This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett

To understand the import of this book, you could call it, in a more Harry Potter title, The Truth Matters (and where to find it). Every journalism, American politics intro and media course, as well as any Poli Sci Doctoral Survey course should include this book on its syllabus. It is useful to any student doing general research. Indeed, it should be taught in High School Civics to inoculate young minds against believing everything they read on the Internet.

It is the best citizens’ guide to understanding facts in the media that has probably ever been done in the Internet age. It gives away for almost free what every good analyst knows through education and experience. Hopefully it will be read generally, even by those on the right and left whose biases make this work necessary. Is it perfect? No, but that is because I wanted him to name names, especially when he talks about the existence of fake news, editorial opinions and how to fight fake news, although the reader can likely figure out who he is referring to.

His essay on deceptive labeling leaves out the question of neo-liberalism, which the left sees as a bipartisan issue. Even if he disagrees, a few observations one way or the other would be useful. It can even be related to the conspiracy theory observations in the first Fake News Chapter, which can tag Michael Flynn’s son and much of the Green Party. The Polling chapter is interesting, especially the comments on how polls are used to rally the troops. It brings to mind Anthony Downs; Theory of Non-voting, which is wrong precisely because Downs ignores the very real calculus people make about the chance that there are others who think like they do, but not enough so that they can stay home on election day. The former is also a problem for the Greens and why they get no coverage.

That lack of coverage is an issue Bartlett does not address much, but you can see it in areas where you know there is uncovered fact, like the women soldiers of Rojava in northern Syria and the 60 Minutes story on big tobacco that was pulled for sponsor pressure. Finally, there is the question of the ultimate in Fake News, propaganda. Mentioning that some networks tend to favor it would make it hard not to name names. The saddest thing of all, of course, is when the beneficiaries of propaganda not only believe it, not knowing it is false, but then they retweet it and try to make it national policy. Sadly, that this happens is not fake news and sadder still, his followers believe him. Hopefully at least some will read the book.

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