Saturday, August 6, 2011

Truth versus Power

On Friday, August 5, MSNBC had this headline in its Business section:  “No double dip, but economy stuck in low gear.”  Right next to it was this headline, “NYT analysis:  We’re probably in a double dip recession.”  Directly under that was another headline: “Why recession fears are overblown.”   And, of course, at the very top of the site was the breaking news:  “US Loses Top Credit Rating.”

So, what did we learn from MSNBC on this particular day?  Not much, it appears.  Now, I am a big fan of MSNBC.  This website is my home page on my web browser.  However, we have to question the value of their reportage on this issue, this particular day.

In a recent Rolling Stone article, former Vice President Al Gore wrote, "After World War II, a philosopher studying the impact of organized propaganda on the quality of democratic debate wrote, 'The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false'."  The task today, is to push our politicians to move past propaganda--the always evident "talking points" on each side--and to demand that they tell us what they think is true.   

The 24-hour news channels have given us a “talking-point versus talking-point” approach to the news, instead of reportage based on fact-finding and analysis.  In this radicalized political climate, it simply is not enough to invite to the table a liberal and a conservative and elicit their talking points on an issue.  Rather, we should expect the reporter to dig out the facts personally and present an analysis that they can support as the truth as they see it.   That is, we should ask journalists to pursue questions of truth rather than questions of power. Otherwise, propaganda will win out and, when that happens, a democratic society will always lose.

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