Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The News Story

When there's a breaking new story the facts can be hard to sort out. Things are messy. Reporters jump the gun and sometimes the reported story is just plain wrong. It's normal to be confused during chaotic situations: wars, natural disasters, horrific accidents, mass shootings, fires, and the like. Even in calmer times the desire to be first to report can result in errors. Fox and CNN got the Supreme Court decision on Obama Care exactly wrong.

Then later we have what I call “The Narrative.” The news gets woven into a coherent story. At best, it's a story that has some close relationship to the truth. There is a problem with turning news into narrative. Things that don't fit the neat story are ignored. Perhaps it's the witness to the crime who claims the perpetrator was 6 inches taller than the man in custody. Maybe it's the reports of a second gunman -on the grassy knoll. Could be reports from firefighters of explosions in a building. Giving too much attention to these reports would cause doubt in the neat story.

Worse is when “The Narrative.” has political value. The “story” becomes the justification for government action. When that happens there's serious pressure to cast that tale in stone. Anybody remember Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? That was supposed to be the main reason for going to war. When that was found to be false, we said sorry Mr. Saddam, here's your country back. Wait, that didn't happen now did it?

When there is a breaking story I assume that many of the facts will be wrong. However, I also look out for facts that might prove inconvenient and disappear down the rabbit hole. Once a story is picked up for a political agenda, alarm bells go off in my head. Horrific news elicits an emotional response in people. That emotional reaction is used to push through a political agenda in the heat of the moment. The next thing we know we have The Patriot Act, or other laws just as bad.

From the time we are infants we are told stories. All the stories have a beginning, middle and end. If things are not neatly tied up in the end, it's a badly writing story. Life is not a neat story tale. There are uncomfortable truths, senseless actions, bad characters, and things are not tied up with neat endings. Are we grownup enough to handle the truth, whatever it is?



  1. Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.

  2. Then we'll have to become aware one by one.

  3. My rule is, the more often and more loudly it is repeated, the more likely it is to be a lie.

    Which, incidentally, includes "Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction". There was one in-depth article in Time or Newsweek shortly after we "won" in Iraq, about 6 months in, reporting that they found that Saddam had had weapons of mass destruction, but they had been destroyed by our bombs in the first Gulf War. The other part that was barely mentioned was that it was our NATO allies that sold him what he needed to make them, back when he was fighting Iran.

  4. Yeah, there were many "jump to conclusions" info brought up by the horrific shootings in CT.
    And as an Iraq Veteran, nothing pisses me off more about that conflict than misinformed people that tell me that we found weapons of mass destruction there. When I tell them those were never found, I get some dumbfounded incredulous looks.

    1. It just goes to show how effective a big lie can be.

  5. Then we have Fox News, who, it seems, the rules of journalism do not apply. They have been caught red handed out right lying so many times I have lost count.
    Unfortunately, the government has a thinly disguised vise grip on what is allowed to be disseminated as news and quite a bit of that is politically driven propaganda.
    That is why if I want information that has not been filtered by our MSM I go out of country for news coverage.

    1. Faux News.

      I too get a lot of news outside the country, and directly from people right there in the street where the news is happening.