I filmen Shattered Glass om Stephen Glass udbryder en kollega forbavset og lidt misundeligt “Where do he find these people?” efter Glass havde bildt hele redaktionen ind at han havde optrådt på en bonderøvsradiostation, som ekspert i “human on human biting” i kølvandet på Tysons bid i Evander Holyfields øre. Stephen Glass fandt disse mennesker i sin egen fantasi og han konstruerede dem nøje så de passede med hans læseres og kollegaers forestillinger om virkeligheden.
Historien om Stephen Glass er historien om en af de største journalistiske skandaler i USA. Glass arbejdede for det ellers ansete venstredrejede The New Republic, først som fact tjecker og siden som journalist og del af redaktionen. Glass var kun 25 år da han i årene 1995-98 bjergtog medieverdenen med en serie originale og sensationelle artikler skrevet i en underholdende tone. Artiklerne var helt eller delvist fiktive og hvilede afgørende på hans egne vidneudsagn og anonyme kilder - dem kunne fact-tjekkerne nemlig ikke tjekke.
Glass var en stjerne og en guldfugl og klager fra folk og organisationer, der mente sig sværtede blev arrogant afvist. Glass øgede oplagene og vandt mange allierede ikke mindst ved at fremstå beskeden grænsende til det selvudslettende. Lige indtil Glass strakte sig udover sin egen formåen og forfalskede historien om en bumset teenage computerhacker, der blev belønnet for sine ulovligheder. Forbes Digital Tool (den digitale del af Forbes Magazine) havde sin interesse i computerverdenen og gennemgik Glass’ historie, der viste sig at være det pure opspind.
Der havde ellers været rigeligt med advarsler om urent trav, ikke blot fra de mange klagere men også kollegaer og fact-tjekkere, der fandt huller i dokumentationen (der var sindrigt forfalsket) eller bekymrede sig over den massive brug af anonyme kilder. The New Republics koleriske ejer var endda blevet advaret af sine kone, der fandt historierne utroværdige på deres egne præmisser. Og hun var ikke den eneste. Så hvordan kunne støtten til Glass urimeligt længe tryne den indlysende skepsis? Grundlæggende fordi Glass opfyldte PT Barnum effekten og gav folk, hvad de gerne ville have. De ville gerne have at deres syn på virkeligheden blev bekræftet, endda i overmåde. Folk på landet er bare dummere end storbykarrieremennesket. Teenage hackere kan tvinge store it-virksomheder i knæ. Som hans tidligere redaktør på New Republic Charles Lane forklarede The Age
“One of the parts of the answer that I’ve settled on is that so many of his stories revolve around stereotypes,” says Lane, now a reporter with The Washington Post.
“They fit into the pre-existing grooves that are already etched into everybody’s heads, things we think or are predisposed to believe are true. So he’s got stories about young conservatives who turn out to be total hypocrites about morality; he’s got stories about department store Santa Clauses who turn out to be pedophiles; and he’s got a big story about a pseudo-scientific exploration about why African-Americans are too lazy to drive taxi cabs but immigrants will.”
Hvad filmen kun antyder i sin åbningsscene er hvilke stereotypier, der især var tale om. Peddling Poppy fra 9. juni 1997 beskrev en anglikansk menighed, der tilbad tidligere præsident George H W Bush. Spring Breakdown beskrev unge republikanere, der brugte de politiske konventer til seksuelt at ydmyge overvægtige unge kvinder. Terri Gross læser på Fresh Air (som hørt på Youtube i et interview med Charles Lane) op af indledningen til Plotters
When Hillary Clinton started ranting last week about a vast right wing conspiracy beltway, pundits could barely suppress their sniggers. The First Lady seemed to be implying that somewhere in America there is a comity of middle aged white men who regularly get together, hunch around a long oval table and feverishly plot to undermine the Clinton Administration. Does ms Clinton really this malarkey? Does anyone?
Actaully, I do. Last sunday just such a meeting took place and I was there. It was the monthly gathering of the Commission to Restore the Presidency to Greatness or CRPG. And the scene unfolded exactly as the First Lady might have expected. The clandestine rendezvous took place in northern Virginia at the rural home of software developer R. Theodore Curtis. The attendies where all middle age white men dressed in sober ties and starched dressshirts. Most had receding hairlines. Sitting on the table in front of each man was a namecard listing his title and area of responsibility: Vice President for Vince Fosters death affairs; Special Council to investigate File Gate; Deputy Inspector for Arkansas Issues; and so on.
Skandaler og løgne kan ingen gardere sig for. Folk som Steven Glass udnytter deres medmenneskers blinde vinkler, dem har vi alle. Men fordi medierne er så overvejende venstredrejede er mange blinde vinkler kollektive fordi de er ideologiske.
Stephen Glass forfalskede også freelance artikler for Harper’s, George og The New York Times Magazine. Og også nogle stykker for musikmagasinet Rolling Stone. Og nu har Rolling Stone selv skabt en journalistisk skandale. Ifølge Rolling Stones artikel ”A Rape on Campus” er massevoldtægter nemlig dagens orden på amerikanske campi. Men udgangspunktet viste sig at være et ikke-eksisterende vidne. Hvor Stephen Glass egenhændigt og udspekuleret havde snydt næsten alle omkring sig, omfatter ”A Rape On Campus” også facttjekkerne og redaktionen. Her var alle enige om at de havde fundet ‘those people’. Naomi Schaefer Riley skriver i New York Post
According to no less an authority than the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the magazine’s story last year on a University of Virginia gang rape was a “journalistic failure [that] encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.”
But as with many other stories that don’t fit into the right narrative, the media will continue to draw the wrong lessons.
As an AP article noted, “Despite its flaws, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults amid a campaign by President Barack Obama.”
Despite its flaws? You mean despite the fact that as far as anyone can tell, the story was made up out of whole cloth?
Even once the police investigated the claims of the alleged victim, The New York Times reported: “Some saw a more complex picture, saying that the uproar over the story and the steps that the university had taken since in an effort to change its culture had, in the end, raised awareness and probably done the school, and the nation, some good.”
How has the university benefited from the fact that a fraternity has been falsely accused of a horrific crime? And how has the nation benefited from the false but now widespread belief that violent rape, even gang rape, is raging on US campuses?
Wouldn’t it have done more good for people to know that young women are statistically less likely to be attacked on a campus than off one?
Daniel Greenfield skriver i Frontpage Magazine
It might not have been factually true, but it was emotionally true, and narratives are not about factual truths. They are about emotional truths.
Fraternities are filled with rapists. Even if this particular fraternity did not rape Jackie, it doubtlessly raped some other girl. And if not, then some other fraternity somewhere raped somebody.
The story remains fake, but accurate. Rolling Stone’s only mistake was getting the details of who raped whom wrong. Or as the New Republic argued, the publication’s mistake was focusing on an individual’s disprovable story, instead of a traditionally lefty “systematic analysis” that would set the narrative.
If only Rolling Stone had stuck to lots of arm waving and some manipulated statistics, its true narrative would never have been undermined by its fake facts.
Facts don’t disprove narratives. JFK was shot by a radical Socialist. Rather than deal with this fact, we have been burdened with generations of conspiracy theories indicting everyone from the CIA to space aliens to Dallas. Like Rathergate, the conspiracy theories are factually fake, but narratively accurate.
As recently as last year, the New York Times’ Frank Rich was still indicting the “climate of hate in Dallas” for the Kennedy assassination. Rich knows it’s untrue, but it’s an accusation that feels emotionally right. Kennedy should have been killed by the right. It feels more fitting and true. The rest is just word games.
Or as Rich put it, “Immediately after the assassination and ever since, the right has tried to deflect any connection between its fevered Kennedy hatred and Oswald’s addled psyche with the fact that the assassin had briefly defected to the Soviet Union.”
How dare the right deflect its non-existent connection to the assassination by pointing out that the assassin was a Communist? How dare it muddle Rich’s lovely narrative that Texas’ wheelchair-bound Governor Greg Abbott is in a direct line of ideological descent from the murderer of President Kennedy?
And who is to say that Abbott, who was six years old at the time, didn’t have a hand in it? Sure it’s a little hard to argue rationally, but to the left it feels emotionally right.
Lefty narratives that are false, but ideologically and emotionally fulfilling, never go away. (The real victims of the Cold War were a handful of Hollywood scribblers. The USSR took the lead in the war against fascism. Terrorism is caused by unemployment. Tax cuts cause poverty. Revolving door prisons reduce crime.) Facts that are true, but upset the narrative quickly vanish.
Which lefty really wants to remember that the co-founder of Earth Day was Ira Einhorn, who brutally murdered his girlfriend and then went on the run, or that Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, brutally tortured a woman and was sent to jail for it where he wrote essays about feminism? Einhorn and Karenga both claimed to be political prisoners. Einhorn blamed the CIA for killing his girlfriend.
It wasn’t true, but it no doubt felt emotionally true to the wealthy lefties financing his lifestyle abroad. At least neither Einhorn nor Karenga chose to blame the “climate of hate” in Dallas for their crimes.
Progressives aren’t supposed to be rapists. Fraternity brothers are. When it comes to the narrative glue that makes certain stories stick and not others, the imaginary “Drew” of Rolling Stone’s rape hoax will always outshine politically inconvenient rapists like Obama’s mentor Bill Ayers.
The left isn’t interested in rape victims. It’s interested in narratives. That was why Bill Clinton’s accusers were “trash” while Anita Hill was a martyred saint.
The most expendable component in Rolling Stone’s narrative was Jackie who takes the fall for the hoax that a major publication perpetrated on the country. The victims that the left claims to fight for are ultimately the first to go under the bus, ahead of the writers and editors who exploit them.
A little chum is tossed out and then a decade from now Robert Redford or Oliver Stone will be filming a flick explaining how the Rolling Stone hoax was fake and accurate. With a little time all the dirty details, the analysis and the refutations of the mangled facts will be swept under the rug. What will remain is the central compelling story that the left will be tempted to revisit without interference from reality.
The story will still be emotionally compelling. The facts will be forgotten. If you think that’s unlikely, consider that few of the stories on Robert Redford’s Rathergate flick trouble to mention that the central issue of contention involves a time traveling copy of Microsoft Word that wound up in the 1970s.
If a central fact like that can be nudged out of the way, don’t think that the Rolling Stone hoax can’t be rehabilitated. If it isn’t, it will only be because newer hoaxes will have risen to take its sordid place.
The left does not inhabit the realm of facts. It is an ideology. Its followers live in a world of convictions. They believe in what feels true, not in what is. They express their convictions through stories. These stories are more real to them than the real world. By trying to make the stories real, they attempt to impose their reality on the world. Occasionally facts poke holes in their fantasy, but not for very long.
Rather ranted that, “Powerful and extremely well- financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they can’t deny the fundamental truth of the story.”
To the left, fundamental truths exist in a realm above that of the provable. It’s not the documents that matter. It’s the fundamental truth of the story. And the fundamental truth is that they are unable to tell a lie from the truth because their entire worldview is a lie that exists in a truthless world.
Journalister i Danmark er overvejende røde, eller de sympatiserer i hvert fald med den værdipolitiske venstrefløj.