On a deeper level, I don’t accept that title anymore. I don’t believe in nonfiction anymore. And as a result of that I don’t think anyone else should, obviously. I think it exists because at one point in our lives, in the universe, there was a story, and then the decision was made, probably as part of the enlightenment, that we should divide stories into fiction and nonfiction. Which has come in our age to mean fake and not fake, and you can even tell by its name that “not fake” is trying too hard.
I’m really interested in the myth of objective journalism and the myth of objectivity, and I think that that mythology, especially in America, is a potent poison and it’s a huge part of why our journalism is so fundamentally fucked up and our public discourse is fucked up. If we accepted and understood that there is no true objectivity, that people who write always have a point of view and, in fact, they probably should, then we can start having a valid conversation about who holds what kind of point of view. You clarify what your point of view is instead of pretending that you have no point of view.
For me, the scandal has been clarifying about a large number of things. I honestly thought about these things, but I didn’t think about them as deeply as I had in the last year. I’m working on a monologue now about journalism that we’ll have in the next couple of years, but I think it’s going to delve into a lot of these things.
There’s something about our essential American nature, there’s something about our Puritanism that makes the myth of objectivity really enchanting. . . . I think it has something to do with Edward R. Murrow and the supremacy of the television and its monopoly on our imagination. . . . I think it’s forged this very top-down relationship, and I think it’s really fucked. It’s when we shift that things become really, incredibly open and interactive. Things that are open and interactive, I think, are in journalism’s best interests, to figure out what’s working. Or we can do it just like we do now, so anytime anything happens, there’s a scandal.
Every journalism scandal’s the same, and it’s absolute. The person who’s an actual journalist says they don’t have enough jobs in their field. . . . and the object of the scandal is never going to have a job again and be set on fire and killed, and then no one ever talks to that person again, ever, and so there’s no danger that anyone will learn anything from anything that’s happened, and everyone marches forward blindly into the future. We need a new system right now. It’s super crazy.
It’s super puzzling to me about how much hand-wringing there’s been over the past decade or so about this very subject. How is it that people are equally outraged and shocked every time someone makes something up? I was amazed by Jonah Lehrer. Everyone had to write equivalency articles. But his situation was]wildly different. I do theater, this guy writes a science book. I conflated these things and then changed this other thing, but actually the facts of the labor situation are the same. Then, on the other side, they’re like, “Lehrer said Bob Dylan said things,” but no one really gives a shit what Bob Dylan said.