I Am a Liar

The news is fake, and you shouldn’t believe it.  The media is contriving to feed you lies according to an insidious agenda.  It’s not just the papers and TV stations: it’s NPR, it’s the Hollywood blockbusters, it’s the billboard for Denny’s.  You should only believe what your own five senses tell you, and perhaps not even that much.

What is journalism?  In essence, it’s words that attempt to tell the truth, just as music, novels, and religion do.  Most would argue that journalism is a bit more direct, but the likeness stands. So much of what we know is sourced solely from the words of others.  Very few of us have made independent discoveries, and still fewer have uncovered something original. In the information age, we can easily rely on apps, newscasters on single-digit channels, and unsolicited Facebook reviews to hear everything we want to hear about the world beyond whatever hamlet we happen to live in.  It is deeply disturbing to consider that any of these sources might be partially or entirely false, but for some it is extremely attractive.

We tend to believe what we want to believe, and we’ll seek out those sources of information that back these convictions.  This is another unfortunate vestige of our tribal roots, and it’s probably inescapable. Despite its apparently natural origin, this tendency is a fallacy. We might fall prey to ignoring whatever and whoever doesn’t agree with us, but preemptive dismissal doesn’t amount to evidence for an argument by any stretch.  Too often, points that complicate the narrative surrounding an issue are ignored.

This is a favorite among politicians and the political analysts.  And no, it’s not just Mr. Trump. In fact, rejecting facts presented by news outlets is pervasive.  News sources like CNN and Fox are frequently the butt of statements targeting biased media. Bias is inevitable in journalism.  Any efforts to remove it are really just trying to mitigate it. Skepticism of seemingly skewed information is entirely founded, but it becomes problematic when it is used as a mechanism to discount any information that goes against your beliefs.  The vast majority of journalists don’t aim to insert lies into their pieces, as much of the bias in the news lies in what isn’t said.

We rely on major news sources for our information, and as valuable as local news is, it doesn’t have the capability to cover national and world events.  If we erode the credibility of these larger outlets instead of addressing any perceived bias in them, we sacrifice the reliability of the information we receive on a daily basis.  To form educated worldviews, people need these sources, and we all have a level of responsibility in holding our news sources accountable to factuality. The only alternative is rejecting every piece of information the TV, billboard, or Facebook post gives us.