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:: Monday, August 02, 2004 ::

I have referred to the principle of McElhinney's Media Dictum explicitly in the past eight months at my weblog Rerum Novarum. This is a long-held view of mine with regards to the major media outlets{1} and it may explain to my readers why I do not jump so readily on news stories from the major press not only as fountainheads of wisdom but also as accurate dispensers of facts on issues of a complex nature. The long and short of it is that the media is the last place anyone should expect to find these kinds of issues dealt with in a manner that respects the important variables and nuances that complex subject matter usually entails.

To formulate a working definition of the McElhinney Media Dictum is the purpose of this post. Though it has been paraphrased by me in recent months, if I were to ascribe a definition to the principle, it would read as follows:

The media, particularly the major outlets of the press --their pretensions of being "more enlightened than thou" notwithstanding-- seem almost inexorably to operate on a presuppositional foundation that is equal parts irresponsible fundamentalism and an unproven (but presumed a priori) empiricist outlook. Therefore, the more complex the variables of a particular position, argument, situation, problem, etc., the less they can be trusted to be reliable reporters of said positions, situations, arguments, etc. In summary, the media's propensity for error is in direct proportion to the intricacies of the particular position, argument, situation, problem, etc.{2}

I have seen the above dictum vindicated so frequently throughout my life at sundry times and in divers matters that it has probably moved beyond the classification as a dictum and instead has attained the status of a proverb. Nonetheless, as I have referred to it by the above title for many years, the title will remain what it has been as long as I have had a conscious working notion of the phenomenon. Hopefully the above working definition provides a bit of clarification on understanding this principle and providing for the reader a glimpse into one of the elements that permeate my operative point of view.


{1} This is a view I have had implicitly for most of my life but explicitly it has formed a core part of my outlook on divers issues for about fifteen years.

{2} It should go without saying that this principle also applies to many of the major media outlets of any particular weltanschauung. Generally the more "mainstream" something is, the more simplified and bereft of essential details or nuances it inevitably is or will become. And as they say "God is often in the details."

:: Shawn 2:24 PM [+] ::


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