Monday, September 15, 2008

FACT OR FICTION?

Alaskans are the first to complain when people Outside don't "get it right" about our state. But there's a lot more than geography at stake as the line between fact and fiction blurs.

We used to think we knew. Books from reputable publishers, newspapers (other than tabloids), and stuff filed as non-fiction in the library - that was Truth, vetted and substantiated. But in the Information Age, entertainment and political purposes trump facts. We're inundated with information from blogs and tabloids and 24/7 cable channels owned by entertainment giants. You don't have to look far for evidence that the current occupants of the White House have taken every advantage of avenues for creating and promoting their own versions of Truth.

With Sarah Palin thrust in the national limelight, distortions fly hard in Alaskan faces. Our governor still claims she told Congress "thanks but no thanks" to that Bridge to Nowhere. She told almost 40 million people we've got a natural gas pipeline under construction. Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell and former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, among others, chide Obama campaign for the Troopergate mess, even though every non-comatose Alaskan knows it began more than a month before McCain made his VP pick, with a Republican majority overseeing the investigation.

As people turn selectively to news sources they agree with, and as these distortions (dare we call them lies?) are repeated, they become accepted as "truth." In the midst of this perfect storm, along comes J. Frank Prewitt's self-pubbed Bridge to Nowhere, subtitled an "FBI confidential source account of Alaska's political corruption scandal."

Not having read the book yet, I can't comment on its quality or value. What's of interest is that Prewitt, according to Sunday's ADN, categorizes his book as "creative nonfiction," going on to say he replicates scenes "in a way that enables people's mind [sic] to step into the picture and have a good time."

Authors, what's your take on this definition of creative non-fiction? Readers, what sort of Truth do you expect when taking up a book like Prewitt's? How about Prewitt's decision to self-publish, admitting to typos and all, because he wanted to get it out in time for the election?

And finally, from teachers, I'd love to hear if media literacy is taught in any substantial way. Given the narrow onus of No Child Left Behind, my guess is it's not. Which means, information-wise, we've got lots more to worry about than whether some folks still think we live in igloos.

No comments: