The Truth? You Can’t Handle The Truth!

In War Games, Polman opens our eyes to the fact that media has a tendency to cut corners when it comes to reporting on humanitarian aid efforts. Many of the media outlets only send out reporters, or coverage teams, if the costs are covered by the organization wanting the coverage. The coverage serves as an advertisement to bring in donors, and money. So, the independent factor of the media is tainted and most reports only show those poor people in need, how terrible the situation is, and how much help this organization is providing to those poor people. In essence, the media becomes an employee of the organization and only reports positively about the aid effort. Would it be a smart move for the media outlet to report negatively on the organization? A couple of old sayings come to mind. You never bite the hand that feeds you or you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

Sadly, this scenario probably happens more often throughout the media and news coverage than most people realize. No matter what major news channel you tune in to, they probably have something that influences them besides simply reporting the news. For example, in the coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election, you could turn it to CNN, MSNBC, or FOXNEWS and get different poll results, different opinions on who won debates, and different results on the actual voting. Do you think these media outlets were just getting the wrong information? Maybe, but it is more reasonable to assume that these outlets were trying to please whichever political party with which they are affiliated. In the end, the results have to reflect the true results, but everything in between that can be chalked up to misinformation, even though that’s probably not the case. However, if misinformation is to blame for this, then how can we rely on information that they report on other stories?

The truth to this is that we shouldn’t. The fact is that we all have different opinions, different cultures, and different interpretations of things that we experience or watch. Polman’s book could exaggerate the facts, but it is her experience. In the Eyes of Others could be propaganda for MSF, as simply a show that they are trying to solve the problem, when they really just want to rebuild their image. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures could overemphasize their experiences. How do we trust these print publications when we have evidence that the media isn’t always independent or reporting the “whole truth”? We don’t. Emergency Sex contains a disclaimer to all readers at the beginning of the book. It reads:

Everything in these pages is true as we experienced it, perceived it, and remember it. The book does not, however, pretend to be about the nuances of international politics, and we are not claiming objective historical, journalistic, or academic accuracy. The work is derived from our official memos, personal diaries, letters home, and memories—some many years after the fact. These pages therefore include all the subjective distortions and revisions we told ourselves, our friends, and our bosses. We have changed the names and identities of lovers, acquaintances, and colleagues. We have telescoped time, adjusted the sequence of events, and altered minor facts in some passages to help render the progression of our lives and missions more understandable. We have not artificially re-created dialogue; instead we have simply reported conversations as we remember them. Dialogue that does appear in quotes indicates a more distinct recollection of specific words and phrases. (Emergency, Note to the Reader)

We see many disclaimers, while different in verbiage, similar to this on many ads and commercials as well. While the reason for the disclaimers being on the ads and commercials is for a different reason then it being at the beginning of this book, it is another strong point that proves this concept should be applied to more than just ads, commercials, and books.

However, there are no disclaimers in newspapers or on news channels when they report the news. We are supposed to trust that they are doing their job properly, independently, and reporting the cold hard facts to us. However, there is evidence that disproves this ideology and shows that we must find a way to take the information that is reported, interpret the facts, determine any underlying allegiances or bias that many be present, and then dig to find the truth. There is no easy way, no easy answer to how this is done. There is no magic channel, website, or book that will give us all of the answers. We must use something that we have been working on since we were children.

As children growing up, studies have shown that we aren’t able to truly differentiate advertisements from actual tv programs, distinguish between the two, comprehend the purpose of the advertisements, or understand that they are trying to sell us something until roughly age 12. By that time, we are supposed to have the cognitive ability to grasp that concept. We are supposed to continue to use and strengthen this ability and apply it to all facets of our life. We are not supposed to rely on others to form our opinions for us. We, as responsible members of society, adults, and global citizens, have to recognize the ever growing problem in media and the news and decrypt the information. While it is not possible to find the “whole truth” all the time, we do have a responsibility to dig deeper. As kids, we all, at one point or another, gave our parents the answer when asked why we did something, “Well so-and-so was doing it.” Which our parents would respond, “Well, if so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” The whole premise of this conversation is to instill in us the confidence to be different, make our own decisions, and not be a follower. We can still learn from a simple concept our parents taught us when we were young and apply it when dealing with the media today.

Works Cited:

Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.

“Advertising and Children.” Raising Children Network. Raising Children Network, 14 3 2011. Web. 27 Jun 2013. .

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

StateFarm,. State of Disbelief (French Model). 2013. Video. YouTubeWeb. 27 Jun 2013. .

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