The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Sinclair Update

Josh Marshall over at TalkingPointsMemo has been doing a great job keeping on top of the Sinclair story. He highlights several developments. He points out that there are now two shareholder lawsuits against Sinclair. One charging that executives are driving down the price of the stock through their political agenda and the other that Sinclair Executives sold stock early this year, just before the price plunged. Check out the marvelous job Sinclair executives have done running the company this year. As you probably know by now, Sinclair is backing away from a full airing of the Anti-Kerry documentary but will still have a one hour 'news' forum on media bias and the POWs issue. In related news, Hannaford backed off of their statement that they were pulling advertising from Sinclair in Maine. Don't forget that you can still air your grievances against companies who purchase national advertising from Sinclair, even if you don't currently live in a Sinclair media market.

Of deeper concern is the emerging 'cultural relativism' and post modernism of the Far Right (once again I owe a debt of gratitude on this one to Josh Marshall). The richness of this irony is probably only apparent to a few, but for years Right Wing commentators have been railing against the cultural relativism of the Left. The apparent motto now seems to be "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." For those of us who truly do have some concerns about relativism and epistemology this is worrisome. Essentially, the question becomes one of fact. Do you accept that there are certain facts out there? Knowable truths that humans can perceive and understand? Or is everything dictated by perception and power, so that all of life devolves into a constant struggle between groups and individuals, not just over material goods, but over the nature of reality and reality itself. You don't have to be a pure Positivist to believe that some things are true, some things have happened, and others have not. Ron Susskind provides a telling story about this in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. But I think you can see this in lots of places. Recent news stories about the Sinclair documentary probably highlight this fact most clearly. At the center of the debate is what did or did not happen in Vietnam. Ultimately, this is not a question of interpretation but one of facts. Did US soldiers commit atrocities in Vietnam? The Anti-Kerry POWs claim among other things, that the atrocities Kerry alleged in his Congressional testimony did not occur. But whether they did or not is a matter of fact not opinion. Again, the Far Right seems to be counting on the media's predilection for keeping things balanced by airing two sides of every account, even when there is only one side. The documentary also claims that North Vietnamese captors showed POWs Kerry's testimony and told them they would be tried for war crimes. But POWS who were in these same camps claim this never happened and that they never heard of Kerry until they returned home. One charge that is a matter of opinion is whether Kerry by himself prolonged the war by two years. But this is a claim that is so laughable on its face that it should be exposed as such. Although the press has an obligation to present both sides of opinion, they also have a responsibility to show the true nature of how that opinion is distributed. It isn't right to air a debate on global warming with 'experts' on both sides without highlighting that 99% of the experts believe that global warming is a threat and is a result of human activity and a handful of near quacks believe otherwise.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that the Sinclair executive who defended these accusations against Kerry, brought up Holocaust deniers and likened them to the TV Networks who won't air this documentary. But we would be rightfully disappointed if the networks decided to present a debate about whether or not the Holocaust actually happened with 'experts' on both sides of the issue. Who is really the denier on this issue of Vietnam? Who is really trying to foist a particular view of the truth on people, one that is patently false and misleading with an intention to sway human actions? Who appears to believe that reality is what we say it is? Who appears to be wedded to the notion that might makes right and ownership of the airewaves empowers you to do as you wish?