Confused about what's going on in the world? Who isn't!
It's not a simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get situation. If there's anything we've learned from the internet it's that we can't just believe everything we see and hear. The internet has shown us clearly that public relations and selective reporting are rampant.
What to do?
- Take everything with a grain of salt…believe half of what you see and none of what you're told.
- Never, ever make decisions based on snippets and sound bytes if you want the truth.
- Follow the money.
The first option still holds true but is getting just a tad more difficult. Why? Because images and videos are only snapshots, they don't necessarily show the whole picture. Two reports, and even two videos, of the same event can be made to project opposing viewpoints. And, they can be fairly easily doctored using sophisticated software. So, if we want to know what "really" happened, we need to do some additional research. Where are we getting those reports, those images? Can we be sure that they're giving the most complete information? Are we sure that they are not slanted and doctored to present just one side?
The second, is a given. A single sound byte or a solitary snippet designed to catch our immediate attention and touch our emotions, is going to be memorable, for sure. And there's no doubt that they will influence us. But we can't rely on that. What is the whole picture? Does that sound byte / snippet include all the various angles? Does it include those who stand to gain and who will be affected? Or is it designed to sway our thinking?
The last, in my opinion, is critical to understanding. Once we know who is behind the information / the visuals and who stands to gain, we can more reliably come to an assessment of events that makes sense. There are two sides of every story, who will profit and who will be affected? Do we know?
Staying on top of current events is time consuming. Unlike history, current events are moving targets. Every day something else happens that changes the picture. Events continue to unfold on a moment-by-moment basis. Those who share the information and we who receive it can only judge based on what we know at any given moment. And, while we need to be aware of this, we also need to watch out for that which we cannot know. We need to be asking questions and looking for what is not being shared.
When we watch too closely and when we accept just what we see and hear as truth without looking further and asking the hard questions, we loose track of the bigger picture. First year journalists and public relations students learn that perception is everything. We readers can't afford to forget this when we seek to understand the news.