Monday, September 15, 2008

The Impossibility of Corruption

Josh Marshall misses the point (again)
But the conclusion and packaging of the article is that both candidates deceive equally and that they do so because it works. (There was another example, though not quite as egregious, by Jonathan Weismann last week in the Post.)

We hear a lot about the steep and perhaps terminal decline of the business model underlying daily print newspapers. But this corruption in the basic conception of the craft [my emphasis] -- which is actually related to the economic decline -- gets discussed much less.
The corruption "in the basic conception of the craft" began with the rise, only recently, of the presumption that objectivity is desirable, based in turn on the assumption that it's possible. It isn't.

No one argues that judges are objective, only that they mediate between two designated advocates. If the press is "the ref" as we hear it is, then it can be no more so than a judge. But has the press ever passed even that test? Never, not in any country: not in the history of its existence. The justice system is formal: formal ethics precedes abstract morality. The press has no such rules, nor should it but it should have the same principles. The logic is simple, and I've said it before: If the political press treated politicians with the respect that the entertainment press deemed appropriate for Britney Spears we'd all be better off. But the political press takes itself seriously, and in a way specifically that it should not. Journalistic values as they are now defined begin in error.

The press cowers before assumptions, both its own and popular. The pretense among the American intellectual and political nomenclatura that objectivity is possible is allied to their assumption -Joshua Marshall's assumption- that they themselves are objective. The link list on the right holds proof enough that they are not.

The belief that you can use language without it carrying values leads to a flight from values: a flight to neutrality. The press is afraid of being seen as biased. It is afraid of the perception of bias. And in language we cannot escape perception. Rationalists pretend this is not so. The press desires to be seen as objective and American intellectuals desire to see themselves as rational actors.

The fundamental corruption of the American press and of the American technocratic elite is the fundamental denial of the possibility of their own corruption. At some point, you have to choose not to defend not objectivity but values. This is the question to ask McCain, Palin and their defenders: "What do you value?"

We all want to be rational, but wanting does not make it so.

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