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April 11, 2012

[Bumped] Juking the Stats at Buchenwald: "Fake but true is the fork in the road to fake but false." -- J. Wilson

Edward R. Murrow radio broadcast from Buchenwald on April 15, 1945
"There surged around me an evil-smelling stink, men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing...."

Contrary to Murrow's description of the prisoners,
photographs of the Buchenwald concentration camp, taken after the liberation, show that the prisoners were not dressed in rags. Buchenwald was completely surrounded by a dense forest, just as it is today, and the green fields could not be seen from the camp.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at April 11, 2012 2:18 PM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

Your point being? I'm not sure what the intention of this post is. That Buchenwald "wasn't so bad"?

Posted by: LauraS at April 11, 2012 9:54 AM


No. Just pointing out, in passing, that even the "Saints" of the mainstream media were not above telling lies for the sake of their "narrative."

I just don't always like to be so explicit.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 11, 2012 10:10 AM

Fake but true is the fork in the road to fake but false.

Posted by: james wilson at April 11, 2012 10:26 AM

Updating with that quotable comment. Thanks.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 11, 2012 10:56 AM

During that era Edward R. Murrow, like Gabriel Heatter and later on, Walter Cronkite were considered to be trustworthy newsmen.

Of course they had a product to sell, along with their covert personal agendas.

Posted by: Rocky at April 11, 2012 11:05 AM

Why is the truth about evil not sufficient for some people?

Posted by: Don Rodrigo at April 11, 2012 11:17 AM

Fake but accurate has a long history. Edward R. Murrow did a hatchet job on McCarthy. He was a typical liberal willing to lie for the truth.

Posted by: Ray at April 11, 2012 1:00 PM

I'd advise everyone interested in this sort of thing to check out documentarian Errol Morris's blog at the New York Times. Regardless of his personal politics, he's a thoughtful commentator on issues of the meaning of "fact" and "objectivity" in reporting.

I'm not sure whether Morrow in this instance, or other "fake but true" acolytes, are always entirely conscious of their distortions. Journalists aren't scientists or engineers. Their minds and skillset are closer to that of authors and poets. Confronted by the carnage he witnessed, how clear-headed and precise in his observations and recollections should we expect him to have been?

The great misfortune of the Nazis was that they were evil and brutal in the service of ideals that were already passing out of vogue in their day. The Soviets, in contrast, were evil and brutal in the service of ideals with much broader and lasting appeal.

Posted by: Umbriel at April 11, 2012 1:30 PM

I have no problem with Umbriel's point that journalists are not scientists or engineers -- so long as journalists are willing to admit it. The journalist who claims objectivity is lying and attempting to deceive the hearer or reader. Admit your point of view upfront and offer your support for it. But don't insult my intelligence -- such as it is -- by insisting that you have no agenda.

I ain't askin' for much.

Posted by: mushroom at April 11, 2012 2:24 PM

OK, so he had to take the raw observations, and craft them into a finely polished report, that fit the constraints of the medium, conveyed the essential information, and did not bore the listeners. His report had to be literary, not rigorously factual. What he was selling was words: good words, dramatic words, words that captured the listeners attention. Truth, not facts. Truth manufactured from facts.

"Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will..."

Posted by: John A. Fleming at April 11, 2012 3:47 PM

Tangentially, how is it that the reviled Mr. Lucas, so lustily dissed by all of geekdom and serious actors, was able to come with all these quotable lines?

Posted by: John A. Fleming at April 11, 2012 4:02 PM

I'm not buying the journalist as poet crock. A journalist's job is finding and reporting facts. Or, once was. My first thought on reading this was, "Is the ability to lie easily a prerequisite for journalism school?"

Posted by: bilpu at April 11, 2012 4:02 PM

I didn't associate journalists with poets because I thought it should be their aspiration -- I meant that the people attracted to, and equipped to succeed at, that career are the ones skilled at word craft, not necessarily those with good analytical skills and dispassionate fair-mindedness. Similarly, careers in politics select for people who are good at marketing themselves as solvers of public problems (regardless of whether they actually have any relevant skills or the whether the problems are actually solvable). I wish it were different, but that's the natural process.

And I strongly believe that anyone who thinks journalism used to be more objective and/or honorable is merely being deceived by the journalistic profession's habit of romanticizing itself. It's not that things have gotten substantively worse, it's simply that we see it more clearly with the crumbling of the post-WWII media old-boy network/mutual admiration society.

Posted by: Umbriel at April 11, 2012 5:55 PM

You are absolutely right. Journalism was never objective, but it used to be that newspapers, for example, were often even named according to affiliation -- the "Globe Democrat" was the Democrat paper in St. Louis. The Post Dispatch, we expected, was more Republican.

But when it became the Nightly News on television, and Walter Cronkite became the most trusted man in American, journalism began to deny any bias or point of view.

They showed us the pictures so obviously it was true. But it wasn't. They still had to tell us what the pictures meant. They didn't show us what happened outside the frame. And thus journalism became leftist propaganda.

Posted by: mushroom at April 11, 2012 6:30 PM

"Buchenwald was completely surrounded by a dense forest"

So why did Edward R. Murrow lie? Probably because he wanted to "prove" that it was impossible for any Germans to not know what was happening at the camp. It wasn't enough for some Germans to be genocidal Nazis, all had to be guilty. Sort of like why NBC News altered the Zimmerman 911 recording.

Posted by: Anonymous at April 11, 2012 7:28 PM

So we have come full circle from where papers showed their affiliations by name to the world of the blogs. Should they be required to name their affiliation?

Posted by: Peccable at April 12, 2012 2:19 AM

I think most bloggers tend to wear their preferences on their sidebars or headers. But maybe that's just my own prejudice showing. In other words, people who mostly agree with me are conservative or libertarian. People who don't are collectivists.

Posted by: mushroom at April 12, 2012 7:39 AM

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