View from nowhere

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The term "view from nowhere" originates in Thomas Nagel's 1989 book The View from Nowhere in which he discusses Objectivity, Subjectivity, and how they relate. Later this phrase got used to describe a complex, widespread, particular kind of conflict of interest in media ethics, specifically between being objective and informative. It refers to journalism and analysis that disinform the audience by creating the impression that opposing parties to an issue have equal correctness and validity, even when the truth of their claims are mutually exclusive and easily verifiable.

Meaning (in Journalism)[edit]

The noble goal of objective and unbiased reporting ("just the facts"), leaves decisions about the meaning and value of a news report up to the audience. But sometimes the facts of a particular story can have only one particular set of meanings. In such a case, a journalist must clearly define what facts are members of this set, and what beliefs are not a member of this set.

A journalist who excludes relevant pieces of information from the set of true facts is telling a lie of omission. If the audience had all the missing data, it would reach a different conclusion. A journalist who strives for objectivity may fail to exclude popular and/or widespread untrue claims and beliefs from the set of true facts. A journalist who has done this has taken The View From Nowhere. This harms the audience by allowing them to draw conclusions from a set of data that includes untrue possibilities. It can create confusion where none would otherwise exist. Taking The View From Nowhere is a passive act. It is a consequence of what the journalist does not do. It can occur with lazy or sloppy reporting just as easily as the active self-censorship of legitimate criticism. By broadcasting a View From Nowhere to many people, the truth possibility set (with erroneous inclusions) is actively (re-)confirmed over and over again to the audience. This leads large groups of people to make bad decisions.

A journalist who knows his bosses, station, or network are biased may self-censor, thus producing the "View from Nowhere" in an otherwise honest journalist who wants to protect his employment.

Politicians who benefit from bad "The View From Nowhere" journalism may grant more access to the bad journalist responsible, thus crowding out good journalists, leading to a disinformed public, and bad public policy that harms everyone.

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