Hi, (name of journalist-friend). Something has started bugging me. You know, of course, how both parties use slanted or even propaganda names for bills up for consideration, like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Then journalists have a choice, I guess: to use the bill # or the slanted name or to apply a neutral description when they write about it.#

So for example, this headline:#

Indiana Senate Passes Religious Freedom Restoration Act (headline from a news website)#

That's the slanted name of the bill there. So, what do you think--is that a political party (both sides do it) slipping its slanted or even propaganda language into the mouth of the journalist calls it by that name on the air or in print? Is this a manipulation, a small victory over the independence of the journalist?#

Even though both parties do it, it feels to me like a propaganda victory of a political party over the journalist. But I am curious to know what you think about this sort of thing. Yours truly, etc.#

There's a quotation from Joan Didion that always sounds very hip and I run across it fairly often. It's the opening sentence of her powerful nonfiction collection, The White Album, and it goes like this:#

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.#

It's a wonderful book, and disturbing, not just because it is about America in turmoil or Joan Didion in turmoil. It's also got this thread of attraction to the dark side--a clumsy way to put it, I know. I help myself think about that with a contrasting essay by Adrienne Rich from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. It's called "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying." The essay has some dazzling sentences, but not one that stands in simple clarifying opposition to the Didion sentence. If you will allow me to use ellipses, however, we get something like this:#

An honorable human relationship--that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love"--is a process . . . of refining the truths they can tell each other.#

In the Didion sentence, stories make it possible to go on; they provide the structure for a person's life and a community's as well. In her essay, the circumstances are dire and the stories are falling apart and there doesn't seem to be anything the individual or the community can do about it. To my ear, there's a fatalism there, or a temptation to it. In Rich's essay, working on the understandings between people is essential, a given, an ordinary process of health and the hope for health. To my ear, it's the opposite of fatalism. It's not a dreamy optimism--real things are at stake in our lives and it doesn't always work out, as Rich tells it, but it's not fatalism. The order of our lives is something we create together. Her essay ends this way:#

. . . we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us. The possibility of life between us.#

© 2015 Ken Smith.
Last update: Sat, Feb 28, 2015 at 5:14 PM.
When in doubt, blog.