Friday, July 20, 2012

Pictures That Are Worth a Word or Two

It struck me as I was reading a comment offered by reader Cha that the picture of the Philippines that we see from viewing television news or newspaper reports or blogs is highly distorted. It does not present an accurate picture of the Philippines. Indeed, because of its inaccuracy, reflected in our joint ignorance, buying into that view may be destructive. Or at least punishing.

Now I've known this for years, since my graduate school days studying communication arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. My Masters Thesis dealt with the "biases among audiences of entertainment programs". But it is good now and then to re-raise the warning flags.

The biggest danger is if a person has only one or two sources of information, those comfortable and  "likable" TV shows, newspapers or magazines. People who limit their information sources to, say, Fox News in the U.S., or ABS-CBN in the Philippines, are likely to operate in a distorted reality. Fox viewers will be obdurately and radically conservative and hostile to opposing thought. ABS-CBN viewers will believe the Philippines revolves around entertainment stars and murder.

It's okay to have a few extremists, but when extremism becomes the mainstream, as it has in America, it is very damaging. If our view of things is inaccurate, our opinions and decisions are likely to be wrong. Or at least sorely limited.

What is generally left out of modern mass media and its ratings-driven sensationalism? Well, ordinary success stories for one thing. People doing their small increments of good work that aren't splashy enough to draw attention. Aren't bloody enough.

You know, that leaves out a lot, eh?

  • It leaves in the dysfunction and mistakes and conflicts and harms.

  • It leaves out the achievements and the growth and the brilliance and the dedicated hard work.

That is frightening, when you think about it. What is being presented is a picture of chaos and failure. The truth is that there is tremendous stability and huge amounts of good work being done across the Philippine nation.

A perfect picture is rare. We can not get perfection in our readings and viewings because we don't have enough time to read everything and research what we don't understand. But we can do a better job by viewing and reading a variety of sources, from conservative to liberal, comfortable to uncomfortable.

We can also do a better job if we understand the premise from which media outlets operate. What their goal is. For-profit outlets like Fox hope to carve out a sizable and steady and rich audience (predominantly older white Americans) to attract advertisers. ABS-CBN seeks a broad emotional audience that will watch their entertainment shows. And their overload of advertising. Blog sites like Get Real seek a mass audience much as Fox does; to make money, and gain influence. And make more money. Agenda. Be aware of the agenda.

If you were to read Chinese newspapers about the conflict over islands in the South/West China/Philippine Sea, you would see the dangers of limited information. The picture Chinese media paint of the Philippines is that of a hostile, trouble-making nation. China is painted as the steadfast, principled nation of righteous behavior.

Are we also being led down wrong paths by what we read and view?

It's good to keep our limited awareness in mind. We all tote at least a six-pack of ignorance. Some haul a case or two.

Skepticism is healthy.

The more open minded we can be, and the more aggressive at searching out information and reflecting on opposing views, the less ignorant we will be.

The goal of an intelligent person is not to be right in an argument. It is to be accurate in knowledge.


  1. Hey, Joe:

    “At long last, the Philippines looks poised to resume a period of strong growth. The new president, Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, probably has just enough support, and looks likely to generate just enough reform momentum to get the job done.”

    From Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma

    1. There are certainly signs that this is true. I hope so.

  2. From: Island jim-e (aka: the cricket)

    1. The responsibilities of "news-magazines" and the daily
    news-hard-press (two of the four legs of the "fourth-estate"
    are being ignored daily in our island pair-a-dice (commonly
    called a "crap-shoot" by the underpaid, underemployed, 30%
    unemployed-suffering masses and child labor slaves)!

    Note: I wish that the media would police themselves but as
    they apparently cannot then a federall department must be
    put in place to regulate and inspect these very important
    elements of a democratic society.

    2. The PREZ agenda may be a good one (and I think it is or
    can be if left to bear fruit) but the bottom line is that
    the "rot" and "rust" in the judiciary, government and most of
    all "BROUGHT OFF CONGRESS" are the determining factors!

    We the people deserve good and sufficient evidence
    that the public service and protection is in center
    of the stage-not the wellbeing of a few rich/greedy/
    powerful/ego-centric developers and dynastic families!

    Perhaps a published "progress" report of the nation,
    island, region, provence, community would help in
    providing a "showcase" for progress that would be
    a wonderful "yardstick" to assist in our future
    growth and success--in fact a whoe TV-radio station
    programing schedule would be of imense benefit to the
    nation (somethin like public tv)!

    If indeed we see no progress by this time next year we
    need to have a "termination"/"extermination"-"Impeach-
    ment" -FLUSH-OUT -as a coat of paint will not cover up
    the rust and rot that keep infesting our islands!


    1. Corruption is the ice berg, water the nation's values. What do you figure Corona's conviction did to the temperature of the water? I figure SALN's will be done better and will get a lot more scrutiny. What do you figure the firing of 31 DENR officials will do to the water (they did not stop illegal logging)? I figure it will warm in across the nation. There is not an intense focus on Customs, a den of corruption. It may explode like a geyser. So while I agree with you the problems are widespread, I think it is very different than two years ago. And it takes a while to warm oceans.

    2. From: The cricket

      Overheard from in the hospital surgery waiting
      room; "We we got some good news and some bad news...
      the good news is that we removed the cancer...
      the bad news is that it was too late and the
      patient died on the operating table"!

      Now you know the "rest of the story" chirp!

  3. From: Island jim-E (aka: the Cricket)

    1. Warm seas are now eating away at the land mass I
    suggest CYI, get a lifeboat, grow a set of gills, etc.!

    2. I wish I could wake up in a real "south pacific"
    paradise instead of "nightmare island" that has been
    spun up by the propaganda-media/tourist-"paint" team
    to benefit the "masters"!

    Notice realtiy when 90%
    to 95% of the citizens cannot afford a nite at a bed and breakfast, keeping child prostitutes-slaves and
    a community of captive "breeders" to service the rich,
    fat cats/greedy developers and a church/education/government system full of criminals full of hot air and BS-
    (the lack of successful results-reality/fruits)!

    I leave the list of "screw-ups" to the reader to
    list for brevity sake).!

    3. A fire storm is fed by dry/old/dead- worn out stuff, a
    hot wind, and mis-management--a paint-job just feeds the
    consuming "illwinds"!

    4. The realitiy of a congress, judiciary, government
    and church that feeds itself before feeding the nation
    --serving and protecting themsevles first will doom
    any SONA! In my heart and mind I do not believe that
    this is what anyone deserves as a citizen and if so
    then they are not citizens but slaves!

    5. A nation fed larges doses of greed,lies, deception
    and decit will soon be a dead nation!

    6. I understand that during SONA only the rich are
    invited to the "feasting table"...vampires and
    leeches on the nation! Shame, shame, shame!

    7. The only question is who will sit next to the
    host at the head of the table...and who is left
    to sit at the last "feeding" seat! Shame, shame!

    8. Cynical I may be--please show me I am wrong
    by the right actions/fruits/results that should be
    produced by this time next year....the ghost of
    christ-mass past (or show me the "christ-pissed)!

    True or false? Rituals and traditions do no one
    any good when they have no food to eat, a healthy
    environment, a living family wage,etc...!)

    Me thinks that if it smells like a skunk, looks
    like a skunk, walks like a skunk, it must be
    a real live skunk and no amount of "paint job"
    will produce any thing but a skunk in fact or

    Question: Will anyone "spike the puch bowl"
    before it is too late to make water into


    1. Ah, rituals and traditions are sometimes the only thing the hungry and poor have. Indeed, that is partly the popularity of the Church.

      Take care, Jim-e, that you don't get too sour on things. It removes the fun that can be found if you look at things a little differently.


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