Roger Cohen poses in NYT over Iran and his broken heart

I grew tired of fisking Roger Cohen, whose idiocy so served the forces he now acknowledges had misled him. Now he presents himself as a heart-broken journalist trying to do a job as good as any scholar, hanging in to bear witness in Teheran even after his press card was revoked.

What we really could afford to hear is how Roger Cohen rereads the drivel he aggressively produced before the shingles fell from his eyes.

Times Topics: Iran

“Not everyone realizes,” Weber told students, “that to write a really good piece of journalism is at least as demanding intellectually as the achievement of any scholar. This is particularly true when we recollect that it has to be written on the spot, to order, and that it must create an immediate effect, even though it is produced under completely different conditions from that of scholarly research. It is generally overlooked that a journalist’s actual responsibility is far greater than the scholar’s.”

Oh would journalists take themselves that seriously.

Actually there’s an interesting contrast here. Weber was intensely self-critical (to the point of writer’s block), but what he did produce is still being read with profit. Journalist’s, granted, have to write faster, but that doesn’t mean they have to be less critical… just that, along with the glory of shooting your mouth off to millions of people, we deserve a look when you shoot yourself in the foot.

Yes, journalism is a matter of gravity. It’s more fashionable to denigrate than praise the media these days. In the 24/7 howl of partisan pontification, and the scarcely less-constant death knell din surrounding the press, a basic truth gets lost: that to be a journalist is to bear witness.

The rest is no more than ornamentation.

To bear witness means being there — and that’s not free. No search engine gives you the smell of a crime, the tremor in the air, the eyes that smolder, or the cadence of a scream.

No news aggregator tells of the ravaged city exhaling in the dusk, nor summons the defiant cries that rise into the night. No miracle of technology renders the lip-drying taste of fear. No algorithm captures the hush of dignity, nor evokes the adrenalin rush of courage coalescing, nor traces the fresh raw line of a welt.

I confess that, out of Iran, I am bereft. I have been thinking about the responsibility of bearing witness. It can be singular, still. Interconnection is not presence.

A chunk of me is back in Tehran, between Enquelab (Revolution) and Azadi (Freedom), where I saw the Iranian people rise in the millions to reclaim their votes and protest the violation of their Constitution.

We journalists are supposed to move on. Most of the time, like insatiable voyeurs, we do. But once a decade or so, we get undone, as if in love, and our subject has its revenge, turning the tables and refusing to let us be.

The Iranian Constitution says that the president is to be elected “by the direct vote of the people,” not selected through the bogus invocation of God’s will. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Revolution, said in 1978 that: “Our future society will be a free society and all the elements of oppression, cruelty and force will be destroyed.”

The regime has been weakened by the flagrance of its lie, now only sustainable through force. No show trials can make truth of falseness. You cannot carve in rotten wood.

I was one of the last Western journalists to leave the city. Ignoring the revocation of my press pass, I went on as long as I could. Everything in my being rebelled against acquiescence to the coterie around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose power grab has shattered the balances of the revolution’s institutions and whose goal is plain: no eyewitnesses to the crime.

Of course, Iranians have borne witness — with cellphone video images, with photographs, through Twitter and other forms of social networking — and have thereby amassed an ineffaceable global indictment of the usurpers of June 12.

Never again will Ahmadinejad speak of justice without being undone by the Neda Effect — the image of eyes blanking, life abating and blood blotching across the face of Neda Agha-Soltan.

Iran crushes people with its tragedy. It was unbearable to go. It remains so. Images multiply across the Web but the mainstream media, disciplined to distil, is missed.

Still, the world is watching. As we Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence, let’s stand with Iran by recalling the first democratic revolution in Asia. It began in 1905 in Iran, driven by the quest to secure parliamentary government and a Constitution from the Qajar dynasty.

Now, 104 years on, Iranians demand that the Constitution they have be respected through Islamic democracy and a government accountable to the people. They will not be silenced. The regime’s base has narrowed dramatically. Its internal splits are growing with the defection of much of the clerical establishment.

One distinguished Iran scholar, Farideh Farhi, wrote this to me: “So I cry and ask why we have to do this to ourselves over and over again. Yet I do have hope, perhaps for purely selfish reasons — because I don’t want to cry all the time, but also because of the energy you keep describing. We have a saying in Persian, I assume out of historical experience, to the effect that Iran ultimately tames the invaders.”

Alas how many Iranians, along with the mullahs, read this statement as the victory of those very forces whose loss you mourn. Freedom is a rare and hard-won accomplishment, not a gift. Neither you, nor the Western liberals like Roger Cohen and the President he feigned to advise, wanted it enough.

That transported me to Ferdowsi Square, on June 18, and a woman who, with palpable passion, told me: “This land is my land.”

She called Ahmadinejad “the halo without light” — a line from the anthem of the Iran demanding its country back, the Iran still saying “No” by lifting its unbending chorus into the night.

From far away, I hear it, and this distance feels like betrayal — of those brave rooftop voices and of a journalist’s “actual responsibility.”

Excuse me while I visit the vomitorium. All that time you spent practising your purple prose while dragging your feet before leaving, could have been spent on asking yourself publicly, about how you could have been so badly fooled.

A little self-criticism? Or is the difference between a reporter and an editorialist while the former is insatiably voyeuristic, the latter is insatiably exhibitionist?

70 Responses to Roger Cohen poses in NYT over Iran and his broken heart

  1. E.G. says:

    RC:”to be a journalist is to bear witness.”
    “I have been thinking about the responsibility of bearing witness.”

    Missing: And not publishing false testimony. Not misleading your reader.

    “From far away, I hear it, and this distance feels like betrayal — of those brave rooftop voices and of a journalist’s “actual responsibility.””

    Betrayal? Since when is a journalist loyal to anyone/any voice but his professional ethic and his own conscience? Is being faithful to the oppressed “a journalist’s “actual responsibility”"?

  2. hass says:

    Mousavi is a hardline regime insider who was vetted and cleared to run for office. And yet the regime felt so threatened by him that they resorted to massive election fraud to keep him out of office? THat’s nonsense. There is no actual evidence of election fraud in Iran — see IranAffairs.com for the compiled list of claims and counter-claims.

  3. Eliyahu says:

    RL, do you think you were being fair by picking such as an easy target as raj Cohen? He is hilarious the way he twists himself into a pretzel; the way he is unaware of the fatuity of his purple prose; his hypocrisy too, so childish in a man of his age. You didn’t really expect him to do any self-criticism, I’m sure. You knew him better than that. And you didn’t expect much better from the NYTimes, an old gray lady in her dotage, one might say, suffering an advanced phase of Alzheimer’s. And the old gray lady returns to childhood in the persona of raj Cohen, who can’t really be a real person, can he?

    But RL, unfair as you were, I do thank you muchisimo [moltissimo] for bringing us a bit of much needed humor. I enjoyed raj’s purple prose immensely. It’s not Hemingway to be sure, nor Maupassant nor Balzac; perhaps a clumsy attempt at Proust. What would Mark Twain do with raj? Or Ambrose Bierce? Or even Trotsky? I fear to imagine raj Cohen’s fate at the hands of Twain or Bierce. Yes, his fate at their hands would be well deserved but terrifying.

    If the prophets Ezekiel or Jeremiah were still around, they would have skewered him long ago for his deceit and hypocrisy.

  4. Eliyahu says:

    hass, there has been voting fraud in American presidential elections. Do you think that the ayatollahs in Iran would be different?

    It has been said that Jack Kennedy won the presidential election in 1960 only thanks to massive voting fraud in Richard Daley’s Chicago and Lyndon Johnson’s Texas. Then there were claims of fraud perpetrated by Bush et Cie in 2000. Etc Etc. But you don’t think it would happen in Iran. Maybe you recall how Ramsey Clark of the ACLU praised Khomeini and his fresh, new, squeaky clean regime in 1979. Maybe your head is still filled with the sweet dreams put there by Clark. Be that as it may, when you get to the moon, invite me up for some green cheese.

    * * * * * * * * * * *
    “There is no actual evidence of election fraud in Iran”

    Besides all your other talents, you’re in a position to evaluate the claims and denials of vote fraud in the Iranian election. You know the local language; you read it on an educated level and speak it fluently; you are geographically located in the country so as to be able to closely observe what’s going on. You have informants among both the regime and opposition militants.

    Therefore, Please share your extensive store of info on Iran with raj Cohen. He needs it. By the way, did you agree with raj Cohen’s reports on the state of the Jewish community in Iran that he made about two or three months ago?? Why do you think that raj was right a few months ago and is wrong now?? Don’t you trust him??

  5. JD says:

    I noticed on Iran Cohen has dropped the anti-American-centric/anti-Israel-centric narrative templates.

    He is actually, for once, informative, rather than using his articles as bona fides for entry into chattering class cocktail parties and compliments from old lefties.

    As for bearing witness…well “duh”, that is what journalists should do. His ecstatic proclamation of his witnessing should highlight that he did not do it before.

    On Iran, he’s good. Never did I hear him say “Moussadegh” in any part of any explanation.

    Maybe now that he considers Iran from Iranians, maybe he will look at Hamas another way. I remember a particularly outrageous, and funny, appearance on Charlie Rose this year. He was complaining about the Hamas charter, like it was something he hated to have to consider, something that complicated his Western-left imperial construct of the “Middle East Crisis.” He sulked like if the charter had not been in writing he would have felt better.

  6. oao says:

    What we really could afford to hear is how Roger Cohen rereads the drivel he aggressively produced before the shingles fell from his eyes.

    remember enderlin? hose who developed successful careers (without much substance) that are taken in by events and prove they’re idiots will not admit they are idiots, no matter what. it takes a great deal of character to do that and if they had any they would not have been who they are.

    eliyahu, don’t feed the asia and hass idiots.

  7. Vern says:

    that was nauseating.

  8. Eliyahu says:

    the Wiesenthal Center sent out a news release about late developments in the case of two mass murder bombings in Argentina. The Argentines have already stated that Iranian agents carried out the two attacks, one on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, the other on the Jewish cultural/community center there, the AMIA. Now, it’s funny that the press in Argentina and other Spanish-speaking lands has reported fairly widely about the Iranian connection. But the American and British press has reported this very little. Are they trying to protect the reputation of Islamic Iran??
    Hass, are you listening??

    See link:
    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2007/09/important-story-hardly-reported.html

    also see the latest post on //ziontruth-dot-blogspot-dot-com

  9. oao says:

    But the American and British press has reported this very little. Are they trying to protect the reputation of Islamic Iran??

    britain is a failed state and the US is on the same path.

  10. Fred says:

    Roger Cohen has still not acknowledged that his constant ridicule of Israel was misguided. How many times did Cohen repeat that the Islamic government of Iran was cautious and practical while Israel was under the spell of a religious and nationalistic fanatic? Mr. Cohen even referred to the “mad fantasies of Benjamin Netanyahu. In his almost obsessive desire to defend the Islamic government of Iran, Cohen dismissed the Iranian Government’s role in two horrific bombings of Jewish institutions in Argentina as ancient history. It never dawned on Mr. Cohen that a government that sends its agents thousands of miles to commit crimes against civilians whose only “crime” is being Jewish, is not a government of rationality or sanity. Cohen’s main argument, which he advanced ad nauseum, was that the mullahs were practical men, interested only in preserving their country’s place in the world. And now that the mullahs are doing what they always said they would do, Cohen feigns indignation. The word that comes to mind when I think of Roger Cohen is “solipsistic”.

  11. E.G. says:

    Who does Roger Cohen feel he’s accountable to?
    Who is Roger Cohen actually accountable to?
    Would/could there be a conflict of interest between the accountability sources?

  12. oao says:

    looks like he’s choosing to whom he is accountable whichever way and whenever he cares to do so, as is convenient.

  13. Austin says:

    Roger Cohen defended the dictatorship and savaged anyone who disagreed with him. Now he has been exposed as an aplogist for a dictator. He wants to change his reputation. It’s too late for Roger. He was a propagandist for the dictator and a leopard can’t change his spots.

  14. Sidney says:

    Roger Cohen has still not explained how he could have been so taken in by the mullahs and Ahmedinejad appointees that he wrote so favorably about. I suspect that Mr. Cohen was so overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to him when he visited Iran that he convinced himself that this was somehow indicative of the Iranian government’s moderation. In Mr. Cohen’s mind, how could a government that treated him so well actually be an extremist and fanatical regime? That is why Mr. Cohen, in all his months of reporting from Iran, could only write one sentence about the treatment of Bahais by the Iranian government. Mr. Cohen never mentioned that the elimination of the Bahai faith is an official policy of the Iranian government. That is why he could not bring himself to mention the names of all the Bahais who are suffering in Iranian dungeons. In the State Department, such an attitude is known as “going native”. And that is what happened to Mr. Cohen. And now that he is a spurned lover, he is responding angrily.

  15. oao says:

    sidney,

    whatever hospitality he received in tehran, it probably only reinforced his predisposition.

    there is a lot of real ignorance and stupidity in these people so-called journos, sufficient to be useful idiots. he’s not any different than the rest of the media. they are bankrupt intellectually, morally and, deservedly, financially.

    he probably thought that he was preventing a conflict and saving the west from its own mistake, by convincing it that the iranian islamists are benign and, like alibama, it’s all the fault of the us.

    these idiots believe that crap.

  16. Eliyahu says:

    RL did a service by showing how asinine raj Cohen is, childish hypocrisy, purple prose and all. Cohen is a more blatant case of unreliable journalism than many others. Indeed, we have to always approach MSM journalism with a critical eye. We always have to assume –unless it is proven otherwise– that some important fact has been omitted, that something is false, that something is distorted. And the NYT is as bad as any other rag. So I accept oao’s description of journalists [#15] as usually true.

    As far as the NYT is concerned, this practice of praising and covering up for barbarians goes way back, as most readers here probably know. There was Walter Duranty in Russia in the 1930s, covering up for Stalin’s purges and forced labor camps, there was Herbert Matthews shining the sow’s ear of Castro before the latter took over Cuba. And now, raj Cohen, falsifying the reality of the ayatollahs’ Iran so ineptly.

  17. Ray in Seattle says:

    One way or the other, in Muslim countries, journalists toe the party line – either from fear of losing their jobs or their heads. Muslim theocrats know that in the West, no such limitations apply. In fact, not toeing the party line is seen as a useful means of increasing readership and/or getting better job offers from rival employers.

    Whereas, western states must deal with entrenched, state controlled media in places like Iran, Iranian intelligence can pick and choose from hundreds or even thousands of independent Western journalists, each of which has buttons to be pushed and personal needs to be exploited.

    Roger was a willing dupe like most of them but his readers will continue to think he is credible and knowledgeable. They’ll now even see him as poetically distraught to find such cruelty in a part of the world he tried to befriend and trust. The NYT won’t disgrace him. Looking at their stable of over-wheening narcissists and their plummeting readership I think they have more pressing worries.

  18. Ray in Seattle says:

    oao says, there is a lot of real ignorance and stupidity in these people so-called journos, sufficient to be useful idiots. he’s not any different than the rest of the media. they are bankrupt intellectually, morally and, deservedly, financially.

    To the contrary, these people are not ignorant or stupid. It takes intelligence to be able to accurately divine which winds blow the direction of ever increasing income and job security for them in this complex domestic and international scene. Those that are good at it advance with job offers and celebrity. Most like Cohen make in the six figures. They are far more worried about which parties they’ll attend this month than bankruptcy.

    By Western standards they are being good capitalists in an industry that finally got rid of liberal notions of duty to the profession and the reader in favor of conservative principles of making the owners of the company happy (wealthy). How could that be immoral?

  19. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    Making money honestly is moral.

  20. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG, Just because he disagrees with you doesn’t mean he’s lying. I have no doubt he believed what he wrote. People believe what feels good. Making more money always feels good.

  21. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    There’s a contradiction between what you write in #17 and in #20.
    And my point is not about being in disagreement on reported facts. There appears to be one on ethical grounds.

  22. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG, Please explain what contradiction you see. I don’t quite understand.

  23. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    One way or the other, in Muslim countries, journalists toe the party line – either from fear of losing their jobs or their heads.
    Roger was a willing dupe like most of them but his readers will continue to think he is credible and knowledgeable. They’ll now even see him as poetically distraught to find such cruelty in a part of the world he tried to befriend and trust.

    Here you argue that journalists knowingly and willingly voice the propaganda they’re served with.

    Just because he disagrees with you doesn’t mean he’s lying. I have no doubt he believed what he wrote.

    But here you say that he actually took the stuff he’s been shown at face value.

    So either one conforms (is willing to spread the official truth without believing it), or one converts (does believe, and spreads the good word).

  24. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG, Thanks for the explanation. You say,

    Here you argue that (Western) journalists knowingly and willingly voice the propaganda they’re served with.

    No. I’m saying that, as time goes by, they adopt beliefs that will make them money. I am sure that the continuance of their six-figure incomes and the prestige (honor) they accrue from their position provides more than enough incentive for their non-conscious minds to make those adjustments in their belief systems.

    As I said in #20: I have no doubt he believed what he wrote. People believe what feels good. Making more money always feels good.

    I’m not sure if this is exactly what Richard was referring to when he made a partial accommodation to post-modern theory. But that’s how I make mine. It’s in the sense that strong emotional motivation working over time can make even fairly objective brains to believe almost anything – as long as the belief leads that brain to a higher level of emotional satisfaction – than it would have by believing the opposite.

    I think you do not appreciate the immense power of such emotions to overcome all obstacles to their pleasure. For example, why do you suppose that wealthy people (who also tend to be conservative and Republican) tend to believe that lowering taxes will always increase government revenue – even when that’s been shown to be disastrously wrong in the past?

  25. Ray in Seattle says:

    Darn, those last two paragraphs should not be in italics. Sorry.

  26. oao says:

    People believe what feels good.

    does that include you?

    To the contrary, these people are not ignorant or stupid. It takes intelligence to be able to accurately divine which winds blow the direction of ever increasing income and job security for them in this complex domestic and international scene.

    that’s not intelligence, that’s at best shrewdness. and it’s not of the kind that helps them with the content of what they do, but to max their careers. when i said stupidity and ignorance i was not referring to that. tell me, what ‘s NOT bankrupt intellectually and morally if you write crap to advance your career and, what’s more, you often believe it?

    and even that does not require much intelligence. it’s not that difficult to divine what a publication is looking for, what editors want. journos know what’s expected of them and that’s how they select who to work for.

    and here again i am speaking from experience, which you don’t have: i’ve been a writer for technical publications for 30 years and i always knew what they expected of me yet whenever i knew that was not intellectually and morally right, i refused to write. that has cost me plenty, but that’s the difference from the roger cohens and enderlins.

    either cohen knew he wrote crap and did it for the career, or he believed it, or he had an agenda (as eliyahu argues). so he was either ignorant and stupid or corrupt or not a real journo. methinks a mixture of but more of the former. i don’t think he outright did not believe what he wrote.

    eliyahu, somebody said you don’t to assume evil when stupidity will do, although i tend not to dismiss agendas.

  27. oao says:

    There’s a contradiction between what you write in #17 and in #20.

    e.g. you noticed that too, huh?

    having spent more than 30 years in the database field, which is founded on logic, i am very sensitive to contradictions and, therefore, the logical implications of what i and others argue.

    and, as i expected, you got another load of “emotions” as a response to the contradiction.

  28. oao says:

    No. I’m saying that, as time goes by, they adopt beliefs that will make them money.

    there’s something to that.

    but tell me then: how does that negate my claim of intellectual and moral bankruptcy, of ignorance and stupidity?

  29. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    For example, why do you suppose that wealthy people (who also tend to be conservative and Republican) `

    Well, I’m not sure about the wealth-conservative/Republican correlation coefficient nowadays. Quite a few wealthy if not rich are being duly rewarded their financial support to the present President of the US of A.
    “Each according to his due”, like the Buchenwald “welcome” sign states.

    tend to believe that lowering taxes will always increase government revenue – even when that’s been shown to be disastrously wrong in the past?

    Maybe they don’t believe what’s been shown to be disastrously wrong in the past?

    Regarding propaganda spreading “journalists”, I confess having little interest in what drives them (probably because I have no access to their intimate thinking/reasoning processes, and guessing them is not sufficient evidence). They betray their readers/viewers and the “confidence chart” that links and binds them. They don’t honestly do their job, and don’t honestly earn their money.

  30. E.G. says:

    oao,

    Les grands esprits se rencontrent.

  31. Ray in Seattle says:

    It’s usually very difficult to discuss these concepts with both you guys (oao and EG) because you don’t stick to a singly point but scatter your objections all over the place rather incoherently. I constantly puzzle over which I should address and you often accuse me of missing your point (or worse) when I guess wrong.

    If you really want me to explain this please give me a simple critique of my biggest sin that I can focus on. You can add the lesser sins later.

    For now though I will answer one of your points that may help to answer some others too.

    I said, People believe what feels good.

    does that include you?, you said with your usual snark ;-)

    That includes everybody. You might ask then how it is that some people populate their minds with nonsense while others tend to populate their minds with more objectively based (scientific) facts.

    It’s because the latter has developed an identity belief that his or her mind should contain only beliefs that can be substantiated in reality. Therefore when introduced to an idea that can not be, they will not feel good at the idea of accepting it. They will be skeptical and tend to reject it.

    At the same time they will feel good when exposed to well-reasoned ideas that could support effective behavior choice for them. Since reality is consistent such contradictions are less likely in selectively objective minds. The opposite can be said for less objective minds that have grown to tolerate and even enjoy superstition.

    The main purpose of intellect in human adult brains is as an editor for accepting or rejecting beliefs (memes) that we are exposed to and editing the ones that we already hold. Intellect does not direct most behavior decisions. Emotion does – the non-conscious emotional force of the beliefs we have acquired that have worked successfully for us in the past when facing similar behavior choices.

    An objective person’s brain will tend to be populated with a healthy set of intellectually-sound life-tested beliefs that will serve them well in life. But it takes more integrity to have an objective mind because reality does not always feel good – whereas superstitious beliefs (memes) usually provide cheap thrills, esp. when first acquired.

    Also, even though reality is consistent, our human ability to grasp it is constantly evolving and new parts of reality become available to us. There is danger in becoming too protective of one’s beliefs and refusing to re-evaluate them in the face of that new evidence. In that case you get the ideological mind that refuses to edit old beliefs that no longer apply or were acquired carelessly.

    But the mechanism that makes all this work is that we all believe what feels good to us.

  32. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    NO COMMENT.
    Either you refer to what I wrote or to your theoretical elaborations. I’ll reply to the first but not to the second.

  33. oao says:

    It’s usually very difficult to discuss these concepts with both you guys (oao and EG) because you don’t stick to a singly point but scatter your objections all over the place rather incoherently.

    uhuh. we just caught you in a contradiction (there were others we either did not notice or disregarded)and it’s we the incoherent. figures.

    couldn’t it be that there are all sort of implications of your arguments that you don’t see or disregard that need to be raised? we certainly don’t reduce ourselves tou your core emotional argument and i can see how that creates a problem for you.

    That includes everybody. You might ask then how it is that some people populate their minds with nonsense while others tend to populate their minds with more objectively based (scientific) facts.

    there are 2 reasons i asked that:

    1. it’s been argued here (in the feminism thread, for example) that some e.g. sophia, diane, you — take wishful thinking positions rather than the reality. that would tend to validate that emotions tend to conflict with adverse reality, so my question is quite valid.

    2. my “pessimstic” position that the west is gone has been criticized by quite a few here, but my argument has always been that it’s not pessimistic but realistic, but because accepting is is psychologically hard (no good feelings) there can be and are exceptions to you generalization.

    except that then i get the “schadenfreunde” argument (i think from RL) which redefines my position as generating good feelings. so one can’t win.

  34. Ray in Seattle says:

    Hey, fine by me. You made one significant comment (word-count-wise) #29 and I can’t find anything there to comment on. I’m not even sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing. I assume the latter but I can’t find your point.

    Well, actually I do see a point in: Maybe they don’t believe what’s been shown to be disastrously wrong in the past?

    I had to read it a couple of times though to catch what you meant. And so now you want to talk about belief – but since you don’t like my theoretical elaborations I guess you can’t. I suppose that’s as good an excuse as any to avoid putting yourself in a position where you’d have to defend your views ;-)

  35. oao says:

    even though i already did this, i will clarify that no, there are NO good feelings for seeing the west dismantled, just the opposite. but that does not stop me from accepting reality vs. the denial optimism from so many.

    so it’s possible to stick to facts and reality rather than to believe what feels good. but when somebody does that it is labeled a pessimist and is dismissed because it interferes with the feel-good denial.

  36. Ray in Seattle says:

    OK – I’m going to redo that one for typos and omissions. It should say:

    EG, Hey, fine by me.

    You made one significant comment (word-count-wise) #29 and I can’t find anything there to comment on. I’m not even sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing. I assume the latter but I can’t find your point.

    Well, actually I do see a point in: Maybe they don’t believe what’s been shown to be disastrously wrong in the past?

    I had to read it a couple of times though to catch what you meant. And so now you want to talk about belief – but since you don’t like my theoretical elaborations I guess you can’t. I suppose that’s as good an excuse as any to avoid putting yourself in a position where you’d have to defend your views ;-)

  37. Ray in Seattle says:

    Re: #36 That last smiley was a good-natured smiley, not meant as sarcasm. Gently chiding.

  38. Ray in Seattle says:

    oao says, so it’s possible to stick to facts and reality rather than to believe what feels good. but when somebody does that it is labeled a pessimist and is dismissed because it interferes with the feel-good denial.

    Yes, it’s possible for someone to seek out and stick to objective facts, to reality – but only if that makes them feel better, on balance, than a fiction that offers good feelings based on a non-reality. It depends on the integrity of the mind; how much is demanded of it.

    When someone calls you a “pessimist” they are adding another emotion, potentially shame at being publicly called a derogatory name. Can your belief in your “objective facts” withstand such an assault?

    You are right that those who prefer superstition will always wail and gnash their teeth when someone injects reality into the discussion and threatens their good feelings. They will try to shame you. They’ll try to change the balance of the feelings that guide your behavior. If they succeed they’ll prevent others from agreeing with you by way of intimidation and you may recant or disappear.

    The enigma comes when you see that the good feelings that come from ideological beliefs are inherently stronger than those that come from objectivity. Ideology is a belief set that becomes part of your identity – the source of your strongest belief emotions. Objectivity only has cold reason for a ally and your respect (an emotion) for it. It becomes very difficult to recognize the difference between objectivity and ideology when referencing one’s own beliefs. Only a very strong belief in objectivity along with a deep suspicion of ideology can do it for most of us. I mean, who wouldn’t want to believe that we could really live after we die? Still, we all harbor some ideological beliefs – even skeptics like me.

  39. Ray in Seattle says:

    oao said, uhuh. we just caught you in a contradiction (there were others we either did not notice or disregarded)and it’s we the incoherent. figures.

    You keep doing that. You say you caught me in a contradiction. I believe I addressed it. If you think I failed then you need to tell me how I failed. Simply saying I failed is no more an argument than saying I’m wrong. It’s a tautology. Try again.

  40. Ray in Seattle says:

    oao and EG: If I ask you to make a better, more coherent statement of your argument – hat is a courtesy so that I can address your concerns more effectively. It is not meant to shame you which is how you are reacting.

  41. E.G. says:

    There’s nothing to agree or disagree on. All I said is that you made contradictory statements and, to your request, I explained where the contradiction was.

    I don’t like/dislike your theoretical elaborations. I don’t understand them. And neither do I see their relevance to the topic(s) under discussion. So I cannot have a view about or related to them. I’m sorry, but that’s how things are.

  42. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG: No need to apologize. I’m good.

  43. Ray in Seattle says:

    Hey guys, I’ve got things to do. If you want to continue this, take your time, carefully analyze what I’ve said so far, and then blast me with a solid coherent blow to the waterline. I’ll try to recover when I get back.

  44. oao says:

    Yes, it’s possible for someone to seek out and stick to objective facts, to reality – but only if that makes them feel better, on balance, than a fiction that offers good feelings based on a non-reality.

    so whatever one does fits the theory. now, how would you go about testing the validity of this theory? is there ANY way to reject it as false?

    as i siad, this requires some scientific background to be taken seriously.

  45. oao says:

    If I ask you to make a better, more coherent statement of your argument – hat is a courtesy so that I can address your concerns more effectively. It is not meant to shame you which is how you are reacting.

    oh, please.

    1. don’t overestimate yourself; dk about the others, but you can’t shame me.

    2. judging from your complaints, it’s you who cannot handle the heat, we don’t.

    3. to the extent that there is incoherence it’s not on our side. so if you can’t respond, that’s not the reason. i suggested the reason and in your description of your objectives here you seem to agree, except you’re not aware of it.

  46. oao says:

    If I ask you to make a better, more coherent statement of your argument – hat is a courtesy so that I can address your concerns more effectively. It is not meant to shame you which is how you are reacting.

    oh, please.

    1. don’t overestimate yourself; dk about the others, but you can’t shame me.

    2. judging from your complaints, it’s you who cannot handle the heat, we don’t.

    3. to the extent that there is incoherence it’s not on our side. so if you can’t respond, that’s not the reason. i suggested the reason and in your description of your objectives here you seem to agree, except you’re not aware of it.

    4.

  47. Ray in Seattle says:

    That’s your best shot? C’mon. I’ll take #44 as the closest to a real argument since #45 & #46 are just sort a list of personal jibes.

    oao says, so whatever one does fits the theory. now, how would you go about testing the validity of this theory? is there ANY way to reject it as false?

    I keep saying this isn’t a theory. It’s just an explanatory model. That’s what all psychological theories are if you follow those things. There’s no such thing as proof underlying psychological models. Has anyone extracted an ego or an id or a logic control module from some cadaver’s brain and traced the millions of neurons in there to show how input gets processed into output? There are about six conceptual explanatory models for the role of emotion in human minds. None of them have been “proved” or “falsified”. They are simply adopted for use, in whole or in part, by whatever psychologists find them useful. And they use them to make inferences about the causes of observed behavior, and sometimes test those inferences under controlled conditions. They are judged not on some “proof” of validity but on their ability to provide a coherent explanatory framework for observed behavior.

    A while ago you said you had ordered Damasio’s book. I don’t think you read it because if you had you might understand some of this.

  48. Ray in Seattle says:

    oao says, as i siad, this requires some scientific background to be taken seriously.

    Even aside from the usual punctuation and spelling errors it is very difficult to understand what you mean in that sentence. It is both ambiguous and imprecise. Based on #45 and #46 though I’ll guess it’s another jibe. I think you’re saying that I don’t have a scientific background and therefore no-one should take this seriously.

    Actually I do have some scientific background. Although I was more involved in engineering I did some research too. And I wrote my first technical articles in the mid 60′s. But, you have told us many times about your advanced understanding of scientific methodology and such – even though you show almost no knowledge of science in your comments – certainly almost no knowledge of the science or research methodology of psychology which is what we are discussing.

    Have you noticed that despite the many references to your own advanced knowledge of such things you have made almost no use of that knowledge to offer a single logical criticism of my model, which I have explained now in fairly good detail giving you plenty of targets. Your criticisms are all either personal jibes very general and folk-sciency like when you talk about falsification as if only guys like you understand such things and as if that had anything to do with behavioral psychology. Psychology is not about falsification and proof. It’s about whether theories are more or less useful for explanation, diagnosis, mitigation of effects – or in this case especially, if they can better predict of behavior in response to stimulus, etc.

    I think if that’s your best shot at criticism then you need to go back and bone up on science and your writing skills. But you don’t get that I’m not trying to argue with you or prove a theory, which is meaningless for such models – even though proving me wrong or worse seems to be your greatest need.

    I am interested in understanding why Arab culture and behavior is so violent and repressive. I developed this model by studying psychology, the ME conflict, ME history, some cultural anthropology, etc. I’m no expert on any of that and don’t claim to be. I developed it because it was fun to learn about that stuff and it kind of emerged from ideas I found in several books.

    Whether it’s a useful model for those things is not a question of right or wrong, of truth or falsity, of intelligence or ignorance as you want to cast it. It’s whether it can offer an explanatory framework that fits well enough to offer some possible ways to reduce the violence, save some lives, increase happiness. Perhaps it’s greatest value is just that it offers some fresh ways to think about the conflict.

    The question of its usefulness hasn’t even been addressed yet even though I keep trying to go in that direction. But if it fails to do that, which all the other models also seem to be failing at, then that’s too bad, isn’t it. That would mean that I tried to bring some clarity to a puzzling situation for which no-one has any good answers and I failed. Would that make you feel good or bad?

  49. oao says:

    I keep saying this isn’t a theory. It’s just an explanatory model.

    this does it for me, i am out of this exchange.

    a theory IS an explanatory model. i suggest that if you want to give reliable and vaild explanations, you ought to familiarize yourself with what a model, theory and explanation are. it’s because you dk that you find our comments vague and imprecise.

  50. Ray in Seattle says:

    A wise time to withdraw my friend.

  51. oao says:

    had i said this to you, you would have complained of something.

  52. oao says:

    and then you ask me why i keep replying to you, huh?

  53. [...] post: Augean Stables » Roger Cohen poses in NYT over Iran and his broken … Tags: because-reality, cleric-said, country, Healthy, mind-casts, objective-person [...]

  54. E.G. says:

    We all have our lay theories. One of my favourites is that I noticed that when I don’t take an umbrella it rains, and when I do – it doesn’t. So when I wish it doesn’t rain, I carry an umbrella. Works pretty well.

  55. Babak says:

    Mr. Cohen gets it right Richard. That’s why he deserves to write at NYT and you will stay in this stable.

  56. Eliyahu says:

    RL, don’t take to heart what this fool babak writes [I'm sure you won't]. Babak is demonstrating that many upper middle brow folk in America have lost the capacity or faculty to evaluate evidence and to reason on the grounds of evidence. Raj Cohen’s excuse-making for the ayatollahs a couple of months ago when he whitewashed their treatment of Jews in Iran is in a sense contradicted by his current leaning toward blaming them for harshness toward demonstrators. But babak can’t perceive that contradiction.

    by the way, babak’s silliness seems to me to vindicate Ray of Seattle’s view that emotion usually trumps reason. On the other hand, babak’s ignorance might vindicate oao.

  57. Ray in Seattle says:

    Eliyahu said, “by the way, babak’s silliness seems to me to vindicate Ray of Seattle’s view that emotion usually trumps reason. On the other hand, babak’s ignorance might vindicate oao.”

    Do you really think Cohen is ignorant, esp. of the facts behind this article? I think he knows it but emotion makes us discount and ignore evidence that contradicts our strong beliefs. This can happen before we even examine the evidence and makes us discount it once we do.

    Our mind sets up a barrier I think – to the consideration of such evidence. We know it’s there but we are psychologically protected from it’s implications. We are almost never consciously aware of it. This is not my crack-pot theory BTW. It is verified by extensive testing.

    Like EG said re: the conservative belief that lowering taxes always increases tax revenue. Many conservatives simply will not objectively examine the (lack of) evidence for that and will continue to spread it as a truthful meme.

  58. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    I’d be grateful for not distorting what I stated.
    It was about people (that you assume are conservatives but who may or may not be conservatives) who probably do not believe a relationship that, according to you, has been shown (beyond any reasonable doubt?).

  59. Ray in Seattle says:

    EG: Both Ronald Reagan and GHW Bush ran for election on the promise of cutting taxes to improve economic conditions and prosperity. I assume you accept their conservative credentials. Both met calamity as tax revenue plummeted and both had to raise taxes to support the economy which took some time to recover – actually it took Clinton’s first budget to get things turned around and for deficits to start falling. Clinton was elected at least partially because of Bush’s promise not to raise taxes which he had to break. I thought this was fairly well understood, even if not widely discussed by the right. (It’s also possible I’ve been misinformed about all that.)

    But, you must at least admit that,

    a) many conservatives do claim that reducing taxes raises tax revenues, and

    b) many liberals claim that reducing taxes lowers tax revenues

    One must be more correct than the other, whatever criteria you use. For at least one of those groups then, their minds must be setting up a barrier to the consideration of evidence”. They know it’s there but they are psychologically protected from it’s implications.

    That was the point I was making. Choose either a) or b) above according to your own prejudices. Either will get the result.

  60. Ray in Seattle says:

    What I described above (#59) is not some personal theory. It’s well-established science. Why is it so hard to accept? Because I said it so it must be wrong? Try to get past the petty politics to the good stuff. If the mind has the ability to make us believe what feels good, to make us believe whatever supports our identity beliefs, then that can go a long way toward explaining Arab behavior toward Israel. It shows why no amount of “reasoning” will have much effect against such a strongly held belief system where the strongest honor / shame emotions consistently call for suicidal violence and jihad against infidels.

    Although some Western observers are coming to accept that reality others, like Cohen, keep attempting to normalize their behavior such as he did previously with the Iranian mullahs.

    Cognitive egocentrism is a Western cultural identity belief, rooted in the Golden Rule, that has strong emotional appeal for us. I think it’s useful to place Islamic behavior into a conceptual framework that can be scientifically justified and understood by Western minds – so that reason will have a better chance against Western emotions that prefer to believe that “we are all alike” at the behavioral level.

    In fact, my view is that we are all alike at the psychological level. It is the behaviors our cultures attach to honor / shame emotions, from an early age, that makes us different. What is honorable in the West are things like living in peace, honesty (used to be more-so), hard work, wealth, generosity, integrity and giving your children a better life than you. For much of Palestine honor is things like having power over others and displaying it, dying while trying to kill Jews or having your kids die doing it.

    Those are huge and probably insurmountable differences. In the future this can change only if Pal / Arab culture changes. Historically, in violent societies this only happens as the result of a huge military defeat that eliminates all traces of the existing culture, forcing the few survivors to start over from scratch.

    (If I got your meaning wrong, it was not an attempt at “distortion”. It was a misunderstanding. You should consider that possibility before accusing me of deceit.)

  61. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    All I said is that a group that you identify as conservatives (and wealthy) may doubt the nature of the tax-revenue relation (is it really a direct one? No other factors intervening?) and that they may not believe that the situation that followed the application of some tax policy is either necessarily a direct consequence of that policy, or as disastrous as the situation was described. IOW, the guys may have questioned the interpretation of facts.

    And my remark was content-free (i.e., unrelated to the tax-revenue, conservative-liberal issues).
    I have no doubt the distortion was unintentional, and certainly not hostile.

  62. Ray in Seattle says:

    The dictionary lists distortion as a statement that twists fact; a misrepresentation. That is the common interpretation of it.

    If you had ” no doubt the distortion was unintentional, and certainly not hostile.” Then you should have chosen a different word. Words have meanings. Use them carefully and you won’t be easily misunderstood.

  63. E.G. says:

    Ray,

    So you misinterpreted my comment. And that is exactly what I noted (your presentation made it mean something different than what I stated). The hard feeling is not in the word but in the mind of the reader.

  64. oao says:

    by the way, babak’s silliness seems to me to vindicate Ray of Seattle’s view that emotion usually trumps reason. On the other hand, babak’s ignorance might vindicate oao.

    i was pretty explicit that where there is inorance and inability to reason based on evidence one will fall back on emotional reactions.

    Do you really think Cohen is ignorant, esp. of the facts behind this article?

    he may be reacting emotionally to his failure the way you describe (denial), but it is clear to me that his interpretation of the facts to date was based on ignorance and stupidity. he had no clue about the nature of the iranian regime because he was focused on criticizing the US policy and pretending there is no danger.

    to reiterate: these people do not comprehend ME cultures and religions, no matter how mnay facts they face.

  65. oao says:

    e.g.,

    he never misinterprets, because he is the only one who does not respond emotionally, everybody else does.

  66. Cynic says:

    oao,

    i was pretty explicit that where there is inorance and inability to reason based on evidence one will fall back on emotional reactions.

    I beg to differ, why, because the particular topic is of such importance idealistically/politically/socially to the individual that he will attempt to sweep under the carpet all the facts and reasoning, plainly acknowledged, that goes against his hard held emotions; emotions engendered to provide the security and comfort of supporting the idealistic/political/social agenda his heart desires.

  67. E.G. says:

    Cynic,

    The key expression is “inability to reason”. It may be due to cognitive-affective factors (e.g., one’s commitment).

    Beliefs are not stable; they’re constantly updated – albeit not exactly matching the situational changes. Most of the failures to update have been attributed to lack of knowledge about how to update correctly. But reluctance to change has its share.

  68. [...] — and Cohen incarnates the problem — they all too often bear witness primarily to their own agendas, for which they pick and [...]

  69. Cynic says:

    oao,

    The key expression is “inability to reason”. It may be due to cognitive-affective factors (e.g., one’s commitment).

    From my point of view the subject is very capable of reasoning, doesn’t like the result and succumbs to emotional pressures.
    Maybe it would have been better to have used “unwilling” instead of “inability”?

  70. oao says:

    yo replied to eg not me.

    From my point of view the subject is very capable of reasoning, doesn’t like the result and succumbs to emotional pressures.

    shades of ray, huh?

    Maybe it would have been better to have used “unwilling” instead of “inability”?

    there is no question that there is dissonance between reality and wishful thinking. but i continue to maintain that the wishful thinking would lose if he had more knowledge and ability to interpret it accurately.

    this can be often resolved by a solid education which sensitizes one to the emotion vs. reason problem and instills the instinct not to let the latter win, but in the absence of that…

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