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The View from Nowhere in Journalism: Ideology as a Substitute for Religion The View from Nowhere in Journalism: Ideology as a Substitute for Religion
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2013-05-27 10:38:25
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Despite the bridge that Aquinas built between reason and faith, within modernity, journalists who believe that religion is a non-rational retrograde activity are legions. The usual rationale adduced for giving up God-oriented religion is that there is not sufficient empirical evidence for God’s existence.

But then the question surfaces: why do the same people not give up ideologies as well when they know that they too may not be empirically or scientifically proven? Could it be that ideology constitutes a substitution or sorts? Could it be that ideology gives those who repudiate religion a value system, just as religion does for believers? Could it be that ideologies provide people with a community of like-minded people? Why, as a rule, do ideologies see religion as an enemy and a competitor?

Emile Durkheim in his Elemental Forms of Religious Life called religion and ideology “moral communities.” Why did Durkheim make such a comparison and what, if any, is the nexus between the two? Let’s see. What has happened all too often since the Enlightenment is that religion has been subsumed under ideology. This is most apparent not only within modern ideological movements but also in modern journalism. One sees socially constructed notions of the sacred reduced to mere economics. Marx jumps to mind here. The question is turned up side down so that one ends up asking: how can religious beliefs help the economy rather than how can religion be a needed cultural centripetal force for a polity?

For example, nationalism can be construed as an ideology. It has the overwhelming power to motivate men to die for one’s country. Nationalism seems to share with religion the same power of motivating humans to lay down their lives. It is a socio-culturally produced power that some call the sacred. Here the question arises: how is the sacred produced in cultures and societies constituting a nation or a confederation of nations, the EU for example? How does it function? Do human beings move between religious and secular sacralities such as nationalism or communism or fascism or progressivism?

Nowadays we see a media landscape littered with opinionated talk and ideology-driven websites galore. But of course in the world of journalism it is considered the kiss of death to reveal openly what one really believes. To do that is to be perceived as subjective rather than objective in one’s reporting. So journalists tend to hide what they really believe. Very few journalists have the courage to reveal who their heroes and villains are, never mind their core convictions.

And yet, how is one to know where a journalist is coming from? How is one to rate his/her trust-worthiness when one is confronted not with “where one is coming from” but “the view from nowhere” which seems to have become the media’s true ideology. The media wants to give the impression that it is neither on the right nor on the left since generations of mainstream journalists have come to believe that they can be trusted only if they remain or give the appearance of being neutral, having no dog in the fight. To disclose one’s beliefs simply goes against the grain. Most journalists when confronted with this conundrum will reply that they did not get into the business to parade their opinions but to uncover the facts. Just the facts, madame!

Where I’m coming from in news reporting is no partnership or ideology most newspapers editors would proudly proclaim to their readers. They would also add that the reporting speaks for itself and is not coming from any point of view. They are just being impartial or to use a slogan utilized by a very partial news media, Fox news, we are being fair and balanced. Often the contract of journalists who dare reveal their opinions gets terminated.

Were one to insist on a sincere answer to this conundrum any journalist worth his/her salt will tell us that he/she is in the business of uncovering truths that are not easy to uncover, in following leads no matter where they lead.  Put that way it sounds like an heroic enterprise. Here the question arises. Can a journalist interpret and analyze the news for the benefit of his/her readers rather than having readers figure it out for themselves and perhaps arriving at the wrong conclusions? Is that being too condescending with readers?

And so the debate goes on. Conservatives complain about the liberal sensibility of the media in general. Liberals complain about the veiled ideology apparent in conservative media circles. The result seems to be that they both wish to claim “objectivity” with the view from nowhere allegedly removing all biases. They are two sides of the same coin. All too often this ploy will lead political observers to obsessing about winners and losers rather than the harder work of finding out who is telling the truth and what are the effects of policies adopted by politicians.

In conclusion, it would appear that “the view from nowhere” or the attempt by many journalists to substitute religion or a belief system with an ideology, kept well hidden, in order to be perceived as objective and unbiased, far from removing biases and prejudices from their narratives leads directly to them. 

 


    
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