Found in Translation

People who don’t make sense are not always incompetent. Fuzzy ideas make good camouflage while sneaking up on the public with an ideological Louisville Slugger. Trying to squeeze out the point can be counterproductive. If you’re game for a lengthy splainin’ ask, ‘just what do you mean?’ It’ll learn you to say ‘uncle’ before delving further.

There is a lot of talk circulating about how to improve on the free flow of information enabled by the World Wide Web. It isn’t always authoritarian. Incredulous as it may seem, there are news industrialists who suggest altering their own behavior rather than restricting everyone else’s. What can any sound mind make out of the proposal below bloviating from Arizona State University? Will it improve news consumers’ understanding of what’s going on? Or, is it a plot to achieve escape velocity from reality’s gravitational pull?

ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, funded by the Stanton Foundation, generated a 54 page e-pamphlet titled: “Beyond Objectivity; Producing trustworthy news in today’s newsrooms.” The authors are former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie jr. and Andrew Heyward, a president emeritus of CBS News. The first sentence asks: “What does it mean today for a journalist or news coverage to be “objective?” As this question is never answered, what they are fighting against might as well be a Sasquatch. We are told:

“Objectivity” is defined by most leading dictionaries as expressing or using facts without distortion by personal beliefs, bias, feelings or prejudice.” Journalistic objectivity has been generally understood to mean much the same thing, although accuracy, fairness and balance have been variously mentioned with it over the years.

In fact, the concept of journalistic objectivity has never been formally defined or codified in any enforceable professional standards, which do not exist for American journalism under the First Amendment.”

Do they mean Amendment one should include “enforceable professional standards” the Fourth Estate can be held to? Do the authors believe that “American journalism” is womanned by a specially entitled class with rights and responsibilities legally above and beyond those of the commonality? What’s “enforceable” in the first ten amendments is supposed to restrain the federal government, not by-liners.

Things hardly become more lucid as the tract goes on. We get page after page of redundant opinions from people in the news industry. Specific instances of what was supposedly “wrong” in the bad old days never come up. What does is the word “diversity,” ad infinitum. Based on the loudest complaints of late, consumers are more concerned with the accuracy of reports than the color, religion or plumbing of the ones making them. There isn’t a word in the text about literal precision, quality of prose or the order of relevant facts.

The screed can be convoluted.

Accuracy starts with a commitment to verifiable facts, with no compromises. But facts, while true, aren’t necessarily the whole truth. Therefore, journalists must consider multiple perspectives to provide context where needed.

That said, avoid lazy or mindless “balance” or “both-siderism.” If your reporting combines accuracy and open-mindedness to multiple points of view, the result should reflect the most honest picture of reality you can present – what Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein call “the best available version of the truth.”

Why are the actual bad examples of what Downie and Heyward are talking about missing from 54 pages? Do “multiple points of view” and “perspectives” bear any resemblance to “balance”? In a piece this long, why isn’t a single citation from past news copy that fell prey to “objectivity” anywhere to be found? They don’t seem to know what they mean themselves.

When the subject is crime in daily news, a murderer’s “side” is not unknown to come before the jump. A good example of flushing “objectivity” arrived in coverage of the Dexter Reed incident. Headlines around the country made the dead man sound like an innocent victim of assassination. The only real question in the case is why anyone surrounded by cops with guns drawn would fire on them. The policeman Reed hit was black. We see this kind of suicidally headstrong behavior in most deadly encounters with the law. The only people fooled by media equivocation form their perceptions through feelings and ideology over facts. An internet search using either Google or Bing is dominated by the same kinds of misleading headlines.

In the meantime, we get allusions to “lynching” that putatively maintain mainstream media was supposedly indifferent to it in 1955. Well Leonard, you’re the one with Nexus/Lexis and the WP archives, give us the “both-sider” citations.

The paper he later worked for certainly wasn’t condoning what happened to Emmet Till. What is gained by pretending WP readers weren’t as outraged as anyone else with a claim to human decency in the 50’s? Is there evidence supporting the notion they weren’t? If so, why isn’t it in this lengthy treatment? How does an “objective” consumer get around finding that management desires the commodity of “hate” to exist at glut levels?

What’s never clear is that these authors can articulately describe what they are firing at. A rhetorical blunderbuss would have an equal chance hitting the distant blur that is the target here.

Their suggestions on new improved news read like the minutes from the kind of interminable business meetings rank and file woefully endure from corporate suits everywhere. All that the sermonized learn is that the brass is cracking down, while nobody has any idea what to do or not do. You can see why the e-book is in a format that can’t be copied and pasted:

This is not just the right thing to do. It’s also the right thing to do for the business. This is going to help us be a more effective and trustworthy news organization. (Cesar Conde NBCUniversal News Group)

After subtracting the word “news,” does it sound at all like anything you’ve heard before? And, it’s all for the benefit of a public without a clue what “it” is. Never mind that they’ve been switching to other sources in droves. The meetings will go on until morale improves.

Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman recently treated us to “White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy.” Several of the authors cited as sources, or weirdly referred to as “receipts,” have come out already disputing what the book claims they evince.

Nichols F. Jacobs and B. Kal Munis placed “The Truth About Rural Rage” in Reason Magazine on March 7th. It’s an awfully scathing takedown. Kristin Lunz Trujillo, another source used, wrote “’White Rural Rage Cites My Research. It Gets everything about Rural America Wrong,” for Newsweek. The chasmic discrepancies failed to get any play in places where woke-speak is official lingo.

The most disturbing claim in the book is that these rural ragers are distinctly prone to political violence in getting their way. Trujillo says rather: “And they argue that white rural Americans are more supportive of political violence, painting them as a very real and violent threat to the rest of the U.S., when the very study they cite to back this up actually found the opposite.”

The Western hemisphere stands out as worse plagued by violent crime than elsewhere on the globe. Would emphasizing that fact be unduly “objective”? Recent years have piled up over 20,000 murders annually in the US. Placing the violence with demographic and geographic exactitude is literally vital. Sodbusters, as anyone looking knows, are not the threat. How do wide-eyed news consumers avoid the conclusion that media management demands perception of hayseeds as a blood thirsty mob? Is going by the facts delusional, or believing the NYT and the WP?

They are the ones, running Paul Krugman’s, Opinion | The Mystery of White Rural Rage – The New York Times (, and Mary Jo Murphy’s “This book about Trump voters goes for the jugular.” Neither of the two highly accredited journalists bothered checking up on those so-called “receipts.”

Can any of the bloodshed known as “urban crime” be inspired by newsy coverage of events or political advocacy? January 6, 2021 was a day well worth remembering. Recalling 2020’s summer of love crime, however, would plunge us into the dangers of “objectivity” and “both-siderism.” Agents of major media can’t be bothered to entertain the idea that their skewed coverage impacts criminal rationale. Do the goons pushing victims onto subway tracks, punching random women on New York streets or engaging in other mayhem have exposure to media? Don’t even ethically inclined, law-abiding people rationalize morally sketchy actions now and then?

Broken homes, child abuse and poverty are constantly presented as mitigating wantonly destructive, and even deadly, behavior. Do these factors somehow justify the fake narrative of hillbillies lurking everywhere with nooses? Is it at all far fetched that a teetering conscience might plunge wrong with a little tipping from CNN? When MSNBC, the NYT, CBS and Salon insist that roving rustics are out to get “minorities,” could a first strike reaction be evoked?

By August of 2020 we were all feeling the effects of a bottle-necked supply chain. Urban market shelves had the emptiest space. It allowed plenty of room for Vicky Osterweil’s “In Defense of Looting: A Riotous history of Uncivil Action” that same month. This is how Amazon promotes the call for pillage:

Looting — a crowd of people publicly, openly, and directly seizing goods — is one of the more extreme actions that can take place in the midst of social unrest. Even self-identified radicals distance themselves from looters, fearing that violent tactics reflect badly on the broader movement.

But Vicky Osterweil argues that stealing goods and destroying property are direct, pragmatic strategies of wealth redistribution and improving life for the working class — not to mention the brazen messages these methods send to the police and the state. All our beliefs about the innate righteousness of property and ownership, Osterweil explains, are built on the history of anti-Black, anti-Indigenous oppression.

From slave revolts to labor strikes to the modern-day movements for climate change, Black lives, and police abolition, Osterweil makes a convincing case for rioting and looting as weapons that bludgeon the status quo while uplifting the poor and marginalized. In Defense of Looting is a history of violent protest sparking social change, a compelling reframing of revolutionary activism, and a practical vision for a dramatically restructured society.

“[P]ractical vision”? Should we take this as license to storm Jeff Bezos’ yacht and crack the 61’ Petrus? Marc Thiessen, writing for Bezos’ Washington Post, ably took down Osterweil in “Biden can’t blame Trump for anarchy in Democrat-run cities.” That was September 1, 2020; the Amazon promotion is what you’ll see today.

Major media had mixed reactions to the book. Graeme Wood gave it a good hiding in The Atlantic a week after publication. Both The Nation and NPR, on the other hand, were willing to consider sacking Main Street a responsible way forward. A Huffington Post interview with Osterweil included,“Osterweil discussed the downsides of fixating on organizing and nonviolent tactics, why white supremacy and property are inextricably linked.” It is production, transportation and consumption that are “inextricably linked” – breaks in that chain always leave the economy poorer. Those with less means are the first to be shorted.

Joy Reid sits ready to take up for looters who are insufferably victimized by locked doors, unbroken windows and security guards. The details describing those toiling in hinterlands to keep urban spaces going is an undue tax on her Harvard imagination. The people going to a trendy bar every night are the ones bloviating about an oppressive, evil system. Asking them how the brew or burgers got there is a good way to start a fight.

The The New Yorker was a bit more even handed with Osterweil’s book. Maybe that’s what Downie and Heyward mean by dreaded “objectivity.”

Where the media failed was giving adequate description to what was happening day by day in rioted areas while referring to it, over and over again, as “mostly peaceful.” Shouldn’t any public gathering that includes criminal behavior be disbursed? A case by case sorting amid arson, blocked traffic, ransacking and assault could take years … and so could previous levels of prosperity.

How often does Seattle’s June 2020 “CHOP” zone get mention? At the outset mayor Jenny Durkan referred to a “block party” and “summer of love.” Who could have expected people in mid-riot to get worse when granted downtown autonomy? With four shootings, two of them fatal, inside of six blocks in less than four weeks – the “Zone” qualified as among the most violent ‘peaceful’ spaces on the planet.

Would it be “objective” to ask if the relatively sparse coverage of Covid-summer’s full effects was a tacit endorsement of Osterweil’s thinking? Civil unrest of the 1960’s left large areas of Detroit, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Newark shattered. Detroit has not come close to recovery half a century later. There is little doubt that most white males making up a supposed “patriarchy” have zero tolerance for physically destructive protest. There is even less that residents of rioted spaces pay the highest price.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.”  What the objective-phobics really have in mind is the literary imposition of sensory oblivion. They don’t cover the impact of mass immigration on the poor hoping the self-absorbed won’t notice. By the time you can hear the whining out of Gracie Mansion, it may be too late. The delusion of unlimited supply is fluent across enlightened urbanity, higher academia and much of media.

College administrators sucking down resources at the rate of engaged armies rarely get any coverage. Ending their parasitic ride might disrupt the coteries at snooty country clubs, fashionable resorts, high-dollar fleshpots and elsewhere the rabble can be excluded. Dodging future astronomical college indebtedness takes second place to making sure grads are fragile, doted upon, milquetoasts. Media’s droplets of ink on the matter amount to a nod.

Encounters with cops are most likely – and desirable — in crime ridden locales. Treating that fact as heliocentric heresy comes with a lot of costs. First on the list is human life. Anyone claiming the goal of preserving it should know where to start. It isn’t with giving violent criminals hagiography on front pages.

The hyper-diplomacy that Albright’s indispensable nation must perpetually employ continually leads to bloodshed abroad as well. The official pronouncements from State get the red-letter treatment of Christ’s words in the New Testament by our faithful servants in the press corps. Readers interested in getting to the bottom of how decisions are made in Foggy Bottom won’t emerge from the haze relying on conventional sources.

Downie and Heyward claim to be hell-bent on promoting diversity and diluting the, supposedly prevalent, white male point of view in daily copy. Meanwhile, people from India and parts of Africa financially outpacing Americans with roots further back isn’t considered newsworthy. How would editors square it with the oppressive picture they’ve put on A-1 for at least a decade? Even the great oppressed they gush for don’t buy it, that’s why they keep coming.

It’s true that no human is fully capable of “objectivity.” That’s why reality, as Peirce said, “is independent of what anyone might think.” What Downie, Heyward, CalmesHoltLowery and others speaking in News-Speak tongues really mean is that both the masses and reality must conform. Empiricism is a patriarchal optical illusion. Behind all scenes lurks a white-centric cabal. Water is in the pipes, power in the wires, AC in the ducts, food is on the shelves and idiocy is on the tube all for the purpose of maintaining Simon Legree’s societal status. And, if you don’t believe that, you’re a conspiracy theorist.

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