I’ve been thinking about the media and the truth after listening to This American Life's show this week, which is devoted to thorough and heartfelt repentance for inadvertently broadcasting a story in which monologist Mike Daisey said things that weren’t true. In contrast to the makers of This American Life, Daisey was, shall we say, non-thorough in his apology. And, as we all know, Daisey is just the latest link in a long chain of non-apologizers.
Such a long chain, in fact, that I think it deserves its own Twitter hashtag:
#circumpentance: Giving a vague approximation of repentance while sidestepping the real issue, often by misusing the word “if” or other rhetorical footwork. For example, Daisey’s statement: "the audience of This American Life … if they feel misled or betrayed, I regret to them as well." (Related term, already in use: #fauxpology.)
Once I got started thinking about this, the media-survival hashtags just started bubbling up. For example:
#confrontationull: The vacuity of facts produced when arguing talking heads crowd out actual reporting on tv news channels. Examples: too numerous to mention. (And see this Columbia Journalism Review articleabout how talking heads are crowding out actual on-the-ground news coverage on cable).
#reportranscript or #repuntage: The practice of news stories giving “balance” by reporting political opponents’ assertions about reality, without also checking in with reality. (The justifiably irate Dean Baker repeatedly mentions examples of this on his Beat the Press blog).
#beyaddafication: When a nontruth is repeated so often by media talking heads that it is accepted as fact. (i.e., the fiction that increased U.S. oil drilling would affect gas prices more than 2 percent).
#idntimwytim: A few people are already using this acronym for Inigo Montoya’s famous line in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Example: Rick Santorum’s statement that his climate change denial is “real science.”
But I bet that’s just the tip of the iceberg on media phenomena that need a name. What hashtags do you see a need for?
Elizabeth Palmberg is an associate editor of Sojourners. She tweets @zabpalmberg.