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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“I just think to get under Piers Morgan’s skin you don’t tell him he’s “snooty” — he aspires to be snooty. You tell him he’s a shallow-thinking tabloid clown who’s mistaken himself for an intellectual, and someone that CNN only hired due to its own deep intellectual and cultural insecurity. He’s Jerry Springer with upper-middle-class English accent, but not particularly articulate.”

Ace of Spades.

The blogger, who is right on substance, of course, makes the still-contested allegation that Morgan wiretapped, or encouraged others to wiretap phones. Has that been conclusively proven to the extent that Pc Plod is going to extradite this stoat from the US back to Blighty? I am not sure it has. (A recent programme makes similar claims.) Otherwise, my only other query would be the use of the word “articulate”. Being articulate is not the same as being intelligent. George Monbiot, Richard Murphy, Morgan and Polly Toynbee are “articulate”. Whether they show a command of logic, insight or respect for evidence and data is another issue entirely.

35 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Regional

    Sounds like he’s a wanker

  • Kevin B

    The go to guy on this is Guido. (Hey, that’s very nearly poetry.)*

    The short version appears at first glance to be that Morgan denies all knowledge of any specific phone hacking and Levenson doesn’t believe him.

    Personally, I’d like to see him done for the Iraqui squaddie bashing debacle if only for bringing the game, (of journalism), into disrepute, (which is pretty difficult, but Morgan manages it).

    *As is Regional’s comment.

  • the Iraqui squaddie bashing debacle

    Please tell me more?

  • Kevin B

    Here you go Alisa.

    The Mirror, (edited by Morgan), published faked photos of British soldiers, (squaddies), ‘torturing and humiliating’ Iraqui prisoners.

    The Beeb report can’t quite admit that the whole thing was totally bogus, hinting at the ‘fake but accurate’ defence.

  • Heh. Thanks, Kevin.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Piers Morgan is a nasty little man. He seems to come from the “All right thinking people think you’re wrong, so why wont you just admit it you bastard!” school of debate. He’s a bit like Kevin Kline’s character in A Fish Called Wanda – a moron who thinks he’s an intellectual.

    I thought THIS example particularly potent. The GOA man seems to be nothing but polite, articulate and rational in the face of Morgan’s mouth foaming.

    And yet if you go to lefty blogs and websites, they seem to think Morgan won that “debate”. The argument I saw put forward for this we “Well….. the GOA are idiots so he was right to say so…..”

    Real high standards of intellectual discourse these people have, eh?

  • Is there any particular reason that this QotD is classified under ‘Hippos’?

    Is this some Piers Morgan related fetish that I am not aware of?

  • Runcie Balspune

    In some role-playing games the attributes of intelligence and education (sometimes “wisdom”) are separate scores, Morgan is a classic example of why this is the case, together with most Royals, closet Marxists and Archbishops (educated but not actually smart).

  • James Strong

    Defining ‘intelligence’ is not easy.
    I would go for something like ‘the ability to deal effectively with new situations and problems.’
    Memory, which a lot of people confuse with intelligence, doesn’t fit easily into this, but memory is certainly important to allow the logic and insight to work.

    Articulacy has very little to with it. And articulacy and oratory are often used to mask the despicable aims and ambitions of those who seek power.

    But, going back to the post above, questioning the ‘intelligence’ of those who disagree with you, e.g. Monbiot and Polly, (I don’t know who Richard Murphy is) is not helpful.

    I’ve read stuff by Polly; it’s often quite logical but she starts from a different bias than most people who come to this site.

  • admin

    @Galt It’s part of a user-education programme for the Samizdatistas as they acclimate to WordPress

  • Runcie Balspune

    @ James Strong.

    questioning the ‘intelligence’ of those who disagree with you,

    The last part of the article states Whether they show a command of logic, insight or respect for evidence and data is another issue entirely. – which is a perfectly demonstrably valid explanation and not just a “they disagree with me” attitude.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    There is a big difference between expressing the opinion that another person is an idiot whilst in an outside context, and accusing another person of being an idiot during a debate and trying to use that accusation as the main plank in your argument.

    It is my opinion that Piers Morgan is an idiot precisely because he thinks calling someone an idiot counts as rational debate.

  • RRS

    Hopefully, this blog will not be increasingly concerned with ad hominem issues.

    It has gained traction from dealing with thought.

  • RRS: ad hominem is attacking a person instead of attacking his argument in a debate. This discussion is not a debate, but rather a simple attempt to understand why a certain person behaves in a certain way. Not only is there nothing wrong with doing that, but it can actually be very helpful. And it does require quite a bit of thought.

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Alisa: You surprise me.
    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem:

    An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument.[1] Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as an informal fallacy,[2][3][4] more precisely an irrelevance.[5]

    Attacks against the person, if they are based on opinion, speculation or hearsay, are irrational by definition – having no basis in fact/truth, and, except in the noble sports of scapegoating and witchhunting, whatever form they take, they generally prove nothing – though they can be informative and probably tell you more about the rationality and nature of the attacker than they might about the attacked.

    Of course, once you start to internalise the belief or conviction and even argue that attacks against a person are acceptable and OK, then you can easily move on to attacks against a class or group of people to attack. It can seem to be so compellingly attractive to our primitive instincts – we were once hunters and even warriors, and my ancestors painted their faces in woad, though I prefer not to do that today.

    You can cover such attacks up with rationalisations such, as for example, “…it can actually be very helpful. And it does require quite a bit of thought.”, thereby immediately defenestrating reason and opening the door to something else and potentially sinister – for example, “Those Jews, they had it coming.”

    I don’t really know anything much about this chap Piers Morgan, but I would suggest that focussing on the issue of rationality in whatever it is that he has said or done and that apparently annoys us could be far more constructive/useful in getting somewhere with our reason, though it might arguably require more rigorous critical thinking than may have been demonstrated in this discussion.

    However, if you are going to try and do that (focus on the issue of rationality), then I would also suggest that we consider what Evelyn Beatrice Hall supposed about Voltaire having the principle that:

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    This would presumably even apply in extreme cases – for example, such as this apparent wingnut:
    Prof. Richard Parncutt: Death Penalty for Global Warming Deniers?
    (The guy teaches in an Austrian university, for goodness’ sake.)

  • Slartibartfarst, for the purpose of clarification, I will humbly quote myself This discussion is not a debate, where by ‘debate’ I meant an argument. As far as I can see, this thread does not concern itself with the issue of gun ownership (which was what lately brought Mr. Morgan to the center of public discussion to begin with), with that issue being pretty much settled as far as most of the participants here are concerned (although you or others may disagree, a fact which may warrant a separate discussion). Basically what at least some of us are saying here is: ‘Morgan behaves and talks like an ass, lets try and understand why do asses like him behave and talk like the asses that they are’. Of course, reasonable people may disagree that Mr. Morgan is in fact an ass – if so, I’m all ears. But surely you will not argue that it is irrational for some persons to think that some other persons are asses, and to try and understand what exactly is it that makes those other persons behave like the asses they appear to be?

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Alisa: I do apologise. I had not realised that the rules had been set for this discussion thread to be a notional non-debate – i.e., a discussion without any rational arguments required or needing to be made on either side (does that mean they are prohibited?) – nor was I aware that an ad hominem was not allowed to be stated nor exist in a non-debate – i.e., without there being the context of a formal debate within which to make the personal attack in the first place.

    My simple understanding had been that the great philosophers had defined several logical fallacies, and that ad hominem was just one of them.
    Thus, I had considered (presumably erroneously) that @RRS had made a valid point, and one that was being denied validity.

    Now that you have straightened me and @RRS out, I am sure that we shall be the better for it, and in any event I shall certainly try to avoid being so mistaken again.

    Where you say:

    But surely you will not argue that it is irrational for some persons to think that some other persons are asses, and to try and understand what exactly is it that makes those other persons behave like the asses they appear to be?

    - I must confess to being in a bit of a quandary with this question.

    The first part appears to be seeking agreement about whether it is rational for some people to consider others to be asses.
    The second part appears to be seeking agreement about whether it is rational to try to understand what exactly it is that makes those other persons behave like the asses they appear to be.

    If you will permit me to try and approach this two-part question rationally, even though it is apparently not a “debate” per se:

    (a) It could be that some people consider others to be asses because they appear to be, but that in itself does not necessarily prove that they are asses. So it might be irrational to consider that they are asses – if there is no logical/actual proof/substantiation to that effect.

    (b) To ask whether it is rational to try to understand what exactly it is that makes those other persons behave like the asses they appear to be, you would first need to assume that the case for them being the asses they appear to be is made. But it is not (QED).

    If it is not a given that they are asses, then it would be irrational to investigate why they are asses – e.g., like discussing the qualities of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
    If it is assumed that they are asses, regardless (as I suspect may have happened in this non-debate discussion thread), then you could of course press on and irrationally enquire why they behave like the asses we assume them to be.

    That seems to be quite a different thing to what you seem to be suggesting. It is a contrary argument. I do apologise for bringing up a contrary argument, but I feel obliged to, under the circumstances, if only to preserve a sense of critical thinking and reason in things.

    However, if we still wish to investigate why these non-asses might be asses, then what we arguably seem to be doing is seeking points to use to rationalise our assumption that they are indeed asses because they do not hold the same views as ourselves.

    If that is really your intended purpose, then I cannot offer much more than to suggest that you save time and skip the why and just move straight to another assumption (Why not, if we’ve already done that once?) that they are psychologically ill and need remedial treatment and thought conditioning – following the excellent example set by one Professor Kari Norgaard, U of Oregon (USA), where she is a professor in the Department of Sociology, and who made a call for climate skeptics to be likened to racists and ‘treated’ for having a mental disorder, and also called on the President to ignore the will of the people and suspend democracy in order to enforce draconian ecological mandates (2012-03-30).
    (That lady is my heroine.)

    Therefore, clearly this chap Peers Dimly is an ass, and not only that but also psychologically ill and in need of remedial treatment and thought conditioning (QED).
    Personally, I’d pack him off to receive the tender ministrations of Professor Norgaard at U of Oregon without further ado.

    Kari’ll fix it!

  • Slartibartfarst: no, no rules have been set as far as I know, although I may have missed the note from those making the rules. It was just my impression that the discussion was about a person, and so RRS’ claim that in such a discussion remarks made about that same person constitute a logical fallacy (ad hominem) and are devoid of thought seemed rather strange. Unless what RRS meant to say was that any discussion about any particular person is unbecoming of this blog as being necessarily devoid of thought – a claim I also find strange. Personally, I find individual persons (asses and non-asses alike) the most interesting, thought-provoking and important subject there is, and thus the most worthy of consideration and discussion. But it is just me, so please feel free to disregard.

    As to the rest, I must apologize for being unable to follow through that entire comment – I may try again later, when my brain stops hurting so much:-)))

  • RRS

    Alisa

    RRS’ claim that in such a discussion remarks made about that same person constitute a logical fallacy (ad hominem) and are devoid of thought seemed rather strange. Unless what RRS meant to say was that any discussion about any particular person is unbecoming of this blog as being necessarily devoid of thought – a claim I also find strange.

    Golly! Gee Whiz! Did I say all that?

    Hopefully, this blog will not be increasingly concerned with ad hominem issues.

    It has gained traction from dealing with thought.

    On second thought, I probably should have said “ideas” instead of “thought;” no offense intended (see VR’s post immediately preceding mine).

  • RRS

    Sorry, that was JV’s post, not VR’s.

  • RRS: I was getting the feeling that this will turn into much ado about not much – and much of that ado of my own making, with the generous help from Slartibartfarst:-)

  • Paul Marks

    On the contrary Slartibartfast – “ad hominem” thinking is often useful.

    If one establishes the source of information is a scumbag it indicates that one should be very wary of the information (one should expect fraud).

    One needs only to remember “this person is a scumbag – therefore the info he is trying to sell to me is most likely bogus”, it might NOT be bogus (but the burden of proof is upon the scumbag).

    It even works with an argument – not just information.

    Someone produces a wonderful (SEEMING) argument to do X.

    One can see no logical flaw in the “wonderful” argument.

    Should one then do X?

    NO – not if the person making the “wonderful argument” is a scumbag (who one has prior experience of trying to do harm).

    What one should say is…….

    “I can see no logical flaw in this argument – but I do NOT trust it, because of the source of the argument. There is a logical flaw here – I just am not clever enough to have spotted it”.

    Although this does leave the problem of the “double bluff”.

    Scumbag produces a logical argument to do X – you refuse to do X because you know said scumbag has evil intentions.

    Alas! He did not really want you to do X – he produced an argument for doing X in the hope (that as the argument was from him) you would then NOT do it.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Ideas and ideas alone are the material of the debating floor.

    Outside of this context ad hominem issues are as important, in fact probably more important than the ideas being presented. We live in a world of almost unlimited information. It would take 1000s of lifetimes to become an expert in everything.

    So what do rational people do? They try to become an expert in the one thing they do have time to master – judging whether the expert currently speaking to them is trustworthy.

    So when the Climate Science Unit comes to you and says “Man made global warming is going to destroy the world, but you’re much too stupid to understand why this is the case so just take our word for it m’kay?” it is quite legitimate to reply “No, because you all are demonstrably a bunch of pigs with their snouts in the trough so I refuse to take your word for it. I will seek the views of experts who have nothing to gain either way.”

    In the case of Piers Morgan, I do not believe rational debate to be the answer to men like him. He’s not looking for rational debate because his “argument” (if you can call it that) is not a rational one, it is an emotional appeal made to people who make decisions based on their emotions. You could trounce him with a brilliant display of logic and only a bunch of elderly libertarians listening on the radio with a glass of brandy in their hands would even notice. To the baying mob that is Morgan’s target audience, it will look like he’s won simply because he shouts louder.

    The solution as I see it is either to refuse to engage with gutter hacks like Morgan entirely, or to beat him at his own game with violent, emotional rhetoric.

    So when he says “You’re a very stupid man, aren’t you”, instead of quoting very reasonable facts and statistics at him why not reply something like “Why do you hate personal freedom so much? Huh?”

    Policy of our time is not created according to some lofty Athenian ideal where rational men try to tease out what is true and right. It is written in the language of populism, fear, ambition, sophistry and greed.

    Personally I want nothing to do with it. But if you really want to get into that fight, Marquess of Queensberry rules is not the way to go.

  • Slartibartfarst

    As a rationalist, I probably can’t add much else that would be useful in this discussion, so I thought I’d do a bit of audience research. I have an Asian wife who is absolutely mad about “America’s Got Talent”, and cooking and rugby, and no-one dare touch the TV remote control when one of her proggies on these subjects is on. (She’s much less subtle than slivers of bamboo under the fingernails.)

    I asked her if she thought Peers Dimly was an ass, and she thought about it for a moment and said “No, but he is sometimes unkind”, and then she vouchsafed the thought that “Simon Cowell is awesome”, said with a loving look in her eyes.
    I then asked my 11 y/o daughter if she thought Peers Dimly was an ass, and she said “He’s half an idiot, but he’s quite smart too, though I think he’s unkind”.
    Turning to our little 2 y/o boy I asked him “Do you think that Peers Dimly is an ass?”, he paused and then said decisively, “Yes”.
    Me? I am unsure.
    So this audience survey shows that:
    * 25% do not think that Peers Dimly is an ass;
    * 25% think that Peers Dimly is an ass;
    * 25% percent think that Peers Dimly is half an ass (I don’t know which half);
    * 25% are unsure as to whether Peers Dimly is an ass;
    * 25% are worried that their spouse might love another man.

    I’d say to heck with it and burn him at the stake – Simon Cowell, I mean.

  • Laird

    Can we burn both of them at the stake? Please?

  • Simon Cowell *is* awesome, and I say this as only 25% Asian.

  • rfichoke

    Wow! A quote from my favorite foul-mouthed American Conservative blog on my favorite erudite British Libertarian blog. I never thought I’d see this day.

  • Paul Marks

    Asian – I can trump that.

    According to my late maternal grandfather, we are partly descended from the Fey. So I am partly nonhuman!

    Of course, Slartibartfast (being a rationalist), might start questioning the accuracy of this claim – asking for evidence and so on……..

  • According to my late maternal grandfather, we are partly descended from the Fey. So I am partly nonhuman!

    I knew it! Is there a doctor in the house?

  • Paul Marks

    I would love to be a Time Lord.

    Writing them out of the Dr Who universe was a very bad thing to do.

  • No spoilers please – I’m behind.

  • Midwesterner

    Ditto what Alisa said. Please no Dr. Who spoilers. Those of us in the rest of the world don’t get to see them for a year or two. Better late than never.

  • Time is of no essence:-)

  • Paul Marks

    Alisa and Mid.

    You must be much more than a year behind.

  • 2 years in my case – finishing up series 5.