Don’t ask me about Putin.
I’m a guest in his country and there are laws that punish traitorous criticism,.
Prof. John Caputo is one of my friends who thinks that he and I are in disagreement over Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine in a pre-emptive strike. John asked me the right question regarding “my reasoning in support of Putin.”
My journalistic mindset insulates from the emotion of the moment. While I might personally disapprove of something, my need to know the truth is worn like earmuffs in the din swirling around an event. By withholding judgement, objectivity is served.
I tell him now that I don’t “support Putin” because one has to look at the history and policy behind the decision. So much easier to call him crazy than investigate. I did not support the two Bushes, Clinton, Obama, Trump and now Biden. My beef with them was the illegal wars waged in the Middle East, Balkans and North Africa, plus support for revolution in Ukraine and Central Asian republics. As I told John, Putin is stealing a page from the American playbook, except the stakes in Central Europe are much higher.
Reacting to events objectively when pictures of atrocities are layered to drive an emotional response is almost impossible. The journalist best serves truth by “withholding judgement.” A case in point is the Bucha massacre which was deftly used by each side to discredit the other. I didn’t have to hear their arguments because my own sense of observation made me consider “what’s wrong with this picture.” Not being forensically trained, I had to “withhold my judgement” until uninvolved third parties properly judged the events. But I had good questions in reserve.
Editor Joe Lauria comments on journalists’ failure to use objectivity as a shield against competing streams of information today:
In reporting on conflicts—the essential drama inherent in journalism—there’s plenty of gray area. One side is rarely completely right and the other side totally wrong. It’s a journalist’s responsibility to lay out the complexities of the story and not not feed the readers’ biases. (In international news a journalist should shed his national biases and not report from the outlook of only one side, i.e, America is always right and its adversaries always wrong.) An open-minded audience that seeks as close to the truth as possible will welcome this.
While there has always been bias in journalism, reporters used to be trained to at least try to play a particular role as a detached observer. It was considered the essence of professional journalism. Today that effort is clearly being abandoned.
Biden’s Ministry of Truth, an Orwellian elevation of misinformation, is reminiscent of the Reagan initiative with Rupert Murdoch, et al.
We’ll know when our disinformation program is complete, when everything the American public believes is false,” Casey said at Reagan’s first staff meeting in early February 1981, according to Barbara Honegger, assistant to the chief domestic policy adviser to Reagan, who was there. This is a chilling statement when considering how corporate media in the U.S., in their national security and foreign affairs reporting, have essentially become mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, who routinely launder disinformation through big media.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
While my first tendency was to report the Russian position because it was so egregiously banned in the West - and because I often read reporting in the West that bore little relationship to the reality I was experiencing in Moscow. I decided to tuck it in lest I seemed like an apologist.
One of my best friends approaches hysteria even if I use the word Russia in a post. Self bifurcation is not possible at my age. I’m allowed no leeway. With rational discourse blocked, we hardly speak any more. Because any innocuous question about how I feel cannot get out from under the umbrella of the impact of sanctions on my lifestyle. Better not to ask.
If a person remains half informed, we cannot have a conversation unless that person researches the opposition or is willing to hear me out on factual information. My opinion doesn’t count. Nor do I want to change other’s opinions. Open minds is the first requisite of objectivity.
A few columns ago I wrote about ignorance. If you’ve still got it, now is a good time to re-read it … or not.