One can go back as far as Pontius Pilate to realize the definition of truth has always been a conundrum for those without a moral compass. For these people, truth is relative. “Your truth may not be my truth,” or so the saying goes. The problem with this belief system is that the very definition of truth – thank you, Merriam-Webster – is the conformity to fact or reality. However, if one cannot determine what is true and what is false, it stands to reason that one cannot be objective. This is the never-ending Sudoku puzzle in which progressive journalists find themselves. Thus, the only way out of this self-imposed dilemma is to justify a lack of objectivity, which many journalists on the left seek to do.
Perhaps this is why left-wing journalists widely laud Los Angeles Times columnist Jackie Calmes for a piece on “Why journalists are failing the public with ‘both-siderism’ in political coverage.” In a column dripping with venom for Republicans in general and former President Donald Trump in specific, Calmes takes aim at the very notion of covering both Democrats and Republicans equally. “Now,” she writes, “when reporters or pundits use the words ‘both sides’ regarding some political problem, I stop reading or listening.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter picked up the columnist’s ball and ran with it in a heartbeat. “I want to dive right into your argument about what both-siderism is and why it’s failing the public,” Stelter queried Calmes, who was a guest on his program Reliable Sources. In asking the question, the CNN host not so subtly sought to favor one side of the political aisle over the other by invoking the psychological behavior known as “the permission concept.”
The simple version of the permission concept is when a waiter comes to your table and offers dessert. Should the first person order an apple pie, statistics show a high number of diners at your table will follow suit. However, if the first person declines, most of your companions will refuse dessert, even if they want it. At its core, the permission concept is grounded in a person’s need to conform. This is what Stelter and other journalists on the left are diligently seeking when they interview people like Calmes who believe they are justified in covering one political party over another.
Look No Further
It’s becoming easier to find permission for such a belief system. Take NBC’s Lester Holt, for example. In accepting the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism, Holt averred that “fairness is overrated.” He continued, “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in.” Then he doubled down with:
“That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda. In fact, it’s just the opposite.”
In making that argument, Holt came dangerously close to defining a fact as truth. But in following Holt’s line of thinking, he makes precisely the opposite point: If one determines that the sun does not set in the west, he need not bother to give it any attention. This is how the left justifies not covering Hunter Biden’s laptop or countless other stories it deems as false. When it is ultimately determined that the laptop does indeed belong to Biden-the-younger, and the emails within are his, the left has nowhere to go because to do so would call out its false journalistic theology.
In the final analysis, Holt, Calmes, Stelter, and others may find comfort in conformity as they seek to give less and less time to people and ideas they find abhorrent. But such flawed reasoning can never hold up to objective truth – a concept that those on the left find utterly mystifying. CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour once said, “Objectivity does not mean neutrality. Truth does not mean neutrality. My new motto is truthful not neutral.” Unfortunately for her and those journalists on the left who seek safety in numbers to justify their lack of objectivity, they must first be able to ask the age-old question of a perplexed Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” For without that pillar, nothing else that follows can have meaning.
~ Read more from Leesa K. Donner.