The Convenient Untruths

Friday, April 04, 2008


Psychologists have long known that humans have a remarkable ability to tune out facts that don't jibe with pre-existing beliefs. Farhad Manjoo, author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, says the natural draw toward "truthiness" has run amok in the modern media age.

Comments [15]

Henry Pelifian from New Hartford, NY

Mr. Manjoo delves into a very pertinent subject. Many Americans have been conditioned by misinformation, especially on foreign affairs by both government and television news. Information that is wholly incomplete or biased with an agenda often prevails. Although there are excellent sources of information they are not always mainstream sources. American television being the worst source of information where the majority do receive their information.

Apr. 17 2008 06:54 PM
Scott Larson from County Mayo, Ireland

It's not news that most people filter out information that does not comport with what they already believe or want to believe. What this piece demonstrates is that researchers and journalists do it too,

Apr. 14 2008 04:14 AM
Rick Wiedeman from Dallas, Texas

The implication is that the left is open-minded and thus more rational, and the right, closed-minded and thus less rational; I disagree.

Being open-minded, once a decision has been made, can be crippling. I can speak to this weakness in my own life – where change does not always equal improvement. :)

Apr. 08 2008 11:26 AM
daretoeatapeach from

Another thought: How much evidence would it take for you, the global warming deniers, to change your position? Before you would say, "I was wrong, this is really serious and we need to act on it now." I think in your heart you know that there is no amount of research that would change your mind. You have decided what you want to believe, facts be damned. Please own up to this and you will see why many are dismissive of your POV. The reason I feel free to make this gross generalization about the climate change skeptics is that the facts are abundantly overwhelming so to deny it means you are either don't want to know the truth or you read a _very_ limited scope of media that seeks to distort the truth. For many months I tried posting links to unbiased websites in the hopes of reaching the latter. But at this point, it is just ridiculous. Have you even considered the possibility that everyone else is right and you are wrong? Or, like the article says, are you content to believe what you want to? PLEASE consider this possibility because the consequences of your being wrong are very serious.

Apr. 07 2008 02:55 PM
daretoeatapeach from

While this disappointing piece didn't cover any new territory, I find the comments here exemplary. It appears that Donald, and some other commenters, seem to think that everyone else believes in global warming and that this is a failure of the media. It is beyond their capacity to think that science has this very alarming evidence that we are creating the possibility for our own extinction. So they hold onto the cries of a few dissenters that don't work in climate science or have dubious connections to the oil industry. Donald, of course the show will talk about global warming. Why? Because there is very compelling and disturbing evidence and facing that evidence requires us to change our way of life, which we don't want to do. If one spends any time at all researching the facts behind it the truth would be overwhelmingly clear. But it is so much easier to deny the truth. Thanks in your comments for all these great examples of cognitive dissonance.

Apr. 07 2008 02:41 PM
Imri Jonas Merritt from Philly

To George M. Murray III...

Its a small piece, they cannot cite where every single fact came from, and they are certainly not refusing to do so. I'm sure the book they were discussing has footnotes and a bibliography. The author was relaying his findings. You seem to want to make up your own facts about this that would support your beliefs. You also make a generalization that NPR generalizes, and has an agenda of defaming and denigrating the right wing - where is your proof of that?

Sorry to say but you have displayed the very mindset this program was waring us against.

You start with a conclusion, and select or make up facts to support it.

Apr. 07 2008 11:48 AM
Donald from Ashland, VA

Looks like my prediction turned out to be somewhat correct except that the piece DISPLAYS prejudice for NPR's de riguer bogeyPERSON, the 'vast right wing conspiracy,' instead of demogoging for one of NPR's boilerplate Wunderkids.
OTM continues to display the same kind of arrogance they project itself as identifying: 'we're the media, we don't have to be balanced or explain ourselves.'

Apr. 07 2008 05:44 AM
Jay Tea from

Crud, put this one on the wrong entry... moderators, feel free to delete the above comment and this one as being (accidentally) off-topic.


Apr. 07 2008 05:30 AM
Jay Tea from

By the Muslim complainants' logic, MacLeans should be given several minutes of a future broadcast, free of any editorial interference beyond technical adjustments, to answer this segment.

Good thing for OTM that they're not based in Canada...


Apr. 07 2008 05:26 AM
Moishe3rd from Minneapolis, Minnesota

I always find it irritating that "you," (in this case, Farhad Manjoo, but also NPR in general) always use gross generalities when attempting to defame or otherwise denigrate the so-called right wing - see above comment regarding "Swift Boat veterans For Truth."
She said: "Psychologists have determined that people on the right are more efficient in filtering out things that don't really support their point of view."
It would be interesting if you gave one simple example of the veracity of this statement.
As you refused to 'inform us," how can we believe your odd point of view?
The same paradigm follows with your beliefs on Global Warming.
It is distressing that "On the Media" continually favors a bias which denigrates the so called right wing or the current administration without giving any substantiating data.
George M. Murray III.

Apr. 06 2008 11:42 PM
Phil Sexton from Soda Springs CA

I've been interested in "cognative dissonance", not only in our media beliefs, but also in human interactions, for several years now. I place the blame primarily on politicians, but also the advocacy media that has cropped up since deregulation of the airwaves and the end of the fairness doctrine, done during the Reagan administration. I suppose it was an inevitable result, but having so-called pundits (I call them gasbags) delivering opinion wrapped as "fact", and our media's seldom questioning the tendency for politicians to twist facts, ignore them, or flat-out lie, has broader ripples in our society. I do a lot of public contact, mostly friendly, but also in some regulatory situations, and my observation is that we [society] now feel empowered to be selfish, and if it's more convenient to create facts to support our positions, so be it. There seems to be a wholesale license to act this way, and I think it's because no one holds our public leaders accountable for their actions, distortions, and lies. The problem with the media (even NPR, I'm afraid), is that news is a business, and is now responsible to shareholders (donors, for NPR), rather than to the public, so their objective is first and foremost ratings, rather than accuracy or insight.
It's a very, very sad state of affairs.

Apr. 06 2008 07:07 PM
Laurence Urdang from Old Lyme, CT

I once had respect for the news and commentary that I read in the press and heard on radio and TV. But it must be admitted that any trust or respect for its accuracy has been seriously eroded in the past sixty-five years (since I have have been paying attention) by the ineluctable evidence that the politicians, reporters, officials, and others who deliver the news have often been found either to have lied or to have twisted their language in such a way as to make it incompatible with the truth.

Apr. 06 2008 02:04 PM
Jay Tea from

As the editor of one of those "right-wing blogs" you talked about, I found the article fascinating. Especially the part about the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.

The Vets were successful in making John Kerry withdraw one of his elements of his heroic fable of his long, terrible three months in Viet Nam -- the "Christmas in Cambodia" fiction. They also cast plenty of doubt on other elements of his legend -- the "magic hat" he got from a CIA agent he transported, his throwing of his medals over the White House fence being transformed into someone else's medals so he can proudly display his own now, and so on.

Further, the Vets repeatedly challenged Kerry to sue them, so the matter could be settled in a court of law. One of their backers even offered a hefty reward to Kerry or anyone else who could conclusively disprove any of their allegations against Kerry. Both offers went unclaimed.

The discussion of faked photos would have been greatly enhanced had you mentioned the numerous times media outlets like Reuters and the AP have been exposed faking photos. The distrust people feel was earned.

The gist of the piece I heard on your show seemed to be "you people need to go back to listening us unquestioningly, without bothering to seek out your own facts and your own accounts! Why don't you just go back to swallowing whole everything we tell you?"

Jay Tea
Main Page Editor

Apr. 06 2008 11:11 AM
andrew hennessy from Washington DC

I agree, “we do not have an informed society.” However, your author, and the media in general, assign the fault to the consumer. What about the products offered? What you all postulate also applies to the media: the source.

You follow that with a spot mentioning that the U.S. has almost absolute freedom of speech. While the amendment is clear, judicial oversight has constrained it. Further, the media/power centers dominate discussion with alleged economies of scale that result in the presentation of limited world views, i.e., on any given topic some thoughts are just not part of the discussion and some things we hear over and over again.

Apr. 05 2008 10:06 AM
Donald from Ashland, VA

Prediction: this interview program will wind up talking about either global warming or prejudice against some special interest group...or both topics.
I'll check back in on Monday to read the transcript.

Apr. 05 2008 05:54 AM

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