It’s a tricky thing, this truth stuff. What may seem truthful to some people is rubbish to others. And vice versa.
Being in the news business, I’m amazed at the calls and emails we get from people claiming we are skewing the news to one side or the other. Often, people will send links to obscure websites with alleged truths we in the media have “failed to cover.” Usually it’s accompanied by swear words and — sometimes — threats of bodily harm. It’s typically stuff you’d find in the tabloids at the supermarket and have no basis in fact.
I know the people that do local news in my TV station. I can tell you first-hand there’s no conspiracy or attempt to skew the news. If it comes off that way sometimes, it’s because somebody made a mistake and not some great plan.
The fact of the matter is that telling the truth sometimes pisses people off. These days, I find that people are more interested in validation of their arguments than hearing another side or in hearing the truth.
Not only do we get anger when we report something that’s wrong (and we should), but we often get criticized for NOT reporting things — whether they are true or not.
Ask yourself these questions that the Fairleigh Dickerson University pollsters asked:
- Is Barack Obama hiding something about his background and early life?
67% of Trump supporters say yes.
- Is Trump refusal to release his tax returns (so far) an indication it would show close financial ties to Russia?
86% of Clinton supporters said yes.
- Did Clinton know the Benghazi attacks on US personnel were going to happen and did nothing about it?
90% of Trump supporters said it’s possible.
Yet, none of these allegations have ever proven to be true… although some people will say I’m lying just by not admitting they are true.
So making sure fake news isn’t reported would sometimes mean not allowing items that a majority of people think is true — even if it’s not true. See the problem? Sometimes, by not reporting on rumors or items we can’t independently confirm — people say we are hiding the truth or spreading lies… even if we aren’t the ones reporting it.
Or try these on:
- Did President Bush know about the 9/11 attacks before they happened?
40% think it’s likely or possible.
- Were the shootings of school children at Sandy Hook faked to gain support for gun control?
24% say yes.
“Believing that Sandy Hook was faked is the most outrageous of all the conspiracies we asked about. Yet, roughly a fifth of Americans think it’s at least possible.” — Dan Cassino, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and an analyst for the PublicMind poll
Here’s another one: Is the US government letting drugs flourish in inner cities as a way to control or imprison minority groups?
You’d think truth would be easy. It’s not. Often, we don’t know the truth. What we know is what we’re told by the experts… and even they disagree. The real truth is that in many cases, the answer is in shades of gray and there may not be agreement. People, however, want definitive answers. I do, too. But life is messy and sometimes, it’s not as simple as yes-it-is or no-it-isn’t. And sometimes, we just don’t know.
Is global warming real?
I’ll bet you‘ve already made up your mind, but even some of the world’s top scientists don’t completely agree… and even those that do believe aren’t certain what can be done to stop it. And if you think the debate’s settled, why are there more than 4.5 million entries on the internet debating the subject?
Like I said, the truth is a tricky thing. Just ask the 12 million people that think we’re being ruled by lizard people or the 21 million that think the moon landing was faked.
I’m not naive enough to think the media doesn’t get it wrong on occasion. I’m sure I’ve shared things on social media that wouldn’t pass the truth test. But if you believe the lizards are in control, I can’t help you. Or maybe I’m just saying that the make our lizard overlords happy. Your call.