I came across a typically incisive remark by George Orwell, in his 1945 essay “Through a Glass, Rosily.” Orwell’s point is that if you resolve to tell the truth, it may hurt “your side” sometimes. He wonders whether journalists quite grasp the importance of truth-telling above political allegiance. In 1945, left-wing writers thought it necessary to downplay, excuse or ignore the horrific actions of the Soviet Army as it “liberated” Eastern Europe. A writer in Vienna for the Socialist paper Tribune, for instance, incurred a lot of wrathful replies when he reported on Soviet military atrocities. Orwell refers to “a spate of angry letters, which besides calling [the reporter] a fool and a liar . . . also carried the very serious implication that he ought to have kept silent even if he knew he was speaking the truth.”
Whenever A and B are in opposition to each other, anyone who attacks or criticizes A is accused of aiding and abetting B. And it is often true, objectively and on a short-term analysis, that he is making things easier for B. Therefore, say the supporters of A, shut up and don’t criticize: or at least criticize “constructively,” which in practice means favorably. And from this it is only a short step to arguing that the suppression and distortion of known facts is the highest duty of a journalist.
Plus ça change!
Modern journalism is all about deciding which facts the public shouldn't know because they might reflect badly on Democrats.
— I got your #Unity right here (@jtLOL) August 18, 2014
Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) September 26, 2014