Language, Politics

David Greenberg has an excellent article discussing why reporters enjoy exposing small” lies about personal matters more than big lies about issues of national policy:

Every day, journalists struggle to reconcile two clashing professional mandates. On the one hand, their stature rests on a reputation for fairness and objectivity; if they appear to be taking ideological shots at a president, their credibility suffers. Yet they also hearken to the muckraker’s trumpet, the injunction to scrutinize and challenge the powerful. One principle calls for restraint and evenhandedness, the other for skepticism and zeal.

Almost uniquely, official deceptions allow reporters to align these goals. When a public figure lies, journalists can simultaneously flaunt their adversarial stance and style themselves defenders of truth.

To the axiom that journalists love lies, however, there’s one important corollary — and it helps explain Bush’s Teflon coating. Reporters like only certain lies. Perversely, those tend to be the relatively trivial ones, involving personal matters: Clinton’s deceptions about his sex life; Al Gore’s talk of having inspired Love Story; John Kerry’s failure to correct misimpressions that he’s Irish. Here, the press can strut its skepticism without positioning itself ideologically.

I like this argument because it generally fits with how I think ideology works. People are often under the impression that ideology is like religion, you either believe or you don’t. The truth is that ideology is something which pervades everything you do, it is the world-view by which you judge and make sense of the world. What is so dangerous about ideology in America at this time is that it works through the denial of its own existence. By upholding the belief that reporting can be neutral”, objective” and about only the facts, we deny that anything guides us in our selection of some facts over others. Reporters like exposing lies, but not at the expense of exposing the very existence of ideology, something that would threaten the* myth of objectivit*y on which their legitimacy is grounded.

(Greenberg’s story via TAPPED.)