definitely "provably not true" (one take on journalism taking on authority)

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AMN OUR DAMN LIB­ERAL ME­DIA! Here's yet an­other ex­am­ple of how the DLM's bleed­ing­heart li­brull­ness screws things up for us poor civil­ians try­ing to grok the world in which we live. When ad­dress­ing a state­ment that was so man­i­festly in­cor­rect that it had to be a lie, the na­tional se­cu­rity cor­re­spon­dent for Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio de­clared the state­ment "prov­ably not true." 1

Be­lieve it or not, this ar­ti­cle ain't about pol­i­tics; it's about jour­nal­ists speak­ing truth to power—and to us!

That is, the state­ment was demon­stra­bly not so. Most of us civil­ians have a sim­ple word to de­scribe a demon­stra­bly un­true state­ment: we call it a lie. 2

Need­less to say, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly was asked why she didn't sim­ply call an ob­vi­ous lie a lie. In re­sponse, she re­ferred to the Ox­ford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary, which de­fines the word lie as "a false state­ment made with in­tent to de­ceive." So Ms Kelly felt jus­ti­fied in stat­ing:

"With­out the abil­ity to peer into Don­ald Trump's head, I can't tell you what his in­tent was. I can tell you what he said and how that squares, or doesn't, with facts."


Provably Not True: photo of NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.

Mary Louise Kelly of Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio.

Provably not true = lie

Think that through: it's an hon­est as­sess­ment, but it's too per­fect for we hu­mans. By us­ing that stan­dard, you could never call any­one a liar, since only the speaker and God can know the speaker's in­tent. Even if the speaker con­fessed to ly­ing, you couldn't know the in­tent of the con­fes­sion: it, too, could be a lie. You know the old co­nun­drum:

How do I know you're telling me the truth now when you say were ly­ing ear­lier, be­cause now I know you're a liar and can't be­lieve any­thing you say!”

In fact, if we use Ms Kelly's stan­dard, the idea of any­one ever be­ing called a liar or even be­ing called on for pos­si­bly ly­ing is elim­i­nated from the Eng­lish lan­guage!

Back­ing up Kelly, NPR's se­nior vice pres­i­dent for news Michael Oreskes said that NPR has de­cided not to use the word "lie" even when some­one is ob­vi­ously ly­ing!

So what I hear is Mr Oreskes telling me that I can't nec­es­sar­ily trust NPR to tell me the truth occasionally—but I can never tell which oc­ca­sions. So the safest bet for me is not to be­lieve any­thing that NPR tells me. 3

Provably Not True: photo of Hugh Laurie as Dr Gregory House.

FEA­TURED IM­AGE: The photo at the top of this page is a pub­lic­ity shot of Hugh Lau­rie as Dr Gre­gory House, television's most lov­able mis­an­thrope. (I took a few lib­er­ties with the im­age to make it more eye-catching.) House para­phrases my state­ment above in the first sea­son when he re­acts to a state­ment from one of his team by de­clar­ing, “If I can't trust you, I can't trust your state­ment that I can trust you. But thanks any­way, you've been a big help.”

Maybe the safest bet for me and you is not to be­lieve any­thing that NPR tells us! Click To Tweet



1   The getting-better-every-day Google dic­tio­nary de­fines man­i­festly as "in a way that is clear or ob­vi­ous to the eye or mind."

2   Google de­fines demon­stra­bly as and ad­verb that means "in a way that is clearly ap­par­ent or ca­pa­ble of be­ing log­i­cally proved."

3   While I un­der­stand the de­ci­sion that Ms Kelly made (and might, just might, agree with it), I do not think the of­fi­cial take of how NPR will be tak­ing on the lies of au­thor­ity in this coun­try serves any­one any good. Ex­cept, of course, the liars . . .


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