The Manifesto

I’m tired of being lied to. I don’t like it when other people do it to me, and I really don’t like it when I do it to myself (by which I mean, when I fool myself into accepting as true something that’s false, or accepting as false something that’s true, merely because doing so matches up with my pre-existing biases). So I’m going to do something about it.

Henceforth, for the purposes of my posting and commenting on this site, I’m going to make a conscious effort to evaluate claims without regard to who’s making those claims.

If someone is bullshitting, and I find out about it, I’m going to call them on it, regardless of who they are or what position they’re advocating.

If someone is telling the truth, I’ll acknowledge it, regardless of who they are or what position they’re advocating.

In either case, I will be do my best to evaluate sources objectively, without regard to whether their statements happen to conform with my pre-existing biases.

Also, I will do my best to clearly distinguish between my statements of fact and my statements of opinion, and in the case of the former, to provide supporting information (like links to outside sources) so you can make your own evaluation of my conclusions.

I’m asking you, the readers of this site, to help keep me honest about this. If you think I’ve violated one or more of the commitments given above, say so, either in email or (preferably) in a comment on the item in question.

This manifesto isn’t really new, since I’ve been trying to do this all along. It’s called “being honest,” and I think most people try to do it, at least when dealing with themselves.

What’s new here is that I’m stating the guidelines explicitly, and publicly pledging to adhere to them, and commiting myself to take it very, very seriously whenever someone asserts that I’ve violated them.

Note that I will be using this same approach when evaluating users’ asserations that I’ve failed to live up to the manifesto. So to the extent you can provide actual evidence (for example, in the form of links to supporting sources, which naturally will be subject to the same sort of evaluation) rather than merely asserting that I’ve blown it, that will tend to give your words more weight.

Disclaimer: There is one form of bias I intend to preserve. In fact, I intend to strengthen it. It’s this: I will, as I said, do my best to evaluate the truthfulness of sources objectively. Before putting someone in the “demonstrated to be unreliable” category, I will perform a careful and, to the extent I can manage it, unbiased investigation of that someone’s truthfulness. But having once determined that someone’s assertions are unreliable, I’m going to be strongly biased against accepting that source’s assertions at face value in the future. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… er, um… won’t get fooled again.


6 Responses to “The Manifesto”

  1. Steve Says:

    Does this mean you’re going to stop linking so many posts back to the Bush Administration? You’ve been pretty effective at demonstrating that they have no regard for Truth.

    However, they’re also pretty newsworthy, so it’ll be quite hard to ignore them.

    So which is it? Tediously sourced examples of further Bush mendacity, or a focus on more non-Bush examples of lying? Sure, that’s a false dilemna, but I’d be interested how this relates to politics and the bigwig politicians of our day.

    Maybe you’re going to focus more on claims made by corporations, but every corporation bullshits. I’m looking at a box of graham crackers while I type this, and the box reads: “No Cholesterol”.

    This is a form of bullshit. Of course a plant product contains no animal fat (cholesterol). They’re just trying to make their crackers seem healthier than they really are.

    Heck, my Jolly Time Healthy Pop pop corn box says in big letters that it’s “94% fat free” when the label on the back says that 20 out of 90 calories come from fat.

    Where are you going with this as far as categories are concerned?

  2. jbc Says:

    I haven’t thought it out that far. I think the mix of stories will probably stay pretty much the same, since I post things based on my being interested in them, and I’ll probably remain interested in pretty much the same things. I guess I’m intending to do a stricter job of self-editing to avoid saying things like, “Bush is being dishonest when he says X, because it’s completely obvious that he really intends to do Y,” saying instead, “Bush has said X, which seems suspect, in my opinion, based on his previous statement Y. I think it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that he actually intends to do Z.”

    I’m hoping, too, that instead of getting people painting me with a broad brush when they disagree with me, I can lure a few of the more thoughtful disagreeing types into actuallly engaging in a substantive debate on the merits of our positions, rather than just having lots of name-calling.

  3. » Dawkins on Creationism Says:

    […] te provides an interesting test-case of the objectivity I’m striving for in the post-manifesto It helps clarify something that I think people (including some in the m […]

  4. leftbehind Says:

    JBC -Looking back on the last 2+ years since this was written, I can’t say that this manifesto ended up meaning as much as was intended. I’m sure you were passionate about it when you wrote it, but I don’t see where an ernest effort was ever made to follow up on its promise.

    I point, for example to a more recent comment, on a November 10, 2007 thread called “CNN: The New Fox News.” Concerning CNN’s distortion of a Nancy Pelosi soundbite, about which you were understandably outraged, you wrote: “I might not leap quite so quickly to whine about CNN if they were skewering a right-wing politician in that fashion; I’ll grant you that.” Why not? You say in your manifesto that “if someone is bullshitting, and I find out about it, I’m going to call them on it, regardless of who they are or what position they’re advocating.” Doesn’t that imply that if that bullshit constitutes a dishonest attack upon or an injurious misrepresentation of another person, regardless of that person’s politics or what position they advocate? Personal bias and agenda are only natural, but if you know that someone is lying, or promoting a lie by whatever means, and you have to stop and think whether or not you’re going to say anything about it based on your politics, haven’t your politics made you an enabler to the lie?

    When Hillary Clinton and her staff planted questions at a press conference, a la the FEMA press conference you covered extensively, where was There’s an item circulating today that one of the questioners featured on last night’s Republican debate was an employee of the Clinton campaign, a fact CNN neglected to mention when putting the guy on the air. Had a Fred Thompson operative infiltrated the Democratic debate, you would post on it immediately and passionately-why do I doubt, based on its track record, will even mention it?

    If you’re going to call your blog “” and set yourself up as a Champion of The Truth and Enemy of All Liars, as this manifesto suggests, you have to do better than that. It’s alright to be a partisan and, as I’ve said before, bias is only natural, especially within the context of a campaign cycle. Why then, keep a manifesto such as this posted and try to pretend this blog is something that it’s not, and can’t ever be?

  5. jbc Says:

    Touché. I guess the best defense I can make is that it’s lack of time, more than lack of commitment, that prevents me from living up to the manifesto’s requirements. But yeah, you have a point.

  6. leftbehind Says:

    Which is not to denegrade you or what you are doing at all. This manifesto just sets the bar awfully high. I doubt anyone here, myself included, could ultimately do any better, especially given the present climate.

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