Regret The Error: Why Objectivity?

We’re happy to announce the creation of another regular column here at Stigmergy: the C4SS Blog, devoted to the analysis and criticism of mainstream and independent media. Regret the Error will publish every Tuesday.

Every entry-level journalism and media writing textbook will stress objectivity as one of the central standards and practices of the craft. Objectivity is usually defined (with some variations) as “the closest possible version of the truth,” which is a well-meaning sentiment. In practice, however, it usually means, “Talk to two people with opposing views and include equal numbers of quotes in your article, and voila! You’re a paragon of objective journalism.” This is the view from nowhere.

The dangers of glibly playing with moral relativism aside, this is a lazy approach to writing and an even lazier approach to truth-telling. However, I’ve noticed that in some independent media outlets’ dash to be more “hard-hitting” or radical with their coverage than mainstream news, they sometimes take the polar opposite approach to what I described above. Namely, “let’s only publish stuff by people we agree with, because they’re always right/the mainstream media is always wrong!”

This is, I would argue, how sites like Breitbart and The Blaze formulated their mission, at least in the first months of their inception (now you are just as likely to find a well-written story at The Blaze as you are anywhere else). This is also why independent media faces such a huge struggle to become accepted by more people.

Let’s face facts: what independent media needs is not to be diametrically opposed to Big News’ stated values. Independent media needs to be the one to do the jobs no major news org wants to, to do the shoeleather reporting. To offer the context those big, old legacy publications and radio stations and television networks don’t feel like offering. The thing I love about independent media is that we don’t feel the need to play into the trope that all ideas are right, either ethically or factually. We can give our readers, listeners and viewers the tools to figure out their own paths that the major media won’t give.

This is especially important for anarchist media. I think C4SS and other, similar sites have done an excellent job at this so far with op-eds and commentaries, but I don’t think we should shy away from hard newsgathering, either.

One of the best examples of this, I believe, is Nathan Goodman’s reporting for C4SS on Jane Marquardt, a Salt Lake City activist for the Democratic Party and one of the United States’s biggest prison profiteers. William Gillis, our resident Transhumanist and Bay Area correspondent, managed to masterfully explain the context of the recent Google Bus window-smashings without shying away from facts OR going easy on commentary.

This kind of writing needs to be encouraged. To quote Kevin Carson, (who, on an unrelated note, I firmly believe to actually be a cadre of agorists acting collectively as one man):

The way to arrive at truth is to apply logic to the facts and make the best case for reality, as you see it, that you can. Any bias in your case will be ruthlessly cross-examined by others using logic and evidence to make their own case.

When a blogger presents a one-sided version of reality, guess what happens? They’re hyperlinked by an opposing blogger, who then puts their one-sided account into perspective by linking to the information they left out.

It’s only through such an adversarial process, with all the entry barriers removed from the marketplace of ideas, that the whole truth can emerge. This way is certainly better than a deliberate pose of obtuseness, pretending not to see what’s staring you right in the face, for fear the facts might show that reality itself is biased.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory