“On B.S,” a
new book by Princeton University Professor Harry G.
Frankfurt, states that the U.S. is becoming a less
informed nation because of the way its citizens consume
– and believe – the media.
makes a clear distinction between people who lie and
people who b.s. Those who lie know the truth, while
those who engage in b.s. don’t care about the truth as
long as their line furthers an agenda. The problem he
sees is that many b.s.ers are getting away with it – and
the press is letting them.
example, Frankfurt cites the stories used to justify the
U.S. entry into Iraq. He feels the public was given an
incomplete account of what motivated the government, and
what they were told diverted attention from asking
questions about the real motivation. According to
Frankfurt, the whole presentation of the reasons for
going to war was disingenuous – thus more of a b.s. ploy
than an outright lie.
of editors and reporters affected by this trend will be
determined by how they perceive their jobs. The press is
charged with cutting through the b.s. to find the truth
that exists at the heart of any matter. With changing
news consumption, however, the public is increasingly
relying on less than objective reports – and many times
swallowing outright b.s. whole.
implication is clear. A public that can be hoodwinked
and duped through b.s. is a public that can’t make an
informed choice. Frankfurt points out that the very
proliferation of media outlets, especially Internet
media, has increased the opportunities for b.s. to
scandals affecting the perceived veracity of news
reports, it is crucial for the press to once again
regain the public’s respect as arbiters of the truth.
Respect for the truth starts with the media, and should
be delivered by the press to the public.