Monday, November 28, 2011

Lie and Hype for a Good Cause?!

This post is a follow-up to:

Earlier today, I wrote about the curious lack of adult stem cell research news coverage.

There's plenty about embryonic stem cell research, how it's
  • Vital to progress in the medical sciences
    • By implication
  • Only possible with embryonic stem cells
    • By omission
  • Opposed by people who are
    • By implication
      • Uncaring
      • Backward
      • Science-hating
      • Against progress in the medical sciences
    • Because they are against (embryonic) stem cell research
Sometimes old-school journalists even mention that a protest is over embryonic stem cell research. Is that list over-simplified? Yes: but I think it's fairly accurate caricature of what the 'better' news outlets do.

'Whatever It Takes?'

Would this be wrong?
  • Getting upset about biased news coverage
  • Telling myself that 'the end justifies the means'
  • Blogging about 'facts' that I make up as I go along
I could tell myself that I'm 'fighting the good fight' for a noble cause.

And I'd be wrong.

That's not just my opinion.

"The end does not justify the means."

It's possible to feel good about 'doing evil, that good may follow.'

But that's not the way we're supposed to act:
" 'An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention' (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1759)
Knowing what I do about cause and effect, consequences, and my particular judgment: I think I'd better not try the 'do evil that good may follow' trick.

Sticks, Stones, and Hurt

Maybe the little rhyme, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," is still be part of American culture.

Insults and verbal abuse don't leave physical evidence, but the notion that "words will never hurt me" is wrong.

I think false witness and perjury are obvious examples. (Catechism, 2476) More socially-acceptable distortions of truth can hurt, too, and that's almost another topic.1


As I said earlier today, the Catholic Church thinks truth is important. (Catechism, 2464-2503)

So far, I suspect that most folks might go along with the idea that truth is nice. There's a sort of flip side to that idea, though:
" 'A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.281 The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: 'You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.'282

"Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord."
(Catechism, 2482-2483)
I don't think I'm distorting the meaning of those paragraphs by pulling out a few key points:
  • Lying is
    • Speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving
    • the most direct offense against the truth
    • The work of the devil
  • A lie
    • Injures
      • Man's2 relation to
        • Truth
        • His2 neighbor
    • Offends against
      • The fundamental relation to the Lord, of
        • Man
        • Man's word
Basically, 'lying hurts people and we shouldn't do it.'

Setting the Record Straight

Let's say I decide that lying is out of the question, and that I shouldn't even distort the truth. What's left?
"...[senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism and lawyer Wesley J.] Smith said that in order to counteract this dynamic, alternative media 'has to keep setting the record straight' and stay factually accurate in their reporting.

" 'In doing so, it is important that they not engage in the same journalistic malpractice from the other side,' he noted. 'In other words, stick to the facts and don’t engage in the same kind of hype that the pro-embryonic stem cell research media have.'

"Smith also said it's necessary to remind people 'that the field is still young and many of the encouraging adult stem cell successes constitute early experimentation.'..."

"Critic points out media bias against adult stem cells"
Marianne Medlin, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (November 25, 2011)
I think Wesley J. Smith probably had outfits like CNA (Catholic News Agency) in mind, when he said "alternative media." Smith's advice can be applied to 'alternative-alternative media,' too. Like this blog.

Information Technology, Freedom, and Me

Information technology has taken 'getting published' out of the hands of a relatively small number of the 'better sort.' These days, just about anybody can set up a blog and start 'publishing' their views: even this middle-aged guy living in central Minnesota.

This opening of the 'marketplace of ideas' to folks who don't know the 'right people,' say the 'proper' things, or have the 'correct' beliefs, is a mixed blessing. Online, I can get access to:
  • The Bible
  • Pornography
  • The 'bookstore'
    • That sells stuff from appliances to watches
  • Photos of rabbits
  • Up-to-date, detailed, weather information
  • Poorly-drawn cartoons
  • Blogs
    • Like this one
    • That aren't anything like this one
This is most emphatically not the America I grew up in. And I like it.

That's not the way everybody feels. Quite a few folks like the 'good old days,' when folks like me would probably never get our thoughts and opinions past the information gatekeepers.3

Wanting to maintain the status quo can make folks to odd things: like when the Christian Coalition and Feminist Majority joined forces. They wanted a government agency to decide who was allowed to put stuff online: and who was allowed to see it. I'm not making that up.

Happily, we're still allowed to speak our minds.

And that's another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 I've gotten the distinct impression that the Church doesn't approve of "unjust injury," even when it's the sort that doesn't leave a bruise:
"Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:
  • of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
  • "of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279
  • "of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them."
(Catechism, 2477)
2 The word "man" is three letters long. The phrase "all human kind, regardless of race, creed, color, gender, lifestyle choices, economic status, or sex," isn't. Like it or not, "man" and "he" are recognized English usage to mean "all people," and "some generic person." I've done time in American academia, am glad I'm out, and am not about to start writing things like "siblinghood of person," when there's a simpler, saner, way of getting an idea across.

This excerpt says about the same thing, but more diplomatically:
"...When the meaning of the Greek is inclusive of both sexes, the translation seeks to reproduce such inclusivity insofar as this is possible in normal English usage, without resort to inelegant circumlocutions or neologisms that would offend against the dignity of the language...." (Preface the Revised Edition of the New Testament)
3 An information gatekeeper is someone who controls access to information. Traditional information gatekeepers in America included:
  • Newspaper editors
  • Teachers and organizations of teachers
  • Leaders of colleges and universities
  • Entertainment industry executives
  • Publishers of books and magazines
I discussed the declining influence of traditional information gatekeepers in another blog:


Brigid said...

Stutter: "Would this be be wrong?"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Oops. I do that sort of thing a lot.

Fixed, and thanks!

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.