June 21, 2002
Killing me mildly:
Lies, untruths and omissions

In the morning I sometimes put on WQXR. The elegant Classical music is soothing, reassuring. The commercials about hospitals and stockbrokers introduce subliminally a disturbing element. And then there's The News.

WQXR is "the radio station of The New York Times" and it proudly brings you its news from "the news room of The New York Times." Those mini-reports are immaculately scrubbed, free of the slightest tinge of anything that might disturb the mood of the station's targeted audience of retirees. In a most genteel and subdued manner it talks about Ariel Sharon's latest conquest of mass murder as a "terror response campaign." It is so perfectly mild, it is utterly free of anything that would interrupt the flow of bran and Kava down the throat. You can't smell the blood or hear the screams. It is almost utterly devoid of the truth.

I can never hear that kind of "news" without thinking of Orwell in the Spanish Civil War watching the Russian communist infiltrators who were there to influence the course of the war by spreading false stories about how the war was progressing. Orwell watched them with great curiosity because, he said, it was the first time he had seen people whose actual job was just to tell lies, "unless," he said, "you count journalists."

--David Cogswell