An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘William Faulkner’

The Lost Liberal

What can a person be, if they are unaware of who they are?  This is a question that has rattled around the base of the mind since this evening.  The great question that probably all people have asked themselves since the moment that people began to question their own existence, and to ponder the greater existential meanings of all of the things that life has to offer.

A friend of mine offered the perspective that one can never truly know themselves, since a person changes on a day to day basis.  This seems like a more intelligent perspective than most.  Most people tend to think that by a certain age, they will or have got it all figured out.  This, however, seems to be rather simple-minded.  Life isn’t so simple that just one night of sitting like the famous statue by Auguste Rodin, deep in contemplation.

Perhaps it is a curse to look at the world and be able to see what is true.  The truth doesn’t set you free.  Seeing the reality of the political and cultural degeneration over time really makes finding the points that one is to be happy about increasingly difficult.  I will agree with perhaps 5 out of 100 positions that my political philosophy teacher makes, but he made a rather poignant one last class.

The problem with the liberal mentality is that unlike conservatives, which tell you how to operate and move toward a given direction, there is little to no group to it, except where the common interests are shared.  We are only allied to the point where our needs and desires intersect, and after that, there is very little true camaraderie between us.  That was a rather profound way to look at things.  We are not a true brotherhood.

The reality of our situation has begun to sink in, now that the end of the college road is staring us in the face.  The reality is that we have no idea where we are going, or what we are going to do.  It’s a cold feeling, when one feels this absolutely lost.  Our advisor said that we are going to fail at life, because we don’t have all this stuff under our belt.  Well, she was wrong about one part.  We do have a portfolio.  It grows a few times every week.

We are lost, in a sea of confusion and uncertainty.  There is so little opportunity to be able to get by in this country these days.  Jobs are getting more and more scarce, and the competition is heating up.  Not being the most competitive person has really stuck us in that sense.  Where do we go?  What do we do?  These are not easy questions to answer.

I could see us ending up working at some company, writing up manuals, editing business documents.  I am a damn good editor.  I have a gift at spotting the problems with a document, that go beyond just spelling and grammar.  Those are actually kind of immaterial in a lot of ways, because most people don’t notice them.  If the essence of your work is flawed, the rest is for nothing.  Whenever I am writing something, I know exactly what I am writing for, and who I am writing to.  That is why we got an A on the last paper for that Political Philosophy class.  To be able to see the end goal, the true skill of an editor is to get at the heart of what needs to be said, and how it can be said.  Of course, spelling is another nice skill too.

There was also the idea that we could write about what we write about here – politics.  There is a mixed blessing in being informed.  To truly see what is going on is to accept the absolute ugliness of it.  To present things, after careful consideration.  You see, facts are meaningless.  William Faulkner once said, “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.”  Any news group who gives you the facts, without any interpretation of what this all means, is just lying to you.  Of course, given our health problems, and the need for the green pieces of paper, writing biased work doesn’t present itself as too much of a problem, though that would be a last resort.

But the truth is, we are a lost liberal, drifting down this ocean of uncertainty and doubt.  We are a good writer.  We know this.  But, if that isn’t enough.  If having a passion for the truth, and a passion for following what fewer and fewer people care about isn’t enough to get by in this world, what can one do?

Maybe Fox News is hiring.  I could sell my soul for some serious dough.

Peace out,


The Ultimate Truth about “Fair” Reporting

There was a great quote that was said by an equally great man.  It was William Faulkner, the American writer and nobel prize laureate.  This quote really symbolizes exactly what needs to be talked about when it comes to the news.  The quote goes as follows –

Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.

Brilliant, isn’t it?  And he’s right.  The fact is that facts and the truth are usually mutually exclusive.  Centering this concept on the field of journalism, there is a great truism that journalists need to accept – objective reporting is worthless and impossible.

Addressing the second concept, it is impossible to seperate yourself from what you do.  Everything we all do comes from a subjective point of view.  If it were actually possible to seperate the needs of the self, then the problems in this country could be fixed in a day.  But it isn’t.  It really would be nice if it were possible, but there is no way that it could be.

To the first point, fact-based reporting, exclusively fact-based reporting, is nothing but a worthless joke.  Ted Koppel wrote an article in The Washington Post about how “real news” is dying thanks in part to the political commentators on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.  In his mind, there is this objective place where the news people only reported facts, and that was it.

But Faulkner was dead-on.  The truth and facts rarely have much to do with one-another.  And all the great reporters through history didn’t depend on facts to make their points.

When Edward R. Murrow was going after the McCarthy machine, challenging the government, everyone told him how he was editorializing.  Well, yeah, he was.  He was taking information in, digesting it, coming to his own conclusions, and giving them to the public.  He had the truth on his side, too.  What McCarthy was doing was wrong.  The war of words between the two of them was not only a testament to great journalism, but to a great man, fighting against all odds, and winning.  Murrow and his battle were part of what broke McCarthy, and brought sanity back to this country.

Or what about Walter Cronkite and his reports talking about how the war in Vietnam was a lost cause?  He didn’t just give facts.  He told America that there was no way that we could win this war.  The only thing we could do is to walk away, not having failed, but having done the best that we can.  Stalemate was the best that we could hope for.  It was a very unpopular thing to say, but it was truth.

While we are talking about unpopular statements, how about H.L. Mencken and his reports about what was happening in America during Prohibition?  His reporting was viciously cold and very real.  He knew from the beginning about what a farce this new law was.  He knew that the business would continue, unemcumbered by these new laws.  It was all a complete joke.  As you can imagine, this was incredibly unpopular with the pulse of the nation which, at that time, was very pro-dry.  Booze was bad, and if you printed that it wasn’t, you were not the friend of the system.

The fact is that Faulkner’s quote was appropriate.  You can’t possibly think that the facts and the truth are connected.  During the beginning of the Iraq War, the news reported a lot of facts, but it took the BBC to report that all of this stuff was bogus.  People watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report to get their politics because they don’t trust the people we have in politics now.  The independent media is growing because the average American is getting fed up with just being told “facts.”

Keith Olbermann was right when he responded to Ted Koppel’s article.  He had a very nice quote that surmizes this whole affair rather nicely.

These (great reporters listed) were not glorified stenographers.  These were not neutral men.  These were men who did in their day, what the best of journalists still try to do in this one – evaluate, analyze, un-scramble assess, put together a coherant picture or a challenging question using the facts as they can be best discerned, plus their own honesty and conscience.

That’s the ultimate truth.  great reporting is done from a place of subjectivity.  With the internet, we now have a point where great reporters can get us their positions, while giving us the ability to look at the information that they got, and come to our own conclusions.

Don’t just report “facts.”  It is too easy to fail to understand that the truth and facts are so completely different.  We are a better people than that.

Peace out,


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