Sunday, April 11, 2010

Flat Earth News

Very quickly (before the link widget here expires) - What I Learned This Week By Opening One Book.

The book is Nick Davies' "Flat Earth News", and I learned just why it is that (as anybody with eyes can see) we have a media culture where "ignorance is accepted as knowledge and falsehood is accepted as truth" (p. 154).

The answer is essentially (though unwittingly) G. K. Chesterton's: "a man writing at speed will write what he already knows" (which is why newspapers never contained anything new even a century ago). But the conditions of journalistic employment that drive the problem have got a lot worse over the last 20 years: instead of going out, drinking in pubs with contacts, journalists are now shackled to a computer, recycling wire stories or stories from other papers, with the occasional bit of google-supported rewriting, and no encouragement or incentive to check facts or interpretations with people who know anything about the background, leading to (p. 152):

the arbitrary and the irrational replacing real judgements; the casual recycling of unreliable claims; and the structural bias towards the political and moral beliefs of the most powerful groups in society.


Lucy said...

So true! GK always see through the banal.

This is why I hardly ever read the paper any more. The headlines are always the same, week after week, year after year. I've finally come to the conclusion that the cost of gasoline will go up in the coming years, as will the cost of food etc. The heresies are always the same, century after century. The sins of man are always the same...etc.

A simple review from time to time keeps me up to date: "Yep, not much has changed." I wonder that God has so much patience with us.

In Christ,

The Holmer-Arblaster family said...

Very true but in addition there is still the bias of the journalist concerned to manipulate the population to adhere to the political and moral beliefs of the most powerful groups in society!

We recently had personal experience of this in Sweden with a number of articles 1) against Catholicism with the main argument being "the teachings of the Catholic church are Medieval" (as though that were a bad thing) and then just last week there was controversy when the Christian Democrats here put forward a motion to modify the sex education to 14 year olds. It is currently an obligatory course carried out by the RFSU (The National Association for Sexual Information) and the children are told "Of course, we expect you are already having sex!" and the ins and outs of how to have anal intercourse and various other things which the KD believes hardly appropriate for 14 year olds to be exposed to. There is never any mention of postponing sexual activity etc. etc. Anyway to cut a long story short the papers took one phrase from the motion which called for a review and to include other options (such as monogamy, waiting before becoming sexually active, etc.) and span it that the KD were anti-gay and anti progress. They also got their facts wrong and misquoted both George and the local councillor in the papers. It really destroys any kind of faith one might otherwise have had in journalistic ethics and objectivity!

Paul said...

Sounds like there are reasons enough to get out of Sweden while you still can!