This evening, I had the honor of appearing on a Pajamas Media panel at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The topic was “How Partisan is Too Partisan.” Glenn Reynolds served as the moderator. My co-panelists were Michael Barone, Tom Bevan, Mark “Mystery Pollster” Blumenthal, Jane Hall, Cliff May, and Claudia Rosett. Pajamas also introduced two major new additions to its editorial board — Washington editor Richard Miniter and Paris editor Nidra Poller. During the cocktail hour, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a number of bloggers whose work I’ve followed but whom I had never met — host Roger Simon, Michael Totten, Austin Bay, and “Tiger Hawk,” just to name four.
The panel reached no consensus on “how partisan is too partisan,” but most panelists agreed that the mainstream media is too partisan for an institution that purports not to be. My remarks focused on partisanship in the blogosphere. I argued that bloggers are too partisan if they are dishonest as to factual matters or are intellectually dishonest. Beyond that, it’s a matter of taste. I consider it in poor taste, and too partisan, to hurl obscenities at people one disagrees with or to refer to the President of the United States (or anyone else) as a “smirking chimp”. But these kinds of antics do not inflict the kind of harm that dishonesty (intellectual or otherwise) does because they rarely induce error.
Intellectual honesty cannot easily be defined, much less reduced to rules. At a minimum, however, it should preclude the use of the personal attack as a substitute for arguments (personal attacks in addition to arguments may be in bad taste but do not amount to intellectual dishonesty). And it should preclude knowingly making bad arguments. It probably also entails some obligation not knowingly to ignore good evidence and good arguments that cut against one’s point of view on issues that one has elected to write about.