[from Final Straw radio show broadcast 14Jan18]
The crazy bastard currently occupying the White House really is, in some respects, an evil genius. Consider the way he has promoted this idea of “fake news.” What he has done– and done successfully –is to equate, on one hand, so-called news that is deliberately misleading and filled with purposeful untruths, and, on the other hand, news accounts with factual conclusions he doesn’t like. In equating these two things, he’s created a public sense that everything is relative, that there are such things as “alternative facts,” and that “truth” is “truth” because we like it and agree with it. Or it isn’t because we don’t.
Anything unflattering or critical is “fake.”
So, we’re left to question: what really is “fake” news and what isn’t?
When I was in high school, mismanaged by well-intending adults with liberal-arts degrees, they tried to mold and shape me into something called a “journalist.” I took journalism classes and wrote for the school paper. Part of the indoctrination designed to turn me into a journalist involved a sacred idea, “objectivity.” For journalists, the virtue of “objectivity” is primary, central, all-encompassing. Nothing is more important. In fact, “subjectivity” is the unforgiveable sin.
Objectivity is what separates real journalism from “fake news.” So, what is objectivity?
Objectivity is a process. You approach a scenario and report the facts of any situation by first separating everything that makes you “you,” all of the things that make you unique. The idea is, we all have baggage that we bring to any situation. That baggage includes particular views– social, political, sexual, personal, philosophical– views that we have developed as a result of experiences that we have already lived. We become influenced in subtle ways by our experiences of life, so, in order to become “objective” as journalism demands of us, we must be able to identify how we have been influenced by the experiences of our lives and set all of that to the side.
For me to be objective, for instance, I have to be able to identify all of the influences that have uniquely shaped me into the Sean Swain that I am, and then carefully take all of the “Sean Swain” out of it. See, being a good journalist, an objective one, involves the process of making yourself a kind of “clean slate,” an empty chalkboard, a pair of new eyes that approaches a scenario without those influences of life.
Objectivity, we believe, is necessary for good journalism, for avoiding the pitfalls of slipping into “fake news.” So, we now have to address the question: Is objectivity, the hallmark of good journalism, even possible?
I suggest to you that the very concept of objectivity is self-delusional. Look, we are each a product of our experiences, and the way we have each been influenced by those experiences is impossible for us to determine ourselves.
For me to be objective, for instance, I must set aside all of the experiences that have influenced me– getting railroaded by courts and tortured by prison fascists, for example. But this is itself extremely problematic. How in the hell do I know all of the ways that my own experiences have shaped and influenced me? I couldn’t possibly know. And such an evaluation process is itself highly subjective.
And on top of that, if I do manage to set aside all of the things that make me subjectively me, I don’t really arrive at a clean slate, at a pure, objective observer. Instead, what I really arrive at is my own idea of what an objective observer is. And such an idea is highly subjective.
The fact of the matter is, when we boil it all down, none of us are capable of telling the truth or even knowing what it is: we are capable of telling our truths. We all drag lifetimes of baggage into the room wherever we go.
Personally, I have long ago abandoned the effort to be objective and I think everyone in every form of media would do us all a great service if they too could forego the pretense of objectivity, this journalistic hypocrisy and self-delusion expressed as purity and superiority– particularly when the subjective experience, the personal truth broadcast through a megaphone, is so much more interesting and relevant than the antiseptic blah-blah-blah marching out of the mouths of reporters in ties and pant-suits.
Some talking head with hair spray and polished facts can never compete with a cell phone testimonial of a ski-masked rebel who just chucked a tear-gas cannister back at the cops. So, maybe we need to stop letting anyone mediate our experiences or dictate to us what information is relevant.
Maybe, when it comes down to it, the only thing that’s relevant is our own subjective experience. What better reason, I think, to make our every experience count. And that means we have to direct our energies effectively for empowering ourselves… and if we can do that, we no longer have to rely upon anyone else to mediate our reality or dictate to us our truth.
We’ll be telling it.
By living it.
So now, to begin, Bursts is going to burn down this radio station.
[Sound of match striking.]
[Choking] This is Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain from Warren Corruptional in Lebanon, Ohio. [Coughing] If you’re crawling for the fire exits, you ARE the resistance…
Categories: Sean Swain