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jhd1530
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I think part of the nuance here comes from what you mean by "research." One of my favorite research professors said quite bluntly, "I don't read newspapers anymore - to me, it's all just new data and I can't make sense of it." It seemed like a weird thought at the time, but it makes sense to me now. Social science is essentially experimental, only there are no controls to the experiments - you have to find and record the data in an objective way before the analysis. Recording in "real time" is doable, but real-time analysis leaves so many gaps in the data that you have to fill the cracks with your experiences, instincts, and biases. (Of course, biases can be professional rather than political or xenophobic; something like "if this dynamic was going on here, that would fit neatly into so-and-so's theory" is arguably just as damaging intellectually as a cultural prejudice would be.) That's how when things like 9/11 or the credit meltdown happen, liberal and conservative pundits can go on CNN and say "See, I've been telling you all along that this would happen!" and predicting that things will get even worse unless their policy prescriptions happen. There's no normative way to tell any of them they're wrong, even though it's very likely that they all are. So when you write about current events, you get hammered by people's second-order biases, i.e. "You're just here to confirm your own preconceived ideas." Even though that's not what you're doing, you can't prove that it isn't. So, I don't know - I think you're fine with how you've been handling things. The best way to address the objection might be to come at every topic from extreme, opposing perspectives, to show the range of ways that everything can be interpreted. Personally, I'd drop the caveats and tell the people who get offended to suck it up - life is unfair and they should just get used to feeling powerless and underappreciated as individuals. This is a blog about Syria that I enjoy - Landis is really good at reporting real-time data and injecting his own opinions and instincts without sounding like an ideologue: http://joshualandis.com/blog/
Toggle Commented May 25, 2009 on IndolaysiaPORE at Some Southeast Asian Junk