The world of “news” is so filled with lies that we all have a hard time sorting them out. The truth seems ever more elusive, the more we understand that so many of those who hawk information have reasons for presenting it in a certain way. We are becoming inured to lies. We are even inventing courteous ways of saying that we are being lied to, perhaps to avoid being so blunt. The newest way, at least that I have noticed, appears in today’s New York Times. Here is Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, talking about Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson, former commander of the Army Sustainment Command: “I believe General Johnson presented evidence that deceived Congress,” Mr. Dorgan said in an interview. But the neatest way he put it is further down in the article: Dorgan says of Johnson’s report, that it was “a display of negligent disregard for facts that were known to the Pentagon.” “Negligent disregard for facts that were known”: a pretty good definition of “lying”.
But there are other ways to misrepresent the truth. The way that Fox News represents Michelle Obama is to run several minutes of talk about her in which she says scarcely anything except the few words that they find offensive. Given this kind of treatment, how would anyone get across anything they want to say? That kind of treatment indicates again that the “news” is crafted for an audience by social elements that have reasons, interests, in persuading others to see things they way they see it. It becomes all the most critical, then, for us to know what the interests are of those who describe situations. Politics is the contest over how to define the public situation. That makes news agencies political vehicles. Again, we need to know who owns the news companies and what their interests are. We know quite a bit about Fox: it would be nice if they would seek a better reputation; but then Bill O’Reilly is just too valuable.
Somewhere I saw that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth announced that they would be taking on Obama. This is a group whose credentials were dubious when they claimed to represent the real combat experience of John Kerry, and they have even worse credentials for saying anything in particular about Barak Obama. That they announced their plans to go after him reveals in fact what they are: professional character assassinators whose connection with “truth” is and has always been a charade. They have been pretty quiet, though, since both Obama and McCain have appeared to quash the “527 organizations” this time around. In fact, their website now says that as of May 31, 2008, they have “formally disbanded and ceased all operations”. Is it possible their claim to be working on an attack against Obama was an offer to serve the high-rolling elite who funded their activities the last time? These days the super-rich are not dumping so much money into the Republican cause this time around; could it be that the Swift Boaters didn’t get any offers worth their trouble this time? What with the cost of gas these days and the vanished funding from the super-rich, it hardly pays anymore to be in the business of character assassination.