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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
Decadent Foolishness 
13th-Aug-2006 01:54 pm
Ralph Peters is known for reasonable and interesting articles. But today, he swallows the cyanide of silliness wholesale:

Lesson 2: The global media can overturn the verdict of the battlefield.

Too many politicians and generals still don't get it. This new truth about war slapped us in the face during the First Battle of Fallujah. Now, facing a hostile global media, the Israelis are learning it.

It's not what happens on the battlefield, but what people describe about what happened that creates reality? Mr. Peters, you need a reminder: reality is not description (though descriptions can pretend to that), and it is not changed by description, however the description changes. Yes, there are silly people, working for the MSM, who are not interested in what happens, but interested in maniupuating people through their pathetic reportage. The poison in the MSM is indeed there: they somehow think it would be a terrible thing to describe a victory in the war on terror, because "that would help Bush" in some political conversation they want to have. But in truth, reality is not a political conversation. Reality is not a "text" to be read (and I know that sounds disappointing to those whose educations have insisted that everything is a text, and that only the skills of speaking and writing count in understanding, and changing, that reality), but a stubborn commons where facts must be handled. One of those facts, which so far seems to have eluded that "political conversation" is that there are people out there who want to kill us, who are not interested in negotiation or compromise. To the extent you do not recognize, and attempt to deal with that fact, and its causes and ramifications, you are not serious about reality, and I won't take you seriously about politics either.

UPDATE: Here's the best short summary of why, from Mark Steyn

The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby wrote the other day about how American children's books are "sacrificing truth on the altar of political correctness." But there seems to be quite a lot of that in the grown-up comics, too. And, as I've said before, it's never a good idea to put reality up for grabs. There may come a time when you need it.
14th-Aug-2006 07:48 am (UTC)
I regret to say that you are in the wrong. If the media did not have the power to distort news, the Tet offensive would have been reported as the disaster for the Vietcong that it really was, and the demoralization of the US home front would not have begun. Just one instance.
15th-Aug-2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
You know, people have told me that lies work for the longest time. Using language as a tool to make people do something rather than an instrument of communication is an abuse, and those who demonstrate contempt for people by using language in that way deserve epithets like "fraud" and "liar". The point is that when someone tells you a lie publicly, you point out that they are lying, you point out that they have contempt for those to whom they are speaking, you point out that everyone should be very careful as they hear from them in the future. You don't accede to it, you don't take the result of their lies as the baseline "national conversation," you patiently correct those who repeat the lies without knowing any better.

So, they can TRY to distort the news. They can even succeed for some people for some period of time. But it is limited in that way, and the correct response is to limit it even further, to correct the discourse so that we can reach out toward truth.

I know, I sound like Karl Kraus on a good day. Hopefully this website will be more successful than Die Fackel. In any case, I don't intend to accede to the corruption of language and ideas that lead to the corruption of culture. There are enough bad cultures in the world: we don't need to make more.
27th-Aug-2006 01:46 pm (UTC) - The other problem with lies: they don't last
As noted here, not everyone believes the media narrative and more will come out along this line as we try to explore truth, rather than "national conversation" as the subject of our discussion. Sometimes, getting to the truth it takes more effort. Sometimes the truth can be stated more kindly, sometimes it can be avoided oppressively, but it must always be the goal.
28th-Aug-2006 12:18 pm (UTC) - Further Note
Edward Luttwak appears to think that reality trumps media distortion, too.

Perspective only comes from reality. Illusion will never be a place to argue from, no matter how long you talk.
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