The media. The all encompassing big-brother of the modern society and all that, the conspiracy theorists, the politically biased, the corrupt, the misrepresentative. We all ‘know’ that newspapers, online services etc. twist their stories in some way or other in order to increase their readership and therefore their revenue and reputation, and we know that the headlines used are carefully chosen to shock or intrigue. But yet we can still be reeled in by the big hitting headlines, forgetting that an article may not (by virtue of choice or audience or space limitations etc) portray the full picture. We don’t know generally how the information was acquired or even whether it is true or wildly taken out of context.
Should we as consumers be doing more to make sure that we inform ourselves of the facts behind a headline rather than blindly jumping on the bandwagon later to be perceived to be foolish? Of course I’m not suggesting we should immerse ourselves in the statistics and word for word minutiae of conflicts or debates, but taking headlines at face value, especially from those we know to have a vested interest can also be a mistake.
Twitter is a good case in point for how the media may be unrepresentative, an example might be the UK Lords debate on equal marriage going on right now. These debates last for HOURS and obviously the majority will therefore be relying on summaries by others of the views and words of speakers. But this can be dangerous, agencies such as Stonewall and PinkNews, whilst trying to stay fair and neutral often take things out of context and fail to appreciate the complexity of the situation. One memorable speaker whom I happened to hear spoke about the relationship between stable relationships and child welfare, reminding fellow Lords that child abuse is a concern in all relationships and that the rights of children with parents (whether natural or adoptive) in homosexual marriages must be carefully considered. This was later conflated to say that this peer had paralleled child abuse with homosexual marriage, far from what he had actually said, and until this was challenged and clarified by the Lord in question this had the potential to become a shock headline…as did the Archbishop of York’s speech, where really he was far fairer than many familiar with the objections and reasoning of the Church and Sentamu’s previous pronouncements were expecting. But for those who do not take the time to understand why the Church may feel the way it does, rightly or wrongly, then the black and white of the media headline world kicks into action and he is derided as an idiot by those who haven’t even read the text of his speech but taken headlines at face value.
The instant reactions desired by readers and the headlines which catch the imagination all too often require a little more thought and consideration before hitting that retweet or reblog button, we ourselves do not know the whole story and approach things with our own cultural bias and preconceptions, as is a part of the human condition but one we must observe in ourselves and not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon of a one sided presentation by the media, but question more the motives and the true facts of headlines and opinions in order to see more of the full picture and give people a chance to get their stories heard fairly and their viewpoints clearly.
(For those interested the Hansard has records of speeches made at 1st committee state last Monday – the speaker I refer to is Lord Mackay col 33 and Lord Alli (who did an excellent summing up incidentally) col 43 – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/130617-0001.htm#13061712000472)