Al Jazeera distorts Santorum euthanasia comments and Citizen Wells article, Professor Ian Buruma article biased assumptive selective quoting, Elitist condescension
“As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of the Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in it’s stead. This process of continuation alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound tracks, cartoons, photographs–to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to be correct; nor was any item of news, or expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to be on record.”…George Orwell, “1984″
“Not every item of news should be published: rather must
those who control news policies endeavor to make every item
of news serve a certain purpose.”… Joseph Goebbels
“Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news,”…Hillary Clinton
Al Jazeera has published an article by Professor Ian Buruma on the Washington Post article about Rick Santorum’s comments about euthanasia in the Netherlands. In an attempt to lend credence to the Washington Post article, Professor Buruma cited a Citizen Wells article that was critical of the Post article. The point made at Citizen Wells was that the Washington Post tried to completely discredit Santorum when in fact Santorum painted an accurate picture of most aspects of euthanasia in Holland. Professor Buruma quoted little of the Citizen Wells article and made many assumptions. He also used Alinsky like tactics of elitist condescension.
I came across the Post article by chance. The article could have been about any non Democrat candidate being maligned by the media, it just happened to be Santorum in this case. The point was the biased angle taken by the Post in an attempt to discredit him. The convenient ommission of facts, just as Professor Buruma has done. For example:
I stated: “Santorum may have been guilty of hyperbole but his fundamental message rings true.”
“From Dutch News November 9, 2011.
“A 64-year-old woman suffering from severe senile dementia has become the first person in the Netherlands to be given euthanasia even though she could no
longer express her wish to die, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday.”
“The case has serious implications for Dutch euthanasia law because it means patients who are no longer able to state their wish can still be helped to die,
Constance de Vries, who acts as a second opinion doctor for euthanasia cases, told the paper.””
“From Forbes February 26, 2012.
“But Rick Santorum’s Sorta Right About Dutch Euthanasia”
“Not that I particularly care to defend a politician I most certainly don’t support: but the piling in on Rick Santorum over his remarks on the prevalence of involuntary euthanasia in Holland does seem a little over the top.”
“The numbers the Senator puts forward are also wrong: euthanasia, voluntary, involuntary, is not 10% of all deaths.
Well, actually, that’s not quite true either. It depends upon how you define these different activities.”
Al Jazeera March 12, 2012.
“A new idea of truth
Quality journalism has suffered as the internet allows individuals to select ‘truth’ based on their prejudices.”
“Rick Santorum, a former United States senator seeking the Republican Party’s nomination to challenge President Barack Obama this year, has been saying some very strange things about the Netherlands. Ten per cent of all deaths in that country, he recently claimed, are from euthanasia, half of which are forced upon helpless patients. Old people are so frightened of being killed by homicidal doctors that they wear bracelets that read: “Do not euthanise me.”
In a way, Santorum’s canards must come as a relief to a country that has increasingly been in the news for outrageous statements by right-wing populists about Muslims and Greeks. Indeed, Santorum’s view of the Netherlands as a kind of progressive dystopia has a slightly old-fashioned ring to it nowadays.
The Dutch were nonetheless disturbed. Some in the country’s parliament even asked whether the foreign minister should lodge a complaint in Washington.
In fact, Santorum’s fantasies were swiftly refuted in the US itself. The Washington Post concluded that “there was not a shred of evidence to back up Santorum’s claims”, and found it “telling” that his campaign managers did not even bother to defend them. One US television station even apologised to a Dutch reporter in the name of the American people.
As the Post pointed out, there is no such thing as involuntary euthanasia in the Netherlands. The patient’s consent is essential, and at least two doctors must agree that the patient’s suffering is unbearable and beyond cure. Besides, the share of assisted deaths in Dutch mortality is nowhere near 10 per cent. As for those bracelets, well…
But does any of this matter to Santorum’s followers? Probably not. Corrections from the “elitist” mainstream media are dismissed as enemy propaganda. As a blogger sympathetic to Santorum put it
: ”The Washington Post, as one would expect, attempted to discredit Santorum.”
No more filter
It is disturbing, to say the least, that the most cogent refutations of bald-faced lies no longer make any impression. After all, a democracy cannot function without a public that is properly informed. Informing the public used to be the role of serious newspapers and television networks. Of course, not everything in the mainstream media is always true: Mistakes are made. News organisations have political biases, sometimes reflecting the views and interests of their owners.
But high-quality journalism has always relied on its reputation for probity. Editors, as well as reporters, at least tried to get the facts right. That is why people read Le Monde, The New York Times, or, indeed, The Washington Post. Filtering nonsense was one of their duties – and their main selling point.
That has changed. Populist demagogues in politics and the mass media are doing everything they can to discredit the quality press as propaganda organs for left-wing elites who sneer at the views of ordinary Americans. Santorum pretends to speak for these people – that is, for a minority of Americans who are mostly white, provincial, highly religious, deeply conservative on cultural and social issues, and convinced that Obama and all Europeans are dangerous godless socialists.
The point is not whether Santorum is right or wrong factually. What he says “feels” right to his followers, because it conforms to their prejudices. And the internet, having swamped the quality press, feeds and reinforces those prejudices, making it more difficult to distinguish the truth from lies.
The public is increasingly segmented into groups of likeminded people who see their views echoed back to them in blogs, comments and tweets. There is no need to be exposed to different opinions, which are, in any case, considered to be propaganda. Indeed, Santorum’s new fame will afford him a rich career as a media demagogue, even if he fails as a politician.
The truth is relative
The first people to argue that all truth is relative and that all information is a form of propaganda that reflects society’s power relations, were far removed from the world inhabited by Santorum and his supporters. Several decades ago, a number of European and American intellectuals, often with a background in Marxism, developed a “post-modern” critique of the written word. We might think, they argued, that what we read in The New York Times or Le Monde is objectively true, but everything that appears there is, in fact, a disguised form of propaganda for bourgeois class interests.
There is no such thing, the post-modern critic believes, as independence of thought. Objective truth is an illusion. Everyone is promoting class interests of one kind or another. The real lie, in this view, is the claim of objectivity. What is necessary to change the world is not the truth, but another form of propaganda, promoting different interests. Everything is political; that is the only truth that counts.
It is unlikely that Rick Santorum, or many of his followers, have read any post-modern theorists. Santorum, after all, recently called Obama a “snob” for claiming that all Americans should be entitled to a college education. So he must surely loath writers who represent everything that the Tea Party and other radical right-wingers abhor: the highly educated, intellectual, urban, secular and not always white. These writers are the left-wing elite, at least in academia.
But, as so often happens, ideas have a way of migrating in unexpected ways. The blogger who dismissed The Washington Post’s corrections of Santorum’s fictional portrayal of the Netherlands expressed himself like a perfect post-modernist. The most faithful followers of obscure leftist thinkers in Paris, New York or Berkeley are the most reactionary elements in the American heartland. Of course, if this were pointed out to them, they would no doubt dismiss it as elitist propaganda.
Ian Buruma is Professor of Democracy and Human Rights at Bard College and the author of Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents.”
I have more to say on this article and will do so soon. It is a teachable moment.