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First Principles

The Source of the Media’s
Post-Truth Analysis

Our need to discern the truth is and will always be essential to us in the conduct of our daily lives and even for our survival. Reality doesn’t change whether we believe in it or not.


- November 3rd, 2019
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What has happened to the news? Not so long ago, the big voices in the media at least made some effort to maintain an appearance of objectivity. But it has been evident for some time that most people in the news business today have dispensed with all pretense of fairness.

The advent of Barack Obama largely put an end to the pretense. His coming was too much for them to continue the charade. They sacrificed their claim to objectivity in order to pursue their love affair with Obama. And their hysterically negative coverage of Donald Trump is simply the reverse side of the same coin. The fake news people openly advocate progressivism and leftism. They attack anyone—especially Trump—who threatens the progressive Left’s project of “fundamentally transforming” America.

Of course, all of this is by now perfectly obvious to anyone, though many in the news business and many on the Left will not admit it for reasons that should be obvious. Yet this perfectly obvious fact raises the question of how such an alarming condition came to be.

The source of the left-liberal bias in journalism is no mystery. You need look no further than the faculty of any journalism or communications department at any American university. But what really needs to be understood is how the people in the fake news business came to be liberated from feeling any obligation to tell the truth. As I wrote in an earlier essay,

For the dominant voices in the media, truth is no longer a topic of interest. In the absence of interest in the truth, all that remains—all that can remain—is a contest to determine which version of events wins and an effort by the media to make certain it is their version that does win. In other words, it is just a struggle for power rooted only in a will to power.

The explanation for how these people in the news business were liberated from a concern with the truth is that they learned it on campus. For some time now, something called postmodernism has ruled on American campuses, and a core idea of the postmodernists is that claims to truth are meaningless.

In the earlier article, I quoted Richard Rorty, the best known of the American postmodernists. Since the article appeared, a number of people have asked me about something they found strange in the quotation: though the postmodernists dismiss the idea that there is such a thing as truth, their justification for dismissing truth is peculiar. Here are Rorty’s words:

To say that we should drop the idea of truth as out there waiting to be discovered is not to say that we have discovered that, out there, there is no truth. It is to say that our purposes would be served best by ceasing to see truth . . . as a topic of philosophical interest, or “true” as a term which repays “analysis.” (Emphasis mine.)

Rorty does not claim that the postmodernists have discovered there is no truth. Instead, they simply announce they are moving on from a concern with the truth, that they are dropping the idea of truth, that they have ceased to view the truth as a topic of interest.

Why, people have asked me, does Rorty offer such an apparently feeble rationale for doing something as momentous as abandoning the idea of truth? Announcing that they are not interested in the truth hardly obliterates the idea of truth. The answer to that question is quite straightforward: no one can claim they have discovered there is no such thing as truth because to make that claim is self-defeating.

Consider this formulation: “there is no such thing as truth.” If the statement is true, then it is not true—because there is no such thing as truth. To avoid self-refutation and at the same time gain all the benefits of escaping the burdens of having to deal with the truth, Rorty substitutes ceasing to consider truth as a topic of interest for an argument that defeats the idea of truth.

Don’t worry. It’s only a trick. Our need to discern the truth is and will always be essential to us in the conduct of our daily lives and even for our survival, reality being the thing which does not change whether we believe in it or not. No one with common sense need give Rorty’s claim against the truth a second thought. And yet this absurdity is the source of academia’s disbelief in the truth—the results of which we see every day in what was once called the news business.

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