Skip to comments.The Right to Know
Posted on 05/12/2008 5:31:32 PM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion
I want . . Freedom of the press to be the right not to be lied to.
You are confused. So very seriously confused about the First Amendment, that you are not thinking any more clearly about it than I was before the mid-1990s, when I began to see through the system by which the "journalistic objectivity" con is perpetrated. And since I was already in my fifties by then, I have every reason to understand how you might see things the way you do.
Freedom of the press is much more like "the right to lie to you" than it is like "the right not to be lied to." And that is a good thing.
In the founding era, nobody claimed that a newspaper was objective - no more so than you would take me seriously if I claimed to be objective - or I, you. That was because the newspapers were actually independent of each other back then. Independent of each other, but not independent of the political factions of the day. For example, one paper was sponsored by Thomas Jefferson, to attack the politics of Alexander Hamilton - and to reply to the attacks on him by the newspaper sponsored by Hamilton himself. The idea of either of those newspapers ceding to the other respect for being "objective" - which after all implies wisdom - is laughable.
Why, then, does our culture have the idea that journalism should be, even could be, objective? Simple - the telegraph and the Associated Press transformed the newspaper business - and our culture - beginning back in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Prior to the advent of the telegraph, newspaper printers got their news about the same way that the other people in their towns got theirs - by word of mouth and by getting physical copies of other newspapers, delivered by sailboat and horse-drawn wagon. So in principle, any given local might easily have heard any given news item before the local newspaper printed it. Accordingly, most newspapers were not dailies, may were weeklies and some had no deadline at all and just printed when the printer was good and ready. Making it all the more likely that people would get news by word of mouth before the newspaper reported it to them.
Then along came the Associated Press. Suddenly the newspaper printer had a direct line to newspapers in all the other towns and cities of the country - and to reporters working directly for the AP who aggressively got the news from ships arriving from Europe before those ships even docked. The AP was an aggressive monopolizer of the use of the telegraph for transmission of the news; it cut exclusive deals with the telegraph lines which froze competitors out. That made the AP the target of criticism and challenge, since it was so obviously an unprecedented concentration of nationwide public influence. The AP proceeded to demonstrate that influence by deflecting those charges by asserting that since the Association was composed of member newspapers which famously did not agree on much of anything, the Association was - wait for it - "objective."
That was, is, and always will be absurd. First, of course, because thinking yourself to be objective is arguably the best possible definition of the word "subjectivity." And secondly, because the AP, and all of those "independent-thinking" papers which made up the AP, was selling something. The same thing - news, before you could get it from any other source. So the AP and every one of its members had the identical incentive to sell the idea that journalism - all journalism - was objective. How else to vouch for the news which suddenly was a pervasive, dominant theme of your newspaper which had not actually had that function before - when that news did not originate with your newspaper's own reporters but with those of a nominal competitor in a distant city? So with the AP, newspapers suddenly had not only the motive but the opportunity to claim objectivity as long as they did not compete with any other AP newspaper on the basis of objectivity claims. And the more opportunity they had to make that claim, the less compunction was necessary about taking care to vindicate the claim by actually being objective.
So what is the actual effect of the claim by all of journalism that all of journalism is objective? The actual effect of the claim of objectivity, running as it has for a century and a half, is to establish in custom the idea that journalists are a breed apart from we-the-people - more virtuous, more knowledgeable, and more civic-minded - and thus entitled not only to be listened to with respect by people who pay for the privilege but entitled to special privileges such as "shield" laws granting reporters the right to withhold the names of sources from courts of law which any citizen would be under legal compunction to yield up. And entitled to special rights to speak out about candidates for public office, to be denied, under McCain-Feingold, to we-the-people. Is there any real virtue in having our government officers selected by vote of the whole people on a date certain, when it would be far more manageable to simply read in the newspapers what the newspapers say is in the public interest? Or, for that matter, what the newspapers say the public thinks, based on "public opinion polls?" From the POV of the journalist - or anyone who thinks that journalists are more objective and hence wiser and more virtuous than the public at large - the answer would have to be, "No." What could be more patent than that the conceit of journalistic objectivity is profoundly subversive of democratic principle?
Before the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine and the rise of the Internet generally and FreeRepublic.com in particular, the public discourse was largely controlled by monolithic AP journalism. Journalism had extremely broad latitude to say whatever they wanted so say, and call that "objectivity." The most fundamental desire of journalism is to attract an attentive audience, and to be able to exploit that ability for fun and profit. The linchpin of the influence of AP journalism being perishable news - news that will soon no longer be new - journalism inexorably presses upon the public the idea that the news is important. The more important you think the news is, the less attention you will pay to things which change less, or not at all. That is why AP journalism is inherently anti conservative. Journalism also is maximally important when there is a crisis requiring public notice and action. But of course a putative crisis "requiring" government action implies that the powers-that-be have not already taken whatever action is needed, which is why the public should attend to the journalist and influence the politician accordingly. Again that makes the journalist anti conservative.
Another way of stating the above paragraph is to note that journalism's rules include "There's nothing more worthless than yesterday's newspaper," and "If it bleeds, it leads." The former rule simply says that only what the public doesn't know yet matters, and the latter says that the bad news is most important. Journalism's rules also enjoin the editor that "Man Bites Dog" is news, and "Dog Bites Man" is not news. Which means that business-as-usual is not news, and if anything is reported in the newspaper it is probably not typical of what normally characterizes society. Most people never, in their entire lives, commit a murder or even know anyone who did commit a murder - but you will find plentiful stories about murders, and demands for the disarming of the general public, but rarely mention of how statistically rare murder actually is or how frequently the law-abiding use or, more commonly merely threaten to use, weapons to prevent crime. Likewise if our troops suffer casualties and deaths in Iraq that is news - even though the overwhelming majority of our troops return from Iraq without a scratch, and also with scant if any notice by journalism. All that comports with the rules of journalism - but the rules of journalism comport with the interest of journalism,. The rules of journalism purport to be about the public interest, but actually are only about interesting the public. And the two things are not only different, they are often in contradiction. So we see that journalism is anti conservative.
Since journalism not only has the inherent incentive to say what it wants to say, and since under the Associated Press regime journalism coheres as a single identifiable entity with identifiable interests and has a dominant position in the public discourse by which it is easily capable of stonewalling or otherwise dismissing contradiction, it is only natural to expect that journalism will promote those who scratch its back, and oppose those who do not. Conservatives are those who are least prone to scratch journalism's back. In this context the most satisfactory definition of American conservatism was implied in Theodore Roosevelt's famous speech at the Sorbonne in France in 1911:"It is not the critic who counts . . . the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena . . . who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds . . .That speech defines American conservatism - respect for those who take responsibility and work to a bottom line - and its opposite, which is criticism and second guessing of those who take responsibility to get things done. The latter is AP journalism's natural predilection, and it naturally tends to undercut the businessman and the policeman and the military man. There are others besides journalists who second guess the people who get things done, and journalists call them "liberals," or "progressives," or "moderates" - essentially any positive label but "objective." "Objective" is the label which journalists reserve to themselves but anyone who currently is labeled a "liberal" or a "progressive" can get a job as a journalist and instantly receive the "objective journalist" label without any change in his/her political perspective. George Stephanopolis is the outstanding example of the phenomenon; there is emphatically not any example of a conservative ever becoming recognized as an "objective" journalist.
It is interesting to note that American conservatives conserve a tradition which was started, not in the mists of time as in nations generally, but in a specific founding era in the second half of the Eighteenth Century. American constitutional norms do trace back to English antecedents, but they are codified as British and other nation's traditions have not been. The preamble to the US Constitution is a mission statement for America, and after all the specifics about providing for the common defense and so forth, it concludes with the nut of the matter, " . . . [to] secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity." American conservatives, therefore, conserve liberty - which, considering that liberty allows people to do things in different ways, and to do different things, than were done in the past, is such a unique form of "conservatism" that adherents to it have questioned whether that is even a proper term for it.
Indeed, the word which (anywhere outside the US, as recently as a decade ago) describes "American conservatism" is "liberalism." link Well one might ask, "how did the US acquire a definition of "liberalism" which is opposed to what is in America called "conservatism?" I make no pretense of specific knowledge of the event, but I have a hypothesis which I would defend against challenge until such time as more specific evidence is cited than has come to my attention. First, I would note that the term "socialism" would, on etymological grounds, be assumed to relate to support for organic societal decisions rather than - as we well know to be the actual case - relating to government control of things which in America are traditionally left to societal decisions made, perhaps most notably, in the marketplace. So I would argue that the term "socialism" was dishonestly coined by its proponents. And, everywhere outside the US, socialism was far more accepted by the public at large than it was in the US. We have had governments which were socialist in intent - FDR with his "New Deal" and LBJ and his "Great Society" perhaps most prominently - but at no time has a socialist run for POTUS openly advocating socialism as such, and won. Indeed there is exactly one avowedly Socialist senator - Bernie Sanders of Vermont - and he caucuses, surprise of surprises, with the senate Democrats. Essentially all of whom are readily classified as "liberals."
My inference is that since "socialism" was a failed brand name in the US but not elsewhere, people in the US who had the ability to rebrand socialist nostrums, and wanted to do so, seized upon the co-opting of the term for the political theory which already was popular. Associated Press journalism - especially in conjunction with academia, which as a group are critics and not doers just as reporters are - fits that bill exactly. It is a theory which seems to fit the facts as I know them perfectly - socialist-minded people had motive, in the US, and opportunity, to make the change. Certainly, or so it seems to me, it would have been impossible without at least the acquiescence, and probably the active support, of journalism. There would have been far less incentive for socialists in any other locale than the United States to make that change.
We see the process of the creation of a new word - a neologism - out of whole cloth springing out of the Democratic reaction to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign of 2004. In that case, the SBVT organization counted among its members the entire chain of command in Vietnam above John Kerry, and all his fellow officers on the other Swift Boats in Kerry's naval unit. If you wanted to ask anyone else but John Kerry and his subordinates on his boat, on the one hand, and the SBVT on the other, you would be embarrassed for want of anyone who could speak of about Kerry's performance on the basis of direct knowledge. You have to either believe one side or the other, and the SBVT group is far more numerous, and was more highly credentialed at the time and place in question, than Lt. John Kerry and his subordinates were. And their story was more consistent over time, and internally, than Kerry's story was - considering how certain Kerry was that he had been sent on a mission into Cambodia by a president who hadn't been inaugurated yet! Nevertheless, AP journalism and the rest of the Democratic smear machine has created, and imposed on the national dialog, the term "swiftboating" defined as the irresponsible and unjustified criticism of a Democrat.
So we have seen the imposition of a story line and a word meaning implemented before our very eyes, in real time. What reason is there to doubt that the same or similar things have been done in the past, when we didn't have the Internet and talk radio to help us keep our sanity when we thought that "objective" journalists were cooking the books! By the accounts of Ann Coulter and M. Stanton Evans, the coining of the word "McCarthyism" was done in exactly the same fashion, and with no more justification than the coining of "swiftboating" was done. And thus I have little doubt that the inversion of the meaning of the word "liberalism" was done the same way, by the same sort of people.
And "liberalism" is not the only word whose meaning has been inverted; the words "society" and "public" have received similar treatment. If you hear a "liberal" speak of "society" your very first impulse should be to question whether or not the speaker means anything other than government. Except in the absence of freedom, the two are not synonyms, but that is how the socialist "liberal" uses the word "society." And the socialist "liberal" uses the word "public" to exactly the same intent.
Have you checked out 4 Advances that Set News Back? I highly recommend it.
Another read, another BUMP-TO-THE-TRUTH!
What a thoughtful and intelligent post, I’m saving it, thank you.
Ah, but don’t forget the word “progressive”, which has come to mark (among other things) the most reactionary elements in the communities, the NIMBYs resisting progress and change.
Ah, but dont forget the word progressive, which has come to mark (among other things) the most reactionary elements in the communities, the NIMBYs resisting progress and change.
Voting for socialist policies is never an intelligent, fully-informed decision. Journalists and official Democrats continually obfuscate the implications of their programs.
liberal In the original sense the word described those of the emerging middle classes in France and Great Britain who wanted to throw off the rules the dominant aristocracy had made to cement its own control. During the 1920s the meaning of the word changed to describe those who believed a certain amount of governmental action was necessary to protect the people's "real" freedoms as opposed to their purely legal - and not necessarily existent - freedoms. This philosophical about-face led former New York governor Thomas Dewey to say, after using the original definition, "Two hundred years later, the transmutation of the word, as the alchemist would say, has become one of the wonders of our time." In U.S. politics the word was used by George Washington to indicate a person of generosity or broad-mindedness, as he expressed distaste for those who would deprive Catholics and Jews of their rights. . . . In its present usage, the word acquired significance during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who defined it this way during the campaign for his first term: ". . . say that civilization is a tree which, as it grows, continually produces rot and dead wood. The radical says: 'Cut it down.' The conservative says: 'Don't touch it.' The liberal compromises: 'Let's prune, so that we lose neither the old trunk nor the new branches.'
currently, one who believes in more government action to meet individual needs; originally, one who resisted government encroachment on individual liberties. Safire's dating of the change to the 1920s is congenial to my thesis that the word change happened in a relatively short period of time - hence logically would have required the active support of the chattering classes - rather than a gradual social evolution. It also, as my thesis suggests, dates the change to well after the founding of the Associated Press, and late enough for socialists to have been disillusioned over the difficulty of getting Americans to accept socialism under its own name. But also before the inauguration of the FDR Administration, which my reading suggested would have to be the case since FDR himself used the word so unselfconsciously.
In the original sense the word described those of the emerging middle classes in France and Great Britain who wanted to throw off the rules the dominant aristocracy had made to cement its own control.
During the 1920s the meaning of the word changed to describe those who believed a certain amount of governmental action was necessary to protect the people's "real" freedoms as opposed to their purely legal - and not necessarily existent - freedoms.
This philosophical about-face led former New York governor Thomas Dewey to say, after using the original definition, "Two hundred years later, the transmutation of the word, as the alchemist would say, has become one of the wonders of our time."
In U.S. politics the word was used by George Washington to indicate a person of generosity or broad-mindedness, as he expressed distaste for those who would deprive Catholics and Jews of their rights.
. . .
In its present usage, the word acquired significance during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who defined it this way during the campaign for his first term: ". . . say that civilization is a tree which, as it grows, continually produces rot and dead wood. The radical says: 'Cut it down.' The conservative says: 'Don't touch it.' The liberal compromises: 'Let's prune, so that we lose neither the old trunk nor the new branches.'
I must however admit that http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=liberalism&searchmode=none suggests a much earlier date for the change:
. . . But also (especially in U.S. politics) tending to mean "favorable to government action to effect social change," which seems at times to draw more from the religious sense of "free from prejudice in favor of traditional opinions and established institutions" (and thus open to new ideas and plans of reform), which dates from 1823.Caveat lector.
Another great read cIc. Thank you. Bookmarked!
Excellent. Thank you for pinging me on this, I appreciate it.
(Also...great tagline there. I would vote for that man in a heartbeat, but I suspect he is much too pragmatic and sensible ever to consider it!)
Add to that "human rights" as opposed to "individual rights".
Seriously, though. The word has been hijacked. It's like something right out of Orwell. Control the language, Control the thought.
The left is really good at hijacking words. Another biggie that comes to mind is the word “marriage.” For several years, I've been thinking about compiling a dictionary of liberalspeak. I've never gotten around to doing it. I'll check out Safire’s dictionary.
Fortunately, the technological stranglehold the media had on information has been weakened by the Internet.
A real thought inspiring essay.
The public worldview is manipulated through the use of language, and in particular a series of deceptive labels.
Socialism is service to the self disguised as service to others. In this way it is an inverted form of a large part of Christian doctrine (though not the most important part).
I often wonder about the extent to which lies and corruption are intentionally perpetrated by leftists in the media or in government, or by sympathetic members of general society.
For example, does Nancy Pelosi secretly think to herself how great it will be when we are finally a Stalinist society, or does she merely follow leftist path because it best expands her own personal power while diminishing everyone elses? I have come to believe that most political leaders and media types dont fully realize that their actions will lead us to the hell of totalitarianism (although most are probably conscious that they dont care, which is almost as bad). I think the collective result of having many self-serving leaders is an inevitable fall into the horror of communism.
And self worship I believe is the primary motive for the individual who supports leftist politics. Every sociopolitical issue on the left has a narcissistic payoff. I believe our descent into the hell of totalitarianism is indeed precipitated on all levels by indulgence in that tricky and elusive sin, pride. Like you say, the conceit of journalistic objectivity is profoundly subversive of democratic principle.
Exactly. Ownership is simply credit for something. Ownership of money is nothing but pure information - the intrinsic value of a $10 bill is no different from that of a $1 bill. Socialism is simply the negation of the credit that people have which is reflected in their ownership of land, things, stocks, and money. Socialism negates the recognition of credit which individuals have earned or otherwise been given (as, by inheritance).Like you say, the conceit of journalistic objectivity is profoundly subversive of democratic principle.
Maxine Waters inadvertently blurted out the truth that the Democrats want to "socialize" the oil companies on the pretext that politicians will provide more gas and oil, and demand less credit for it, than the oil companies are willing to. Not than the oil companies can, of course - no sentient being could possibly be dumb enough to believe that - but than the oil companies, in their greed relative to the virtuous politicians, are willing to do.
Puncture the ridiculous pretensions of "liberal" politicians to superior virtue, and there is nothing else to liberalism. That is however impossible while the people accept the conceit of journalistic objectivity. It seems to me that there is a solution to that conundrum - legal action against the Associated Press. SCOTUS held back in 1945 that the Associated Press is a monopoly. They did not apply an adequate remedy for the evils which I attribute to the AP, but that does not mean that another suit could never do so.
The first thing to go must be McCain-Feingold, which is probably to blame for the pathetic field of Republican candidate which culminated in the victory of John McCain in the primaries.
Yes - and since you cite that sentence back to me, it does sound somewhat like a tagline, doesn't it!
Words fail my desire to thank you for your contribution to the needed discourse of these troubled times.
I would note, in passing, that no one, to my knowledge, has proven that the Swift Boat Veterans wrote anything that was not true. Yet, as you have correctly noted, the unthinking public is convinced that they lied, an example of the much abused power of the press.
no one, to my knowledge, has proven that the Swift Boat Veterans wrote anything that was not true. Yet, as you have correctly noted, the unthinking public is convinced that they lied, an example of the much abused power of the press.
Yes . . . and if you were able to challenge them over it, their response would, likely as not, be to conduct a poll showing that a majority of people think the SBVT had been unfair to Kerry. What such a poll would prove, however, is simply and exclusively how much invidious influence AP journalism has managed to exert.
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