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Distrust Of The News Media

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Pericles(MBA)
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I made the mistake of turning on CNN the other day and saw that CNN is in the process of interviewing any possible person with some connection to the military in hopes of finding disagreement with Bush's foreign policy.

They are running stories on how National Guard troops are privately frustrated, and alluding in stories that the military may not be in the Bush camp when it comes to the election. There are lots of stories of US deaths and worsening conditions in Iraq. Most of the major networks seem to be running the same stories as CNN. Contrast that with stories on Fox news which polls the military as being almost entirely in favor of re-electing Bush. Fox is somehow exempt from a lot of the politicizing.

This reminded me of my journalism classes in college. I remember once I told a female instructor in a Mass Comm class that I thought that the news media should cover more stories that took into account the values of Americans. My instructor was happy to educate me that the word "values" was an emotionally laden term used by the religious right. She thought me naive that I did not understand what her years of work in the field had shown her.

It is news media mentalities like my communications instructor that are the reason so many Americans turn away from the media as a source for understanding of current events. It is unfortunate because the news media should function as a tool for helping people understand such complicated circumstances as a long-term war. Instead, in their motivation to assist John Kerry in the election, they are further increasing the cynicism of the American mind.

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I hate to reply to my own post before others have had a chance to read it, but....

I was out on a bike ride and realized that I should point out that the cynicism of the public toward the news media is also an opportunity for Objectivists to make inroads. Learn from people like Betsy Speicher and Dr. Hurd about how to communicate the right ideas. Even some Objectivists don't fully appreciate the insights of those two.

With any luck we'll have Objectivists getting jobs writing for Fox news in another 10 years.

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  • 6 months later...

I have questions about what "objective jouranlism" means, too. My problem, I think, is in the support of a false-dichotomy between fact and opinion.

My "opinions" are derived from the facts of reality. There can be nothing beyond the facts of reality that can possibly influence my stance on a particular issue (granted, my facts can be wrong- but I still hold them to be facts). So, my opinion on something is a culmination of facts on that issue. The only disgreement can be on the truthfulness of my facts and whether or not they support my conclusion- both of which involve being either objectively wrong or objectively right. This means that all opinions are either objectively wrong or objectively right. I don't understand what the phrase "That's just your opinion" means.

For example; I am a journalist. Something of the equivalent of the South East Asia tsunami occurs. I write in my newspaper (not on the "Opinion" page- I see no disctinction) that it is wrong for the US Government to send tax dollars overseas as relief aid, because I base this conclusion on the facts of reality involved in the situation. Is this subjective journalism? Would it be accurate to say "That's just your opinion. You shouldn't report that as truth"? Does "objective journalism" mean not reporting facts that some people do not acknowledge to be true? Why?

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Lack of objectivity in journalism (yellow journalism) is evidenced by a.) presenting opinions as facts, b.) making unwarranted conclusions, and c.) presenting facts out of context.

There is actually a difference between what constitutes a fact and what constitutes an opinion, it is not a false dichotomy.

The great talent of yellow journalists is to say things that are technically true, but misleading.

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There is actually a difference between what constitutes a fact and what constitutes an opinion, it is not a false dichotomy.

What's the difference? I haven't been considering this issue for too long, but I can't see any difference between the two. Opinions are made up entirely of facts (while they may not actually be true).

What's the difference in an opinion that the Earth is round and a fact that the Earth is round?

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What's the difference? I haven't been considering this issue for too long, but I can't see any difference between the two. Opinions are made up entirely of facts (while they may not actually be true).

What's the difference in an opinion that the Earth is round and a fact that the Earth is round?

An opinion is simply a belief (which may or may not be correct); a fact is indisputably true.

As for your example, it used to be an opinion that the Earth was flat. It has been proven by observation that the Earth is essentially round, therefore it's a fact.

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What's the difference? I haven't been considering this issue for too long, but I can't see any difference between the two. Opinions are made up entirely of facts (while they may not actually be true).

What's the difference in an opinion that the Earth is round and a fact that the Earth is round?

Facts are true. Opinions may or may not be true. An opinion made up of facts could not be false. It would be a fact not an opinion. Facts are metaphysically given things or epistemological ideas that result from them through a logical chain of reasoning. An opinion can either be that, in which case it would be properly considered a fact. Or it could be someones floating abstractions or arbitrary assertions, an opinion that has no basis whatsoever in reality. Examples-- Fact: taxes are immoral i.e., the ends can never justify the means. Opinion: taxes are the "price". we pay for living in a "civilized" society i.e., the end justify's the means.

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One cannot actually have an opinon on the roundness/non-roundness of the Earth. The Earth is metaphysically given; it exists independant of man and its roundness/non-roundness is not open to influence from anyone's opinions or feelings.

It is extremely important to recognize that seeing such matters as open to "opinion" is an example of failing to recognize the difference between the metaphysical and the man-made. It will quite necessarily lead to an inability to distinguish fact from opinion.

Opinions are evaluations. Opinions can be objective (and should be), but they remain opinions and not facts. Presenting the one as the other is a serious fault.

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An opinion is simply a belief (which may or may not be correct); a fact is indisputably true.

Like I've said a couple times now, the truthfulness of a fact or an opinion isn't relevant to what I'm addressing.

All of the opinions (the culmination of facts) I have, I hold to be true. All of the facts (the building blocks of my opinions) I know, I hold to be true.

By your explanation, all opinions are arbitrary. Opinions are things that may or may not be correct. They have no connection to absolute truth. A person holding an opinion doesn't do so because he thinks that the opinion is true. I think this is ridiculous. I also think that your allegation of subjective reality is ridiculous. A fact is a fact regardless of how many people dispute it.

Edit: Corrected typo

Edited by Cole
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Facts are true. Opinions may or may not be true.

Since you felt it would be beneficial to the discussion to merely repeat the points, word-for-word, that the poster above you made- I'll let my earlier response to those same points stand. Thank you for your contribution.

An opinion made up of facts could not be false. It would be a fact not an opinion.

Oh, sorry. Please forgive me for typing something (three times now) with the intention that you will actually read it before responding to it.

I don't care whether or not the opinion or the facts that make it up are true or false. This is entirely irrelevant to what is being discussed. All people hold the things that they consider to be their "opinions" as being true. They also hold that the things that they consider "facts" are also true. I want to know why, and where, the distinction is made. Nobody has a opinion that they don't think is true.

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One cannot actually have an opinon on the roundness/non-roundness of the Earth.  The Earth is metaphysically given; it exists independant of man and its roundness/non-roundness is not open to influence from anyone's opinions or feelings.

Then what can people have opinions on? What aspects of reality are not metaphysically-given, or do not exist independent of man?

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Cole-- first off you need to chill out with you attitude. And if you would notice there was only four minutes between me and the poster above me, in other words, when I started to make my post the poster above me was you. If you had read my post correctly you would understand that what I meant is it doesn't matter whether or not people think that their opinions are true or false. What matters is, is something true in reality or not, i.e., is it metaphysically given or an idea validly induced from the metaphysically given. Once again when something is a fact, it is a fact whether or not it is acknowledged. And a persons opinions can be in line with those facts or not i.e., in line with reality or not. When his "opinion" is in line with reality it is no longer simply an opinion but a verifiable fact. And the way to verify it is through epistemology or the special sciences.

Edited by Rational_One
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By your explanation, all opinions are arbitrary. Opinions are things that may or may not be correct. They have no connection to absolute truth. A person holding an opinion doesn't do so because he thinks that the opinion is true. I think this is ridiculous. I also think that your allegation of subjective reality is ridiculous. A fact is a fact regardless of how many people dispute it.

Edit: Corrected typo

Not all opinions are arbitrary, just opinions that are not based on fact. What facts did you hold to be true that led you to the opinion that I am alleging a subjective reality?

My speculation (read: opinion) is that you are confused about the definitions of fact and opinion. You seem to assume that an opinion must be based on a fact.

By definition, an opinion is a belief. The basis for this belief can be anything. For example, a lot of people have the opinion that God exists. What is the basis for this opinion? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Then what can people have opinions on? What aspects of reality are not metaphysically-given, or do not exist independent of man?

Those that are man-made. It is perfectly legitimate to have an opinion about, say, what the proper type of government is, or what a skyscraper should look like, etc. (Once the skyscraper is built, or the political system is put into effect, it is not legitimate to have an opinion about, say, what the skyscraper ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE, or what the political system ACTUALLY IS, but you can certainly have opinions about what they could be or should be or whether you like them or not, etc.)

Opinions are part of a process of valuing. Properly, like values, they should be objective; based on reality via the perception of man. I think there's an essay called "The Metaphysical vs. the Man-made" in P:WNI.

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Here is my "lexicon" for the terms/ideas under dispute:

Existent -- some aspect of reality, as it is, independent of my consciousness. (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 5-7, 241-242, discusses the referents of this concept.) An example existent: the wetness of the pavement on the street in front of my apartment is an existent, an aspect of reality -- speaking metaphysically.

Fact -- some aspect of reality, an aspect I recognize as being such, as distinct from my errors in judging reality and from my imaginings. (Ayn Rand has an intriguing discussion in the section subtitled "Fact," Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 241-243. An example fact: the wetness of the pavement on the street in front of my apartment is a fact, not an error, or an imagining of my subconscious mind -- speaking epistemologically. I know this particular aspect of reality because I can see the reflection of the street lamp on the street -- which only happens when it is wet.

Belief -- a conclusion I have reached, without (yet) implying (1) whether that conclusion is valid or not, or (2) the conclusion is important or not in a decision-making process. An example belief: Rain fell last night -- as my conclusion, which in this case comes from the evidence of my senses and from past experience connecting wet pavement and rainfall.

Opinion -- same as belief. (Of course the connotation of this term/idea is that my evidence is weak or nonexistent, but the connotation is not an essential of the idea.)

When pollsters collect opinions, they are merely tabulating conclusions. Those conclusions may or may not refer logically to reality, but they are nevertheless the conclusions of the individuals surveyed. That is a fact.

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Burgess, I think you're correct in your definitions. Opinion can also be used to refer to a value-judgement (do you like this sweater?) but not ALL opinions are necessarily value-judgements, so it is a more general term.

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It is perfectly legitimate to have an opinion about, say, what the proper type of government is, or what a skyscraper should look like, etc.

Opinions are part of a process of valuing.  Properly, like values, they should be objective; based on reality via the perception of man. 

So, it would follow that opinions are fine in objective journalism, as long as the opinions are objective. What we should object to is not opinion, but opinion presented as fact?

"Capitalism is a moral political system". Opinion or fact?

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  • 2 weeks later...
Here is my "lexicon" for the terms/ideas under dispute:

Existent -- some aspect of reality, as it is, independent of my consciousness. (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 5-7, 241-242, discusses the referents of this concept.) An example existent: the wetness of the pavement on the street in front of my apartment is an existent, an aspect of reality -- speaking metaphysically.

Fact -- some aspect of reality, an aspect I recognize as being such, as distinct from my errors in judging reality and from my imaginings. (Ayn Rand has an intriguing discussion in the section subtitled "Fact," Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 241-243. An example fact: the wetness of the pavement on the street in front of my apartment is a fact, not an error, or an imagining of my subconscious mind -- speaking epistemologically. I know this particular aspect of reality because I can see the reflection of the street lamp on the street -- which only happens when it is wet.

Belief -- a conclusion I have reached, without (yet) implying (1) whether that conclusion is valid or not, or (2) the conclusion is important or not in a decision-making process. An example belief: Rain fell last night -- as my conclusion, which in this case comes from the evidence of my senses and from past experience connecting wet pavement and rainfall.

Opinion -- same as belief. (Of course the connotation of this term/idea is that my evidence is weak or nonexistent, but the connotation is not an essential of the idea.)

When pollsters collect opinions, they are merely tabulating conclusions. Those conclusions may or may not refer logically to reality, but they are nevertheless the conclusions of the individuals surveyed. That is a fact.

Thank you Burgess for concretizing. I think this is the heart of the issue now that everyone is looking for objectivity in the media.

To me, objectivity in the media means recognizing each as Burgess listed as such, and not calling opinions facts, or beliefs facts, or vice versa.

This is part of the *existence exists* (and identity) axiom I mentioned earlier that I'm just digesting. Most people haven't (nearly digested it).

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Here is my "lexicon" for the terms/ideas under dispute:

Those seem good to me. However, using those definitions, some facts expressed in the media would still be called "objective" and some "non-objective"- inaccurately, I think. The only criteria I can see being used to place these two terms is whether or not people agree or disagree with the facts being expressed.

To use my example from earlier; If I expressed in a newspaper, as fact, that it was wrong for the US Government to send tax-funded relief aid to tsunami victims, then it would be passed off as being non-objective opinion. However, according to your definitions, my claim is indeed a fact and not an opinion. My conclusion is true independent of my feelings, and it is validly supported by sound premises. Why, then, should it not be reported as a fact?

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Cole on the other forum this was discussed and I thought along your lines at first too. However after some discussion it was brought to my attention that an objective reporter should just report the basic facts, i.e., what happened, when, where, etc. But a commentator, someone like Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, etc. can properly add in other comments and analysis like in your examples.

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