Lately, I’ve noticed that news organizations configure their headlines in such a way that only half truths or even falsehoods are told. Here’s an example
Woman to be deported after traffic violation
The story is accompanied by a picture of the lady and her children.
This limited information evokes an emotional reaction of how unfair it is for this poor lady to be thrown out of the country because of such a trivial incident.
Only after you go beyond the headline and read the details of the story do you get a clear picture of the facts.
This woman has been living in the United States illegally for two decades. She was found out when she was stopped by police and ticketed for operating a vehicle without a driver’s license.
Commenters on this story note that the woman brought this situation on herself by entering the country illegally in the first place and then staying for so long.
Illegal immigration is of course a hot button issue in the US. There are extremists on both sides.
Some believe that all those who have broken the law by coming here should be sent back to where they came from. This would include “dreamers”, the children who came here before the age of 16 and probably had little say in the matter.
Others think that we should just have open borders. Anyone who wants to live and work in our nation should have the right to do so, they say.
Based on my training in journalism school in ancient times, I would have reported this story with the 5 W’s and H. Just the facts, ma’am. Give ’em who, what, when, where, why and how.
Editors don’t function that way in today’s society, however. What used to be suitable only for the editorial page is passed off as headline news.
The result is that America is inundated with propaganda.
One of the reasons this is happening is that how we perceive truth is changing.
We used to be a culture based on a Judeo-Christian world view. Thus, the generation after World War 2, for example, tended to see things through that lens.
Nowadays, young Americans talk about presenting “my truth.” I take this to mean that what they are going to tell me is not the “truth” per se, but their own view of reality.
In modern America, the state of truth is similar to the condition of my favorite major league baseball team. Baseball writer Ken Rosenthal recently called my Baltimore Orioles a “muddled mess.” I would maintain that truth in the US is in the same shape as my beloved Os.
What is occurring in the media today is that reporters are now giving us SOME facts, and then interpreting them with “their” truth. It used to be that the reader was supposed to do the interpreting.
I can’t philosophize about this phenomenon. I’m not a philosopher. I’m trained in journalism, linguistics and to some extent in practical theology. So I can only look at the problem through those grids.
In terms of language, my observation is that people can’t even get their terms straight. For example, slurs with fully charged political electrons are freely being thrown around like darts, especially in social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter.
In the immigration debate, the left likes to accuse the right of being “fascists”, “bigots”, “racists” and “Nazis”. The right tosses out equally inflammatory terms toward progressives. Insults such as “loon”, “nut job” and “bomb thrower” come to mind.
From my perspective, it would be appropriate in some cases to question who is actually the fascist or the loon.
I know that questions about truth are not new. Neither are discussions over the meaning of certain vocabulary words.
Even popular culture contains the story of Pontius Pilate asking Jesus, “What is truth?”.
As a student of the Bible, I like to go a little deeper than what a film at Easter might tell me. I want to know the context, i.e. the whole story
In context, Jesus is being examined before Pilate before he was to be delivered up to be executed by Roman soldiers. The trumped up charge made by the chief priests of Israel at the time was that Jesus was a rebel trying to overthrow the Roman government. The Jewish leaders, who had a stake in trashing Jesus, claimed that he wanted to be a king. Here’s the text from John 18:
“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”
The last statement by Jesus prompted Pilate’s question about truth. The excerpt reveals that Pilate not only did not understand truth, but that he also had no idea what Jesus meant about being a king.
The effects of such miscommunication can be devastating, especially when a politician with authority is involved. Pilate ended up bowing to popular demand and having Jesus nailed to a cross.
In future posts, I will discuss the effects of this kind of confused thinking on our society. But first, I will try to ascertain exactly what we mean when we discuss the term “truth” and how it is related to other words we currently like to bandy about.
I also hope to propose some solutions that could help us work through the murk and gain a clearer picture of reality.