[FoRK] Lies, Damn Lies, and Fiction

Gregory Alan Bolcer gbolcer at endeavors.com
Thu May 20 11:05:19 PDT 2004

Contempt for Meatheads wrote:
> First of two great Salon articles today...  no commentary necessary on 
> this one, except to say:  if Wolfie were an entrepreneur interacting w/ 
> his investors the way he and friends interact with the Congress, 

Wow, sounds like social spending. There was a word once that
was neologistically coined to mean pensive navel-gazing.  For the
life of me, I can't seem to find it.  I did find an interesting
Google hapax with the word "fauxnemes"--which is defined differently
than the Wallraff thread from long ago--meaning a word yet to be
coined as the concept it represents.  More precisely in Piet
Hein's words, "a bit beyond perceptions's reach."   Every time
I read Jeff's rants about "fauxnews" my mind automatically
converts it into fauxnemes.   Which brings up the real point
of Salon.

News is a manufactured commodity.  It's content is dictated solely by
market segments.  Any good entrepreneur will know that nobody controls
the news, it's given value by the market niche it fills.   The
whole idea that some evil rightist or leftist can dictate what
people think in a modern information society is crazy.
Politially ideologue media doesn't succeed on how many brains
they can whitewash, but on how they compare on content to other
news sources and whether or not they fill a market need.
People vote with their dollars, Nielsen be damned.

Wandering around London a few weeks ago, I was walking from my
hotel to Grosvenor Square.  Walking down the thoroughfare,
I stopped to ask one of the US anti-terror marines at the
concertina line around the US embassy which side the Defense
Department was on to which he replied, "Well, it's hard to be
sure, but our side, I hope."   That story's not true, except
for the walking around Grosvenor part and asking the military
guard for directions.  It's part of John O'Sullivan's May 18th
National Review column [1](the *real* inflight magazine of
airforce one despite the new republic's claim otherwise).

His column is called the "Left Eye's View."  O'Sullivan takes
on some media navel gazing around the context of news media
coverage of Iraq, but the points he picks out are far more
relevant to just Iraq.   I think he's actually gotten a hold
of a pattern, which is why there is such a big market for
alternative media sources.  It's funny how these senior
periodicals and live media sources always blame the
real-time story competition for being sloppy.
The fixe areas are:

  1) Selective agonizing.  Holding a double-standard or ignoring
     larger news in the interest of coherency, consistency, or never
     admitting a mistake in print.
  2) Taking dictum.  Believing a story at face value.  Journalists
     are trained to track down facts.  Again, I am a believer in
     the Churchill school on this one, "a lie gets halfway around the
     world before the truth gets it's boots on."
  3) Willing gullibility. This is the Stephen Glass, "shoot them
     all and let God sort them out later" mentality even in the
     face of mounting contradictions.  I'm curious if this one's
     not financial.  What's worse, not getting the news out which
     could sink the vapor thing financial security blanket immediately,
     getting bad news out which could sink it later?
  4) Galloping inferentialism. In the absense of any chain of facts,
     try to scoop the other guy by automatically jumping to the
     conclusion without going back and doing the gumshoeing.
  5) Hunting the Snark.  I'd best describe this one as mountains
     and molehills. In the world of journalism, everything is
     a mountain and there are no molehills.  It's like the Darwin
     awards, you have to ask yourself, what is the worst that
     could happen.   I think it's funny that some periodicals would
     try to hijack the national agenda for an eventual slap on
     the wrist when there's firing line offenses abounding freely.

In the sad state of affairs for journalistic integrity, I believe
O'Sullivan's, un-fact-checked, reprint of a Spanish writer's
comment, "tears are shed only from the left eye."



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