Bill Roper (billroper) wrote,
Bill Roper

Lying By Omission

So let's talk about the press.

A long time ago, when I was in high school, I was taking a government class. One of our assignments was to do a notebook on the 1972 Presidential election, the campaign being in full swing at that time. (Yes, I am showing my age.) We had two papers in town at the time: the Globe Democrat, which leaned Republican, and the Post Dispatch, which leaned Democratic. Our family took them both, the former coming in the morning, the latter in the evening.

I was bemused by a pair of articles that I found in the papers one day. Based on the internal evidence in the articles, they were both covering the same speech by George McGovern. But the Globe Democrat headlined a particularly inflammatory statement that McGovern had made; the Post Dispatch mentioned it not at all.

Well, that was interesting. Did both newspapers tell the "truth"? I guess they did, but they were two very different versions of the truth depending on what the writer of the story thought was important to the truth of the situation.

Now you can argue that the Post Dispatch story lied by omission. But maybe McGovern's remark really wasn't that important in the overall scheme of things. Maybe the Globe Democrat was taking it out of context to promote *their* version of the "truth".

But the thing I learned was that you weren't going to find out what the facts were if you relied on someone else's interpretation of them and what they chose to present as everything you needed to know in order to understand the truth of the situation. I have been skeptical of the press ever since. And the press has continued to justify my skepticism.

I recall a story in the Chicago Tribune about the Three Amigos summit (U.S., Canada, Mexico) that President Obama went to ahead of the 2012 Presidential election. If you read that story, you would have thought that there were absolutely no contentious issues discussed among the three leaders and that everything was absolutely hunky and dory between them. That seemed strange to me, because I knew that there were some major sticking points between the other two countries and the U.S. at that time. And eventually I found a story in Investors Business Daily that mentioned that those issues had been the subject of quite some discussion.

Now, yes, I know that the Trib is the "Republican" paper in Chicago (or was at the time), but it was also fairly obvious that any problems that they might have had with President Obama were kept completely confined to the editorial pages. The news coverage was largely, if not uniformly, favorable. And perhaps that was the "truth" of the situation.

Or not. Hard to say.

So here's *my* truth.

I love you, free press. But I don't *trust* you. And I *shouldn't* trust you, because you will -- consciously or unconsciously -- insert bias into your stories. So I will collect a *lot* of different "truths" as I collect my news from a great many sources, doing my best to be aware of the biases of each of those sources and my *own* biases as I sift through the news.

And then I will try to figure out what the actual *facts* are from what I've heard and read.

And then I'll try to figure out what the "truth" is.

I may not succeed. In some cases, I will look at this mess and say, "I have no *idea* what the truth is here."

But at least I will know what it is that I don't know.

And that is progress.
Tags: home, musings, politics

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