Content
the-full-truth-is-unobtainable
Paul Gauguin. The moment of truth I. 1892. wikiart.org

The “full truth” is unobtainable

Ideal journalist characteristics by John Lloyd.

The speakers at the Journalists’ Forum that took place at Kasárna Karlín on 15 November 2018 also included British journalist John Lloyd from Financial Times, who founded the Reuters Institute and authored Journalism in an Age of Terror (I.B.Tauris 2017).

Přítomnost used this opportunity and asked John Lloyd several questions about the current problems faced by journalism.

What does the term “full truth” mean to you? Do journalists look for the full truth? May more truth not necessarily mean “more facts” but more philosophy/personal testimony and less manipulation with readers’ sensibility?

Journalists cannot tell the "full truth" or anything near it. The "full truth" is unobtainable - if the phrase means that everything is given a place in the narrative, and everything is given its proper weight and importance. The best we can do is to do a report "in good faith". That is, we report on an event or a person or a problem by describing it neutrally, without indicating approval or disapproval: we give necessary background in the same spirit; we quote reliable sources and opinions; we give some analysis of the effect of what we are describing. 

None of that can avoid bias. See things through eyes and minds which have been taught, by ourselves and others, to understand things in a certain way. We can be aware of our biases and try to compensate for them. Above all we should get the facts right - the banal things - names spelled correctly, times and dates when events happened, ages given accurately...the things people care about. We should produce a report which someone of conservative and someone of radical opinion can agree is a fair, or fair enough account. That is quite hard and needs experience and care.

One of Oscar Wilde’s letters starts with the following sentence: “The supreme vice is shallowness.” (Epistola in carcere et vinculis). If we wanted to express what journalism is harmed by, may we say it like this? These days, Czech journalism is dead.

The quote from De Profundis is part of a very long - 50,000 words - letter from prison to Wilde's  gay lover. A fuller quote is "a real fool, such as the gods mock or mar, is he who does not know himself. I was such a one too long. You have been such a one too long. Be so no more. Do not be afraid. The supreme vice is shallowness. Everything that is realised is right”. 

Wilde, who had been deserted by "Bosie” once he was in prison - he never returned his letters, never visited - wrote De Profundis towards the end of his 2-year sentence as a reflection on his life, and his imprisonment. In this quote he is talking about not knowing himself: acting without thought or care.  It is a good text for journalism, because a lot of journalism - perhaps most - is done without real thought or care - done to satisfy the demands of the boss, done to a formula, done quickly and not revised, done to harm or praise someone  without properly knowing them...and so on. Whether or not a journalist has to "know him- or herself" to be a good journalist is another question (which I cannot answer): but to reflect on what is being reported, or commented on, is a step to "knowing the other". Of course, that takes experience, and an ability to see more deeply than the superficial, as well as freedom to write the truth (see above) and, if commenting, to give one's own opinion.

Most readers with lower education and intelligence feel that elite journalists have manipulated them for many years. These readers have given no argument against this manipulation, but have a strong intuition and share this belief. As a result, they have recently given their voices to rude critics of Czech journalist elites. Now that the elites have lost their authority, no one asks them, no one argues with them. They have turned their backs to them and found new elites – people who criticise journalists (Trump, Czech PM Babiš).

Can you see a grain of truth in it? That journalist elites have not been honest with their readers, particularly with the intellectually disadvantaged ones? Have journalists brought it on themselves? Is it the greatest problem of today, not only in the Czech Republic?

I would like to know more about the feeling against elite journalists and their manipulation. It certainly is not just a problem for Czech journalists. Id got because of what journalists wrote during Communist times? Or what they are writing now? and why manipulated?  As a general comment: elite journalists write for or broadcast on "elite" media are those who analyse events more fully, and who give their opinions on politics and international affairs - often, in democratic countries,  from a liberal viewpoint. In the US, where President Trump has encouraged a movement against the "elite" media, trust in the news media has fallen sharply - perhaps because the issues which were dealt with by elite liberals were not those which were important to working and lower middle class Americans, and which often outraged their sense of morality - as gay weddings, transsexuals and so on. Also elite journalists have been usually liberal on immigration: which many, especially in Central Europe, don't want.  I don't think it is so much a ,matter of not ebbing honest, but of making a priority of issues which many people find disturbing, or unwelcome.

I share the view in the sense that writers - especially novelists, poets and other creative writers - do not aim to express a literal truth but often to use imagery and fictional events and characters to express a different kind of "truth". so in his novel "Slowness", Kundera writes that "flung into the world’s misery, man sees that the only clear and reliable value is the pleasure, however paltry, that he can feel for himself: a gulp of cool water, a look at the sky (God’s windows), a caress.” This is a kind of truth: the pleasure one can experience, the cool water in the mouth and throat, the beauty of the sky and perhaps, if you believe in God, a glimpse of his kingdom; and the touch of someone loved, or at least desired. It is in a different sphere from journalists' truth, with different responsibilities. When Shakespeare's tragic heroes come to "know themselves" at the end of the dramas - and Regan, one of the two evil daughters of Lear, says of him at the beginning of the play that "he has ever but slenderly known himself" - they see a truth or truths which they have kept from themselves: in the v=case of Macbeth, this realisation of his misery as one who has killed his king gives him the sense - the "truth" - that the world is worthless, meaningless - "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/Creeps on this petty pace from day to day....Life's but a walking shadow/ A poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more/It is a tale, told by an idiot/Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

That's a kind of truth: a truth of despair and self-contempt. Journalists "truths", as Ive said above, aren't like that. They are at once easier, and more difficult.

18 1 2019 obr1

John Lloyd.

18 1 2019 obr2

From the left: John Lloyd, Financial Times; Martin Jan Stránský, publisher of Přítomnost; Gemma Poerzgen, a German journalist focusing on Eastern Europe and a board member at Reporters without Borders. Photo: Michael Kratochvíl.

    • Intellectual paths in central Europe

      Samuel Abrahám World Politics
      intellectual-paths-in-central-europe

      How can intellectuals of central Europe maintain their moral principles and independence, yet support democracy, in an age when the region is again traversing a rocky road paved with nationalism and populism?

    • The Curious Case of Paul N. Whelan

      Igor Lukeš World Politics
      the-curious-case-of-paul-n-whelan

      How likely is it that Paul Whelan is an American spy?

       

      At the end of December 2018 Russian authorities announced the arrest of Paul Whelan. He had received a USB flash drive from a Russian man who came to his hotel room in Moscow. Minutes later Mr. Whelan was arrested, charged with espionage, and taken to Lefortovo prison. If convicted, he would face 10 to 20 years in prison.

       

      Mr. Whelan, 48, is not an accredited diplomat. He is Canadian by birth, and also a citizen of the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland. He was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve but left with a “Bad Conduct Discharge,” having been court-martialed for larceny on the grounds that he had attempted to misappropriate more than $10,000 and was guilty of writing bad checks. It was subsequently reported that Mr. Whelan, prior to his current trip, had been to Russia several times and was a passionate collector of Russian souvenirs. His family claims he had gone to Moscow to attend a wedding of an American friend who was getting married to a Russian citizen. His most recent job in the United States has been described as providing security for the facilities of an automotive components’ supplier.

    • The “full truth” is unobtainable

      John Lloyd, red. Přítomnosti Society
      the-full-truth-is-unobtainable

      Ideal journalist characteristics by John Lloyd.

    • Momentous ‘eights’ in Czecho-Slovak history

      Jacques Rupnik Czech Politics
      momentous-eights-in-czecho-slovak-history

      Et n’oublions pas le Goofus Bird, oiseau qui vole en arrière car il ne se soucie pas de savoir où il va, mais d’où il vient. (J. L. Borges, Le livre des êtres imaginaires.)

    • The Anti-European Tradition of Europe

      Andrei Plesu World Politics
      the-antieuropean-tradition-of-europe-andre-plesu

      Our featured year-end article explores the dichotomies of the formation of today’s Europe and the conflicts, tensions, and solutions therein.

       

      Europe has a long tradition of self-segregation, of multi-dimensionality, of debates on national identity that can go as far as internal conflict. The first failure of our ‘common home’ was the fracturing of the Roman Empire into a western and an eastern segment. Rome broke away from Byzantium, Catholicism from Orthodoxy, Protestantism from Catholicism, the Empire from the Papacy, East from West, North from South, the Germanic from the Latin, communism from capitalism, Britain from the rest of the continent. We easily perceive the differences that make up our identity; we are able at any time to distance ourselves from ourselves. We invented both colonialism and anti-colonialism; we invented Eurocentrism and the relativisation of Europeanism. The world wars of the last century began as intra-European wars; the European West and East were for decades kept apart by a ‘cold war’. An impossible ‘conjugal’ triangle has constantly inflamed spirits: the German, the Latin and the Slavic worlds.

    • Czech Security Information Service's straightforward Annual Report

      European Values Think-Tank Czech Politics
      czech-security-information-service-s-straightforward-annual-report

      Compared to most of the security institutions in Central Europe, the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) managed to describe Russian and Chinese intelligence activities in the Czech Republic in a remarkable detail. There are several points in the latest Annual Report we would like to highlight:

       

      • Russian and Chinese activities threatening the Czech security and other interests are a continuous priority for the BIS. While Russian activities “continuously focused primarily on influence operations and exploitation of Czech sources”, the Chinese changed up their tactics and focused more on intelligence infiltration instead of influence.
      • The size of the Russian diplomatic mission which includes a high number of individuals with affiliation to the Russian intelligence services represents several risks, especially because of the reckless attitude of Czech politicians and civil servants towards unclassified but non-public information.
    • Please, start taking pro-Kremlin disinformation seriously

      Vydavatelstvi MJS World Politics
      please-start-taking-pro-kremlin-disinformation-seriously

      Open Letter by European Security Experts to President of the European Commission J. C. Juncker and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

       

       

    • Zeman a nuclear power

      Dalibor Rohac Czech Politics
      zeman-a-nuclear-power

      Murky Nuclear Business in New Europe.

    • One Hundred Years of Czech Provincialism

      Igor Lukeš Politika
      one-hundred-years-of-czech-provincialism

      Dear readers, in conjunction with the 100 – year anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia we are pleased to present the following article by renowned historian Igor Lukeš. (Martin Jan Stránský, Publisher)

       

      Despite years of Nazi and communist occupation, the Czech Republic is now a member of NATO and its relations with the United States and other allies in the West are strong. It was heartwarming to see General James Mattis observing the Czech Army’s pass-in-review on October 28th. Given the Czech Republic’s geographic location, this is not a small achievement, and it is good to celebrate it.

       

      At the same time, we need to anticipate problems and prepare to face them before they become insurmountable. It is a truism but one worth repeating that friends not only support and sustain each another, they also tell each other the truth, even when it is uncomfortable, inconvenient, or outright painful. This is what I propose to do today. I will argue that the Czech Republic

    • One Day can Change a Country

      Anna Stransky World Politics
      one-day-can-change-a-country

      The Netherland’s relationship with Russia drastically changed after July 17th, 2014, when the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down.

    • Why is chain migration so controversial?

      The Economist World Politics
      why-is-chain-migration-so-controversial

      The American president’s family benefited from it. He himself is less keen.

    • The Czech Republic’s present for its 100 year anniversary: an alcohol-basted pig

      Martin Jan Stránský Czech Politics
      the-czech-republic-s-present-for-its-100-year-anniversary-an-alcohol-basted-pig

      “I like reporters, perhaps I will invite them for dinner to the Saudi consulate“.

       

      Thus spoke the president of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman on Oct 24.  Besides his acknowledged alcoholic dysfunction, the current president is an outspoken supporter of Russia and an avid hater of journalists.

       

      So Czech Republic, happy birthday to you and to your citizens, who tolerate being represented by a foul-mouthed drunk on this, the centennial anniversary of the country. 

       

      But to be fair, the Czech Republic is not alone. On the other side of the pond there is another country that is trying to ignore the surrealistic nightmare of its current president as well.  Both presidents are hostage to their pathologic narcissism, with its resultant degradation of values.

       

      Martin J Stránský MD

      Publisher, Přítomnost and The New Presence (www.pritomnost.cz)

      Great-grandson of Adolf Stránský the country’s first Minister of Commerce in 1918 and one of Czechoslovakia’s founders.

    • We are the future of Europe, says Viktor Orban

      Martin Jan Stránský World Politics
      we-are-the-future-of-europe-says-viktor-orban

      When we lose, we stay. And we will return.

      – excerpts from a private speech by Viktor Orban.

    • Russia´s post-invasion trauma

      Vydavatelstvi MJS World Politics
      russia-s-post-invasion-trauma2

      From the Friday´s Fleet Sheet Edition.

    • The Stupidification of Democracy Has Spilled into the Czech Lands

      Vydavatelstvi MJS Czech Politics
      the-stupidification-of-democracy-has-spilled-into-the-czech-lands

      A Czech journalist Jan Urban gives thoughts on the current post-modern political reality (not only) in the Czech Republic, reminding us on the principles of democracy. "One of the best analysis I have read in years" Martin Jan Stránský, publisher of The New Presence.

    • China Seeks Influence in Europe, One Business Deal at a Time

      Vydavatelstvi MJS World Politics
      china-seeks-influence-in-europe-one-business-deal-at-a-time

      Czech president Milos Zeman and his baffling policy towards China under scrutiny of NY Times.

Our Supporters:

                                                    30 05 2018 KJ                 30 05 2018 Uprazeno 

Our Partners:

logo pozadi cervena udalostiart-for-good-logo1Xantypacd12 8DeSYo4 HLIDACIPESlogoFINALv6 2016-10-02 Logo RR 2016 1

logo big   cze-logo   Peroutak logo1