Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Adrian Sobers
“It is our [journalists] business to criticise the world; but certainly the world will not stand it unless we begin by criticising ourselves.” – (G.K. Chesterton, 26
Well over a century later, the public is well versed applying the latter part f G. K. Chesterton’s biblical chiasmus (Mattwwhew 20:16).
In the local context this has taken the form of the gnashing of teeth at what some members of the public see as less than stellar questions being posed by journalists at the COVID-19 pressers.
A meme that could have been penned by Chesterton himself sums it up, “Journalism: It’s a tough job with insane hours and pretty crappy pay. On the other hand, everybody hates you.”
In her contribution to Public Intellectuals and the Common Good, Katelyn Beaty cites Christopher Lasch who said we should defend democracy, not as the most efficient form of government, but the most educational.
For Lasch, democracy “extends the circle of debate as widely as possible and thus forces all citizens to articulate their views, to put their views at risk, and to cultivate the virtues of eloquence, clarity of thought and expression, and sound judgment.”
For Ms. Beaty, acquisitions editor at Brazos Press, this education often comes from journalists “who see readers not as passive consumers of entertainment but as crucial members of society whose views deserve to be heard.”
The title of her essay – The Common Grace of Journalism in a Post-Truth Era – also hints at the difficulty of this task. It might seem both futile and foolish to appeal to objective facts in our “post-truth” era where public opinion tends to be shaped by emotion.
In the introduction to The Data Detective, Tim Harford speaks to the fact that emotion plays more of a role than we care to admit in decision-making in our rationalistic, data-driven world where we “follow the science”.
For our purposes here, we note his comments on “fake news”. An idea that resonated “because it tapped into an unfortunate truth: there is plenty of slapdash journalism even in mainstream outlets.”
However, he notes that “there are also serious and responsible journalists who carefully source their claims.”
Mr. Harford is not worried about a world where people believe anything, but the far more dangerous world where “people believe nothing beyond their own preconceptions.”
Beaty argues that good journalism is for such a time as this. It “provides a model of serving the common good, however beleaguered and shaky the enterprise seems to be in this cultural and political moment.” The press needs to press on. But onto what?
To borrow a phrase from her conclusion: “the holy affliction of good reporting.” Beaty cites twentieth-century humorist Finley Peter Dunne who said that a newspaper should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Our post-truth era also doubles as the era of, to borrow a term from O. Carter Snead (What It Means to Be Human), the “atomised ill”.
Moderns typically equate human flourishing with “the capacity to formulate and pursue future plans of one’s own invention.”
According to Professor Carter Snead, this false vision of humanity grounds the core unit of reality in “the atomized and isolated self”. Bluntly, modern life revolves around the most selfish and unholiest of trinities: me, myself, and I.
The primary task of the journalist (and the public intellectual) is to transform the “I” into a “we”. Failing that, phrases like “we got this” or “we in dis together” intended as clarion calls, end up being “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). In Bajan parlance: “Who’s we? Wuh we dem talkin’ bout?” To start this transformation, we have to look beyond the most racist of categories, that is, race. But also beyond our: economic status, religion, gender, and ego. (Especially the latter.)
“Good journalism”, writes Beaty, “is a measure of common grace insofar as it checks the spread of individual and institutional sin from having its full effects in the world.”
A world where, thanks to the mercantilist CCP, just about every country is now living under Communist rule. COVID protocols dictate that masks be worn, properly covering the mouth.
Communist protocols dictate that mum’s the word. So if you want to secure a loan (or laptops), please ensure that your mouth is properly covered.
Don’t speak: #CommunistProtocolsin effect.