Friday, December 28, 2007

The Irresponsible New York Times

In a perfect example of the Appeal to Authority fallacy, the NY Times published this.

Not up on your fallacy definitions? Casey Morris defined it in a DCP post about another egregious example (which is worth a read all on its own).

This is a fallacy called "Appeal to Authority" for those of you that didn't have to sit through argumentation class in college. It means that just because someone is an expert in one area, doesn't mean that he is an expert in anything but that one area.

In other words, expertise in one area does not confer automatic expertise in another area. Which is why it is so puzzling that the NY Times would provide Fred Kagan a platform on which to broadcast his non-expert opinions on Pakistan.

Kagan's scholarship focused "on the 19th century Russian military"; a focus unrelated to Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan in either historical or current day context. Brandon Friedman aka The Angry Rakkasan dismantled Kagan's supposed expertise almost a year ago. He examined Kagan's CV, his peer-reviewed papers (only 4 - none on Pakistan or Afghanistan or Iraq). His review of Kagan's career established that in no way is Kagan qualified to offer an 'expert' opinion on world affairs other than the development and evolution of Russia into the Soviet Union and back into Russia.

Our media should scrutinize and shine a bright light on the credentials of the "experts"; not provide a platform for so-called experts who have no more qualifications than I have to blurt out their latest non sequiturs.

I'd like to see the NY Times do a thorough examination of Fred Kagan's scholarly background. Something like Brandon Friedman did almost a year ago at Daily Kos, one of those blogs that media types like to discount. The ideal would be an investigative article, thoroughly researched and well-substantiated, not a he-said, she-said variety.

Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch summed it up well:  "this type of 'village' idiocy, which reads like post-adolescent masturbatory drivel (sorry...), does need to be kept to a minimum in coming weeks, lest our policy-making class get carried away again towards other epic blunders."

Giving someone as unqualified as Kagan the platform of the New York Times op-ed page from which to make ridiculous recommendations, such as let's send our special forces into Pakistan to take over all their nuclear facilities and weapons, is a completely irresponsible action by the NYT.

And finally, to the NY Times op-ed editor:

You should know better.


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