Sunday, July 15, 2012

CNN Sucks; The Truth Isn't a Consensus Game

I made the mistake of watching CNN this morning. Usually that only means being made aware that an international news agency is choosing to report on some inane thing like a cat show or a new yoga pose. Suffice it to say that I miss their old morning show American Morning which was actually occasionally informative (the wikipedia page says "American Morning focused on the news more than many U.S. morning shows" which I suppose explains A, it being watchable on a news channel and B, CNN ending it). I digress; typically watching CNN merely means bemoaning the degradation and painful dumbing down of CNN, as if they're appealing to children and they've decided to treat their channel like a grocery story checkout line magazine: cheap, disposable, able to digest while comatose with Cheeto fingers.

Today, however, is Sunday. Which means they try to bring out their big boy shows. Forget inane things like new yoga poses, they say, we're taking an objective look at serious news! Huzzah! The problem is that they don't only fail, they also do so much damage that in the end it would literally be better if the TV screen was merely blank (as you can be assured mine currently is).

CNN has this odd idea that objective journalism means having two sides of a story state their claim. I can understand why someone who doesn't think about what journalism or objectivity means might read that and think it's a good tactic. But that tactic is essentially saying that every issue has two sides and we're free to choose what the truth is. It's transforming the truth into whatever people say the truth is.

Some things are true and some things are false. This claim doesn't seem like it should require a defender. And yet it does. You absolutely cannot create a culture whereby truth is determined by what people say the truth is. That's some sort of foreign garbage world that strips away everything that's valuable about the search for any truth.

Either anthropogenic climate change is happening or it isn't. Either evolution is real or it isn't. Either the Big Bang happened or it didn't. Either President Obama was born in Hawaii or he wasn't. (Thanks to the Law of the Excluded Middle, which incidentally is integral to the problem of future contingents which addresses/attacks the idea of free will.)

Truths about our world do not rely on people affirming them. The truth couldn't care less whether no one knows, some people know, or a lot of people know. It's entirely irrelevant - it doesn't matter how many people deny the truth; sounds made by Homo sapiens while on a small rock spinning around a star doesn't actually change the truth.

When we try to discover what the truth is we can be aided by what other people say the truth is. But please, please, don't think that the truth is true because people say it. That's not the way it works outside of dystopian novels. Please don't confuse an aid for our mammalian brain with truths. CNN, please stop actively eroding the critical thinking skills of people who make the mistake of watching your show. Please stop pretending the truth is whatever people say the truth is. It's damaging, and I find the idea personally offensive.

Finally, a quote from Christopher Hitchens:

"My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass."

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