This is an interesting post from Gizmodo, which I’m sure is in reaction to something that I should care about, but I don’t. What I do care about is the conflation of things that shouldn’t be conflated, and how this utterly unhinges what otherwise is a valid point. Here’s how things start out, in a bit of muddle:
Gizmodo is not objective. It never has been, I don’t think. And I hope it never will be. Because the point isn’t to be something as meaningless — and frankly, false — as objective. The point is to tell the truth.
I’ll back up for a moment.
In this article, titled “We’re not objective,” Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan appears to be defending the site’s willingness to have an opinion about technology, which is a bit stunning. Why else would anyone visit Gizmodo? We’re talking about consumer goods here, right? When has anyone questioned the reasonableness of having an opinion about whether a product is good or not?
The flaw in this argument stems from a muddle of ill-defined terms: objectivity, truth, bias. The truth is, these are all different things, and it is possible to combine them without contradiction. In the case of objectivity and truth, you can and should have both. We call this an “objective opinion” and we’ve had such things since the dawn of sentience.
Look, if Gizmodo received a product from Apple, used it in-house for a month and loved it, they’re probably going to end up with an opinion of it. Namely, that it’s good. They could then write about it, and tell us that it’s a good product and we should feel comfortable buying it. That would be an objectively formed opinion, backed by a number of truths: that the product was reviewed, that it performed well, that it can be purchased in the market, etc.
Falsehood and bias only creep into the picture if Gizmodo, because of past battles with Apple, were to write a review trashing the Apple product and falsely claiming that it failed their tests. That would be both a “biased opinion” and a falsehood, which are best avoided, ignored or refuted.
The key here is that if Gizmodo were to write a negative review solely based on an anti-Apple bias, the falsehood would have nothing to do with objectivity. It would have to do with output. Objectivity is a matter of method, not message. In such a hypothetical case, Gizmodo may very well have conducted an objective examination of the Apple product, putting it through a series of industry-standard tests and accurately recording the results. But when it came to telling others about the product, they would have resorted to falsehoods based on a bias.
Of course, the point of the article is correct and something we all can agree on:
We’ll always tell you the truth, but if you’re just looking for a site to give you a list of specs and “both sides” of the story, you’ve come to the wrong place. We don’t promise a whole lot — what you see is what you get — but that is one thing that will always be true. You know, objectively.
It’s just that building blocks used in this argument don’t stack up.
As a sidenote, this article begs for a Gregory Bateson metalogue between “Father” and “Daughter.” There’s a muddle here that needs sorting out.