I own John Leo
John Leo's most recent column is devoted to something I usually attempt to undermine: the quick and thoughtless labeling of people. He comes out early with his thesis:
"Obvious point: When judging the credibility of controversial people in the news, readers and viewers deserve a fair account of their background and affiliations. If the issue is politics, we certainly need to know their political leanings."
Leo here conflates two things: the relevance of someone's background and affiliations to their credibility, and the relevance of someone's background and affiliations to the truth of the matter. With no thought to making a distinction between these issues, he only further muddies the waters he thinks he is clearing. He cites the example of the Italian journalist who was shot at in Iraq:
"Few news outlets reported all of the following facts, which surely bear on her probable credibility: She strongly opposed the American invasion, she identifies with the resistance to the United States in Iraq, she works for a Communist paper, and she is a Communist herself. "
Are those facts relevant to her credibility? Absolutely. Are they relevant to the fact of whether or not she was targeted on purpose? Absolutely not.
He uses a phrase I love to describe this data he feels is being withheld: "partisan connections." But the way the article is constructed, everyone has "partisan connections" except John Leo. What the hell is a partisan connection? Does John Leo really believe that there is a group of people who have no beliefs, preconceptions or agendas whatsoever, and that it is they who should be reporting on things so they can be objective? Fortunately for me and unfortunately for John Leo, his thesis collapses under its own weight, much like the statement "I am lying right now" does. For him to be consistent, he would need to start his article with "I'm John Leo, right-wing columnist with the following partisan connections..." Well, what are they, John?
More on defining "partisan" philosophically in my next posting.