Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"opinion trusteeship"

Columbia Journalism School
"we live in a state of opinion trusteeship. None of us have the time and few of us the ability to do our own research on all the complex, problematic issues of our day."

     Victor Navasky, "The Rosenberg variations," The nation, 27 October 2010.  I was put onto this by Max Holland, "Much ado about nothing:  almost a third of Americans believe there was a wider conspiracy to kill Jack Kennedy.  They're wrong," The weekly standard 23, no 15 (December 18, 2017):  30 (26-34):
'We live in a state of opinion trusteeship,' Victor Navasky observed in 2010.  'None of us have the time and few of us the ability to do our own research' on historically problematic cases such as the Sacco-Vanzetti affair, the Rosenberg espionage case, J. Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance, or the Kennedy assassination.  As citizens, we depend on historians and investigative journalists to be our proxies and make sense of these complex events.  Specialized knowledge is hard-won, and expertise on one subject rarely transferable to another.  For the media, however, too often any historian will do as a commentator on a controversy so long as he cooperates in ratcheting up the rhetoric and suggesting a story where none really exists.
     "any historian" is of course too generous.  Would that the media were that conscientious!
     One thing we can do, however, it seems to me, is "do our own research" on selected topics in areas in which we are relatively well-qualified, so as to acquire and retain a sharp sense of what it might be like for a real specialist to do so in others.

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