Trylon Communications  - April 2005

Respect the Truth

“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.

Frankfurt 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.

As an 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.

The future 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.

The 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 prevail.

With recent 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.