A recurring theme of this blog when I have the time is sophistry and its current incarnations.
One of the few blogs that actually refer to this one is Squander Two. He's now got a post up wondering why the BBC is so incredibly incompetent that they mix up fact and opinion.
Welcome to the 21st century.
Journalists, I think, have abjectly failed in what should have been a collective effort to find out facts. Instead you have them "speaking truth to power" - a phrase absurd in its hubris as it is laughable in its content ("power" isn't interested in the truth and tends to liquidate anyone in disagreement) - meaning that they posit speculation as "fact" and disagreement as "lies".
Put simply, there is no market for truth out there in journalism as we know it. Newspapers don't get sold reporting the facts when their competition prefers to show spilled blood and ruined lives; TV news is the worship of the sound bite, massive egos and severe simplicity; radio news is the filler between inanity and stupidity.
Sex sells; violence sells; good news doesn't sell.
Last weekend in Ahlen the SchizoidWife and I were with SchizoidDaughter #2 at the birthday party of a friend, an artist struggling to make ends meet.
That's the Saturday night before the Sunday of the German election fiasco..
Although the weather was rather cool, we has the last grill party of the season. Among the guests were three journalists from the local bird cage liner, an editor and 2 reporters. My wife asked them what they had to study to become journalists.
Nothing, they said; you need an abitur (German equivalent of an Associated Bachelor's degree, or high school in the US plus 2 years of college: that's what Germans get accredited for at most universities when they've gone through the system) and having studied something can be useful. You gotta be able to write a few words that actually make sense.
Nope, that's it.
My wife wanted to know if they had to write what their bosses wanted them to write or could they write what they wanted to write.
What the bosses wanted, but within reason they could place their own "touch" on the subject.
And why did they write so much anti-american stuff?
The first journalist immediately launched into a tirade about violation of international laws and stuff and how Bush was a war criminal. The second journalist sort of shrugged and said that that wasn't the case, but that Iraq etc was a special case and that we shouldn't get into that because it was too incendiary.
The SchizoidWife then pointed me out at the party - I was sitting not far away, listening to this - and said "Be careful, there's an American at the table: why do you guys write such anti-American nonsense?"
"We don't." "We just report the facts."
I could see my wife revving up for the attack: "But you don't report the facts: you only report on murders and death and the bad side of everything in this universe" (In the German it's better: Mord- und Totschlag und das Schlechte und Böse im Universum).
"And why don't you write about the good things happening in Iraq, the schools opening and people getting on with their lives?"
"Because that's not happening: it's a civil war there"
"How absurd: you don't write about it because you're anti-american and you can't let it go: you can't stand it that the Americans are responsible for the fact that you can sit here and criticize them no end and you don't get fed into a wood chopper as a result"
"That didn't happen" "The people there aren't that happy about the Americans being there"
"Yes it did and you know it. People there have been liberated and you don't give the Americans any credit whatsoever for having done that. The German soldiers in the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan aren't there because they want to help people there: they are there because they're getting basically triple pay (TRUE: no German soldier in Afghanistan is a draftee, but are all volunteers with significant pay increases) and not because they want to free these people."
"You're oversimplifying things"
"No I'm not: you journalists just want to write stories trashing the US and Americans: look at what you write about Kyoto. Kyoto is a farce and a massive waste of money, it's costing jobs in Germany, and all you write is how bad the Americans are because they refuse to waste their money."
"That's not true: everyone knows that global warming is caused by CO2 and the Americans are the cause. Besides, there jobs lost aren't that many and it's good for the environment".
"Tell that to the people who have lost their jobs."
"They lost their jobs because of neoliberalism"
"What the hell is that?"
"It's what the Americans do: they fire everyone"
It was at that point that the host intervened and asked if anyone wanted some more sausages, he was gonna put some more on the grill.
I complimented the SchizoidWife on her tenacity and asked what she learned from the experience: she said that she learned that journalists don't know diddly.
Moral of the story?
It's not a BBC thing; it's not a Dan Rather faking memos; it's what journalists are and do in order for them to survive.
But it's not about truth, facts, reality.
It's about fundamentally not being able to understand the difference between facts, opinions and speculation. It's about journalists who think that they are God's gift to the world and are there for one purpose: "Speaking Truth To Power"
They wouldn't know Truth if it came up to them, introduced itself and invited them to dinner nicely. They wouldn't know the facts if they were delivered by God himself on a silver tablet and included URLs and references.
But they know what they think they know: speaking opinion to pander. Speaking speculation to cover up the facts to feed power, the power of ignorance and "The Big Lie" of Goebbels. It's indicative of fundamental arrogance, that the "people" are too stupid to understand the complexities of the situation and need to be force-fed pablum disguised as a three-course meal.
Welcome to the 21st Century Schizoid World.