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.