Archive for November 2001

Judging News Sources: Truth or Trash?

Truth or Trash?

The Left has taken up the favorite bloodsport of the Right: media bashing. Yes, CNN (known on the Right as the Communist News Network), Foxnews, MSNBC, even the venerable BBC are now under attack for spreading “propaganda” about the war, or for “not telling the American people the complete truth”.

We live in a time where within seconds the average American can channel surf between Cnn, the three major broadcast news networks, CNBC, and for those on Comcast Cable, the BBC. With a few keystrokes, Americans have the entire news spectrum at their fingertips, reading AP, Reuters and CNN reports as soon as they are filed. From to, to plus basic power of the search engine, the problem in America today is not the range of political voices, it is discerning the truth from the trash. 

Americans today have unprecedented access to information. While most cities are down to a single newspaper, in contrast to the mid 19th century when even small towns had multiple broadsheets, even the smallest media market has a news TV station, a local newspaper and various radio stations. Beyond the local media there is the huge ocean of information available via satellite, cable TV, periodicals and the internet. Add to this other media such as political newsletters, videotapes, and letter campaigns and it is hard to imagine that a large proportion of the world’s population lacks access to much of this information due to one basic fact: they cannot read.

Strip literacy out of the equation and the information ocean becomes a puddle, especially in areas where governments control radio and television stations and are usually distrusted when they aren’t ignored completely if for the only reason that they are mind-numbingly boring.

Therefore much information in the world is disseminated through highly biased means, such as sermons at the local mosque or via traveling locals other-wise known as  the “bush telephone”. The American campaign early in the war to drop radios was perhaps the wrong solution for the right problem (because the radios exploded upon landing). The long term solution, which should appeal to Lefty bleeding-hearts as much as Right wing paranoids, is to boost literacy while democratizing society so that many political voices can be heard.

But in the USA there is a veritable cacaphony of political voices. Is bias therefore a problem? 

The problem with bias is that it assumes the average reader or listener will believe everything that he or she reads or hears regardless of its source. However for Americans exposed to everything from sightings of Elvis to alien abductions to Clinton scandals, developing a “truth detector” (or its crudely named opposite, the “bullshit detector”) becomes an important skill. Such a skill starts early as children take on the media preferences of their parents, and is refined later in high school and often college when critical thinking skills are emphasized (one purpose of this magazine is to save these skills from their demise at the hand of the Politically Correct).

Wielding such skills, it becomes much easier to discern the truth found in a BBC report attributing Princess Diana’s death to bad or possibly drunk driving versus a tabloid’s assertion of a Royal plot to silence the popular Princess carried out by the British Secret Service. 

The problem occurs when these skills are devalued or worse, made meaningless by the Politically Correct’s belief of the truth as being relative.

When truth becomes relative, then it no longer exists. When it stops existing then everything becomes true. So CNN, NBC and the Weekly World News are all just as credible. Lies can only exist if the truth does, and since the latter doesn’t by definition, then everything suddenly becomes fact. Elvis spotted behind the Walmart, Bin Laden’s ex-wife giving away his next target (as reported in November in the National Enquirer), the American press covering up atrocities in Afghanistan.

As such Al-Jazeera, the Afghan Islamic Press (the Taliban’s official news agency), and other sundry Middle Eastern news outlets become just as “truthful” or even more so than the American media. Never mind that some of these outfits regularly print passages from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-semitic turd dating from the 1920s, or other lies such as the rumor that 4,000 Jews called in sick the day of the WTC attacks.

Without a belief that Truth exists, then fantasy and reality can no longer be distinguished. While this may be desirable for those whose lives are filled with ennui (as the lives of many Leftist tenured liberal arts professors apparently are), it does not further the enlightenment process or the quest for knowledge – both of which are dependent on the existence (at some level) of Absolute Truth. Worse it opens mind for use by demagogues since he who believes in nothing will believe anything. (Currently this quote is not attributed. Please contact the editor if you have source for this quote.)