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Monday, March 31

Pundita brain furballs ack ack!

Re my brief post Ontario QC supports my prediction ...

Part of the original wording of my mention of Mr Langlois's analysis of Marc Lemire's case (i.e., that Langlois "came down on the side of ...") could easily have been misinterpreted to mean that he approved of the tribunal making a decision based on the need to save face.

Of course a reading of Langlois's letter makes it clear that he was simply assessing the decision on Lemire against the kangaroo court's need to preserve face, and so my revised mention explains this in more precise fashion: "But his informed analysis shrewdly explains why an acquittal would be in the best interests of the kangaroo court system."

A reader once advised that I wouldn't have to apologize for brain furballs if I were not so nit-picking -- a criticism I gladly accept. The often hurried remarks one posts while blogging can sometimes be better put, on reflection. And the published word does not allow for the back-and-forth and nuances of expression and intonation that conversation provides, and which smooth over imprecise language.

So if I think I have misrepresented the views of another (or my own) I will revise after publication -- a practice that has admittedly exasperated some readers -- until I am satisfied I have clearly conveyed a thought.

This doesn't mean I won't deploy statements that are quite obviously wild exaggerations or misstatements in order to pound home a point -- or, in the manner of tit-for-tat -- to match an agendist or propagandist for nonsense. Once, while chewing out an official for spinning, I snapped that our ancestors didn't trouble themselves to invent iron in order to see their adult descendants acting like kindergartners.

But the need for precision in published comments has taken on vital dimensions. That's because this era in mass communications has spawned a cat-and-mouse game between spin artists and members of the public who are determined to get at the truth.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than in news relating to foreign policy -- and these days many newsworthy matters relate to foreign policy. This situation has placed several bloggers, Pundita among them, in the position of an intelligence analyst. We can spend hours poring over tiny shreds of data in the attempt to catch the propagandists in a lie or at least raise a warning flag.

Yet often there's a gray area where 'spin' might simply be a reporter too rushed to meet a deadline to write in the clearest fashion, or an official employing sloppy language.

Separating the chaff of honest miscommunication from the grain of calculated spin can be a tedious exercise, which has engendered in me a great respect for precision in writing and speaking for news publication.

To be frank, yesterday was a bad day for my brain because instead of giving it a day of rest from playing intel analyst I did something stupid. I plowed through several opinion pieces about China and the Tibet riots that were penned by Western reporters who had spent years writing about China.

This led me to attempt to figure out whether the reporters were apologists for China's government, products of an education system that elevated multiculturalism above all other concerns, loyally supporting the Panda Hugging policy of top officials in their government, overwhelmed by mountains of conflicting data, or simply confused. This piece by Richard Spencer is representative of what I suppose could be called an emerging genre.

I am certain the attempt to see through that much fog created brain furballs -- which, I might add, led to other sloppy writing yesterday. I have a standing joke when I add a blog to my blogroll that probably has more readers than mine: "Don't stay up all night celebrating." But making the joke public without explaining it could have created misunderstanding.

Also, I foolishly drew attention to my blogroll, which I haphazardly updated yesterday without explaining why I dropped certain blogs from the list. This led to inquires by two fans of one blog and the argument from another reader that if I had more than blog in the GWOT category, why couldn't I have more than one blog in the Canada Brigade category?

Regarding the blog in question, I added it to the blogroll in a rush of enthusiasm for the blog's concept, but later realized that my knowledge of 4GW was not sufficient for properly assessing the arguments put forth on the blog.

Regarding the argument: the Canadian freedom of speech issue has an important yet greatly overlooked connection to foreign policy matters, which is why a reference to the issue was overdue for mention on my blogroll. But the war has a huge impact on US foreign relations. Each blog under the GWOT heading represents a different specialty with regard to the war, although one blog -- Belmont Club -- is generalist oriented with regard to war matters.

Technically, Ya Libnan belongs in a country category, where I originally had it. I may move it back to that category the next time I update the blogroll. And Gates of Vienna is long overdue for its own category; it's just a matter of my thinking up a pithy title for the category. This American blog has definitely come to specialize in what Spengler termed Europe in the House of War.

Yet few entries on my blogroll stay within the bounds of a specialization; e.g., Belmont Club often forays into US politics. This can make it hard to categorize a blog; for example ZenPundit (listed under Eclectic) technically belongs in the GWOT category, or at least a subcategory of 4GW, but he also takes up discussions of topics related to epistemology.

Why bother with categories? I think a simple listing of blogs works best for sites that can be readily categorized and which have an easily identifiable readership. In that case a new visitor can readily assume that all the blogs on the blogroll support the blogger's viewpoint.

None of the above applies to this blog; it's not possible to gauge my view on US foreign policy from studying the blogroll. There's an understandable reason for this when you know my history of US foreign policy in the modern era:

During the Cold War years, US foreign policy was run out of a post box near NATO headquarters. Then US foreign policy was run out of a post box near the European Parliament. After 9/11, US foreign policy consisted of a big cloud of dust, as you see in a cartoon fight, with "BIFF! BAM! OW!" overhead in US official and policy circles.

In short there is no true 'United States of America' foreign policy yet. And forging one requires traveling a steep learning curve -- a journey that many US politicians and policy analysts are not willing to make, prefering instead to rehash the past. Pundita prefers to slog it out on the learning curve.
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