Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No Philosophical Detection Required

When examining the statements of another individual, it is often necessary to engage in "philosophical detection"--the process of identifying the unspoken premises underlying those statements. In some rare situations, those premises are stated openly and unequivocally. Via HBL comes one such example.

The blog Fresh Loaf reports:

Atlanta Progressive News [APN] has parted ways with long-serving senior staff writer Jonathan Springston. Apparently, Springston’s affinity for fact-based reporting clashed with Cardinale’s [APN's editor] vision.

And, no, that’s not sarcasm.

If you think that perhaps Fresh Loaf is exaggerating, consider the statement issued by Cardinale:

At a very fundamental, core level, Springston did not share our vision for a news publication with a progressive perspective. He held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News. It just wasn’t the right fit....

We believe there is no such thing as objective news. Typically, mainstream media presents itself as objective but is actually skewed towards promoting the corporate agenda of the ultra-wealthy.

APN, on the other hand, does not pretend to be objective. We believe that our news coverage is fair and that our progressive principles are fair. We aim when possible to give voice to all sides, but aim to provide something different than what is already provided by corporate sources.

"Objective" identifies a particular kind of relationship between consciousness and reality--specifically, the volitional adherence to reality. But APN explicitly rejects objectivity, claiming that it is impossible to be objective and that it makes no pretense otherwise. What then is the alternative?

If there is no objective reality--that is, a reality independent of consciousness--then the world we observe is an illusion. Historically, philosophers such as Plato and Hegel have held that this world is an imperfect reflection of "true reality", which exists in another dimension inaccessible to us mere mortals. While these philosophers have differed in the details, each has claimed that this world is a creation of consciousness--that God, or society, or each individual "creates" reality. And this is the position taken by APN.

If APN isn't reporting the facts of reality, then what is it reporting? If APN is not referencing an objective reality, then to what does it refer in its stories? How is its news coverage "fair", and by what standard?

Having rejected the premise that there is an immutable world "out there", APN's only alternative is to report on the world "in here", that is, their own consciousness. APN's news coverage is guided by the emotions and whims of its reporters, rather than the actual facts (because, according to APN there are no such things).

In this context, to be "fair" means to be objective. It means to report the essential facts of the story, regardless of one's particular beliefs on the subject or one's political agenda. It means to state "what is" rather than "what I want". However, to APN being "fair" means "giving voice" to differing views "when possible". Which means, when APN feels like it.

In the comments section to Fresh Loaf's post, the APN editor writes:
My point regarding the non-existence of objectivity in news has to do with which facts get included and which don’t– which “sides” get included and which don’t. Every publication has to make choices about this, which are unique to each publication and to each situation being written about.
There is an element of truth in this. Certainly, a writer must be selective in the facts that he presents. He cannot present every fact pertaining to the story, no matter how remotely connected. But his selectivity should not be a matter of whim or caprice--it should be objective and based on what is essential to the story.

To APN objectivity is impossible. One's selectivity is not grounded in reality, but one's wishes and desires. APN has a particular political agenda that it wants to promote--progressivism. It is this agenda that animates its news coverage and guides its selectivity. As the editor writes:
Progressive news is news that brings us closer to universal health care, living wages, affordable housing, peace, a healthy environment, and voting systems we can trust.
To APN, this is what determines what is news and what isn't. That which promotes more government control over our lives is "news". Facts that undermine this cause need not apply. And that dear reader, is not my opinion. That is the objective truth.

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