When Suzi Parker posted her blog in the Washington Post Tuesday, she had no idea that she had strayed into the land of Oz, where things are not what they appear to be. Parker posted her article, “Sarah Palin tries to stay relevant” on her blog site, She the People. She had done her homework as many bloggers do, researching her topic on internet sites. But this time she made the mistake of citing information as factual from a web site that is satirical.
The Daily Currant posted an article February 4, “Sarah Palin to Join Al-Jazeera as Host,” stating, “The former vice presidential nominee confirmed today that she has signed a multi-million dollar deal to host her own shows and to provide commentary on United States issues for Al Jazeera, which is best known for its news coverage of the Middle East.”
The article presents the story with an air credibility, except for some tongue-in-cheek hacks at Palin, such as this quote attributed to the former FOX News commentator, “’As you all know, I’m not a big fan of newspapers, journalists, news anchors and the liberal media in general,’ Palin said. ‘But I met with the folks at Al-JaJizzraa (sic) and they told me they reach millions of devoutly religious people who don’t watch CBS or CNN. That tells me they don’t have a liberal bias.’”
Al-JaJizzraa? Even Palin, known for her quirky comments, would not likely mispronounce the name of her future employer. The entire quote sounds more like a Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) comment from “Parks and Recreation.” It provided a clue that perhaps this web site did not provide trustworthy information.
Parker might have saved herself a lot of grief if she had made just a few more clicks of the mouse. On the Currant‘s home page, under the About tab, we read, “The Daily Currant is an English language online satirical newspaper that covers global politics, business, technology, entertainment, science, health and media. … Our mission is to ridicule the timid ignorance which obstructs our progress, and promote intelligence – which presses forward.” Not the kind of site I would want to use for obtaining factual information.
Dylan Byers uncovered Parker’s faux pas in his article for Politic, “Washington Post erroneously reports Sarah Palin joining Al Jazeera” on the same day Parker’s article appeared. The Post immediately wrote a correction that admitted Parker’s error and removed the false statements from the article.
It seems fairly obvious that those who read the Washington Post expect information that is true, reliable, conforming to fact or reality or the actual state of things. Those who read The Daily Currant, should not expect such information. Truth has a clear demarcation. It is not fuzzy or ambiguous. Palin did not sign a contract with Al Jazeera, nor did she say the things quoted in the article. Not true. Not reality.
Thes story reminds me of the State Farm Insurance commercial where a young woman tells her friend that she did not think State Farm had special apps. Her friend asks her, “Where did you hear that?” “On the internet,” she replies. “And you believed it?” he aks. “Yeah,” she says, “They can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true.” “Where did you hear that?” he asks again. Then in unison they both say, “The internet.”
A slovenly looking man approaches them and the woman explains that she has a date with him. She met him on the internet where he identified himself as a French model. Slouching, unkempt facial hair, slovenly, the man mangles a simple “Bonjour” to reveal to everyone but the woman, who believes in the credibility of the internet, that he is an impostor.
In this case, the definition of truth might be challenged. The woman sincerely believed in the identity of her online date as a French model. Some would say, it was “true for her.” If her date sincerely believed in his constructed online identity, some would argue it was “true for him” as well. Nevertheless, his identity does not conform to reality. Either he is French or he is not. He earns a living by modeling or he does not. Once again, truth has a clear demarcation.
Some people are challenging that line of demarcation. Our love affair with multiculturalism has opened the door for variations on veracity. Is fact or reality a universal criteria for truth or is it merely a Western construction?
Someone recently told me that Western culture defines truth by facts, but some cultures measure truth by sincerity. Some view the Western approach as cold, impersonal and hostile to the intuitive self. It emphasizes the head, minimizing the heart The head can process facts while keeping the heart at arm’s length (or a shorter distance). Therefore, some argue that truth should be defined by its relationship tot he heart rather than the head.
This definition risks enormous danger if taken too far. Truth confined to the heart only can run into severe conflict with reality. Suzi Parker believed with her heart that she was reporting the truth, but her sincere truth did not coincide with Sarah Palin’s reality. Truth for the woman in the State Farm commercial has gripped her heart so that she risks her life in a connection with a man who may in reality be a scam artist or serial killer. What is “true for her” may not be true at all, but only what she wants to be true.
No one believed more sincerely in their construction of truth than did first-century Pharisees. They opposed Jesus with adamant conviction that he threatened that truth, that he originated from the devil (Matt. 12:24).
Jesus confronted them, denouncing their truth as lies. He claimed that they shared the spiritual nature of the devil, who “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The line of demarcation appears vividly in this interchange between Jesus and the Pharisees. They are both claiming that truth conforms to a single reality, but they disagree sincerely over that reality.
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, sent directly by the Father to provide a path of redemption for a fallen world and a sinful human race. That identity was the reality he called truth. The Pharisees claimed he was a heretic, an impostor, an evil man who opposes the Law, Judaism and the truth. That identity was their reality they called truth. The heart had no bearing in deciding the truth or determining reality. It boiled down to the facts of the case, the true identity of Jesus.
We must be very careful in our cultural sensitivity that we do not forfeit a definition of truth that enables to conform our lives with the real world that exists, the world where God has sent his Son to reconcile us to himself, the world where truth is defined by that Son, Jesus.