2017-05-03

Editor Wanted

For reasons known only to them, a subset of authors from Sweet Talk Conversation have elected to start a new blog - which almost looks like a publication - called Liberal Currents. Whether it is mere coincidence that the color scheme of that new blog is identical to the color scheme of Canada's NDP or indicative of their new found land... er, policy preferences... I can't really say.

What I can say is that the site desperately needs an editor.

It's not unusual for casual bloggers to make spelling mistakes, to misuse words, to make wild claims unsupported by formal citation or evidentiary reasoning, but many of the people involved in the Liberal Currents project write things for a living, and as I said above, the website looks like it is trying to be some sort of online publication. If they intend for this blog to be worth anything, though, they need an editor, and badly.

In the site's most recent article, Ashish George - whose byline claims that he is a writer, so I can only assume he means a writer by profession or at least a writer who wishes to be taken seriously as a writer - writes a number of startling things that any good editor could have prevented.

Near the beginning of the article, George writes, "But the managerial approach to policy in vogue with the upper echelons of the Democratic Party is ill-suited to thinking in terms of systematic change." How does he know that the "upper echelons of the Democratic Party" favor a "managerial approach to policy?" Who are the people who make up those upper echelons, and what specifically about their views suggests that they favor such an approach? And for what specific reasons are their views "ill-suited to" systematic change or that other approaches are superior? George never says.

Now, to be clear, I'm not claiming that George is making incorrect claims, I'm claiming that we have no way of knowing whether his claims are incorrect because he hasn't bothered to cite reasons for saying what he says. He simply puts it out there.

Similarly, George claims that
[T]he homogeneity of libertarians permits them to take for granted many assumptions about how the world works that emerge out of a lack of testimonial evidence from people of different backgrounds and an overconfidence in the ability of raw intelligence by itself to surmount all challenges.
How does he know - or why should his readers believe - that it is homogeneity specifically (I think he means demographic homogeneity, ie. white and male) that causes libertarians to take their assumptions for granted or to be over-confident in raw intelligence? Again, George never bothers to say.

Moreover, on the topic of basic editing, how does "taking an assumption for granted" differ from "taking something on assumption?" What does it even meant to take an assumption for granted? What else does one do with an assumption?

Later, George claims that "The politically powerful—Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, Tom Price—have advocated or implemented policies without internalizing the experiences of the disabled."How does he know this, or why would he make this claim? What ex ante reason do I have to believe that George knows what Bill Clinton has or has not internalized? What an incredibly odd claim to make about the thoughts of people George does not know personally.

Some of George's other claims are just plain lazy rhetoric. For example, he writes, "In order to fully integrate disabled people into American life, libertarians need to jettison their ideal..." It is not clear - nor anywhere justified in the article - why disabled people's integration into American life is reliant on 11% of the American population "jettisoning" their ideals. It isn't clear to me, nor is it presented in the article, why the 11% of Americans who describe themselves as libertarians are so powerful that their ideals alone are preventing disabled people from fully "integrating" into American life. This claim might be true, for all I know, but from whence does the author make it?

More likely, though, the author just didn't spend adequate time writing that paragraph. What he likely means is that, to whatever extent libertarians uphold an able-bodied, independent person as an ideal, their vision for an American policy landscape is unreflective of the differently abled. As you can see, though, that's a far less spunky statement. It acknowledges that George's perception of what a libertarian idealizes might not be accurate of all libertarians, and it weakens his stance from being that people with disabilities aren't integrated into American life to being merely that they're not involved in an able-bodied person's mere fantasy about that.

And this, of course, strikes at the problem with George's principle complaint, which is not that the disabled are victims of a real, tangible, physical injustice, but merely that they suffer a psychic harm from not being at the top of everyone else's mind. I think we all know what kind of person feels harmed by not being forefront in other people's thoughts, but I won't go there right now.

The reason I won't go there is because it's hard to criticize a person's ideas when they can't even use words correctly. Toward the end of the article, George writes, "Kerala’s communists and Washington’s libertarians won’t agree on much, but they are both complicit in hermeneutical injustice..." He probably doesn't mean that these two groups are complicit. More likely, he means only that both groups have contributed in some way to the supposed "hermeneutical" injustice faced by the disabled population.

Still, if he did mean complicit, then that would require some sort of citation of evidence. In fact, this would be big news!

It is understandable that someone very passionate about an issue close to them would get a bit carried away when writing an article about that issue. The author has clearly invested a lot of time and effort in writing this piece. A more serious round of editing would not only prevent the obvious mistakes from reaching the readers of Liberal Currents, but would also do justice to the author's own work and point of view by taking it more seriously.

Now, look, I know Stationary Waves isn't a bastion of great editing and thorough citations. But on the other hand, I've never promoted myself as a professional writer, a serious thinker, or anyone other than just some guy who started a blog. On the few occasions I have written for formal publications, my writing has been subjected to multiple rounds of thorough editing, and my work was much the better for it.