Thursday, October 16, 2008

Today's Gleanings

A couple of interesting things from the interwebs today. Making Light points up John Walcott's speech accepting the I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence on October 7th. It's refreshing to hear a journalist (actually, a bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers) with his feet on the ground and a healthy understanding that some things are true, and some things are not true, and "balance" does not mean a mix of the two.

Does the truth lie halfway between say, slavery and abolition, or between segregation and civil rights, or between communism and democracy? If you quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Winston Churchill, in other words, must you then give equal time and credence to Hitler and Joseph Goebbels? If you write an article that's critical of John McCain, are you then obligated to devote an identical number of words to criticism of Barack Obama, and vice versa?

The idea that truth is merely a social construct, that it's subjective, in other words, first appeared in academia as a corruption of post-modernism, but it’s taken root in our culture without our really realizing it or understanding its implications.

It began with liberal academics arguing, for example, that some Southwestern Indians' belief that humans are descended from a subterranean world of supernatural spirits is, as one archaeologist put it, "just as valid as archaeology." As NYU philosophy professor Paul Boghossian puts it in a wonderful little book, "Fear of Knowledge": " ... the idea that there are many equally valid ways of knowing the world, with science being just one of them, has taken very deep root."

Although this kind of thinking, relativism and constructivism, started on the left, many conservatives now feel empowered by it, too, and some of them have embraced it with a vengeance on issues ranging from global warming and evolution to the war in Iraq.

"Journalists live in the reality-based world," a White House official told Ron Suskind, writing for The New York Times Magazine back in the headier days of 2004. "The world doesn't really work that way any more. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

I respectfully disagree.

The rest is worth reading, too.

And on a completely different tack - but producing the same joy - a Baltimore Sun blogger finds a Page/Plant video of Since I've Been Loving You from Glastonbury in 1995 that packs a visceral punch. Always one of my favorite tracks, here it is in a very late incarnation, sounding, quite improbably, just as good as the first time.

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