President Obama’s latest step into the current maelstrom that is the current presidential campaign took the form of extended remarks this week on the importance of the role of the media in a democracy, indirectly chiding many for failures to hold candidates to a sufficiently high standard.
That standard, of course, should be defined by one word: truth. But we live in a time when fairness is touted as more important than truth. The most twisted pseudo-news network out there, Fox, has as its slogan, “Fair and balanced.” Note the word “truth” is missing.
The cultural forces that have caused truth to be subordinated to such a fuzzy notion as “fairness” go back to the evil world view called “postmodernism,” a philosophical poison that was foisted upon our culture by its ruling class in its massive counterinsurgency against the civil rights and anti-war movements of the late 1960s.
“Postmodernism” sees the enemy as authority, any authority, and the only good is power. It touts anarchistic power and anger against authority, including against any “establishments.” This has become the wider cultural framework in which a preponderance in society views politics and discourse. Where does “truth” fall in this, or “reason”? They are just other authority figures, enemies of an angry people.
This sentiment reflects the sorry cynicism of Pontius Pilate when he encounters Jesus of Nazareth. “What is truth?” the pathetic Pilate answers Jesus, as he forfeits any interest in truth with a resort to the will of the angry masses.
Obama’s remarks this week were at a ceremony honoring the memory of the late New York Times journalist Robin Toner. (It is sad that pioneering White House correspondent Helen Thomas is not remembered in a like manner).
The challenge that Obama said confronts responsible journalists is to pursue and report the truth, to hold candidates accountable for inconsistencies and lies. But in an era when the truth itself is so suspect, this is a daunting task. Moreover, it is not helped when corporate overlords of the major media organizations delight at seeing truth obfuscated and abused in the minds of the masses.
Truth in the Trump Versus Cruz primaries is somewhere in the complicated assessment of which candidate is actually worse for the nation from a public policy standpoint. To the establishment scions operating the Republican brand, Trump has become a Frankenstein monster. But in hysterically preferring Cruz, they are embracing an obsessive ideologue and liar in his own right.
How are honest journalists to sort all this out when their establishment masters and partisans from all sides are pummeling them with spins and threats?
It was heartening to hear the president give a pep talk to reporters about the criteria for doing a good job. “A job well done is more than just handing someone a microphone,” he said, and “false equivalency” in the name of “fairness” is “all too often these days can be a fatal flaw.”
He said, “If I say that the world is round and someone else says it’s flat, that’s worth reporting, but you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round. And that shouldn’t be buried in paragraph five or six of the article.”
“The electorate…would be better served if billions of dollars of free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep,” he added. “Without a press that asks tough questions, voters take them at their word.”
But the problem is not primarily with the press, but with the disease of “postmodernism” among candidates and the public. Neo-conservative columnist Michael Gerson hates Trump because “none of his ideas or proposals is placed in the context of ideals or ideology,” and “he does not reason from first principles.”
But by placing ideals, ideology and first principles ahead of truth, Gerson degrades the primacy of truth by subordinating it to these overlays.
So from the standpoint of truth, is Trump really any worse than Gerson, Cruz or Kasich?