The Ignorance of Decrying Western Media for acting Western

This is a topic that I’ve been wanting to ignore. Partly because some people might misunderstand what I’m saying. Like that never happens on the Internet. Secondly, because it seems so basic and logical to me even as so many others have been bashing western media for acting western.

Here’s what has been annoying me. The day after the Paris attacks, people were bad-mouthing Facebook for selectively having a French flag profile option when other options highlighting other world tragedies were not available.

Seriously? Do we really need to explain this?

Here’s more. So many people complained about the outpouring of grief over the tragedy in France while seemingly ignoring the rash of attacks, deaths, mutilations, genocide, and other incidents which are continually happening around the world.

I guess it needs to be spelled out for some people. So here goes.

The amount of media coverage does not equate to the level of tragedy. Heck, you want a historical example? When the Pol Pot regime was brutally killing 1/3 of the Cambodian people in the 1970s, no one really paid attention. When Vietnam attacked Cambodia and started rooting out the Khmer Rouge in December of 1978, the world community criticized Vietnam! Shouldn’t they have been encouraging the Vietnamese on? The Paris attacks paled in comparison to what Pol Pot was doing and lack of media coverage could ever change that. All tragedies are equal on the human level. I grieve for war-torn Sudan like I grieve for the victims in Paris. There’s no difference, and the level of media coverage doesn’t change that.

But it seems like many people are saying that the media coverage should be more balanced, and should be treating all tragedies everywhere the same.

Like it or not, media is not purposed for fairness. Media is not purposed for equality. Media is business. Period. Many people may not like that answer or want to accept that answer, but it’s the truth.

So in light of this, why is it such a surprise that western media focuses more on western tragedies? It’s just the way of life. My hometown paper of Butler County, PA focuses on the news and views of the local scene which mean the most to the people who read the paper. Under some people’s logic, that paper should report just as much on a robbery in Arizona as they would a local robbery because it is unfair to focus so much  on one tragedy while seemingly forgetting about another.

Well, of course, that’s silly. We would never expect that of a local newspaper. Nor should we expect that of the big western media companies whose constituency consists of western patrons.

Remember. Media corporations are private corporations. They owe nothing to anyone (except hopefully the truth.) But no one can cover all the truth.

Also, media corporations are profit-making organizations. Like it or not, that’s why they exist. They exist to make money, not to set any specific agenda (though some certainly do that.)

So profit-seeking, western media (both traditional and social) would naturally chose stories which resonate the most with the people who are paying the bills. This means that certain stories which are “unsexy” or which are less appealing for cultural or other reasons will find themselves on page 25 while stories of Paris will find themselves on page one.

There is no real mystery here. There’s no hidden agenda. They cover what will pay the bills.

People who expect the media to be idealistic and to cover everything equally are simply wishing for a reality that doesn’t exist.

If one wants to find out news about what’s happening in western countries, western media would be an excellent source. If one wants to find out what’s happening elsewhere, I would suggest finding some alternative sources. And if you are really passionate about a tragedy which isn’t getting the coverage you feel it deserves, your best bet is to start your own media company to cover it. I’d be interested, I’m sure.

To recap. Don’t be surprised when western media focuses more on western tragedies.

Lastly, the fact that this happens doesn’t mean that other tragedies not covered in western media aren’t as important. It only means that they weren’t covered in western media.

The Internet May Doom Us All (or at least make us all feel stupid)

If it’s in print, it must be worth paying attention to!

If it’s from a “reputable” site, it must be true!

The Internet makes us all susceptible to bias or right-out lies; Therefore, it is the duty of every person who goes on the web to judiciously and skeptically approach EVERY piece of news which one comes across.

Here’s a post a wrote awhile back entitled “If you can’t read the news without spreading rumors, then …” Read post here

It would seem like most people in the world haven’t followed my advice. Hmmm. Well, let’s try again. Here’s a link from Christianity Today which explains very well what to do when someone reads stuff on the web. It’s great advice. Check it out:  Christianity Today link

The uproar this week surrounds a fake news story about a pastor being arrested for not being willing to perform a gay wedding. Can you imagine what followed? How many people shared this on their Facebook page only to have their friends share and their biases confirmed by something which was entirely not true.

But this is not surprising. Everyday (literally) I see memes and articles on Facebook and other outlets which, if they aren’t true, they are extremely misleading. They come from all points of view – liberal, conservative, Christian, atheist – everyone has an agenda and are often times willing to skew the facts a little to better their point of view.

You, as the reader, have to be smart. You have to be able to see past the ridiculous statements and the political spin to look at the issues in a level-headed manner.

Please. Don’t pass on anything without verifying the facts. Don’t accept any news at face value. Don’t believe anything the Onion publishes. (I feel bad for those who have accepted the Onion’s news as real. Oh my.)

If you spot fake news or misleading information, confront it (with grace) to pass on the correct information. If you pass on information which you find out later to be wrong, make amends. Re-post and set the record straight. It can make a big difference.

In this digital day and age, we all must be the eyes and ears which guard the truth. Don’t sit back and expect the media to do it for us.

 

“These Celebrities Changed our Lives Forever.” Really?

A week or two ago I saw this headline: These Celebrities Changed our Lives Forever.

Really?

If that’s true, shame on us. But please let this be hyperbole.

I glanced through the “A” list of Hollywood big shots who wouldn’t have even made the “C” list of people who have changed my life forever.

Media has the biggest ego of them all. It’s as if they exist for the people can be happy. It’s as if they speak and we, in a collective gasp, can awaken from our effortless slumber to once again feel alive again.

Well here’s the shocking truth about celebrity: they, those A-listers, need us. We don’t need them.

Some of the masses might act as if their life means nothing unless they are sitting in front of the TV or reading the latest gossip blog, but everyone knows the secret – celebrity is a hollow shell, propped up by an endless cycle of ads and media conventions which tell us all how terrible our lives our. If only we could own the car that celebrity A has! If only we could live in the house that celebrity B has. If only we could have the problems of celebrity C.

So let’s be very clear here. Some celebrities may have moved us, but they haven’t changed us. Some actors are remarkably talented, and they have the means to, for an hour or two, delve deep into our hearts and make us think about the larger issues of humanity. But they don’t change us. Two dimensional celebrity figures do not have the power to change us.

But three-dimensional humans do have the capacity to change others.

My wife changed me.

The birth of each of my kids changed me.

My parents changed me.

My pastor changed me.

My friends have changed me.

These are the true celebrities in our lives, not worthy of worship, but worthy of a hearty “thanks” for what they have done for us. How they have molded us, moved us, and forced us to challenge everything we know about ourselves.

So, sorry Hollywood promotion blah-blah blog, I won’t fall for your trap. But I will turn off the TV and spend some more time with the people in my life.

Here’s hoping others follow suit.

If you can’t read the news without spreading rumors, then …

It gets tiring. Hearing complete falsehoods from well-meaning people who happened to have read it on the Internet. We know the Internet is awash with reliable sources.

I live in Malaysia. As you can imagine, the gossip mill has been cranking out hits at a dizzying rate since the strange disappearance of Malaysian flight 370.

What frightens me is how people (I know that’s quite general) cannot read and interpret the news in an accurate way. I suppose one could say that there are many media illiterate individuals running off at the mouth, saying all kinds of half-truths or no-truths that they absolutely believe. What is even more tragic is that the half-truth is believed by another person who spreads it to another legion of unsuspecting listeners who think they are hearing actual news when in fact they are hearing hearsay, theories, misinterpretations, or right-out lies.

The other day someone walked into my classroom and said, “The flight has been found.” That was quite breaking news for me because I had just been all over several reputable web sites that had not mentioned a thing about it. I voiced my doubt and asked him where he had seen this information. He replied, “Facebook.”

Oh, brother. Where to begin?

I assured him that the flight had not been found, which was news to him. Later that afternoon when I was trolling through the great news source Facebook, I, indeed, saw exactly what that person was referring to. There was an advertisers link that stated, “Flight 370 found?” Question Mark. There was a question mark. Did I mention that it was a link from an advertiser?  What about the question mark? Did I forget to mention it had a question mark after it?

Unfortunately, too many people just see the headlines and miss the question mark. This is tragic in our culture where too many people have no idea what is going on in the world, but they can tell you all about the latest tongue incident concerning Miley Cyrus.

And the rumors spread.

Another person recently stated that they found out what happened to the flight. It was a quite fantastic tale about it shadowing another plane the whole way to Afghanistan. Once again, I heard nothing about that, so I did a few searches and, yes, I indeed found it. It was a theory put forth by someone in America who has no connection and knowledge of the investigation whatsoever. It was only a theory, and had zero basis in fact. Unfortunately, the person I heard it from presented it as fact. Perhaps that person read it, or perhaps had heard it from someone else.

These incidents are anything but isolated. The Internet has become a maze of half-truths and rumors. News and opinion are blended on an hourly basis. Fact is in the eye of the beholder. And well-meaning individuals, who don’t take the time to investigate and think critically about the issues before they pass on bad information, are simply making our world of disinformation a lot more confusing.

Might I suggest, if you can’t read the news without spreading rumors, then perhaps you should stick with the Hollywood gossip mill.

And any school which isn’t yet teaching our kids the critical skill of have media literacy had better get on the ball before a bad situation becomes even worse.

Advertising is Selling Lies

Just thought I would give everyone a quick reminder today of the purpose of advertising.

I was on my motorbike the other day and went under a raised walkway over the street that had a large, full-color billboard of a new condominium complex.

In the photo, two westerners were sitting by the pool in perfect contentment, each with a fruity adult beverage in their hands. They were smiling with their perfect teeth and beautiful bodies. It was a picture of paradise – a rich man’s dream. Luxury and happiness all wrapped up in photoshop.

If someone purchased a condo there, could they replicate that picture? Yes. For about five minutes. (until the kids jumped into the picture and set the table umbrella on fire, or something like that)

What advertising tries to do is to sell a few minutes worth of happiness as if it is a lifetime worth of happiness. Advertising shows you a glimpse, not the reality. Advertising doesn’t show the debt, the extra-marital affairs, the horrible boss, the exhausting bickering, the kids and their affect on sanity, the divorces, the bankruptcies, the lying, the backstabbing, the complaining, the mundane, the abuse.

Those perfect people with perfect teeth are not real.

If we keep that in mind, perhaps we will all be a little wiser in spending our money on things we think will bring us happiness. Because we can’t buy happiness. Happiness has to be grown. Remember all those things which you once said “I have to have this”? How many of them have become insignificant in our lives? My guess is most of them. (I remember when I was recently married that I tried to talk my wife into going into debt so I could buy some DJ equipment. Luckily, she’s the sane one. What was I thinking?)

So don’t try to find truth in advertising. It doesn’t exist.

(Full Disclosure: Yes, I advertise my novels. But I make no claim that my novels will make your life happy. I do hope they can make you forget your miserable existence for a short while. OK, that was a joke. I hope your existence is not miserable. And if it is, I hope you will start to grow happiness in your life. I truly do!)