Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Corruption of Journalism and Science

In keeping with my efforts to help readers defend themselves against mis and dis-information, I recommend another great article at JunkfoodScience.com on the relationship between journalism and science. In it, host Sandy Szwarc examines an article by Jon Franklin written in 1994 titled "Poisons of the Mind". She says in part:
In his classic article entitled, “Poisons of the Mind,” professor Franklin cautioned against relying upon media for sound information:

[']Journalism brings you skewed statistics and decontextualized quotes ... half truths, mendacity, prevarication and deceit and spin and buncombe and humbug and distortion and bosh, cant, nihilism, cynicism, hypocrisy....[']


While he found that low level of understanding of science, medicine and technology play a key role in the unreliable reporting of the news by media, he also described the power of groupthink throughout the industry which chooses to look the other way in the face of facts.
She links to his speech which I highly recommend reading entirely. While I may disagree with a few of his interpretations of history, the story he tells is a true horrer story of the corruption of journalism and science.

Regarding science, Mr. Franklin's speech provides concretizations of Ayn Rand's principle that "Governmental encouragement does not require men to believe that the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." (Ayn Rand, from her essay "The Establishing of an Establishment" now in the book "Philosophy Who Needs It" which can be had in most book stores or here.)

Regarding journalism and its seeming complicity in such indifference, the article also concretizes the principle that: "It is a conspiracy, not of men, but of basic premises--and the power directing it is logic: if, at the desperate stage of a losing battle, some men point to a road logically necessitated by their basic premises, those who share the premises will rush to follow." (Ayn Rand, from the essay "An Untitled Letter" in the same book linked to above.) As Immanuel Kant's subjectivism spreads into science and journalism, it should be no surprise that the subjectivism of one will endorse the subjectivism of the other.

As I read the article I hoped Mr. Franklin would make some identification of Kant's influence on journalism but none was found. Mr. Franklin did however make a correct epistimological identification when he said:
We are in fact sinking deeper and deeper into a generalized acceptance of, as they say, "other ways of knowing." Witchcraft, reincarnation, devil possession, spiritualism . . . these things are widely accepted by a large proportion, perhaps a solid majority, of the voting population of the United States.
Yes, a return of the primative.

While I think Mr. Franklin is a mixed bag philosophically, he seems to be more rational than most journalists in my experience and that's why I recommend reading the entire post and speech.
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