Monday, March 06, 2006

A Type of Woodward and Bernstein Syndrome

Brenden O'Neill describes how many journalists are more concerned with conspiracy theories than debating issues:

Many reporters today seem less interested in what politicians and public figures say or do, than in working out the hidden motivations behind what they say and do. They no longer ask, 'Is this public figure right to say what he said?' or 'What will be the consequences of his actions?', but rather 'Who's funding him...? Who put him up to this...? What are his links with big business that might explain his antics...?'


The rise of the conspiracy theory points to an important shift in journalism and public debate. There has been a move from debating the substance of someone's beliefs or behaviour to focusing myopically on the motivations behind them; from challenging individuals over their words or actions to trying to uncover some deep, dark ulterior motive. This has had a deadening effect on public debate. It replaces a critical engagement with political developments with a destructive neverending search for the secret agenda. And it means that no one is ever truly held to account for what they say or do.
The article is a bit repetitive and short on evidence, but the overall point is true enough.

1 comment:

greg said...

I heard an interview with the head of the National Archives discussing how many documents are bein re-classified and sometimes taken "off the shelf" and unavailable to historians and the public. He used some anecdotal evidence about his attempt to write a book about Alger Hiss, having been convinced that there was a conspiracy there. But when he did sopme research in the National Archives he realized he was wrong and Hiss was guilty. I'm not sure what he thought this proved.