Risto Juola
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Ambivalence or Information

Aug 25, 2010

If a writer lacks ability, whether compositional or otherwise, then by way of ambivalence they might mislead their audience into forging a conceptual connection between two pieces of information that have no proven relationship -- for example, the arrest of peaceful civilians at the G20, and the violent actions of the "black bloc" at the G20 (who were not arrested).

If we make no assumptions about writing ability or the lack thereof, what conclusion should a reader draw about the balance between information and ambivalence as contained in the following sentence written for a recent news report? "The people appearing in court Monday are charged with a variety of offences related to the June 26-27 summit of G20 leaders, where several people dressed in black broke off from a peaceful protest and smashed store windows and torched at least five police cars."

With respect to information, we must note that when "several people dressed in black broke off from a peaceful protest and smashed store windows and torched at least five police cars" the police took no action, and the "people dressed in black" were not at that time detained, arrested, or charged with any "offences related to the June 26-27 summit of G20 leaders."

With respect to ambivalence, we must then ask why would discussion of the "people dressed in black" be combined with discussion of the "people appearing in court Monday," many of whom were nowhere near the "people dressed in black" when they "smashed store windows and torched at least five police cars," many of whom were charged with a "variety of offences" completely unrelated to the activities of the "people dressed in black," and many of whom have had or will have their charges dropped? If we hope to avoid the trap of misleading conceptual connections, then no conclusion should be drawn from the news sentence quoted above regarding any connection between the "people appearing in court" and the "people dressed in black," except for the conclusion that there is no reason to think the two are connected until proven to be so.

As it stands, the quoted news sentence possesses and permits no association whatsoever between its subjects, and this begs the question: what is the purpose of including this potentially misleading sentence in the news report? Unfortunately, no conclusion can be drawn regarding the motivations and ability of the author(s) of the sentence, for information is certainly lacking.

Further to this, the ambivalence of the news sentence (unsurprisingly) yields yet another ambivalency: barring this reputable-in-theory but ambivalent-in-practice information source, where then shall we find unambivalent information? Considering the unparalleled danger of accumulating a large number of misleading conceptual connections (thus leading to the development of a misleading world view) by continuously reading news reports that are ambivalent in a manner akin to the news report discussed above, I hope that having information about this source's ambivalence would cause readers to seriously question the wisdom of relying too readily on news articles from this source.