11. Anonymous
    January 24th, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

    These “purity tests” are only applied to Santorum, in case you have not noticed (commonplace on righty blogs).  I never hear about how Gingrich stymied spending cuts, etc. and lobbied on behalf of the dreaded the prescription drug benefit that Santorum takes heat for being a “big gov. conservative” etc.

  12. richard mcenroe
    January 24th, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

    Ace erupted in a rage.  Oh, that was that day with a Y in it, wasn’t it…

  13. Adjoran
    January 24th, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

    I believe I have been very consistent in my view of qualifications:  Governor, General, CEO, big-city Mayor, something requiring actual managing.  The US government is the world’s largest enterprise with an annual budget greater than the ENTIRE ECONOMY of every other country on earth except for Japan and China.  It seems reasonable to require a candidate demonstrate in some way that he has the skills to run it.

    We have elected legislators with limited relevant experience three times in the last century, each proved an incompetent disaster.  The only things they got right were Harding’s choice of VP and Kennedy’s marginal tax cut (more of a legislative initiative).  Pretty much everything else they and Obama touched went straight downhill.

  14. Adjoran
    January 24th, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

    So by my standard, we had the following candidates or talked-about-as candidates who met the minimum experience requirement:


    J. Bush





    I’ve never been married to Romney (in any sense), but the acceptable alternatives aren’t still in the race.  It’s great that the professional lobbyists Gingrich and Santorum want to start at the top, and that Crazy Uncle Ron still rails against the USDA stamp on the Thanksgiving turkey, but in real life you don’t get to start at the top of your profession unless your name is Barack Obama or Meghan McCain.

    Daniels looks better than ever, frankly.

  15. Charles Martel
    January 24th, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

    Used to have thousands of SERIOUS union steelworkers, too.  Now, they’re all gone.  But, thank God PA is still a union state thanks to our boy Rick and friends.

  16. Anonymous
    January 24th, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

    George Voinovich was Mayor of Cleveland and Governor of Ohio. I can hardly think of a Republican I’d less want to be President. On the Dem side, Kathleen Sebelius was Governor of Kansas and daughter of a Governor of Ohio, while Dennis Kucinich was Mayor of Cleveland.

    So these are the type of experienced people who’d perform well as President?

  17. ThePaganTemple
    January 24th, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

    How about his fellow OH Senator Mike DeRino? Either one of them have to be put up next to Dennis Kucinich before they can look conservative.

  18. Anonymous
    January 25th, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

    Due to a high level of stupidity among Ohio Repubs, he and his son now run the party in ohio. Conservatism-wise, neither one is worth the powder it’d take to blow him to hell.

  19. Wednesday Roundup 1/25/12 | Katy Pundit
    January 25th, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    […] to Save a Few BucksIssa cries foul after key player in Fast and Furious scandal refuses to testify‘Let-Me-Tell-You-What-to-Think’ and Other Conventional Wisdom TricksSTATE OF THE UNION RESPONSE VIDEO: Cain Rocks National Press […]

  20. Anonymous
    January 25th, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

    The “no applause” rule is all about controlling the message.  The MSM wants to be able to tell us who won and who lost.  The MSM doesn’t want “bitter clingers” influencing viewers at home with their standing ovations.  Thats their job.

    Journalists are masters of disguising their bias by omitting inconvenient facts/context.  Their gaming on the probability that most readers won’t notice.  A prime example was labeling the Tea Party as obstructionists during the debt ceiling showdown.

  21. ThePaganTemple
    January 25th, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

    Anytime you see something involving Brian Williams you can count on an appreciable level of asshatery disguised as intellectualism.