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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Worse than you might think, but...

Having recently addressed an example from the past of how a distorted narrative was employed in the world of arts and literature to misrepresent people and circumstances, let us turn to the world of journalism.

The perceptive Michael Walsh makes the following observation:
The suicide of American journalism, and the “objective” ideal I grew up with as a young reporter, continues apace, as I noted in this space yesterday and the IBD website mentions today:

Media Malfeasance: In less than two weeks, bombshell stories of a vicious gang rape and a millionaire teen investor were exposed as frauds that never would have made it into print but for gross negligence and liberal bias.
...
There’s a reason that, back in the day, every revolution began be seizing the newspapers and radio stations. The Left understands, far more than the Right, that propaganda is everything — and if it has to kill American journalism to make its points, then so be it.

Over at Sultan Knish, Daniel Greenfield has some typically perceptive thoughts on “Life in Post-Truth America.” Well worth a read.

Worse than the hoaxes and reporting of half truths are the errors of omission.  The neglect of both stories that make their side look bad (as if they should be taking sides) and stories that present the opposition in a positive light.

Excerpts from the column by the prolific Mr. Greenfield include:
The unreliable narrator has crossed over from a fictional device in novels to memoirs, journalism and into politics.
...
 The device of the unreliable narrator puts truth out of reach. It says that there is no such thing as truth, only various perspectives on an event.
...
 In the absence of facts, there can be no reality. There is only ideology.
...
 ObamaCare was an ugly collectivist bureaucratic dinosaur clothed in imaginary stories. The stories about it, about the economy, about the war are still being told. Added to it are new stories about racism. The stories are passionate, compelling and appealing. They are also completely unreal.

Progressives don’t only live in a post-American world; they live in a post-Truth world. A world without facts and without truth is one in which the America that was cannot exist.

America had prospered because of a firm belief in a discoverable and exploitable reality. That was the country that could build skyscrapers and fleets in a year. Post-Truth America has little interest in big buildings because it’s too busy enacting a psychodrama in which the earth is about to be destroyed. And fleets, like horses and bayonets and facts, are 19th century toys that are much less interesting than the manipulation of people through lies and deceit.

Lena Dunham’s Barry and Obama’s Barry are both imaginary creatures. They are the sophisticated products of disordered minds and a disordered civilization whose leading figures lie as instinctively and as shamelessly as any pre-rational culture that could not distinguish between lies and truth. 

The cause for optimism is that two of the redoubts of the left, media and academia, will come under increasing competitive pressure for many years to come.   (see also here and here)

22 comments:

Peter said...

Of course I understand how the gang rape story fits your thesis, but how does the millionaire teenager fit it? Isn't that just a case of good ol' garden-variety incompetence?

I'm not sure this isn't a tougher case to make than with academia. It's true that a concentration of print and broadcasting after the war resulted in a liberal hegemony that things like cable and the Internet are challenging, but I'm not sure there was ever a golden age of objective reporting. There were many, many more newspapers in the 19th century and I believe it was an era marked by partisanship, slander and a lot of inflammatory stuff on all sides.

Anyway, maybe someone should Americanize this British epigram from the 30's:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
(thank God!) the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there's no occasion to.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Peter;

My view is here was a period of actual objective reporting but, like the 1950s era society, a rather brief interlude. It's clearly unsustainable but the MAL and Old Media have been benefiting from its presumption for decades. I would be fine with a general understanding that such objectivity is an illusion.

Peter said...

but the MAL and Old Media have been benefiting from its presumption for decades

Yes, I agree with that. Two other factors about the modern media come to mind. The first is that, ever since Watergate, the focus of journalistic training has been "find the scandal" rather than "discover the facts". They stopped wanting to be Cronkites and Murrows and started trying to be Woodwards and Bernsteins. The second is that there has been so much contempt and demonization dished out at "red state America" for so long, they have effectively disenfranchised them in their minds and it's not surprising they have come to believe in the noble lie in the name of a higher truth. As I tell a leftist colleague of mine frequently, if Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath today, the left would dismiss the Joads as misogynist, racist science-deniers

erp said...

The difference in the 50's is that there were many newspapers with different editorial views, not all were left and further left. TV news however, started out left and moved slowly ever more left over the years while the "anchors" became icons of avuncularity.

erp said...

Sorry, I forgot to preface my comment with IMO.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Yes, I'd note with erp that I would date the real evidence of politics over objectivity starts with Walter Cronkite and the Tet Offensive.

Peter said...

Walter? You are attacking and blaming Walter? Good god, AOG, next you'll be claiming Mr. Rogers was a subversive. If I were a progressive, I would accuse you of having a secret agenda to blow up Mt. Rushmore.

Sadly, and with much confusion, I don't actually disagree with you, which may point to the extent and depth of the problem.

erp said...

IMO, politics over objectivity started with the Bolshevik revolution and ramped up with FDR and his cozy relationship with Stalin applauded by intellectuals worldwide-- but I agree with aog that the left didn't get full control of the media until our very own cultural revolution of the 60's.

I forced myself to finish reading Ken Follett's Century Trilogy and it's a good thing my BP is on the low normal side because the last book which covered my time on earth reads like a primer in leftwing propaganda with only very tiny connections to actual facts. His love affair with the Kennedy's borders on pathological.

This is what the reading public thinks really happened. No wonder Obama can say, apparently with a straight face, that Sony should have called him before making a decision on what to do with their comedy film about the norks.

erp said...

Peter, I know you are being ironic, but if you haven't yet, you should read about Uncle Walter and his proclivities.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

So you believe that prior to the Bolshevik revolution every pen has been used to only write objective truth? If you really believe that, I am not sure you are qualified to criticize Follet.

BTW, I invite you to write a post on the major flaws you believe to have found in Follet's narrative.

erp said...

Clovis, I invite you to re-read my comment. I said what I mean and mean what I said both about politics over objectivity and Follet's book.

Update on Obama's statement: Apparently Sony did call the White House, so another bold-faced lie by the man we put into place to execute our laws. Disgusting on steroids.

erp said...

Forgot the link. :-{

Howard said...

erp,

The short-cut with the group now in the White House is that even "a, and and the" are probably lies. They are just reflective of the times we live in - Post-Truth, although this crew is particularly steeped in mendacity. I don't think there was a golden age of highly objective journalism. More than a hundred years ago there was plenty of biased partisan reporting. However, a plenitude of newspapers covered a broad spectrum of perspectives. The rise of radio and then television probably contributed to a centralization and homogenization of available news information. The William Bernstein book Masters of the Word had some interesting things to say about that. (look at the introduction - especially the figure on page 4) I think some attempt was made to report the relevant facts around mid-century but perhaps that is just wishful thinking. The loss of this near monopoly is resulting in some rather desperate behaviour now.

Also, another amusing take on the left and the media at Instapundit.

Clovis e Adri said...

I find it amusing that in our so called information age, you guys want to defend that some past greater variety of newspapers was of any significance compared to our present state, where hundreds of millions of sources are able to compound information on real time - just like it happens in this very blog.

No, the past could not afford the almost continuous spectrum of opinion we have now. It could not propagate it with comparable speed either. And lies or defamations would pass for truth a lot easier back then.

Actually, proving ignorance is bliss, the illusion of a more objective past in journalism reflects only how much less informed the people were back then.

erp said...

Harold, that's exactly what my comment was about. The current narrative began at the beginning of the 20th c. with the Bolsheviks and Russian Communism.

Of course, there was biased and false reporting before that, but it wasn't worldwide and organized.

Few people know that the Soviets were propped up by intellectuals and media until their obvious failures could no longer be papered over and when Reagan forced the issue, they collapsed.

What continues to confound me is that communism in any of its iterations has had not a single success, yet the “best and the brightest” continue to tout it and astonishingly as I read recently, over the past 50 years, the U.S. has moved much closer to Cuba than Cuba has moved toward the U.S.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis, we are still transitioning from a media culture dominated by a small set of sources to a much wider variety. Such things to not happen rapidly and I think you'd be surprised at how many people in the USA still get their news from mass Old Media. It's not a coincidence that, as noted, Old Media is suffering a slow moving financial meltdown as this transition proceeds.

Harry Eagar said...

Oh for the days of Colonel McCormack and his leaks of vital national secrets. Good times!

Harry Eagar said...

Hmmm. I am awaiting the post about this media malfeasance. It isn't often that a prime minister is moved to label a media person a complete idiot, at least in a public statement.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/13/nigel-farage-ukip-no-go-zones-non-muslim-france-charlie-hebdo

erp said...

Harry, I thought you might have been referring to some member of the media who called the killer in Paris an African-American. It's so hard to use your own brain when you've been brain-washed from infancy.

De facto No-Go zones have been a reality per the media for a long time. Why are they so shy about talking about them now?

erp said...

FYI

It was Chris Cuomo on CNN.

He was apparently corrected by his colleague Cooper -- both were in Paris for the festivities.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Is there any hope Mr. Eagar will be explicit about this "malfeascance"?

erp said...

Malfeasance is newspeak for an someone not of the left saying something everyone knows to be true out loud or in print. Extra points if it's said by someone on Fox News. It's amusing that Fox News is only slightly less leftwing than the rest of the news, but still gives them fits. Imagine if there was a truly conservative news program that actually tells everything as it is. Might make a difference.