The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress

The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress

The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress

The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress

Excerpt

My good friend, the author and journalist Stephen Kinzer, once said to me, half in jest: “You’re not a journalist. You’re a minister pretending to be a journalist.” He was not far off the mark. I have always been more concerned with truth and justice than with news. News and truth are not the same things. News, at least as it is configured in the faux objectivity of American journalism, can be used quite effectively to mask and obscure the truth. “Balance,” in which you give as much space, for example, to the victimizer as to the victim, may be objective and impartial, but it is usually not honest. And when you are “objective,” it means that, in your reasonableness, you ultimately embrace and defend the status quo. There is a deep current of cynicism that runs through much of American journalism, especially on commercial electronic media. It is safe and painless to produce “balanced” news. It is very unsafe, as the best journalists will tell you, to produce truth. The great journalists, like the great preachers, care deeply about truth, which they seek to impart to their reader, listener or viewer, often at the cost of their careers.

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’” George Orwell wrote. “I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

My former employer, the New York Times, with some of the most able and talented journalists and editors in the country, not only propagated the lies used to justify the war in Iraq, but also never saw the financial meltdown coming. These journalists and editors are besotted with their access to the powerful. They look at themselves as players, part of the inside elite. They went to the same elite colleges. They eat at the same restaurants. They go to the same parties and dinners. They . . .

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