Today, I am reading the book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate. In Chapter 1, the author talks about the press industry in the 18th century:
The newspapers of eighteenth-century America were raggle-taggle affairs, nothing like the highly capitalized metropolitan press known to us. ... The papers were highly partisan, the editors often political party men. ... There was little pretense of objectivity.
When I saw pretense means "a way of behaving that is intended to deceive people," I had the following reasoning of the sentence's meaning in my mind:
- Alrighty. Since "pretense" means the above, so I thought "pretense of objectivity" means "a way of behaving to deceive people so that people would believe there was objectivity".
- I usually interpret "little" as "almost no".
- Therefore, I thought the whole sentence was trying to state that "there was almost no such deceiving behavior." In other words, that means, back to the 18th century, the newspapers didn't have to deceive people to make them believe they had objectivity in the news.
- Then why did the newspapers at that time didn't deceive their readers? There can be two cases, in my opinion:
- There was almost no objectivity in the news but the newspapers didn't care about the readers' feelings, so they never bother to make an effort to deceive the readers.
- There was objectivity in the news so it made no sense for the newspapers to "deceive the readers to make them believe so" because the reality was already that way.
But when I looked at the Chinese version of this book, the translation means the case #1: there was almost no objectivity. When we look back at the context of this sentence ("The papers were highly partisan"), it also makes a lot of sense that "There was little pretense of objectivity" means "there was almost no objectivity".
So why should this sentence be understood as the first meaning, whereas I think the second meaning is also possible? Which part was I wrong about?
I totally understand that learning a language is not like learning math or logic. But sometimes I have to learn the individual words first, then put them together and try to figure out the meaning using logic. Obviously, it didn't work quite well in this sentence.