Tuesday, March 29, 2016
The Lie of the Invisibility of the Media
I am rather ashamed to admit that I only became aware of the recent terrorist attacks in Iraq, Turkey, and Pakistan sometime after Easter Eve. Yet the news last week of the attack on Brussels dominated the news to the exclusion of all other stories that day. It is somewhat depressing that while the BBC did report these attacks, they were not as obviously reported, presumably because they were so far away. That's not an excuse on my part - the information is there but I needed to look for it.
However, I have noticed the BBC being quite selective in what it reports. Some reports about the junior doctors' strike made it seem that the doctors were striking over a reasonable adjustment to overtime. In fact, reading the new contract, it rendered those doctors dependent on overtime payments worse off. For many doctors, it represents a significant pay cut! This fact was not as loudly reported as the Minister's defence that the new contract is reasonable.
I do have friends in journalism and I know them to be reputable and responsible. Yet, it does seem that mainstream media is not as reliable as people would want. Is this The Lie? Well, everyone knows that the Media is not as infallible as they are led to believe, don't they?
I once took part in a reality television show in which I had to guide some inexperienced twenty-somethings around the business of teaching. The two blokes were pleasant and actually quite hard-working despite being plunged in the deep end into a difficult profession. For all of the valiant attempts of these two individuals, the programme makers chose to show them as workshy, indolent and generally stupid which was rather unfair. In this case, the reality being portrayed by the Media was markedly different from my experience.
Part of the problem is that, when we watch reality on television, the Media are generally invisible. We forget that we are observing reality through someone else's point of view - a point of view that is carefully constructed to make whatever appears to be happening to be taken as actually happening. When the credits fly, we only pay attention to the main cast and crew and forget the others who have helped to shape that vision. We're used to seeing the subject of paintings as 3D despite the fact that they have to be 2D. That's not a pair of parallel lines, it's two lines meeting on a horizontal line called "the horizon". That's not a cube, that's a carefully shaded hexagon. Paintings give us an illusion of what's there: the reality is much different!
At the moment, all the news I seem to be getting is some increasingly unpleasant back and forth argumentation for and against the presidential candidates in the forthcoming US election. Such are the allegations about each candidate that it appears that none are suitable for one of the most powerful positions in the World. I now have so little confidence in the reports that I consider the Media to be thoroughly unreliable in putting forward anything that pertains to the truth. I may not have a vote, but I should have an interest in who might be playing in a key position in the political arena.
Likewise, I cannot trust the British media with regard to the forthcoming EU referendum. There are too many opinions presented as facts, and suppositions presented as certainties. We have no idea what the exit from the EU might look like any more than we have an idea as to what staying in would do. I have come to the same conclusion as the Scots and think we would be better together, but I cannot trust the facts and figures that I am given. Sometimes the journalists don't ask the right questions: sometimes the politicians answer questions that have never been asked.
The Lie is that facts about the world are not presented in a vacuum. We do need to think about sources and methods before we allow ourselves to be convinced. I believe the Gospels because their writers could gain nothing from what they wrote. I distrust modern biblical scholars because they do have something to gain - reputation and accolades for exposing "the Myth". In most cases ( if not all) their scholarship is rooted in opinion and arguments from silence.
We must listen to what the Media says in order to learn about what is going on. We also have to learn how they say it as well. If we don't, the facts we hear will be as illusory as the disappearing bust of Voltaire.