In response to my assertion that news programs shouldn’t solicit commentary from intellectually dishonest entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin (who is trickier insofar as his book is different in kind from his radio rhetoric), E.D. Kain writes in comments:
Intellectual dishonesty is not something you can scientifically pin down. One man’s intellectually dishonest pundit is another man’s political mentor. I generally don’t like these pundits, Conor, but the notion of banning them from cable news shows because you think they’re dishonest is reprehensible to me.
I’ve got a question for E.D. and other like-minded commenters: Is there anything that would cause you to classify a political commentator like Rush Limbaugh as intellectually dishonest? What if I could demonstrate, for example, that he makes factually inaccurate statements, plays misleadingly edited audio clips, misrepresents the views of his political opponents, and uses obviously fallacious reasoning every single fortnight he is on the air, for years on end? Would that be sufficient evidence to objectively deem him intellectually dishonest, or would it still just be a matter of my opinion? Would it be sufficient to justify his exclusion from news programs?
Here is a thought experiment that demonstrates as best I can why Rush Limbaugh shouldn’t be invited as a commentator on any news program that meets the standards a journalistic organization ought to set for itself. Take the kinds of flawed commentary that I list above: a) factually inaccurate statements, b) misleadingly edited audio clips, c) misrepresenting the views of political opponents, and d) using obviously fallacious reasoning. Imagine that every day during September 2009, a neutral party is going to analyze Mr. Limbaugh’s program, and determine whether it included transgressions a, b, c or d.
Given 5 to 1 odds, would anyone be willing to wager $100 that Mr. Limbaugh will go even one single program that month without doing any of those things?
Would you rather have $100 for every program that month when Mr. Limbaugh commits all four transgressions, or $100 for every program wherein he commits none of those transgressions?
In a contest with 20 other people, where the winner is awarded $1 million for best estimating the total number of transgressions Mr. Limbaugh will make during the month, what would be your guess?
Having answered those questions, does Mr. Limbaugh still strike you as an appropriate guest for a program whose mission is to inform its audience?