How to create trust

It’s easy to say that trust requires truth. But truth is an asymptote, not a binary on/off measure. In any area of life we try to get closer to a useful set of facts and observations, but we never hit the plateau.

Here’s a better and more achievable rule:

In science and in journalism, trust requires METROLOGY.

You need to be perfectly clear about where and how you acquired and measured your data. You need to locate and specify your ground or baseline, and then tell how you measured the departures from baseline.

Above all your baseline MUST BE REAL. You can’t start history in 2020. Permanent parts of Nature and human behavior MUST be considered as permanent, and new things MUST be seen as a departure from the permanent baseline.

I previously mentioned a couple of randomly preserved pieces by Bert Andrews, a newspaperman doing news analysis on radio. In these features he was discussing the backroom maneuvers of the 1948 Repooflican Convention, not an especially important story. Andrews was a CAREFUL METROLOGIST. He told us how he knew each fact, whether he was sure, and why he was sure.

Here’s a slightly later and even better example. Don Hollenbeck subbing for Murrow on Feb 2 ’51.

The main stories are (1) Gradual removal of wage and price controls (2) Rumors that the Korean War would halt at the 38th parallel [which turned out to be true] (3) The atom bomb tests in Nevada.

For each story Hollenbeck tells us the metrology as above, and also tells us the cui bono for each side. Why does side A want us to believe A, and why does side B want us to believe B? On the bomb test story, Hollenbeck gets downright neurological, with an inside look at salience. He says that newsmen had started to treat the tests as baseline data no longer deserving daily updates, but the latest test was sneakily pre-revealed to a photographer in Los Angeles who “accidentally managed” to use the flash as lighting for a picture he was taking. Why did the AEC want to re-salientize this test?

This is a shining (or flashing) example of HOW TO CREATE TRUST. Now we occasionally get this level of analysis from independents like Greenwald. 70 years ago we routinely heard it on mainstream radio BECAUSE IT WAS REQUIRED BY LAW.


Before any of this crap about information, STOP TORTURING US. It doesn’t matter what you tell us as long as you are imprisoning and strangling and disemploying and de-souling and obliterating and killing and squashing and slaughtering us. STOP TORTURING US FIRST.

Then we can talk about information and truth.

= = = = =

Later thought: Hollenbeck was a tragic figure. His painstaking love of truth killed him. He was cautiously uncertain about the need for the Korean war, and cautiously uncertain about the HUAC crap. Murrow was ferociously dogmatically certain about both. War good, McCarthy bad. The Wikipedia bio of Hollenbeck implies that the conflict led to Hollenbeck’s suicide. I wonder if Operation Mockingbird was involved. They recruited and punished with blackmail, and CBS was fully on board with CIA.

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