Faith is belief in what cannot be proven. If something can be proven, faith in it is no longer necessary. But most of us can’t prove anything. We spend most of our lives swimming around in a sea of faith – faith in people, places, things; faith in history, institutions, religions; faith in ideas, nature, love. We live by faith in these things, not just that they exist, but faith in that they work as designed, faith in how they should work, and faith in how they do work.
We no longer have faith in the news. “Popular distrust of the news media has been traced to the coverage of the stormy 1968 Democratic National Convention,” Louis Menand discusses in “Making the News: The press, the state, and the state of the press” (The New Yorker, February 6, 2023, 59-65). Underlying any loss of faith comes the realization that too much may have been invested in the building blocks of truth, facts, and how we think we do things the way we do because we’ve always done them that way. These blocks turn out to be soft and fuzzy and protean. What is true changes with the times, predicaments, what we want.
“As Michael Schudson pointed out in ‘Discovering the News’ (1978), the notion that good journalism is ‘objective’ – that is, nonpartisan and unopinionated – emerged only around the start of the twentieth century. Schudson thought that it arose as a response to growing skepticism about the whole idea of stable and reliable truths. The standard of objectivity, as he put it, ‘was not the final expression of a belief in facts but in the assertion of a method designed for a world in which even facts could not be trusted. … Journalists came to believe in objectivity, to the extent that they did, because they wanted to, needed to, were forced by ordinary human aspiration to seek escape from their own deep convictions of doubt and drift.’ In other words, objectivity was a problematic concept from the start” (p. 60).
We might find complementary or corollary application to other areas. Menand uses the 1968 convention to illustrate how the news is not reported but made, and that once the recipe for how it’s made is made manifest, and there follows general doubt and drift from the sources – from the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the story – the remaining mess makes for great leftover meals for anyone wanting to take advantage of that doubt and drift to further their own agenda, investment returns, popularity, hold of the reins. We might find corollary application of the argument in the doubt and drift in our times from religion, health care, higher education, police protection – all areas once strong with the faithful but we now look out and find empty pews. Damage control, by which is meant control of the news over the story, becomes paramount in restoring the faith.
But we reach a point where faith can’t be restored. The Jesus Movement becomes the Free Press of religion. Indie becomes the barbaric invasion of not traditional music, film, publication, art, but of the open-gate making, distribution, and profit (or not) of free expression. We can no longer die for our country, only for one another. We take medical advice with a grain of salt. The man wearing the badge, the clerical collar, the stethoscope, the suit and tie – might as well be wearing a newspaper. The homeless person is one of us. The Emperor wears no clothes. The Wizard is a humbug – and like he said, he might be a good guy, but he’s a bad wizard. We are out here on our own.