Friday, November 06, 2009

Scarantino vs Denish, separating the wheat from the chaff.

Consider the current dispute between Jim Scarantino and
Lt Governor Diane Denish. Scarantino is unhappy with some
spending by Denish, link, Denish is unhappy with the way
the spending was characterized, link.

If there is a winner, it is not an obvious winner.

There is a obvious loser; anyone searching for information
upon which to base their upcoming vote.

The responsibilities of the fourth estate to keep the people informed about their government and their governors, have been ignored.

Newspapers, in particular if they bill themselves as "newspapers of record", have the most enforceable obligation to fairly inform. In reality, that obligation cannot be enforced at all, even upon newspapers of record. They are standards without enforcement.

As far as most blogs go, they represent the individual opinions of the blogger. I would argue that they have a responsibility to be fair and honest, but that responsibility is even less enforceable than the responsibilities of newspapers.


The following two paragraphs are unfair to Jim Scarantino. The error I though I saw, was not an error at all. My error was in assuming that Scarantino had spoken to the issues of printing and mailing, the issues Denish took issue with, and upon closer inspection I find he only alleged that some one had "worked on Christmas cards.

I apologize to Jim Scarantino for my careless error, I have learned from my mistake, and I will try very hard not to make this kind of error again.
This particular dispute began with what is essentially a fact sheet published by Scarantino. Apparently, at least one of the facts is wrong. The "mistake" was characterized by Denish as "a patently false lie." No evidence has been presented that leads to that conclusion; it could well have been an inadvertent error, far different than a lie.

It is fair to point out, the longer Scarantino waits to correct his error, the more the "inadvertent mistake", begins to look like a lie.

Scarantino laid out a bunch of examples of spending. It is clear that he thinks some money was spent inappropriately. He does not point to a violation of law or ethic. Yet it is fair to say that he wants to create that impression.

Denish's "defense" spoke to the one error (not an error per the UPDATE) in Scarantino's report, and to the insignificance of the amounts in question. That particular argument is specious unless a line can be drawn between significant and insignificant spending. No line has been drawn because no line can be drawn. All spending, in any amount, is fair game for consideration and the drawing of conclusions.

Even Denish supporters come away with no justification for, or even any real understanding of, the spending.

Other than that, she offers only an attack on the messenger.
Unless the credibility of the messenger plays, and it rarely does, attacks on the messenger are red herrings intended to draw attention from the message.

In the end, even careful readers are wondering if Denish actually did anything illegal, unethical, or even imprudent. Neither Denish nor Scarantino has done much to settle that important question.

And again, the real losers are voters being denied the
information they need, to cast their votes intelligently.

We simply have to do something to raise the level of the
discourse. We have to stop the name calling, the pigeon holing,
the innuendo, and the attacks on the messengers.

In an environ with few standards and even less enforcement,
it is apparently up to readers to create their own standards and
provide the enforcement, themselves.


Anonymous said...

Scarantino is part of a right-wing group that opposes anything put forward by Democrats, let alone just progressives (the Rio Grande Foundation).

He calls himself an investigative reporter when he clearly did not do any investigating.

He was so opposed to Martin Heinrich's candidacy in 2008 that he might as well have been a member of the Darren White campaign team.

He is the very definition of an unreliable source who only seeks to push his own libertarian-agenda (though in many ways it is an anti-progressive agenda more than libertarian as the RGF nearly always criticizes instead of suggesting solutions).

Why people got snookered into his report filled with half-truths and scare quotes (without any attempt to dig into those half-truths as a true "investigative reporter" might) is beyond me.

ched macquigg said...

Again, whether Scarantino is part of a group, and whether that group is right-wing or not, doesn't play.

Neither does who he did or did not support, nor how vigorously he supported them.

You are talking about apparent prejudice and the credibility issues that that creates.

Credibility is only an issue when someone asks you to believe them. A fact or question on the table, has its own inherent credibility which is entirely different from the credibility of the person who offers or asks it.

Whatever he says or asks stands alone. By the reasoning you follow, no fact or question could come from an anonymous source.

I don't know about his claim to be an investigative reporter. If he indeed does make that claim, then it seems reasonable to assume that he takes upon himself a mantle of implied impartiality.

I would feel more comfortable if you pointed to one of the half truths you mentioned, or a scare quote, and I would be happy to dissect it with you.