Objective News vs. Biased Editorializing

Jack Kerwick, A partisan fiction that needs to go.

Whether it is over the Commission on the Presidential Debates or just the flagrant partisanship of Big Media “journalists,” conservative commentators and Republican politicians have spared no occasion to remind the public of the gross double standards to which Republicans, including and especially President Trump himself, are routinely subjected.

Of course, the obviousness of this should preclude the need to state it. However, the stone cold truth of the matter is that, ultimately, Republicans and conservatives have only themselves to blame for the situation in which they find themselves just a few weeks outside of Election Day.

It’s axiomatic that Big Media is dominated overwhelmingly by Democrats. Yet the GOP is one of our two national political parties. Approximately half of the country votes for its candidates. Only something like sheer idiocy or a Stockholm-like Syndrome can account for why it continues to accept the terms of those who want for it to cease to exist.

So, to put it simply (and it really is simple), Republicans should boycott all left-leaning print and television media organs just as the Democrats have, by and large, boycotted, say, Fox News for decades. No (supposed) reporter whose leftist partisan allegiances are known should be able to get within a mile of any Republican politician.

Most certainly, no politician who refers to these fake news reporters as what they are should so much as remotely consider supplying them with access, for in doing so, such politicians—like, say, President Trump—contradict themselves by simultaneously delegitimizing and legitimizing those who they know are Democrat operatives.

Conservative pundits are as guilty as anyone for continuing to endorse the leftist fiction that there is a distinction between “straight news” and “commentary.” This distinction is purely conceptual, the product of the imagination. Neither now nor ever has it existed in reality.

Moreover, the thought that it does really exist is itself the function of another, more fundamental fiction: the delusion, not that objectivity is attainable, but that “objectivity” and “bias” are mutually exclusive.

In other words, muddied thinking (or, more precisely, non-thinking) over the meanings of “objectivity,” on the one hand, and, on the other, “opinion” or “bias” is a trans-partisan phenomenon.

This is unsurprising given that these are philosophically-charged concepts, ideas over which the most powerful intellects have disagreed for centuries and even millennia. Yet clear thinking on this issue is imperative if Republicans and conservatives are to better position themselves in the future.

To be clear: any conservative (or other) commentator who tells you that he is not objective, that he is biased, is essentially telling you that he is dishonest. Why? The answer should be self-evident: no commentator with a scintilla of integrity, no pundit who isn’t an opportunistic, cynical mercenary, would think of uttering a syllable unless and until he accepted it as fact, as truth.

And truth, contrary to what Oprah Winfrey and the adherents of the so-called “Me Too” movement whose predilection for speaking of “her truth” would have us think otherwise, is intrinsically objective.

That is to say, no honest person would say anything that he didn’t think corresponded with the world as it is in itself, i.e. as it exists independently of how or even whether others perceive it.

My own philosophy professors, whatever other differences existed between them and at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, would repeatedly underscore the importance of uprooting the toxic compositional habit, shared by so many students, of prefacing their thesis statements with phrases like, “I think that,” “I believe that,” “It is my opinion that,” and—Heaven forbid!—“I feel that.”

These qualifiers are actually non-qualifiers, fake qualifiers, if you will, for they not only add nothing to the meaning of the thesis statement (It’s obvious that the author “thinks” or “believes” or “opines” whichever position it is for which he plans to argue, or why else would he attempt to argue for it?!), they weaken it by softening its blow.

That the objective/bias or fact/opinion distinction has no grounding in reality is further borne out by, well, the fact that the terms that we select to frame the issues to which we speak are almost always laden with theoretical biases.  The very labels for those issues—“abortion,” “the death penalty,” “the Civil War,” and “climate change,” to name but a few—are themselves the function of biases.

When the Christian proclaims that “Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity,” he is well aware that his assertion is not accepted by all, and that there are many who unequivocally reject it as false and even blasphemous. He knows, that is, that it is an article of his faith, a statement of his belief.

Yet he is also convicted of its truth. He regards it as a fact. He understands himself to be speaking objectively.

Once, I was offered a paid engagement writing “straight news” for a certain publication. The latter, via its “op-ed” columnists, embodied an unmistakably rightist orientation. When I explained to the editors that, while I appreciated their offer, I was more accustomed to writing “opinion” pieces, they quickly responded that I could still indulge my partisan preferences. I would just have to be more subtle in how I went about doing so: the terms I used, the material that I chose to accentuate as well as that which I chose to trivialize, the sources that I chose to quote—these were the tried-and-true methods employed by journalists the world over to surreptitiously (and not so surreptitiously) promote their ideological agendas.

I could do the same.

Conservatives who lament some alleged bygone idyll when journalists were concerned simply with “reporting the facts” prove how successful the left has been in brainwashing them. Journalists have always constructed their presentation of “the facts” in accordance with the material, political, and ideological interests of their class. It’s just easier to spot today because of the availability of exponentially more alternatives than have ever before existed.

This being the case, it is past time for the arbitrary, interest-serving distinction between “the news” and “opinion” to go the way of the dinosaur. If it is legitimate for President Trump to be interrogated during a town hall or presidential debate by a Chris Wallace or a Savannah Guthrie, then it is legitimate for a Joe Biden or a Kamala Harris to be interrogated in the same venues by a Rush Limbaugh, a Sean Hannity, or a Mark Levin.

There is no reason that isn’t capricious to allow the one but not the other.

Until and unless Republicans and conservatives wake up and insist upon relegating this relic to the dustbin of history, they must resign themselves to being treated unfairly by Democrat operatives posing as politically and ideologically-neutral journalists.

If GOP politicians aren’t willing to do this for themselves, they should at least respect their constituents enough to do it for them.

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