Rapidly rising in my list of favorite blogs is Broken Windows, written by a progressive liberal whose husband is deployed in Afghanistan. Her raw anger and anguish over this separation and the rise of the conservative hegemony in our nation is palpable in every entry. Besides providing a voice for her husband in Jalalabad, she has some perceptive comments about the breakdown of the media and the loss of truth. This whole obsession with ‘balance’ is a major problem in media today, on both sides of the political spectrum.
Today, everything is up to debate and therefore must be presented in a ‘balanced’ fashion, preferably with two political pundits, even when there is nothing to debate because the issue is a fact. No WMDs were found in Iraq. This is not a political opinion, it’s a fact. It is also a fact that Saddam Hussein was a secular tyrant. It is a fact, too, that nearly 1700 American soldiers and countless Iraqis have died since we invaded Iraq in 2003, and that hundreds of soldiers’ deaths were caused by lack of proper equipment. Regardless of whether pundits insist that Ted Koppel reading the names on Memorial Day was a ‘political’ act, those soldiers, who all loved and were loved, are dead. It is not a political opinion. It’s the truth. If we never read their names out loud, if we never see their pictures in the newspaper, it will not change the fact that we have lost them.
This need for ‘balance’ has become overwhelmingly destructive. Just last month C-SPAN was to present a lecture by a woman who’d written a book about the Holocaust. She backed out because C-SPAN, in the interest of ‘balance,’ was to present right after her a Holocaust-denier, a man who thinks the Holocaust never happened, and she didn’t want to give his opinions (yes, opinions, not facts) a national stage. The Holocaust happened. That is fact, not opinion. There is nothing to ‘balance’ out a fact. It is what it is. There are plenty of opinions out there to be debated, but the fact of the Holocaust is not an opinion at all. It doesn’t take much to imagine a future where Hannity and Colmes debate whether grass is green, whether human beings require air to breathe, and whether gravity, as a ‘theory,’ is scientific gibberish. What are we to do when there are no longer facts and only political opinions? Where does that leave us? 2 2=5?
I’m reminded of Syme in Orwell’s 1984, working diligently on the newspeak dictionary. He told Winston of his genius plan: to rid the dictionary of the language of dissent. Once the dictionary was cleaned of the language required for thoughtcrime, the thoughts would no longer exist, therefore making thoughtcrime impossible. Getting rid of anti-government thought was as simple as taking away the language of dissent. Our current obscuration of the truth, our refusal to admit facts, our insistence that everything is opinion and open to debate, is no different than Syme’s work on the newspeak dictionary. We are making it impossible to dissent because there are no longer facts or truth. (It’s frightening to me, too, that the insistence on hiding the images of war, even the faces and names of the dead, is so similar to Winston’s job of minding the memory hole. If the images are destroyed, it is as if the events never happened and those who died never existed. Their very existence will have been obliterated because there will be no public record of their lives and deaths.)