An Essay on Truth

November 15, 2019

I’m not a slave to objectivity. I’m never quites sure what it means. And it means different things to different people. ~ Peter Jennings


         Marx defines truth to be an objective concept. If that is so, is there a contradiction between honesty and truth? Can it be thus considered for an error to be an honest untruth? Then what is the very role of objective here? Objectivity, in a certain sense, elucidates a conception of fairness, factuality, and the presence of these elements making it more reliable. Objectivity has often been the underlying proposition of journalism, and the belief that objectivity in itself as pure is temperament to the spirit of freedom and democracy. Though most journalists, including Peter Jennings, had earlier vouched for objectivity in presentation of anything true and honest, they’ve had to fall away from its clutches with the introduction of new media houses and other news spaces[1]. However, the existence of objectivity without a subjective counterpart is unthinkable. This paper, will to the extent of the said comment, delve into the term objectivity and its relativity with subjectivity and its very existence in contemporary times.

Truth, Objectivity, and Subjectivity:

There has been much debate regarding the definition of the term objectivity and its uses in contemporary times. Raymond Williams defines 'objective' as something derived from the object, as put in front of the mind or simply as itself. This definition of objective is minimal and strictly provisional to the thought that objective is fair-minded and true. The term objective means what one views as one sees it. However, the subtlety lies in the connection between objective and truth. The essential contention to think about as a precursor to the above statement is the exact meaning of 'truth.' The term truth has often fondled itself in the clutches of philosophical debate. The answer to the meaning was sought through various lenses, but the famous neo-classical theory of correspondence evaluates truth as a considerate point in reality[2]. Truth corresponds to a specific existence of reality but is often charred by the inputs of subjective thought in deciding the veracity of truth. The correspondence theory also relates truth with something real identified as a 'fact.'

Nevertheless, is an objective connotation supported by a fact or truth? Or is the meaning of the term objective in itself perceived as a subjective validation of reality? The confusion in deriving the exact relation between objective, subjective, truth, and real forces for one to look into the theories of each of these terms. Subjective are derivations from a source of 'subject.' The term subjective is the creation of impressions and influences of personal feelings rather than facts and actualities. The term involves the viewing of a particular question in hand through the senses of a particular thought of opinion. The idea that one's own opinions and biases influence something is the creation point for subjectivity. It is the starting point of influencing a particular fact/question using one's thought processes. It encompasses an understanding that objectivity cannot always guarantee the truth and subjective is not necessarily always wrong, perception is the valid key to the truth. The idea that objective and subjective overlap in forming the validations of truth, the most crucial realization is that objective and subjective are entangled predicaments in defining the term 'truth.' However, if there exists subjective truth, then the question of objective truth does not stand value. To understand better the undermining effect subjectivity has on truth, a movie may be suitable for one and bad for another. However, the individual believes that it is good or bad aligns with one's perception. The overshadowing of the subjective and objective equation in understanding the truth in itself raises multiple objections to the very existence of truth.  Peter Jennings' words that he is no slave to subjectivity is an irony to the preachings of journalism. The belief that objective truth is available to the world all alike and subjective truth only to the extent of the subject's validation and both remaining a key to determining the very existence of truth. But, the journalistic perception and its focus on presenting objective truth are material to comparing the biased media houses and functionaries. Something objective can be influenced by subjective thought leading to the belief that objective can be measured in terms of subjectivity, and the two are interpreted to mean variations as in the understanding of their exact definitions. A belief that a particular understanding is subjective to oneself and objective to another creates the misunderstanding as to the very meaning these terms connote. To end, the terms objective, subjective and truth are intricate in terms of their uses and each term affects the definitions of the other.

Contemporary Evaluations:
                 Media and its implications in distorting truth have had colossal misinterpretations in favour of and against particular issues in contention. The powerful impact in having objectivity as the beginning clutches of journalism remains the providing of the ultimate truth to the people with factually accurate and correct information. Nevertheless, in recent days, objective truth has been converted into propaganda through the biased use of media. The election of Donald Trump, Brexit and the sudden surge in the patriotic films in India has always been pivotal to the understanding of truth and propaganda. The loss of objectivity and its replacement by subjective lensing has resulted in the much dilution of truth perception. Truth has gotten lost in the clutches of subjective and distorted media houses, and the lack of objectivism is the usually held criticism. Jenning's has long been accused of bias in media reporting. Peter Jenning's most blatant biases included his untowardness toward Israel and extreme expression of anger against certain political personalities. The idea of subjectivity has by long crept into media houses and the divisions between Fox News, and CNN has been the most significant political drifting of media houses in the United States. The re-delivery of truth by adding an element of subjectivity has resulted often in 'bias-reporting.'  These include the Russian involvement in the US Presidential elections, the constant and reinvigorating social media campaigns to influence truth and pass over alternate truth resulting in the Brexit vote. The importance that objectivity plays in journalism has now primarily affected the prominence and reduced trust in such institutions. Yet, the meanings of these terms and their impacts have committed to the understanding of the finalities and intricacies faced by such media houses. The presence of objective truth and the perception of reading such objective truth results in a complete misconception. Though these media houses have had dire and impactful participation in the functioning of democracy, it becomes crucial for the recipient of such information to view it in the objective sense it was intended to be passed over and not otherwise.

         'Objective or absolute truth is the fittingly idiotic counter-image to subjective truth, namely the image of an existing truth fixed independently of human reasoning.' The three terms are often questions of debate, and the engaging points of these terms have led to the idea that truth is influenced by objectivity and subjectivity. Nevertheless, the degree of impact these three terms have had is clearly in consonance to the implications it has had on understanding the exactness of truth. Truth is an objective phenomenon but perceived by an individual through a subjective lens. The veracity of truth can be better understood by the use of objective lenses. It all comes down to one’s right perception about truth and how one subjectively understands an objective truth. Thus, Jennings’ belief to not stand slave to objectivity resonates on the currently existing structures of media and political perceptions and his untoward attitude towards staying committed to this principal of objective correctness makes journalism an opinionated presentation of truth.

[1] Just the Facts: How "Objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism By David T.Z. Mindich

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