Thursday, December 01, 2016

The truth is whole and in order

A good chodesh!


In the past few weeks, we've been hearing a lot about fake news. Those on the left, tend to brand all conservative news outlets as peddlers of fake news, while those on the right fault left-leaning sites for the same. As Michael Tracey wrote here: https://medium.com/@mtracey/fake-news-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder-9457a5b4b453#.gyk1s0mz9 fake news really is in the eye of the beholder.




Surely even fake news has some truth in it, so what makes one story a true account and another fake. It could be jumping to conclusions like the early accounts of the Ohio University attack that declared the attacker used a gun (that was due to taking the warning alert used in the school as a statement of actual fact). So there we have a modification of what really happened because that made the story fit a preconceived narrative about violent acts being linked to guns in the US. We also saw the NY Times fall into that kind of misrepresentation due to its own wishful thinking perhaps in misrepresenting the fact that the exact location of the Kodesh Kedoshim on Har Habayit is not clear to a questioning if the Temple ever stood on the mountain at all. So even newspapers that claim a venerable legacy can fall into promulgating fake news, particularly when they incline toward a particular political agenda.




That kind of agenda also pushes some media outlets to lie through omission -- something we see all the time in headlines that declare "Israeli shoots Palestinian" while leaving out that the person was attacking people much like the Abdul Razak Ali Artan did in Ohio University. I don't recall seeing any headlines that said "Policeman shoots student" or the like after the event, though, technically that would be a true statement that just leaves out critical context.

So perhaps all this was on my mind when I thought about what truth means to us. I thought about the significance of the word for truth in Hebrew. אֱמֶת It begins with the first letter, ends with the last letter, and includes the middle letter in the middle. To relate something that is truly true, it is not enough to include the beginning and ending but to also detail the what may have occurred in between. You also have to stick to the correct order of events. Without all those in place, you can have a partial truth, which -- like a cropped picture-- can give a very false impression of the context.

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