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From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of [#permalink]

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From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of indignation over the use of false or misleading information by the U.S. government in support of its policies and programs. No one endorses needless deception. But consider this historical analogy. It is known that Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the New World, deliberately falsified the log to show a shorter sailing distance for each day out than the ships had actually traveled. In this way, Columbus was able to convince his skeptical sailors that they had not sailed past the point at which they expected to find the shores of India. Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied, and the New World might never have been discovered.

Which of the following is the main weakness of the historical analogy drawn in the passage above?
(A) The sailors in Columbus’s crew never knew that they had been deceived, while government deception is generally uncovered by the press.
(B) A ship’s log is a record intended mainly for use by the captain, while press reports are generally disseminated for use by the public at large.
(C) The members of a ship’s crew are selected by the captain of the ship, while those who work in the press are self-selected.
(D) The crew of a ship is responsible for the success of a voyage, while the press is not responsible for the use others make of the factual information it publishes.
(E) In a democracy, the people are expected to participate in the nation’s political decision making, while the members of a ship’s crew are expected simply to obey the orders of the captain.

I did not get satisfactory explanation for this. Please help.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
OA: E
[Reveal] Spoiler: OA

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Re: Needless Deception [#permalink]

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ConnectTheDots wrote:
From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of indignation over the use of false or misleading information by the U.S. government in support of its policies and programs. No one endorses needless deception. But consider this historical analogy. It is known that Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the New World, deliberately falsified the log to show a shorter sailing distance for each day out than the ships had actually traveled. In this way, Columbus was able to convince his skeptical sailors that they had not sailed past the point at which they expected to find the shores of India. Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied, and the New World might never have been discovered.

So, to re-cap --- the author says, essentially, it was kinda sorta a good thing that Columbus deceived his men, because --- look, he discovered the New World (which, BTW, someone else, such as Magellan, definitely would have done if Columbus hadn't, but that's another story). By analogy, the argument is suggesting that is might be kinda sorta a good thing that the US government is deliberately deceiving its citizens. In a way, it's a kind of ends-justify-the-means argument. For any American who cares about civil liberties, the authenticity of our nation, international justice, etc. etc., this argument is likely to get our hackles up. If a real politician made this argument, and claimed that it was in my best interest as an American that, from time to time, the government deceives us citizens --- I would be absolutely furious at that guy, so much so that I would be willing to protest in the street against him.
(As a side comment --- it can really show that you understand something about an argument if you feel a bit of an emotional tug toward one side or the other.)
So, in a way, the question is --- what's so upsetting about this argument?

ConnectTheDots wrote:
Which of the following is the main weakness of the historical analogy drawn in the passage above?
(A) The sailors in Columbus’s crew never knew that they had been deceived, while government deception is generally uncovered by the press.

Is the worst thing about deception the fact that the people who are deceived discover it? If the government happened to lie about something in such a way that no one could overturn the deception, then that wouldn't make it any better. Whether it's discovered or not, we have broad grounds for arguing that if the democratically elected government deceive its own citizens, this is wrong in and of itself. This is not a satisfying answer.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(B) A ship’s log is a record intended mainly for use by the captain, while press reports are generally disseminated for use by the public at large.

This is similar to (A). Again, whether the deception is written in private or public place --- that is, whether it kept hidden or revealed --- doesn't make a difference whether it right or wrong. Again, the government deceiving us and hiding it successfully is just as bad as the government deceiving us and our eventually finding out about it. This is also not a satisfying answer.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(C) The members of a ship’s crew are selected by the captain of the ship, while those who work in the press are self-selected.

This is interesting --- the crew was selected by the captain, so in some sense, they "belong" to him. OK, perhaps that would make it justifiable, in the fifteenth century context, to deceive them. The trouble is --- the analogs in the other case, the parties deceived --- it's not just the press, but the electorate as a whole. The sailors are chosen, but the second part can't be limited to the press and their act of choice. If the government lies, it equally affects all of us, not just the folks who work in the press. This is not a satisfying answer.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(D) The crew of a ship is responsible for the success of a voyage, while the press is not responsible for the use others make of the factual information it publishes.

Again, the comparison made is between sailors and the press, and this comparison misses the point. In the Columbus example, the sailors were deceived. In the government example, it's not just the press who is deceived --- rather, it's every citizen, all 300 million of us. It's a much much bigger issue that just something that affects only those who work for the press. Again, the comparison is incorrect, so this answer is not satisfying.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(E) In a democracy, the people are expected to participate in the nation’s political decision making, while the members of a ship’s crew are expected simply to obey the orders of the captain.

Ah, now we get to the crux of the issue.
On a ship, the captain is the boss, and the sailors work for him. We might debate morally whether deceiving is ever justifiable, but certainly if we are going to grant an "ends justifies the means" argument, then the one person who is allowed to decide both means & ends is the boss, the captain. who is the ultimate authority on the ship.
In a democracy, the power relationships are quite different. In Abraham Lincoln's stirring phrase, in America, we have "government of the people, by the people, for the people." This means --- I don't work for the government, but rather, the government works for me, for all of us. Ultimate authority rests not with the government but with the citizenry. "We hold these truths to be self-evident ... Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Therefore, if anyone gets to decide about ends and means and whether the ends justifies the means, it should be the ultimate authority --- the citizens. Citizens get to call the shots in a democracy, and an analogy that compares the government to the authoritative captain of a ship misses this crucial point. That's precisely why this is a faulty argument, and precisely why I would be upset if the government did anything that suggested that they call the shots instead of the citizens. This is by far the best answer.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Re: Needless Deception [#permalink]

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ConnectTheDots wrote:
From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of indignation over the use of false or misleading information by the U.S. government in support of its policies and programs. No one endorses needless deception. But consider this historical analogy. It is known that Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the New World, deliberately falsified the log to show a shorter sailing distance for each day out than the ships had actually traveled. In this way, Columbus was able to convince his skeptical sailors that they had not sailed past the point at which they expected to find the shores of India. Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied, and the New World might never have been discovered.

Which of the following is the main weakness of the historical analogy drawn in the passage above?
(A) The sailors in Columbus’s crew never knew that they had been deceived, while government deception is generally uncovered by the press.
(B) A ship’s log is a record intended mainly for use by the captain, while press reports are generally disseminated for use by the public at large.
(C) The members of a ship’s crew are selected by the captain of the ship, while those who work in the press are self-selected.
(D) The crew of a ship is responsible for the success of a voyage, while the press is not responsible for the use others make of the factual information it publishes.
(E) In a democracy, the people are expected to participate in the nation’s political decision making, while the members of a ship’s crew are expected simply to obey the orders of the captain.

I did not get satisfactory explanation for this. Please help.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
OA: E


To identify the main weakness of the analogy one should find an argument that points out why the use of misleading information by the government should not be endorsed even though deception by columbus is acceptable. E identifies the weakness in the argument by saying that because if the government presents false reports in support of its policies then people cannot come to the right conclusion while deciding on the desirability of a policy of the government and hence are eventually adversely affected. But in the case of a ship, if the crew has no say over what the captain does, then it means the captain has no necessity to present false information or deceive them as he can simply order them to do a job.

So in the former case only by deception the government can satisfy its own interests which are at the expense of the people's interests. That deception is not acceptable because if people knew the truth about the policies they might not accept them whereas in the case of the latter whether the crew knew the truth or not, they simply have to obey the captain's words. So E points out that there is an underlying obligation in the former to disclose the right information whereas in the latter there is not.
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Re: From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of [#permalink]

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Re: From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of [#permalink]

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New post 20 Jun 2016, 23:12
Hi mikemcgarry,

I loved your explanation ; Your side comments made it more effective and involving :)

I need a clarification w.r.t the last line in the argument :

Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied, and the New World might never have been discovered

Would this not negate the statement in Option E??
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Re: From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of [#permalink]

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New post 21 Jun 2016, 09:37
aditi2013 wrote:
Hi mikemcgarry,

I loved your explanation ; Your side comments made it more effective and involving :)

I need a clarification w.r.t the last line in the argument :

Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied, and the New World might never have been discovered

Would this not negate the statement in Option E??

Dear aditi2013,
I'm happy to respond. :-)

Choice (E) says "the members of a ship’s crew are expected simply to obey the orders of the captain." In other words, in signing on to be sailors, they have entered a kind of employment agreement in which, among other things, they are expected to obey the authority of the captain. Much in the same way, when I was hired by Magoosh, I and all my colleagues entered into an employment agreement with certain expectations, such as professional courtesy, responsibility, and so forth. As a US citizen, I live under certain expectations that I will obey the law, not bring down the government, and so forth. All of these are expectations, and they are exactly what occurs in ideal scenarios.

Now, the last sentence of the prompt brings up the idea of "mutiny." This is a tricky word. A mutiny is like a mini-revolution on a ship. It is a deliberate and conscious breaking of the law. The sailors who are commit the mutiny clearly know that they are doing something wrong, and they are doing this wrong thing, deliberating acting against the moral expectations on them, because of some pressing concern (usually, because they fear for their lives). Sailors are well aware that they are doing something that is not within expectations, and they know that they will be held accountable for their action. I don't know if you have ever seen the great movie "The Caine Mutiny," with Humphrey Bogart (my favorite actor): in that movie, the sailors, fearing the destruction of their ship in a storm, mutiny against the captain, and they are all well aware that they will stand trial for this when the ship returns to port. No one thinks mutiny is a good thing: it's simply a question of whether this evil averted a greater evil.

Much in the same way, policemen should be obeyed. Under normal circumstances, I certainly would obey a policemen. Now, it may occur, under some highly improbable scenario, that I would choose not to obey a policemen in a particular moment, because there was some matter of life & death of which the officer was unaware. If I did that, I would expect that I would have to answer for my choice in a court of law, and I would have to present the argument there that the matter of life & death, whatever it was, took precedent at that moment over obeying a police officer. The fact that I disobeyed in that one isolated incident would not "negate" the general expectation: that's precisely why I would have to answer for my choice in that instance.

The idea of mutiny does not negate the idea of expectations: its precisely those expectations that make mutiny such a charged and risky event. The fact that some people commit crimes doesn't negate the fact that we are all expected to obey the law: the effort that the police put into apprehending suspects and all the machinery of the judicial systems demonstrates the profound weight of these expectations. If I were to violate the professional expectations in my workplace by being grossly disrespectful or rude to my colleagues (who, in fact, are wonderful people!), then the fact that I am not living up to the expectations would not negate these expectations: in fact, I would probably be canned very quickly if deliberately and grossly violated these professional expectations, and again, the swiftness and certainty of the consequence demonstrates the weight of the expectations.

There's a funny expression in English, "the exception proves the rule." This is not rigorously true in all cases, but in these cases, what happens when expectations are violated shows very clearly how strong the expectations are. Thus, the possibility of mutiny does not "negate" the expectations on the sailors: quite to the contrary, as I have shown.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Re: From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jun 2016, 01:26
mikemcgarry wrote:
ConnectTheDots wrote:
From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of indignation over the use of false or misleading information by the U.S. government in support of its policies and programs. No one endorses needless deception. But consider this historical analogy. It is known that Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the New World, deliberately falsified the log to show a shorter sailing distance for each day out than the ships had actually traveled. In this way, Columbus was able to convince his skeptical sailors that they had not sailed past the point at which they expected to find the shores of India. Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied, and the New World might never have been discovered.

So, to re-cap --- the author says, essentially, it was kinda sorta a good thing that Columbus deceived his men, because --- look, he discovered the New World (which, BTW, someone else, such as Magellan, definitely would have done if Columbus hadn't, but that's another story). By analogy, the argument is suggesting that is might be kinda sorta a good thing that the US government is deliberately deceiving its citizens. In a way, it's a kind of ends-justify-the-means argument. For any American who cares about civil liberties, the authenticity of our nation, international justice, etc. etc., this argument is likely to get our hackles up. If a real politician made this argument, and claimed that it was in my best interest as an American that, from time to time, the government deceives us citizens --- I would be absolutely furious at that guy, so much so that I would be willing to protest in the street against him.
(As a side comment --- it can really show that you understand something about an argument if you feel a bit of an emotional tug toward one side or the other.)
So, in a way, the question is --- what's so upsetting about this argument?

ConnectTheDots wrote:
Which of the following is the main weakness of the historical analogy drawn in the passage above?
(A) The sailors in Columbus’s crew never knew that they had been deceived, while government deception is generally uncovered by the press.

Is the worst thing about deception the fact that the people who are deceived discover it? If the government happened to lie about something in such a way that no one could overturn the deception, then that wouldn't make it any better. Whether it's discovered or not, we have broad grounds for arguing that if the democratically elected government deceive its own citizens, this is wrong in and of itself. This is not a satisfying answer.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(B) A ship’s log is a record intended mainly for use by the captain, while press reports are generally disseminated for use by the public at large.

This is similar to (A). Again, whether the deception is written in private or public place --- that is, whether it kept hidden or revealed --- doesn't make a difference whether it right or wrong. Again, the government deceiving us and hiding it successfully is just as bad as the government deceiving us and our eventually finding out about it. This is also not a satisfying answer.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(C) The members of a ship’s crew are selected by the captain of the ship, while those who work in the press are self-selected.

This is interesting --- the crew was selected by the captain, so in some sense, they "belong" to him. OK, perhaps that would make it justifiable, in the fifteenth century context, to deceive them. The trouble is --- the analogs in the other case, the parties deceived --- it's not just the press, but the electorate as a whole. The sailors are chosen, but the second part can't be limited to the press and their act of choice. If the government lies, it equally affects all of us, not just the folks who work in the press. This is not a satisfying answer.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(D) The crew of a ship is responsible for the success of a voyage, while the press is not responsible for the use others make of the factual information it publishes.

Again, the comparison made is between sailors and the press, and this comparison misses the point. In the Columbus example, the sailors were deceived. In the government example, it's not just the press who is deceived --- rather, it's every citizen, all 300 million of us. It's a much much bigger issue that just something that affects only those who work for the press. Again, the comparison is incorrect, so this answer is not satisfying.

ConnectTheDots wrote:
(E) In a democracy, the people are expected to participate in the nation’s political decision making, while the members of a ship’s crew are expected simply to obey the orders of the captain.

Ah, now we get to the crux of the issue.
On a ship, the captain is the boss, and the sailors work for him. We might debate morally whether deceiving is ever justifiable, but certainly if we are going to grant an "ends justifies the means" argument, then the one person who is allowed to decide both means & ends is the boss, the captain. who is the ultimate authority on the ship.
In a democracy, the power relationships are quite different. In Abraham Lincoln's stirring phrase, in America, we have "government of the people, by the people, for the people." This means --- I don't work for the government, but rather, the government works for me, for all of us. Ultimate authority rests not with the government but with the citizenry. "We hold these truths to be self-evident ... Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Therefore, if anyone gets to decide about ends and means and whether the ends justifies the means, it should be the ultimate authority --- the citizens. Citizens get to call the shots in a democracy, and an analogy that compares the government to the authoritative captain of a ship misses this crucial point. That's precisely why this is a faulty argument, and precisely why I would be upset if the government did anything that suggested that they call the shots instead of the citizens. This is by far the best answer.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)



Mike
The last part says ---In this way, Columbus was able to convince his skeptical sailors that they had not sailed past the point at which they expected to find the shores of India. Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied,

It means that Columbus has to convince and sailors were important part in the voyage. If they wer actually following orders, it doesnt make sense to say that sailors 1)skeptic 2) would not be able to complete journey.

Though I choose E but not 100% sure on this.
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Re: From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jun 2016, 12:28
Thanks @mikemcgarry. It definitely helps.
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Re: From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jun 2016, 14:15
RatneshS wrote:
Mike
The last part says ---In this way, Columbus was able to convince his skeptical sailors that they had not sailed past the point at which they expected to find the shores of India. Without this deception, Columbus’s sailors might well have mutinied,

It means that Columbus has to convince and sailors were important part in the voyage. If they wer actually following orders, it doesnt make sense to say that sailors 1)skeptic 2) would not be able to complete journey.

Though I choose E but not 100% sure on this.

Dear RatneshS,

I'm happy to respond. :-)

My friend, I don't know how much you know about sailing in the pre-modern world. You don't have to be an expert, but it would good to get at least a sense, even from watching some historical movies such as Mutiny on the Bounty. On such a boat, all the sailors were professionals: in other words, they were hired to do a job. There were no casual passengers on the ship: everyone was working. The division of labor presumably was such that, for the most part, not everyone was working at the same time: different teams had different shifts. Nevertheless, the progress of the ship depended very much on everyone doing his job. You see, in the modern world, we are familiar with all kinds of vehicles that can operated by a single person: one person steers, and machines/computers do all the rest---this is certainly true in cars, buses, and trucks, and most boats & airplanes. That was not the case in the pre-mechanical age. It took dozens of people to operate a three-masted schooner. The captain would have to be extremely knowledgeable, to coordinate all this activity, but without the cooperation of all these sailors, the ship would not go forward. Because obedience was important, the penalties for disobedience were severe and would include flogging or even keelhauling in an extreme case.

The situation of the sailors is one likely foreign to many modern educated people. They were in a situation in which they had a job they were expected to do, and if they refused or even simply forgot, they would be severely physically punished. Even the expression of doubt or questioning might bring about a beating. In such circumstances, must people would be inclined simply to do what they were required to do, and if they felt skeptical, usually the wiser thing to do was to keep one's mouth shut and keep working.

Under ideal scenarios, everybody would love the captain, and so everyone would willingly do their work. Under less than ideal scenarios, maybe some people didn't like the captain or didn't believe him---in other words, they might be skeptical of the captain---but the fear of punishment would keep them in line. As long as the sailors were working, even if they were skeptical as they worked, the journey could continue.

Mutiny occurs when the majority of the sailors are so unhappy and so dissatisfied that they are willing to take tremendous risks to change things. Essentially, the planners of a mutiny might have been risking their own deaths to make a change. There must be widespread skepticism and extremely high levels of discontent before sailors are willing to risk this: people have to be so dissatisfied that they are indifferent to the thought of death. Once all the sailors revolt, they would stop following orders and stop working, which would cease the progress of the journey. Typically, after a mutiny has been successful, the captain and any officers loyal to him would be either killed or imprisoned or set adrift in a small boat on the high seas. Then the crew would have to cooperate to bring the boat wherever they wanted to bring it, presumably back to their home port.

So, yes, like any captain, Columbus needed his sailors to do his job, because no one could operate a sailing ship single-handed. Operation of the boat requires the contributions of the full crew. In this sense, sailors were extremely important to the voyage.

Yes, it was in the interest of Columbus to convince his sailors that they was hope of reaching their goal; if the sailors were to realize that the voyage was pointless, that all the back-breaking work they had been doing for months was for nothing, then that would likely lead to a mutiny.

Yes, sailors of all places and times could be skeptical in the silence of their hearts yet outwardly still doing their job. In any modern workplace, there are people who are skeptical about the company for which they work, but they simply keep their mouths shut and keep doing what is expected of them because they don't want to lose their jobs.

As long as they sailors were following orders and cooperating, the journey would continue. If a mutiny occurred, then the sailors would stop obeying the captain, the journey would stop, something bad would happen to the captain, and typically the sailors would decide to return home.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Re: From time to time, the press indulges in outbursts of   [#permalink] 22 Jun 2016, 14:15
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