Must Be a Lie

N and I were watching a series, and there was a newscast momentarily appearing in the show. The newscaster said something utterly anodyne.

“She’s lying,” I immediately thought. This reaction wasn’t suggested by the TV show’s plot. It was suggested by my experiences with the US media in the past year or so. A year ago, I’d see this scene and automatically assume that the newscaster is reporting something that really happened. Now I automatically – and I’m sure often erroneously – assume the report is a lie.

I know this feeling. I grew up with it. It’s not a pleasant feeling. The cynicism of always suspecting everybody of being a liar and knowing that every source of news is only and always about duping you is a burden.

I talked to some older friends and they shared their childhood memories of what the New York Times meant to them when they were little kids in the 1940s, watching their dads unfold the paper on a Sunday morning. They still think every word the paper publishes is true.

3 thoughts on “Must Be a Lie”

  1. “knowing that every source of news is only and always about duping you”

    I can’t find it at this minute (and am not sure if I downloaded it… stupid me) but I found one paper that was arguing that cynicism is originally an adaptive response to habitual institutional disrespect and/or humiliation.
    That is some degree of cynicism initially protects people by limiting emotional engagement in processes that will usually be harmful to them.
    The problem is of course that it can easily become institutionalized itself so that people project the disrespect and humiliation they receive from institutions to other individuals and it’s very hard to root out once it gets to that stage.
    Which leads to: It’s impossible for an intelligent adult with a working memory to consume most current American news media and not have feelings of cynicism emerge – the way it works at present in the US is (generally) the more “progressive” the outlet the more overt the more disrespect it has for its audience…


  2. They must be older than I am. I remember, in early adolescence, months of my parents griping about our local paper having gone downhill, that they should stick to reporting the news, but now, “that editor’s got an agenda!” This culminated with the paper running a huge photo of two men kissing at a gay-pride event, at which point my parents cancelled their subscription. They have no objection to gay people. My family has always been involved in community theater, and I grew up around lots of gay people. And nobody was hiding the fact that they were gay. A fair number of them– including professional drag queens– were/are family friends. What they saw, that was objectionable, was the newspaper actively trying to normalize it without debate– which is propaganda, and not news.

    What strikes me now, is how many of the actual drag queens we know, have strong objections to things like “drag queen story hour”– which gets tons of free support and publicity from news outlets. They say, basically “that’s adult entertainment, not for kids”. So whose agenda is that, anyway?


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