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

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

DAMN 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

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 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 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

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

House stare neutral 1000

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.”



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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