In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells Pilate that he is here to “testify to the truth” Pilate then retorts, “What is truth?” Then as now, this was and is a valid statement from any government official. They know quite well that the “truth” is whatever the rich and powerful say it is and that the history books are written by the “winners” in life. They pull our strings and encourage us to capitulate and accept the truth presented and to not question its voracity.
Let me assure the reader that I am not jumping on the “Fake News” bandwagon preached by the current administration. I firmly believe that the “news” we receive is not fake. The core events happen as reported in most cases. However, the commentary that accompanies it is more slanted and tends to alter our opinions to move in lock-step with those of the news executives.
After all, that is what editorial commentary has always been about – presenting the thoughts and ideals of a person or group of persons in the light of an event. Today though, commentary often directly follows the news report without qualification or segue, and that is where the news becomes “fake” or at least not validated. As an example, a recent NBC Breaking News item on Michael Cohen started off just fine with a two-minute reporting of the facts. The network immediately followed this with twenty-minutes of various experts giving their take on what occurred – all of which they presented as actual news not the commentary it was.
The same holds true for major tragedies – weather events come to mind. There are great swaths of time where nothing is going on, yet the weather staff is unwilling to release its captives, us, for even a moment. They fill the gaps with observers reporting the same thing over and over accompanied by comments from the weathercasters so afraid that they might miss something the other stations catch.
Is there any wonder that we have become so jaded when it comes to news? Can we not see where the “fake news” proponents get the grist for their mill? As bad as the major networks are, the twenty-four- hour cable versions are that much worse. They fill their days with commentary and diatribe cast about as “real news”. Their programming reflects the position of their ownership, the rich and powerful as it were.
It is our responsibility to separate the chaff from the wheat. We must listen for the key words “I think…”, “It might…”, or any other wording that indicates something other than a concrete fact. Secondly, we must limit our access to daily news. It is far too easy for us to fall into a news addiction and to have our own decision-making abilities scrambled as a result. When we listen to commentary, we should accept it as commentary – opinion, not fact. We, as Pilate, must ask “What is truth?