On February 18th the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Bret Stephens, gave the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles. Time magazine reported on it and you can read the entire text HERE. I urge you to do so.

In his talk Intellectual Integrity in the Age of Trump Stephens, a conservative, warns us not to “dismiss President Trump’s attacks on the media as mere stupidity.” He writes that open-mined and diligent reporting is important and that “truth is not merely in the eye of the beholder.”

I admit to being beyond irritated with news-as-entertainment that caters to the sensational and salacious, that betrays us by serving up too much free on-air time to people with questionable intentions and morally deficient characters. This is unfortunate, but thankfully it is not descriptive of the whole of the American press.

Let’s give kudos were kudos are deserved: to those hard-working truth-seekers, our occupational cousins: professional journalists who put the truth first and work hard to bring it to us. They don’t deserve to be denigrated by a Republican administration that has lost its backbone participating in attempts to suppress what is crtical to the maintenance of a functioning democracy – an independent press working with impunity.

Our journalists – as with any other professional groups – don’t deserve to be painted with one broad brush by us – their readers (customers). Let’s not confuse earnest journalists with celebrity journalists who often deliver nothing more substantive than political gossip.

Among Bret Stephen’s points:

“Many people say” is what’s known as an argumentum ad populum. If we were a nation of logicians, we would dismiss the argument as dumb.

“We are not a nation of logicians.

“I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.” MORE

– Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day and Coffee, Tea and Poetry); Barak Obama’s photograph is in public domain; Bret Stephen’s photo is by Вени Марковски | Veni Markovski under CC BY-SA 3.o license

4 thoughts on “Intellectual Integrity in the Age of Trump | Jamie Dedes

  1. The bret Stephens talk is tremendous. Political allegiances are being, if not turned on their heads, rather skewed in the face of this travesty of lies coming from the Trump administration! I also feel that we here in the UK are slowly being increasingly inured to the tapestry of deceit that comes from the political classes these days. It’s very worrying if not frightening!

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  2. It’s perhaps not entirely surprising that this edition has provoked more thought about my perception of truth than I’d expected. It has made me sit up and think more carefully about the truth is. I know, my own essay on the subject addresses this, but Phillip Stevens’ piece made me think along a different, but parallel, path about what truth really (truly?) does to mere mortals such as me … it pushes us to face sometimes awful facts (dare I use that word) about the human condition that will probably force many of us to retreat into a safe corner somewhere, to escape that dark place and try to deny the fact (that word again!) that there are bad people in positions of power and influence. I am reading Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny”; embedded in this book are many of the issues of denial of truth, falsehood and deception. – the new era of slave traders, including corporate slaves – to fear for their survival, at whatever level, be that retaining enough meat on their bones to trundle 10 miles to the nearest water hole, or enough income bonus to afford that luxury car, yacht or country residence.

    But this piece of writing – your piece, Jamie – further enriches this cornucopia of writings on the subject of truth. It adds a very important perspective on how important journalists are to the task of defending our freedom of speech (isn’t this embodied in the US constitution’s First Amendment?) as well as being a solemn reminder to us all of how important it is not to tar everyone with the same brush. It’s all too easy to defend one’s own personal opinions on a subject, one’s own comfort zone, by continually reinforcing and reiterating our chosen belief system, rather than listening to others’. Gosh, it is a hard thing we do, trying to represent a balanced view of the world. But I guess if we don’t try to achieve this and keep on keeping on doing so, then the mission of the BeZine will have failed!

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  3. I really liked the linked article and agree completely about lumping all journalists together, because journalism used to be the pinnacle of trustworthy sources…there are still journalists like that out there and it’s important to remember that. Thanks for sharing this with us, Jamie. I linked to the article on my Facebook feed – more people should read it.

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    1. It may sound crazy, but in the end this mess might be a good thing. I think a lot of journalists who haven’t been as responsible as they should be – or professional – are sitting up, taking notice and cleaning up their act. Also I think newspapers are trying harded. The Washington Post appears to be doing a fine job. I think they’re all remembering that their job is to shake things up. Corina, thanks for sharing and thanks for the feedback.

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