|Bayeux Tapestry (detail, the Death of Harold)|
The Chicago Sun-Times has the largest circulation of any newspaper in America.
Bigger than the New York Times. Or the Washington Post.
In fact, bigger than those two put together.
Do you believe that?
Because it isn't true.
I wrote the first line as an example of bias. Were I to sincerely insist the above were true, you would rightly assume that I was doing so because I work there, and was waving the flag for the home team, regardless of the facts, under the mistaken notion that such exaggeration made me look better.
It doesn't. Yet people still do this. A lot. Why? Wounded ego. Fear. Cravenness. They feel small—Flash! We're all small—and want to puff themselves up bigger than they actually are.
We see this continually in our president, spouting self-adoring nonsense because he wants to appear bigger than he is (a reminder that self-esteem has nothing to do with externals. He's rich and famous and the president of the United States. You'd think that would be enough. It obviously is not).
Look at the gruesome torture/murder early last month of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It was clear from the get-go that the killing was approved by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was assassinated at the Saudi Embassy in Turkey by thugs imported ahead of time for that task.
The idea that it was some rogue operation, as Donald Trump first suggested, was ludicrous. But suggest this patent bullshit he did, the beginning of one of the more appalling threads of our president's Bayeux Tapestry of lies and evasions.
Why? Donald Trump despises the media, because the free press takes his various lies and missteps and hangs them out in public, like a housewife stringing laundry along a clothesline, for all to see, faded and repulsive in the light of truth.
And Trump loves despots like the crown prince.
Plus the Saudis buy lots of expensive suites in Trump hotels. And arms too.
So even after his own CIA—oh, Trump also hates American intelligence agencies because, like the press, they keep track of his missteps—points out the obvious: of course the prince ordered the killing, Trump clings to his fictions, the way he babbles about forest floor maintenance so as not to point out the obvious, that the California fires have a connection to global warming.
Bias makes you stupid, or seem stupid. In trying to look better than you deserve you look worse, as bad as you actually are. Admitting your flaws mitigates them.
This is why responsible people—journalists, leaders, anybody—recognize that the world as it is and the world as they would wish it to be are two very separate things, and embrace reality because it's what we're stuck with.
The Chicago Sun-Times, by the way, is in fact the 35rd biggest newspaper in the country, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. In my view that's plenty.