Media Lies

Fool me once, shame on you;
fool me twice, shame on me.

One of the impressive features of our media society is our access to original information.

I have already written about checking out the original paper if some piece of research is cited. However, the personally most striking recent example was when looking at reports of a conference versus the actual videos of the conference.

Funny thing — with YouTube and the like, everyone can have a look at what was actually said, and how it was said (with the caveat that videos can “lie” as well, but let’s put this aside for the moment). Reporters are no longer the bottleneck of information and the only force that shapes public opinion. Sure, they can easily reach a lot of people, but I wonder how people feel when they find out that they were duped.

There might be the old justification — that news are not supposed to challenge views by the truth, aptly put by Pratchett in this gem:

‘Could I give you a little bit of advice, Mr de Worde?’
‘Please do, sir.’
‘Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things . . . well, new things aren’t what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know that a man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds.’
“The Truth” by Terry Pratchett

or the outright lies that not telling the truth is actually for the greater social good — instead of creating festering tumors that rot society from within. (I’ll save a “You can’t handle the truth!” quotation here ;-)).

But no matter the reason, thing is, whereas traditional and online news media might still have the most direct and widest access to the public, all the public needs to do is show the least bit of curiosity. Then the lies fall apart and the biases become visible. And that lost trust is hard to repair. Perhaps, when the unfortunate time comes and another news medium folds, fewer people will shed tears.

After all, news sites are not only damaging the readers who want actually know what has happened — but themselves. And by the way, even if the reporters only hit the prejudices world-views of their readers and you share this world-view, wouldn’t you rather get a (mostly) unbiased account too? Just transfer the case to sports, would you really want the results of a marathon race between two heads of state reported as: “Our supreme leader made the second place, while the evil foreign devil only made the next-to-last place.”?

In case you are interested, this article by a speaker at a conference refers both to the news story and his presentation — and he provides the video. And given the topic — something that will likely affect 50% of the population if they lose people close to them — it’s even worse that many news reports opted for doing condescending and highly biased (ideology driven) hit pieces.

So don’t trust the media, hell, don’t trust this blog either. Make up your own mind.