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Automatic Lying

John Henke puts together a finely researched exposé on the routine and automatic lying engaged in by the New York Times Editorial Board.

It doesn’t surprise me at all, for I’ve known all about this dynamic since I first became politically aware in my early teens. Big media understands that sensation and controversy is what drives ratings and thus, the bottom line. In fact, we don’t have "The News" because it was ordained somewhere. We have "The News" because some people with the necessary capital got together and realized that there was a lot of money to be made in controlling, sensationalizing, manipulating and outright fabricating information.

The country — moreso back then when I put this together — is predominately to the more socially conservative side, and I include many democrats in that group. These are people of a deep sense of values, and they don’t toss out or adopt new values willy-nilly. They’re salt-of-the-earth types, even when they’re playing useful idiot by going to the polls every two years to have their 1/270,000,000th say in how their own lives and affairs ought to be arranged.

If you want to make money as a media mogul, you don’t give these people what they already know and cherish. They get that in church every week, and certainly in communion with family and friends of like values. What you do is agitate them to no end. You lay assault to their values from one end to the other, and you’ll make millions.

Of course, the best way to effect such an agitation strategy is to hire yourself a bunch of lefty ideologues who want to save the world. Eh voilà, you have yourself a team of automatic liars for whom it becomes so routine that they’re numb to it.

I can’t honestly say that I put all of this together in such detail back when I was twelve. I can say that when I began listening to news, I immediately and without question knew that I was being manipulated. I’m not sure how or why I knew it, but it was as clear to me as anything I can remember.

So the question is not really why the media is so far to the left and unrepresentative of the average person’s values. That’s just about money. The question is why the average journalist is so to the left, and that’s a question that may be tougher to figure out, though some people certainly touch on it from time-to-time.

If you attempted to point out the long history of the murder of fact and the egalitarian elevation of everyone’s opinion
to that place where reality had once been the referent of reason, the
shrugging ennui would be enough to blow your socks off. And, so; now
we’re at the point where manifest lunatics — like Jesse
Jackson, for only one example — need only open their mouths and whole
institutions rush to park microphones in front of them and they are taken seriouslyinstitutionally — while they spout their bloody delusions.  People actually accord them respect,
and this is the natural heritage of Pragmatism, ladies and gentlemen:
there is no such thing as reality, truth is a fantasy, and, therefore,
every spoonful of drivel must be heard and entertained because without
it there will be no valid "consensus" in the "national dialog".

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

19 Comments

  1. Rich on September 8, 2005 at 11:43

    You're of course joking, right?

    Look, are you one of these people who use "prove it" as a manipulative substitute for argument? I'll grant that most claims do require substantiation, but asking for same when the claim is obvious (like: the sun's going to rise tomorrow morning) is just disingenuous.

    Evidence supporting the fact exists everywhere, and I'd have to question your intellectual honesty not to simply acknowledge facts for wht they are.

  2. Rich on September 8, 2005 at 13:10

    Doug:

    All I ask for is intelectual honesty. Doesn't mean I'm perfect at practicing it, but I do try very hard.

  3. Rich on September 8, 2005 at 14:54

    Dav:

    Are you serious? Edward Herman? That commie is going to tell me that there's no left bias in the media? Next you'll be citing Noam Chomsky telling us that there's no left ist (commie) agenda associated with the eco-freaks and anti-corporate activists.

    Yea, I know, the media is controlled and manipulated by corporate interests: bla bla. That may very well be true, but it's irrelevant.

    Can you guess why? For one, corporations own the media, so it's only to be expected. You're welcome to start a competing company. For two, the business you do with corporations, worldwide, is voluntary. For three, virtually all values produced by all corporations involve competitive choices — except, that is, when a monopoly exists: such as with the power company, the water company, the electic company, the cable company, the phone company (noticing a common denominator in how monopolies really are established and maintained?).

    I'll see your Ed Herman and raise you a Bernard Goldberg and an Accuracy in Media:

  4. Rich on September 8, 2005 at 15:08

    Dav:

    Clearly you are taking my claim out of context. Here in the US, "left" does not generally mean the sort of anarchist-sydicalist meaning you are clearly attributing to it (I browsed your blog). Didn't realize that you're a leftist anarchist, and I must say that I find such a position untenable, because the power of the state is necessary to enforce your worldview, as we learned with the USSR "experiment."

    I agree that the media supports POWER. My claim it that it is biased towards power in the hands of the left (democrats) rather than in the hands of the right (republicans), and that is just a plain simple fact that's absolutely undeniable.

  5. Rich on September 8, 2005 at 15:27

    Wooooo, the commies are comin to get you.

    Indeed.

    The Red Plague by guest blogger Professor R. J. Rummel

    Growing Poverty: The Hidden History of Stalin’s Industrialization by guest blogger Professor Bryan Caplan

    An October Revolution Worth Honoring by guest blogger Nicholas Weininger

    Kolyma: Land Of The White Death by Jonathan Wilde

    China’s Lost Culture by Rainbough Phillips

    Three Economic Arguments Against Centrally-Planned Economies by Randall McElroy

    Gulag Interrogation by Jonathan Wilde

    Torture and Tyranny: The Real Che by Randall McElroy

    The Teacher Holocaust by Rainbough Phillips

    Walter Duranty: Stalin’s Western Apologist by Jonathan Wilde

    Away From Thebes by Scott Scheule

    Power + Dehumanization = Tragedy by Patri Friedman

    Why Such Death? by Scott Scheule

    Communist Cannibalism by Jonathan Wilde

    Salvador Allende – The Herald Of Pinochet by Brian Doss

    Remembrance by Jonathan Wilde

  6. dav on September 8, 2005 at 11:28

    Care to provide some proof that 'big media' is so far to the left?

  7. Doug Wolf on September 8, 2005 at 11:44

    Dav,

    I normally lean fairly hard to the left side of strict libertarian, and if I may be allowed to cast my own interpretations on the point Richard was trying to make:

    It's not so much that the media leans to the left (or the right for that matter)… it's that they're idiots. (This includes both the New York Times and Fox News.)

    Ideally journalism means collecting the facts and reporting them with as little spin as possible. These days, "journalism" all too often means "I have an axe to grind, and I need to go find someone who shares my opinion so I can insinuate that their utterances are facts simply by dint of my reporting them."

    I think some of the folks who read Rich's (incredibly well thought out and well written) blog tend to only notice the idiocy when it's on the left. (Michael Moore comes to mind as a fine example.) By way of similar example on the other side, the left tends to take more notice of the idiocy of Bill O'Reilly than of, say, Jesse Jackson.

    In general, it's my opinion that Richard's assesment of Big Media reporting *what will make them the most money* is dead on. I'm not even saying this is a bad thing… but it's a thing that people need to keep in mind if they are going to try to filter anything like a clear picture of reality out of the news reporting.

    That's my two cents.

    — DW

  8. dav on September 8, 2005 at 11:52

    Well as much as your interpretation of his words might be reasonable you haven't given an explanation as to why he couldn't have as correctly, in your view, deemed 'big media' as leaning so far to the right.

    For someone so, apparently, learned when it comes to business and 'value', it is quite strange that he is not as familiar with the corporate media, the propaganda model and Edward Herman.

  9. Doug Wolf on September 8, 2005 at 12:18

    Dav,

    Rich, please forgive us while we talk about you right in front of you for a moment. 🙂

    Rich is opinionated as hell… he has the right to be, it's *his* blog. 🙂 We all wear blinders of one sort or another (I do science and engineering for a living and see perfectly rational, intelligent men stumble over thier blinders every day.) Dav, I suspect you and I have blinders that make us more sensitive to idiots on the right. I think Rich's tend to make him more sensitive to idiots on the left. *MUCH* to his credit, he's not an ideologue for either the right wing or the left… he openly acknowledges that neither side has a patent on sanity.

    As far as being "apparently learned", I *never* assume that an "apparently learned" person is familiar with any particular field of study… only that they could *become* familiar should the need or interest present itself.

    I find myself disagreeing with Rich, and Kyle and the rest of the folks here *often*… but remain here because they ask the right questions, and rationally explore the issues. One does not need to always agree in order to benefit from that exploration.

    I read "Uncommon Sense" because it makes me think and helps remove *my* blinders.

    — DW

  10. dav on September 8, 2005 at 14:46

    As Rich says, the facts are everywhere to support what he says, much like there are facts everywhere to substantiate the claim the sun will not rise tomorrow, didn't it just disappear beyond the horizon. However when one puts all these facts together, one gets a better picture of the reality.

    There was an article in the Irish Times recently that brought up something similar, leftist fundamentalism, and similarly without any basis. The corporate media, i.e. the dominant media is what ever it needs to be, it is neither left nor right, it supports its own existence by pandering to the needs of its readers/advertisers, it tends to reinforce peoples beliefs and their prejudices.

    "Literature has always sought to undermine the trade union, to demonise it, and in general this view seems quite prevalent although again contradictory in most mainstream papers. On the one hand you have articles calling for the need to increase teachers salaries and reduce doctors hours, and then on the other you have condemnation of striking workers. The same is true of opposition to the war. From one page to the next the Times changes its tune from outright support, bordering on xenophobic scaremongering to accurate and insightful reporting of what is really going on in the middle east. Either this is the journalists real agendas slipping through or simply the market forces allowing certain forms of dissent to appease those 'left wingers' needing some balance or the 'right wingers' calling for stability, privatisation and the 'free market'."

    For ample evidence of the 'left' leaning nature of the media, one need look no further than that bastion of liberality the BBC, "If the president pulls it off, he can leave the legacy he has been seeking in the Middle East – Iraq as the democratic example which justified the war and the cost." This strictly adheres to the rhetoric of power, this is the basis of the 'liberal' media, subservience to power and occasional dissent, but never step to far over the line. I could go on for some time without even needing to mention Rupert Murdock. I'm afraid your post is flawed beyond reproach.

    Here is how I responded to Professor Reville in the Times:

    Dear Madam,

    Professor William Reville puts forward an interesting argument in Thursday's Irish Times, the overpowering influence of leftist fundamentalism. Asserting several facts about the nature of fundamentalism Professor Reville concludes that the 'leftist agenda' is a form of fundamentalism itself and one that wields the 'sway of power'. The article is at first glance quite convincing in its interpretation of 'leftism' as a pseudo belief that is, if strictly adhered to under fundamental principles, a form of fundamentalism quite similar to that found within the Christian and Islamic faiths.

    However, this argument is quite familiar and has appeared in several different forms with varying levels of success. Professor Reville uses as one corner stone of his argument a quote from an article my Martin Amis in the Guardian, "[w]e are obliged to accept the fact that Bush is more religious than Saddam: of the two presidents, he is, in this respect, the more psychologically primitive." (1) Now, the general rule in quoting a source to fortify a particular view is to give that quote in its proper context. The context the quote pertains to is slightly more nuanced than Professor Reville would suggest. Mr. Amis begins "in central Baghdad [there] is a copy of the Koran written in Saddam Hussein's own blood," and "[a]ll US presidents – and all US presidential candidates – have to be religious or have to pretend to be religious," similarly Saddam "is, in reality, a career-long secularist – indeed an "infidel", according to Bin Laden." While Bush promotes religious fundamentalism verbally his actions defy his preaching, case in point, his unswayed support for the death penalty.

    The point that Professor Reville makes, in a familiar style to Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian several days after Mr. Amis' article (2), is that this logic results in Mother Teresa being more 'psychologically primitive' than Hitler. The two writers, being surprisingly unfamiliar with logic, have made the mistake of confusing Mother Teresa with someone who feigns religious belief in order to hold sway over a public who demand a fundamentalist leader. Whether Mr. Amis holds a certain disdain for religious belief is beside the point, one cannot infer from this piece that he would come to the same conclusion as Mr. Garton Ash as to Mother Teresa's psychological state. In much the same way we cannot infer from Professor Revilles article that President Bush is a Marxist, even though he holds the sway of power.

    Amis can be understood more clearly here, "What religion used to take care of was to give one a sense that one wasn't just living in a meaningless present, and that there were greater contexts. Religion won't quite do this for us anymore, If we're to believe in perfectibility or even improvement, then we need to be able to think of the human soul as an imperishable image of our potential and our battered innocence and so on." (3)

    The thrust of the article is that "[t]he fundamentalist left has come to command great influence in the media and powerfully moulds public opinion. Paradoxically this "liberal" media influence seems to exert a tighter grip on public opinion that the old-style thundering Catholic bishops ever did." Now while this is an interesting opinion it may not hold the necessary water for it to be considered realistic under further examination. Firstly, Professor Reville uses two basic premises to construct his argument, the first is that 'leftism' has a number of fundamental principles, one of which being religious intolerance, and the second that those with the sway of power strictly adhere to those fundamental principles. It is therefore necessary to ascertain who holds 'the sway of power'.

    There are many influencing factors contributing to ones 'power', the most obvious being monetary wealth, political dominance and control over information. These can be roughly divided between political, financial and media institutions. The balance of power then slowly precipitates downwards towards the powerfully insignificant, those that don't register on Professor Reville's spectrum of influence.

    At present in Britain the preponderance of power sways towards opposing the rights of religious extremists to speak openly about subjects deemed incitement to terrorism. While across the Atlantic Donald Rumsfeld, presently controlling the most advanced army in the world, defends the rights of certain religious fundamentalists to advocate individual acts of terrorism, "[o]ur department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law. He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time."(4) Since we are to believe from Professor Reville's title that the 'sway of power' lies with the leftist middle class, we can then infer that this class is quite confused as to which religious fundamentalism to be intolerant towards. Which ties in quite succinctly with Martin Amis description of religious perversion for the purpose of political gain. Am I to assume that Professor Reville and Mr. Amis are in agreement?

    Since the financial sphere is ruled out from the off and the political sphere is apparently confused as to its leftist agenda, it falls to the media to bear the brunt of Professor Reville's criticism. The BBC, considered one of the most influential and liberal media outlets in the world has this to say about he present conflict in Iraq, "If the president pulls it off, he can leave the legacy he has been seeking in the Middle East – Iraq as the democratic example which justified the war and the cost." This amounts to unconditional support for both the invasion of Iraq and the sanctions that preceded it, and therefore the justification of over 500,000 dead. The mainstream media does indeed support the sway of power.

    Just as the mainstream media refrained from framing the debate after 9/11, it was also deficient in remembering Russian terrorism towards Chechnya after the horrific incident in a Moscow theatre. This is not to say Russia has escaped all forms of criticism from the liberal media, it was left to the 'fundamentalist left' to criticise Russian aggression against "hapless Chechen civilians and refugees…now paying the price, as they have repeatedly over the past eight years. An endless litany of reports by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document the extent of Moscow's abuses in the conflict; Chechnya is one of several places in the world at the moment where the word "genocide" is being used by reasonable people. It is the Russian government, far more than isolated rebel bands in Moscow, who have repeatedly targeted innocent lives during the conflict."(6) This merely highlights the gap between apparent leftist control and the reality of a sway favouring those that feign fundamentalism then oppose whatever other fundamentalism is necessary to retain that power.

    The most interesting aspect of Professor Revilles piece is the conflict between a professors duty to condemn plagiarism while at the same time practising it openly. I think this says more about the state of the Irish college system than a hundred different articles about the popularity of science among undergraduates.

    Yours etc…

    And Rich, we talked some time ago about your love of the free market, you were having trouble explaining why tobacco companies are trying to kill their customers, any new thoughts?

  11. dav on September 8, 2005 at 15:07

    What corporation owns the BBC?

    And I'll raise you a F.A.I.R., a Media Lens and a Justice Not Vengeance (JNV).

    Theres no real need to get into the corporate yadda yadda now, we've done this before and got no where, see end of last post.

    The fact is I CAN cite more examples of right leaning bias in the dominant news than you can cite left leaning bias. That is a fact.

    Wooooo, the commies are comin to get you.

  12. dav on September 8, 2005 at 15:21

    I take no offense in being called an anarchist, however I wouldn't necessarily agree with it.

    That idea that the media supports the left more than the right is also debateable. The whole Clinton saga evidences that. The British media does tend to support Labour at the moment, however, Labour is not much different from the the Conservatives at this point. The media will support whoever it is in their interests to support.

    The most watched news medium in the UK is Sky News, an overtly racist channel with little or no depth. It is Fox News 'light', which I assume is quite popular in the states?

    Not exactly the left wing bias you were loking for?

  13. dav on September 8, 2005 at 15:30

    I'm not a big fan of Che. How any of that relates to this discussion is beyond me.

    I believe Chomsky actually says anarchism would work very well with capitalism.

  14. Kyle Bennett on September 9, 2005 at 09:23

    The problem with "balance" as it is seen by the left is that they choose arbitrary extremes such that their currently preferred position is always the one in the middle – the one of "balance". It is a deliberate technique, though the kool-aid crowd that frequents Kos and Moveon is so well trained that they don't even know they're doing it. Dav may or may not be doing it intentionally.

    One reason I respect the right even when they are so often so horribly wrong is that their positions are fairly consistent. You can argue with a right winger one day, and come back years later and pick up right where you left off. With a leftie, you can't keep track from one minute to the next where the argument is.

    That goes to the one fundamental of the left. Their only consistent position is destruction – not least of all the destruction of reason itself. That's what happens when every single thing you believe contradicts every other thing you believe – you're free to argue whatever you feel like at the moment, guided only by the need to oppose your opponent, but you must protect yourself at all costs from reason and logic or else it all falls apart.

  15. Kyle Bennett on September 9, 2005 at 10:29

    dav,

    Thanks for providing an example. Your switch – no your complete reversal of – context in the first paragraph was particularly well-done. It shuts down any discussion of my point while appearing to address it. And the bonus of supplying actual evidence for that point while doing so is truly masterful, almost playful.

    The incoherence of the second paragraph properly sets up the reader's confusion and loss of any sense of direction. Then the third presents something concrete to grasp, a lifeline to the helpless reader, yet one which takes him far from the original argument.

    We have a lot to learn from you, dav, just not what you're hoping we will.

  16. Kyle Bennett on September 9, 2005 at 12:08

    dav,

    It didn't work the first time, so you just repeat it, with a few more words? I was expecting a new feint, a new maneuver, something to keep me on my toes.

    I know that I moved to a wider (yet still inclusive) context in order to establish a fundamental point from which the argument at hand could proceed, but, c'mon, the "thread is off topic" gambit is a bit tired and worn out, don't you think?

    I thought you were better than that.

    Though I do like "There is no left because Christopher Hitchens's isn't in it". That's clever, a bit of an inside joke, eh?

  17. dav on September 9, 2005 at 09:36

    Well kyle that all sounds quite grandiose, but take a look at the American conservative right. Fundamentally Christian and yet in favour of the death penalty.

    If Chomsky was to debate Richard Perle today, would we get the same results, the answer I think is yes. Consistency in abundance, except from your logic.

    Of course it quite impossible to seperate everyone into right and left, take a look at Christopher Hitchens.

  18. dav on September 9, 2005 at 11:31

    If you re-read the thread Kyle, you'll find it is you that has wandered off topic.

    The idea is that the dominant media is "so far to the left." Any thoughts?

    But I'll explain anyway.

    The conservative right has its strongest base in the fundamental Christian ethos. A major part of this being the Bible. The Bible doesn't look to keenly on murder, however the death penalty is quite popular among fundamental Christians.

    Here the right is quite inconsistent.

    Now, Chomsky vs Perle, a famous debate that resulted in Perle being completely embarrassed, having tripped over himself several times.

    The point is, if they were to debate again today, a man on the left vs a man on the right, the outcome and the topics covered would be very much similar. This consistency is not consistent with you grandiose prose.

    Finally the last paragraph simply states that it is quite pointless referring to the left and the right, particularly because people like CH exist, and there is many of them.

  19. dav on September 9, 2005 at 14:39

    "the destruction of reason itself"

    How this opens the debate is not clear.

    If all it takes is be drunk, then yes, Hitchens is a 'leftie'.

    Again, the topic is, the lefts dominance of the media.

    Not the ever, apparently, shifting views of the left.

    Make an argument, this digital toe tickling is getting tired.

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