From an email from Mother Jones:
You can’t make this up.
During congressional hearings about an attempted coup built entirely on lies—hearings where we learned chilling facts about how too many people who knew the truth failed to defend it—it was easy to miss a small bit of news in the field of journalism that speaks volumes.
The new head of one of America’s—and the world’s—most powerful news organizations frowns on his staff using the term “the Big Lie.” No, this is not an Onion headline. It is exactly the kind of performative detachment that has done a lot to get us into this mess to begin with.
News should be fair, and it should be truthful. That seems a pretty basic formulation that people who care about journalism can agree on. And it does mean that journalists should avoid language crafted by spin doctors and propagandists (my favorite might be the classic effort to rebrand sewage as “biosolids”).
But “Big Lie” is not, as CNN head Chris Licht reportedly argues, Democratic Party spin. It’s a term that historians applied to Trump’s insistence that he won the election, drawing on the history of fascism and authoritarianism (Hitler and Goebbels leveled the term against Jewish people and the British government, respectively; the political philosopher Hannah Arendt made clear that it was the Nazis who tore at the “fabric of factuality.”)
It’s true that today, Democrats use the term “Big Lie” and most Republicans do not. But casting that as a partisan disagreement is only accurate inasmuch as one of these parties is in thrall to antidemocratic forces and the other is not. If Democrats were saying the sky is blue and Republicans insisted it is red, should CNN steer clear of stating the color of the sky? (Licht reportedly is also “evaluating” CNN journalists who have confronted Trump’s antidemocratic crusade.)
Journalists need to seek out and explain multiple sides of an argument. But that doesn’t mean we have to play along with rending the fabric of factuality. The facts don’t always become clear if we just listen to what “both sides” are saying. The facts become clear if we listen to…the facts.
And one big fact is that the “Big Lie” is a pretty clear description of what actually happened in the winter of 2020/2021. False equivalence and faintheartedness really fire me up, always have, but I’m going to resist the urge to keep going because Brian, who works with me on these emails, has made clear that I need to stay focused on the task at hand: our fundraising.
It’s not looking great right now, honestly, still with $240,000 left to raise in less than two weeks to finish our fiscal year square. We’re concerned we might end up well short, even if donations pick up like they usually do when a big deadline draws near like June 30. There’s a bit more about what’s on the line in my longer note from a few days ago, which I’ll paste below. I hope you’ll give it a read, and if you can, that you’ll consider making a much-needed and much-appreciated donation to keep our team calling a big lie a big lie. —Monika