The Reveres consider themselves progressives (check the masthead), a word used for people who believe government has a role to play to make the world better, but also tend to be social libertarians. Many scientists and doctors are progressive in that sense. But it’s a mighty big tent, and apparently covers some folks whose politics I agree with on many issues but can still be very far from what progressives also call the “reality based community.” Very far. Far, as in “they can’t see it from where they are.”
Atlanta Progressive News has parted ways with long-serving senior staff writer Jonathan Springston. Apparently, Springston?s affinity for fact-based reporting clashed with Cardinale?s vision.
In an e-mail statement, editor Matthew Cardinale says Springston was asked to leave APN last week ?because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.? (Creative Loafing Blog)
While at first blush this sounds ludicrous, it is more serious than might appear. In the science studies area there have long been warring camps between scholars whose main emphasis is on the role that social ideas play in constructing scientific ideas and the more empirically oriented science community. The Reveres are not in the social-construction-of-reality school because, like most scientists, we adhere to a naive realism: we believe there is a real world out there; it exists independently of our perceptions or ideas of it; and science is one of the ways we gain some idea or knowledge of that world. But we do acknowledge that real science is public and intersubjective and as such has a social component. All science is social in that sense. The history of science is replete with examples of how social, political and ideological notions permeated scientific ideas and theories. But science is also about understanding a real world and has some claims to relating it as it is, not just as scientists or politicians or corporation presidents or workers or the homeless have decided to perceive it for their own purposes.
To their credit the Editors didn’t deny the essential “facts” of the story, if we may be so ironic. Here is part of their statement:
At a very fundamental, core level, Springston did not share our vision for a news publication with a progressive perspective. He held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News. It just wasn?t the right fit.
We believe there is no such thing as objective news. Typically, mainstream media presents itself as objective but is actually skewed towards promoting the corporate agenda of the ultra-wealthy.
APN, on the other hand, does not pretend to be objective. We believe that our news coverage is fair and that our progressive principles are fair. We aim when possible to give voice to all sides, but aim to provide something different than what is already provided by corporate sources.?
It is a forthright and honest statement of conviction, but one we can’t share, even as we share APN’s desire for a country with “universal health care, living wages, affordable housing, peace, a healthy environment, and voting systems we can trust.” APN’s charges against the mainstream media are accurate. There is ample evidence the MSM is heavily influenced by corporate interests and have a long and dismal history of shaping the news to suit their paymasters. We don’t see the solution, however, as shaping the news to shape another interest, even if that interest is our own. It is our belief that everyone’s interest is best served, in the long run, by representing and recounting events in the real world — a world we believe exists independently of us and which we can know — in as accurate and faithful fashion as humanly possible. That can be difficult and any effort to do so is certainly fallible.
But if APN’s claim there is no such thing as objective reporting is true — and we aren’t even sure what it would mean for something to be “true” in their world — then there is no such thing as science, either.