Know Your Source

I’m linking to this article on the 9/11 mosque cleric, but I’m not really wanting to talk about (in this post, at least), the article’s main topic.  Rather, I’d like to direct your attention to paragraph four.

Mail Online is the digital companion to the Daily Mail, the United Kingdom’s second most widely circulated daily newspaper.  What interests me is that the writer felt compelled to indicate that the cleric’s comments had been featured recently on a “conservative American blog“.
I’m curious to the impact, both intended and unintended, to providing that simple piece of information.
Postmoderns are strident in their assertions that no one is unbiased.  Objectivity, in the strictest definitions of the word, is literally impossible because everyone is formed and shaped in how they view – in literally how they are able to view – and think about the world.  As a budding history student, it was drilled into me that history is not objective.  It may be correct, it may describe accurately an event that happened, but it is never completely objective.  What was the vantage point of the witness?  What sources did the editor select – and therefore which ones did they not select – to demonstrate a point or conclusion?  At the very least, remember that history is written primarily by the winners.  Everything is suspect.  
As a postmodern myself, I’ve bought into this.  But even postmoderns need to discern when the issue of objectivity isn’t really the issue.  So, back to the article.
A postmodern would read this line, and I suspect have a train of thought that might look something like this.
Conservative ahhh…those conservatives are at it again.  Good work!/Bunch of jerks (depending on how the reader considers his or her own political leanings).  Here’s more grist for the mill/here’s something I don’t need to bother thinking about.  The designation of a political ideology seems to have the effect of eclipsing the data being reported and providing the reader with an immediate filter by which they can either pay closer attention or ignore it completely.  
American ahhhh…those Americans.  In this case, it will likely trigger the reader (if they are not triggered by key words in the first paragraph) to remember that this is a big issue for Yanks right now.  The reader may wander off into personal opinions about Americans, and again away from the topic nominally being reported on.  Or the reader may (if they aren’t American) decide that this isn’t something they need to pay attention to.  Again, another filter that will trigger responses in the reader.
Blog – Everybody blogs these days.  Truly.  I can assure you that there is not one single person in the entire world that does not blog or has not blogged or doesn’t secretly want to blog.  Cross my heart.  How does one feel about the reliability or credibility of a blog?  Some people see them as the next evolution in news reporting.  Others see them as the rantings of self-obsessed nincompoops.  Another filter.  
What would the article be like without paragraph four?  Does paragraph four matter in this article?  I don’t think so.  
The comments were made publicly.  This is not a leak, or any form of deceptive or shady dealings.  A certain person said these certain words on a certain date in a certain context.  We might wish to examine any one of these four aspects in more detail.  Would a broader context change our understanding of the quoted excerpts or not?  If we could read the full speech, would that alter the impact of the words in isolation?
What doesn’t matter is how this was reported, or by whom.  Again, assuming that the text was made publicly and recorded publicly, and was recorded properly, then it doesn’t matter who brings it up.  If a liberal British news anchor made the report, it wouldn’t change the content of the report.  It might change how it was reported – the context in which the comments are situated, or even which comments are highlighted.  It might change the commentary.  But it wouldn’t change the actual detail that a certain person said these certain words on a certain date in a certain context.  
The only thing that focusing on the reporter of these words does is to activate a set of filters in the reader which may well determine if they believe the report, or grant it any credibility, or ignore it as irrelevant to their point of view on the topic.  Paragraph four changes the entire tone of the article, and I would guess for many readers, drives them away from the point of the article, from the point of the conservative American blogger who brought them to public attention again, and even away from the point of the man who originally made the statement.  
And that’s never healthy.

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