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7/28/01

VIEW FROM THE MOUNT

Sober Thought Provoking Essays
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and the TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE . . .

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That's not a lie, it's a terminological inexactitude. Also, a tactical misrepresentation.

Alexander Haig

Politics, Spin and the Truth

Half the American population no longer reads newspapers: plainly, they are the clever half. - Gore Vidal

The realm of political discourse has always been froth with distortion, duplicity and deceit; but recent decades have seen these practices refined to high art. Only degrees separate even the most trustworthy public servant today. On a rare occasion you may find that lone example that may buck this culture, but the odds of knowing with certitude who that person is, can be as difficult as understanding the tax code. How did we get into this malaise of social behavior?

Power is the goal for the elected official. When they speak of being motivated to serve to improve the condition of the people, solve problems, and protect and defend the country; you can deduce that they are not being honest with themselves, let alone with us. The public record is all the proof needed to cast doubt upon the intentions of officials, for their actions become the standard of their true beliefs and aims.

With all the 'so called' ranker and partisanship that the media asserts is taking place within the Beltway, the implication is made that real differences are at play. But if one delves deeper into their conduct and examines the continuous cooperation among the fraternity of politicial careerist, you find an unspoken value to protect themselves by ignoring the misdeeds of their colleagues. Accountability cuts both ways and the fear of being held to high standards that your own behavior may not meet, will immediately extend the protection of your own office to conceal the member under attack.

Spin is the polite euphemism for dishonesty. Knowingly presenting a case of deception and untruths while claiming that your explanation is correct. It is not putting the best light possible upon a circumstance, as some will tell you. Enumerating only favorable factors to support your argument is acceptable, for the observer has the responsibility to seek out the entire story. But when the political culture promotes willful lies in their construct to debate, you have a total breakdown of civilized discourse.

The Liberal bias of the major media is undeniable. Their role is seen as protecting their ideological allies. Under reporting or refusing to present unfavorable facts that could damage their heroes underpins most of their questionable professional conduct. Having abandoned the habit of reading mainstream publications for decades has removed the temptation to feed upon the sensational distortions that is their product. But recently, the only medium available was that flagship of the US press, USA Today. Having been educated in the home town of the Gannett empire, familiarity with the editorial policies of their publications has been well understood. The extent of the political slant within a single issue is overwhelming. And they call the tabloids rags? Just who prints the greater distortion of the truth?

Success in Media is so often judged by profit and circulation or viewership. If the public is willing to read and watch provocative and salacious reporting and avoid serious issues, voters will only diminish the quality of their ballot. But when talking heads and spinsters practice willful bias based upon untruths, you lose the ability to maintain an informed electorate. Politician are eager to have confusion! They often are the creators of problems so that they can enter the stage, proclaiming that they have solutions. Knowing that the press will seldom ask the relevant and penetrating questions, give the cover to perfect the skill to deceive. This practice brings the desired results, so the culture of the modern slick machine grows.

Our society has abandoned the pursuit of the truth as the ultimate measure. What works, even if it is a distortion is now the model for acceptable behavior. Utilitarian standards as formulated by John Stewart Mill and Jeremy Bentham have moral basis to behavior and seek to attain the truth. This spin disguise that attempts to pass for practical craftsmanship of policy is a repudiation of these men. Yes, we must conclude with pragmatic solutions; but when the political culture manages the debate with disingenuous conduct, you will destroy the fabric of the Nation.

Accountability to the proven values of truthful conduct IS the pragmatic solution. The press needs to return to a confrontational style, that the subjects of their reporting are not their social friends. Most of us have little hope that the great flagships of the national media have any interest in reforming their methods of operation. Does anyone really think the new CNN format is a change in editorial attitudes, beliefs and practices?

It is our responsibility to challenge the spin directly with each of our representatives. Just how many citizens have ever spoken one on one to their Congressman or Senator? If one wants to reform this culture, start with direct contact. The spin stops when you look another in the eye. Demand the return to truth and accountability to those who are unwilling to speak it. Politicians will never reform from within their own ranks. It will take pressure from the public, directly targeted upon the individual to see any meaningful results.

During the recent funeral of Katharine Graham you saw the elite of the media, corporate, and political establishment. Can anyone conclude that the end of spin and the return to truth will come from this group? Only readers of USA Today and viewers of CNN might think the necessary leadership will emerge after the inspirational eulogies. Whenever the club gathers, the truth suffers. The real reality is infrequently the perception we are told to accept. Independent thinking has been discouraged in our society. Spin can never survive critical analysis and moral principles. Change the culture and the politics will follow.

SARTRE - July 28, 2001

Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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