sifting the words

I have decided that reading the news in America is like listening to Gollum. Gandalf:

“What I have told you is what Gollum was willing to tell – though not, of course, in the way I have reported it. Gollum is a liar, and you have to sift his words. For instance, he called the Ring his ‘birthday-present’, and he stuck to that. He said it came from his grandmother, who had lots of beautiful things of that kind. A ridiculous story. I have no doubt that Sméagol’s grandmother was a matriarch, a great person in her way, but to talk of her possessing many Elven-rings was absurd, and as for giving them away, it was a lie. But a lie with a grain of truth.”

Every time I read a news story I ask a series of questions:

  • Whom is this account trying to please?
  • Whom or what is it afraid of?
  • What pre-existing narrative is it meant to confirm?
  • What conclusions is it trying to prevent me from drawing?
  • From what inconvenient truths is it meant to distract me?
  • What is the “grain of truth” to be plucked from all the lies and distortions?