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Unfair and unbalanced

By Selwyn Duke
web posted April 21, 2008

The phrase "fair and balanced" certainly has a positive connotation. It is thought the greatest quality a news outlet can possess; it has even become a motto of the Fox News Network. Yet I don't find Fox very balanced at all.

Oh, I give credit where it's due. Given that neo-communist organs such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and most other mainstream newspapers believe presenting the "other side" means airing the voice of socialist dissent, Fox and its soul mates are a major improvement. I say soul mates because, while among TV news outlets Fox may be unusual, its perspective certainly is not.

I am never fair and balanced, certainly not in the modern way of thinking. My problem with the approach is that it breeds something akin to the following reportage:

"God says Devil is evil; Devil says God is evil. 

We report, you decide."

The above is more literally true than you may think. We often complain about internationalist news bureaus that will call terrorists by a euphemism such as "insurgents" or "militants," but in the fair and balanced world it makes sense. After all, one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. Sure, that widely-accepted U.S. government definition of terrorism states that it is ". . . violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents . . .," but, first, why should our perspective carry the day? Then, what is this business about "subnational" groups? It is obviously a tendentious definition allowing the biggest bullies on the block, nations, the latitude to employ an effective tactic while denying it to the less powerful. And we know that during WWII both sides aggressively targeted civilian populations. Let's be fair and balanced now. And all is fair in love and war. 

You see, everyone has a perspective, his own truth, and who is to say what is right or wrong? We shouldn't impose our values on others.

We may dismiss such a defense of terrorism out of hand, but the moral relativism that underpins it imbues our fair-and-balanced mentality. You may wonder about such an assertion; after all, whether it's Bill O'Reilly or another fair and balanced person, such an individual takes strong positions all the time. For instance, O'Reilly (I don't mean to make this about any one individual, but consider him the archetype for the perspective in question) has bemoaned the failure to call terrorists what they are, and he has boldly attacked the toxic rap sub-culture, the faux marriage movement, anti-Christmas crusaders, and localities that have lax punishment for child molesters. Yet he also does something else.

On other issues, O'Reilly is quite content to sing relativism's song. For example, I've heard him refrain from making judgments about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior (this is just an example, as this isn't about one issue, either), saying "I'll let the deity decide." This is interesting. Why don't we just "let the deity decide" about bestiality, polygamy and child molestation as well? One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, and one man's perversion is another's pure love. For that matter, why not let Him decide about rap, Christmas, faux marriage and everything else? In point of fact, God has already decided; our job is simply to discern what those decisions are.

This is the purpose of all philosophical inquiry: To determine Truth, which may be defined as God's answers to all life's questions. This is where the modern man may click his mouse. You, Duke, have the temerity to speak of God? Not everyone believes in God, and, even insofar as believers go, not everyone has the same conception of Him. Let us just leave God out of it and talk about issues.

This is a contradiction. The problem is that there are only two possibilities: Either man determines what we call right and wrong or something outside him does. If it's the former, as relativists assert, then "right and wrong" is synonymous with consensus opinion and only serves to muddy the waters. We then may as well be honest with ourselves and recognize that it is all a matter of taste and that the most popular tastes will prevail. We might as well recognize that all the words we use to describe these tastes – morality, values, right and wrong, etc. – are simply window dressing, a way of lending an air of legitimacy and intellectualism to a very crass modus operandi; to wit: My version of right and wrong will prevail over yours simply because more people agree with me than with you. I have more votes. 

We also might as well accept that serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer was more sane than most of us, as he recognized this "fact," saying "If there's no God, why can't I make up my own rules?" And we should accept the same about a completely unreasonable little child who says, "That's not fair!" simply because he doesn't get his way. At least there is little or no pretense about fairness having any relationship to something more than personal taste.

Even more to the point, however, this would render discussion and debate about politics, religion and social issues unnecessary. Why? Because the purpose of all intellectual inquiry is to find answers, and if there is no Truth, there are no answers to be found. This is the reason why our great debates center around things such as abortion and marriage and not what ice cream is the best. I may like chocolate and you vanilla, but there is nothing to discuss; it would be ridiculous for me to say chocolate is good and vanilla evil – even if 90 percent of the population also preferred chocolate – because that is the terminology of Truth, not taste. Likewise, if "morality" is a function of consensus opinion, then it is also just a matter of taste. Thus, murder can only be "evil" if there is something above us dictating it is so; if we only view it as such because 90 or so percent of us prefer it not be committed, then the most we can honestly say is that we dislike it.

This brings us back to the concept of fair and balanced. What really constitutes being so? Certainly it doesn't involve granting a hearing to any and every point of view; everyone picks and chooses, and O'Reilly himself has said that he won't have "radicals" on his show. It also doesn't seem to involve giving voice to "radical" ideas as O'Reilly's desire to leave the morality of homosexuality to the "deity" illustrates (note that the "deity" doesn't have a news and commentary show; He leaves that role to us).

But there is a problem with this. As history has proven time and again, radicals and their radical ideas have often been correct. At one time, those who opposed slavery (and for most of history no one opposed it) were thought radical. Sometimes a radical is just a person who is right 50 years too soon. 

The lesson here is that while the Truth often lies at the center of civilization, it's also sometimes found at the fringes. Being radical doesn't mean you're wrong, but simply that your views deviate greatly from the mainstream. In a land where most believe that 2+2=5, a person who insists it is 4 is a radical.

So what is true fairness? How do we determine who will be given the podium and who won't and what ideas to promulgate? The fair-and-balanced crowd boasts of giving voice to "both sides," which means, in essence, "Society says that answers are only found within the confines of two legitimate ideologies, so we will feature them." But is this what the Truth says? They tell us that certain moral issues will be tackled with manly vigor while others will be treated as matters of taste, which means, in essence, "Society says there are certain acceptable "values" and certain unacceptable ones, so we will feature the former and suppress the latter." But is this what the Truth says? No, a given civilization may be more or less oriented toward Truth, it may be a relative heaven or hell, but it is not the Truth. We are to judge it with the yardstick of Truth, not use it as a yardstick for judging what will be considered "truth."

If the nature of true fairness isn't yet clear, consider this question. If false allegations were leveled against you, would you want to be judged based on some standard of man, which would by its very nature be flawed? Or would you rather come before a judge who is guided by Truth, which by its very nature is perfect? True fairness is never achieved by judging based on the spirit of the time, but by the spirit of the timeless. 

In other words, journalism professors may point out that all people have biases, and this is true. But what most of these academics may not tell you, being relativists virtually one and all, is that there are only two kinds of people: Those biased in favor of a lie and those biased in favor of the Truth.

This brings us to the problem with the fair-and-balanced set. They judge fairness not with reference to the true center, Truth, but the center of our cultural spectrum. It's an easy mistake to make, and it gives them more in common with those who euphemize about terrorism than they care to think. When Reuters called terrorists "militants" and O'Reilly, in so many words, called homosexuality a preference, they were both saying (and perhaps sincerely thinking) what the most strident elements of their audience wanted to hear, not what the Truth demanded they tell. Insofar as this goes, the only difference between them is also a similarity: The contexts in which they operate. O'Reilly's context is America; internationalist news organs' context is the world. Yet they are the same because they are both a context of man, not the context of God.

A prerequisite for fairness is the ability to judge matters properly. And just as we cannot properly judge the soundness of an engineering plan without understanding the laws governing the physical world, we cannot properly judge the soundness of a social plan (e.g., ideology, policy or philosophy) without understanding the laws governing the moral world. Simply put, you cannot know if a thing is good without knowing what good is.

This is why no one, no matter how clever, witty or profound, has any right being a commentator if he is a moral relativist. Such a person is essentially telling us that there are no answers to be found, but he will talk about them anyway; he is saying that your perspective cannot be better, but it is better to accept his perspective. The problem with commentators nowadays is what ails most of us: It's not that we sometimes profess untruths, but that we're detached from Truth. This is why the media are actually becoming more unfair, and why, as the degradation in the wider society proves, we become more unbalanced all the time. ESR

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