Wednesday, March 21, 2012

One More Daisey Update

I'm going to give this one its own post, mostly because I doubt anyone is taking any notice of the other updates I've been slipping into the original post.

I just read Yet Another Commentary on the Mike Daisey/Apple/Foxconn/NPR controversy. I like this one because it not only gets into the metadiscussion of journalistic ethics and such, but also suggests some ideas about the role of narrative and story in forming public opinion:
But facts are not truth. Facts do not, in and of themselves, have meaning. Facts only add up to something — literally make sense — when they are embedded in some kind of framework or narrative that fits into our cultural identities and ways of seeing the world. That’s how humans are built to learn, going back to the Stone Age. So “telling a greater truth” is a thing of real value, not some theatrical pretense. Helping people understand and contextualize events, work through the meaning and resonance of the facts, is a humanistic endeavor, and in today’s fraught and complex world, there’s never been a greater need for it.

Much of the mainstream media seems to have forsworn that task. But “just the facts” is a pretense. There is no such thing. If the story, the narrative framework, isn’t explicit, it’s implicit. And if it’s implicit, it usually reflects status quo interests. I see no particular nobility in that.

So a lie isn’t OK in service of telling a greater truth. What is OK? How do we value the benefits of storytelling — meaning and resonance — relative to the benefits of precision and rigor? There are endless fuzzy borderline cases, bits of approximation, generalization, interpretation, or poetic license. It’s too easy to say there’s no tension.

He then goes on to discuss the specific issue of climate change, and why change deniers feel more strongly about the matter (he posits that it's because they've been given a coherent story). Since that one is near and dear to my heart, I thought I'd pass it along. I like the notion that storytellers are important.

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