Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Can We Trust The Truth?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Can We Trust The Truth?

In chapter 4 of Ewen's "PR!," the philosophy and tactics of Ivy Lee are discussed. Lee, a revolutionary in the field of public relations, stressed the malleable and controllable nature of the truth.

Repeated and dispersed along the grooves of borrowed thought, something asserted might become a fact, regardless of its connection of actual events.

If suitable facts could be assembled and then projected into the vast
"amphitheater" of public consciousness, he reasoned, they could become
truth. (p80)

While this seems to go without saying in contemporary society in which news outlets, backed by commercial interest, are constantly presenting us with stories that, while they may inform, serve a purpose of generating revenue and playing to that outlet's audience, it was a novel, new approach in his time. The question then is raised "what news can we trust?"

In my college experience I have often heard this answered different ways. Some attain that we are at the point that no news can be trusted. Some advise that we look to foreign outlets for our news, assuming the objective nature of an outside observer while denying the possible existence of bias in a foreign and thus competitive nation's view. I also hear that multiple sources must be consumed and the reader must then make their own decision.

While I agree with this strategy the most, I lament that to most and myself included on occasion, this is quite a task to follow through on. Many give up and knowingly accept truths that they know to be suspicious of but are to tired to verify. Worse still, some see how the system has evolved and submit to a learned helplessness, withdrawing from the quest for knowledge all together. It is to this end that this manufacturing of truth does the most damage.


Blogger A. Mattson said...

A good discussion of the issues raise by the creation of news by powerful interest groups.

There is a lot of quality journalism produced in the U.S. and around the world today. The trick is not to rely on any one source for all of your information. The great thing about the internet is that we now have access to an incredible amount of first class journalism from around the globe. Just as you wrote: "multiple sources must be consumed."
That, of course, presupposes that you have the time, interest, and educational and critical resources to compare and contrast multiple sources of information. How many of us have the time, leisure and interest in becoming expert readers of the news?

2/23/2009 5:06 PM  

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