We’re Not Objective

If you’re not sure what The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was about, this is what it was about:

If Your Beliefs Fit on a Sign, Think Harder...
No, not the bit about turtles--though for the record, I agree.

There seems to have been some confusion as to whether Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the rest of the Daily Show folks are subtly saying that we should all vote Democrat, or very clearly saying exactly what the fuck they’re saying–namely, that our country is not on the brink of devolving into a socialist/fascist/communist/theocratic dystopia, and that our news media spend about 99% of their time callously exploiting (and creating) people’s fears, rather than trying to keep the political process honest. That’s not a partisan position. It’s just reasonable.

Which is not to say that Jon Stewart has no political ideology. Everyone has opinions, and everyone is biased. If our news organizations would stop worrying about appearing objective, and instead use that energy to be intelligent and accurate, then perhaps they could do some worthwhile work.

Look at it this way: If NPR really were an objective news organization–and they clearly think that they are, since they banned their employees from attending the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, lest they should appear biased–then Juan Williams’ opinions about Muslims (or anything else) would not be grounds for termination. As long as Williams did his job well–as long as he did objective reporting–his opinions would not matter in the least, right? Or are we are arguing that a good journalist must have no personal biases? Because in that case, there has never been, nor will there ever be, such a thing as a good journalist.

The whole idea of objective reporting is misleading. Having an opinion is not bad reporting. Having an unsupported opinion is bad reporting, just as unsupported facts are not factual. We have replaced the burden of proof (which supports honest argument) with a pretense to objectivity (which fosters dishonesty, demagoguery, and equivocation).

Hence all this idiotic hang-wringing about Jon Stewart’s ideological position. NPR asks, “Is it a political rally? Is it comedy?” It’s both. That’s how satire works. Case closed.

To ask whether the rally supports or opposes Obama–or the Tea Party, or Glenn Beck, or whoever one thinks it supports or opposes–is to miss the point entirely. The rally did not espouse a party affiliation, nor did it aspire to milquetoast opinionlessness. The point was specifically to show that an awful lot of people would like to be addressed as rational adults rather than frightened, malleable, exceptionally stupid children.

When most of the people with platforms purport to have no opinions, only the most extreme and incendiary caricatures of political thought (the very loudest opinions) get any airtime. When everyone is allowed to have an opinion, but is also required to support it, then we can have a variety of viewpoints and a substantive debate between them.

Jon Stewart isn’t trying to tell you how to vote tomorrow. He’s just reminding you that, when voters can recognize bullshit, Democracy is much healthier. So here’s my small contribution to that noble goal: Whenever a news organization claims to be objective, that news organization is lying to you, or else to themselves. Yes, any news organization. Yes, that includes the one that you personally like and/or with whom you personally agree. It can be surprisingly hard to inform oneself, but we can start by contumaciously ignoring sources of deliberate misinformation and self-congratulatory, intellectually dishonest pseudo-objectivity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s