Andy Ihnatko’s defensive rant

Andy Ihnatko is a pundit. He may bristle at the term being applied to him, but it fits. He’s been writing about technology issues for years and years; I first read him in the back pages of MacUser Magazine in the mid-90s.

Andy I. is also, apparently, angry and defensive about the term “mainstream media”:

Okay, I’m making a new rule: whenever I’m reading something online and I see the phrase “The Mainstream Media,” I’m instantly deducting 40 credibility points from the author. It’s a meaningless phrase its use indicates laziness, sloppiness, or a line of thought that was only half-formed to begin with.

Worst, it’s often a cheap debating technique, best used by con men to imply a closeness with the reader. “You know that individual or organization that you can’t stand? C’mon, you know the one I’m talking about, right? Well, hey! I can’t stand it or him or her either! Why, buying an above-ground pool from me will be like buying it from your best friend!”

I may be late to the game, here, but after I read Andy I.’s rant, I knew that it was unfounded and angry but it took me a bit of reflection to put my finger on what was, exactly, the logical flaw hidden in his outpouring of scorn.

If you click through to read the entire article, you may notice something that I, too, have noticed: that nowhere in Andy I.’s long rant against the lazy, sloppy, half-formed line of thought that includes but is not limited to the term “mainstream media” does Andy I. give any specific examples the use of this term. Nor does he ever quote anyone else using this term in a way that Andy I. dislikes that he can specifically take exception with.

In fact, Andy I.’s blog post pretty much proceeds on the assumption of hope that we, the readers, will uncritically accept his assertions that people who use the term “mainstream media” are lazy, sloppy, thoughtless con-men.

There’s a term for an argument like that; it’s called a “straw man argument”. Andy I. has constructed a straw man against which he is arguing. If he cared about presenting an honest argument, he would cite specific examples of the use of this term for which he bears such ill will. He might argue specifically against people who use the term in ways in which Andy I. disagrees; if he were bold enough to put his name on such an argument, he might find that his character assassination of said people as lazy, sloppy, thoughtless con-men who lack credibility might carry more weight.

Or it might expose Andy I.’s fear of, and lack of thought regarding, the actual use of the term “mainstream media”.

Why might Andy I., whose words and opinions on various topics have appeared in print in large regional as well as national print publications for years, feel so strongly about the use of the term “mainstream media” that he would not only automatically assume said person was a lazy, sloppy, thoughtless con-man who lacked credibility, but would also take the step of publishing said rant on his blog? It would be irresponsible not to speculate!

I suspect that someone Andy I. felt some respect for accused Andy I., or a friend or associate of Andy I., of being in the mainstream media in a way that reflected poorly on Andy I.’s, or a friend or associate of Andy I.’s, integrity, professionalism or intellectual capacities. And that said accusation was difficult for Andy I. to argue against on the merits, or that Andy I. did not even consider arguing against said accusation on the merits. Therefore, Andy I. ranted cartoonishly against the term but did not feel the courage to actually call out that person by name.

But that, of course, is my opinion. Luckily, I have given you a link back to Andy I.’s rant so that you can compare what I am saying with what he has actually written. Unlike, say, Andy I. himself.

When I search Google for the term “mainstream media”, I get hits from Noam Chomsky, a comedian named Lee Camp talking about police brutality, and Howard Fineman, a political pundit with a national megaphone, as well as hits from many political media watchdog organizations about which I know very little beyond what the Google summary tells me.

Are any of these folks, in the opinion of Andy I., lazy, sloppy, thoughtless con-men with no credibility?

Only Andy I. can say.