Thursday, July 21, 2011

"They All Do It (Distort the News)" "The New York Times is Notorious"

This is running through my head since I was listening to a conversation on the Radio.  The guest is discussing the Murdoch media, giving an example of a story that was spun in a ridiculous way to attack Gordon Brown (the last UK Prime Minister).

A woman called in sounding agitated saying (see title), and "If you know something about a story and read the NY Times coverage you just won't recognize it."  A question I'd have asked her is 'what is the objective source she's been reading that gives her some basis for saying the NY Times coverages is distorted?'  Granted, the NY Times is "notorious" in the sense that a large percentage (maybe around half, maybe more) incessantly says that the NY Times is notorious for distorting the news.  If so many people say it then that's a sort of notoriety by definition.  But we can be sure that nothing like that number of people actually reads the Times, much less reads the Times, and has access somehow to the raw facts making them qualified to make that judgement.

Obviously she is hearing a version of the news different from what is in the Times.  But on what basis does she have such confidence in her version?

On what basis does anyone have confidence in their version?

How do I know what I think I know?  I think my version of reality is fairly well grounded -- granted, I may be wrong about some pretty significant things, and I must always ask the question "How can I be more sure?  Or perhaps find my errors and discard them?"  To many people, the answer seems as simple as turning to their favorite news source and saying, "See, this is what's really happening so obviously you have it all wrong."

Does anyone have an answer?  I have a few. But I've had enough exposure to the the sources I think that woman listens to to know that counterarguments to everything I might say have been given to her and repeated over and over again.  No matter which side you are on, you might be able to see a valid way to get out of the mess, so I want to engage people with different versions of world political reality from mine.  Mostly what both sides are doing is name-calling.  Except some people are trying to discover what's really going on and report it.  I really believe there are a lot of people like that, but what's my basis for saying they're here rather than there?

Please do comment.

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