When historians look back on the late 2010s, it’s very possible that they could dub it the “misinformation age.” It seems impossible to escape the screaming matches between network TV personalities and political pundits arguing over fake news, partisanship, and this seemingly unending quest for objectivity. But should the news even be objective?
Just as the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries enabled the arts and sciences to interpret the world around them free from the constraints of religion and the aristocracy, it also opened up the door for the news to shift from an echo chamber of the king’s and lord’s wishes to a more publicly oriented communion of ideas. However, because you needed to be a landowner to have a voice in debate, you had to have interest to be disinterested.
This trend has continued well into the modern era, with the business of journalism filtering the news to cater to advertisers, masking a dollar sign with “objectivity.” There have been a plethora of examples of advertisers telling journalistic publications and news organizations not to present stories that have the potential to decrease their market or frame their corporate sponsors in a poor light. For example, a little over a year ago, Bloomberg killed a piece that challenged China’s elite out of fear that they could lose out on the Chinese market.
The ability for journalists to hide behind “facts” without ever taking a passionate stand on issues pacifies the public into accepting urgent issues as another aspect of the day to day.
While some argue that the news of the 17th and 18th centuries wasn’t objective enough due to the tall barrier of entry. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard believed that newspapers were too objective. A critical philosophical tendant of Kierkegaard's teachings was that “truth is subjectivity,” which means that for something to be true, it had to elicit passion and commitment.
According to Kierkegaard, news that lacked subjectivity created a lack of intensity and interest for the public. People were observing their world through an entertaining pseudo-objective viewpoint rather than taking direct action in it.
It is vital as consumers of media that we question the news presented to us and how it is given. If we don’t challenge our journalistic institutions to break free from corporate funding to pursue a true and passionate view of the world; There is a significant chance we may be totally placated into accepting an entirely null and sponsored “objective” news cycle in just a few short years.