January 16, 2021

Think you know the truth?

Posted on 10. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

One Christmas I sat crouched behind our sofa waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus only to see my father and mother bring our presents out of the hall closet.

That was a sobering experience and one that forced me to reluctantly join the ranks of inveterate skeptics. I began to believe that truth, like beauty, was in the eye of the beholder, and that it depended on not only what was there but also what you wanted to believe was there!

My classmates and I never questioned the veracity of our school textbooks, nor did we doubt our teachers’ legitimacy. We trusted all authority because we had no reason not to.

Years later, I started checking the facts that were given to me. I read articles that expressed viewpoints different from my own and some that seriously questioned the conventional wisdom.

Soon I pushed back the curtain and saw the influence that special interest groups had on our society and how they constructed their arguments to win its support.

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that the media is probably the biggest special interest group around. While I was too young to appreciate the great radio commentators like H.V. Kaltenborn or Gabriel Heatter, I did watch their television successors like Huntley and Brinkley, Cronkite, Sevareid and Chancellor. I trusted these men to tell me the truth, every evening.

They may well have been part of a group of newscasters on an ideological mission but they didn’t come off that way to me or to millions of other people.

Their sole special interest seemed to be in laying out current events and the news in an easily digestible fashion for their audience.

Their delivery was measured but not peppered with innuendo or loaded phrases. They undoubtedly had their own personal agendas, but I’m willing to bet they were more interested in delivering an honest news ‘product’ rather than proselytizing.

It’s easy to look back to watershed moments in broadcasting history to find events that reeked with truth and defied misinterpretation. The civil rights confrontations and sit-ins of the 60s are but one example. That story was the truth and didn’t require a leap of faith to embrace it.

The newscasters were the messengers then and not the message. Now the tables seemed to be turned as editorializing (first by choosing which stories qualify for the newscast and next fitting them into a predetermined narrative) has replaced objective reporting!

I generally watch two morning news programs on Sunday: ‘Fox News Sunday’ with Chris Wallace and ‘Meet the Press’ with David Gregory. I cannot watch just one or I feel like I’m starting my Sunday as an ideologue who is more interested in reinforcing his own opinion than seeking the truth.

This exercise is not without frustration, however, because their guests attack their own credibility with a never-ending deluge of talking points, one-liners, false accusations and innuendo (if not downright lies)!

Sometimes the moderators let them roll it all out as Wallace’ stand-in did today with the heads of the Democrat and Republican parties.

These party chieftains’ whirling dervish spinning antics were truly worthy of the Foghorn Leghorn Award for blather.  What could’ve been a triple-word score for truthfulness ended up being an exercise in political legerdemain.

The Huntleys and Brinkleys are long gone and our childhood naiveté has been replaced with a nagging suspicion that everyone is lying to us.

Truth exists somewhere between reality and our cynicism, and it’s elusive. It bears no easily recognizable stamp or unassailable certificate of authenticity. It can be manipulated, disguised, slightly out of focus and often out of reach, but it’s there.

You have to want it badly to find it and you need to know where to look. We must not let the fact that truth has many hiding places deter us from searching for it, but if all else fails, we can always turn to our children who seem to have a natural penchant for honesty and an uncanny instinct for spotting a phony a mile away.

- Editor

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