This is a pretty terrible time to be a fan of truth. Politicians have always lied, of course, but few have dared to deny the verifiably obvious, such as the size of an inauguration crowd. Few have perpetuated conspiracy theories, such as the one about Obama’s place of birth.
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What is it
You've probably heard about the dangerous effects of fake news, and the spread of sensational and targeted falsities. But what about "legitimate" news, one might still ask? Well, do you want the "liberal truth" or the "conservative truth"? Just stick to the facts? What if my "facts" differ from yours? Listen to science? Those scientists are all in someone's pocket, you know. Can we know anything anymore in this age of epistemic nihilism? Have we entered the "post-truth" era? What does this mean for politics, policy, and accountability? The Philosophers don't fake it with Christopher Meyers from CSU Bakersfield, editor of Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach.
Ken is joined by Joshua Landy, who takes the co-host chair in place of John. Josh opens the show with his pessimistic view that misinformation in the world is now more rampant than ever. But isn't misinformation now, asks Ken, just as rampant as it was in ancient Athens or during the Enlightenment? Are there ways to quell the spread of misinformation? Josh and Ken also discuss whether or not philosophers like Richard Rorty should be held responsible for helping promote the current environment we live in.
Josh and Ken are joined by Christopher Meyers, professor of philosophy at CSU Bakersfield and editor of Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach. Christopher offers some historical perspective, explaining that journalism has had these problems since its origin. For example, one could go back to yellow journalism of the 20s, 30s, and 40s when William Randolph Hearst arguably started a war to make newspaper sales. Only since the early 1940s has journalism shed its partisan nature and tried to maintain objective reporting.
In the next segment, Josh, Ken, and Christopher discuss the harmful effects that have resulted from the loss of the Fairness Doctrine, which allowed talk radio to dominate right-wing conversation, and changed the way that journalists think about their craft. What drove people in politics, the FCC, to abandon the doctrine? Christopher answers that it was Reagan’s FCC that dropped it because they thought mainstream media was too left-leaning. In their framing, this would create more freedom in the airwaves that would interfere less with “the free market of ideas.” On the left, what have postmodern philosophers and proponents of identity politics done to bolster this environment, if at all?
And, in any case, what does it mean for journalism to be “fair” in the first place? Can journalism ever "mirror the world”? If we were to fix our current situation, Christopher argues that we should promote patience for the marketplace of ideas to work and look at making reforms to the Constitution, especially the First Amendment. Furthermore, journalists need to commit to public service, politicians need to restore the Fairness Doctrine, consumers need to consume different sources of media, and intellectuals need to double down and take on the banner of truth to resist the nonsense.
- Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 6:05): A close look at the history of urban legends and conspiracies.
- Sixty-Second Philosopher (Seek to 44:49): What is fake news? It seems like nowadays we either believe everything or believe nothing at all.