The Limits of Narrative

Source: Quillette
by James Jeffrey

“‘Lots of color and make it punchy.’ As a journalist I hear this kind of thing a lot from editors, and it’s not necessarily bad advice. It basically means that vivid narratives are a better tool of communication and persuasion than dry analyses that sift inconclusive data and real-world complexity. This is no doubt true, but the upshot is that, before writing begins, a degree of shaping is already occurring that the journalist then compounds when developing a story. Even with the best of intentions, this shaping is necessarily a form of manipulation. In the hands of an intellectually honest writer, that manipulation may be benign. But it can also become an instrument of ideological distortion, especially in a highly polarized climate.” (05/07/22)