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Confessions of a Realistic Pollyanna

Listening for the voices

In the movie, "Miracle on 34th Street" Santa Claus is put on trial in a sanity hearing. One of the witnesses called to the stand is Tommy Mara Junior, the son of the District Attorney. He is asked by the judge if he knows what telling the truth is. Tommy replies well everyone knows that. It is wrong to tell a lie.

A course I took a few years back was called Behaviourial Economics. In it I learned a few startling things. Almost everyone thinks they are completely honest. And yet the professor showed that almost everyone lies at some point. We exaggerate. We tell white lies not to hurt people's feelings. We conveniently forget parts of stories. Some people plump up their resumes. We lie about our age or our weight. We don't admit to taking the biggest piece of chocolate. For the most part these lies are harmless. But occasionally these lies hurt others. When was the last time you told a white lie to spare someone's feelings?

Lying in the media has become a big issue these days. News networks are accused of skewing topics one way or the other to make the case for one politician over another. Politicians have been accusing certain media outlets of spreading false news. This is not a new thing. I remember my home town paper in Moose Jaw. It was a conservative paper. If it liked a certain politician, photos were run that showed the best sides of that politician. If the newspaper disfavoured another politician, the pictures that were run of that politician were always unflattering. It was a not so subtle way for the paper to editorialise their political views.

I think we get misled by the media in what types of stories are reported on in the media. Stories about ISIS bombings in London and Manchester got lots of airtime in the past few weeks. Regular programming was stopped to report on the carnage. It was right for the media to report about that. But also last week, a car bomb laid by ISIS was exploded outside of an ice cream shoppe in Baghdad and 13 people were killed. The media hardly reported that. Oh we heard about the one Australian high schooler who was killed in that bombing but that was it. You see the press knows that London and Manchester stories will sell. But an Iraqi story won't sell even though the same group was responsible for all three bombings.

We love to celebrity watch in the media. Last week I heard all about Tom Cruise's visit to Sydney and Rebel Wilson's libel trial. I also heard about rugby players who have battled ice addictions. A lot of media attention is also given to infamous people like Shapelle Corby. But what of true stories like the hundreds of thousands of Australians who live in poverty? The single mother working two jobs to support her children? The senior citizen who has no family left and is finding it difficult to find social services. The media loves to report on the uber rich, the celebrities, the athletes and rock musicians. On the other hand, the media ignores the plight of so many because they are not glamourous enough for tv.

In the book "1984" George Orwell touches on what news is like in the world. In the book, he talks of the Ministry of Information. The Ministry writes down the history of the people. And then when Big Brother changes his mind, the ministry erases all of the old history and writes down a new history. It is almost as if we are living in Orwell's dystopian vision of the world now with people calling truth fake news and issuing fake news stories to strengthen their hatred for others (the Bowling Green massacre story raised by spokespersons within the Trump government- a massacre which never happened by the way).

I have come to the conclusion, that one cannot trust any one source for information. All media outlets only tell a partial bit if the truth. Only by reading from many different points of view can one begin to understand a topic. No report can be fully accurate. No reporter can be without his or her biases. By listening to several voices, we can get closer to the truth. By such listening before we voice opinions on a subject, we can show wisdom. Blessings.

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