Sunday, June 8, 2014

The "Toilet Paper Shortage of 1973"

Like many who are reading this, I read all manner of things on the Internet.  News sites, blogs, and of course social media are just some of the stuff I like to look over.  The story of Bowe Bergdahl has pretty much consumed everyone's attention throughout the net.  Each story and report only clouds things further rather than shedding more light.  Was he a deserter, coward or hero?  Perhaps the even more remarkable story is the visceral reactions readers are posting to the various stories and postings about Bergdahl.  From all that, what should be asking is if any of the assumptions by the press and readers are correct.  Let me illustrate my point with the following Quick Fact I came across while surfing the web;

Johnny Carson was of course the late night talk show host and comedian.  He was not and never did pretend to be a news journalist.  Even so, by merely being a face millions saw every night he had a power to influence thoughts and behaviors without regard to the preponderance of information to the contrary.  Viewers believed what Carson had said, even though it was obvious part of his routine and even AFTER arriving at the store to find plenty of (at least first)  toilet paper.

Bergdahl is another case of hysteria that is preventing the real facts being reported.  In the name of headlines and biases along political lines, everyone has concluded Bergdahl's as either a deserter or prisoner.  Black and white, no grey allowed thank you very much even though grey continues to be a preferred color for automobiles and SUVs.  Other possibilities, such as Bergdahl being a plant (either for the US or al Qaeda, take your pick) is dismissed as too fringe or conspiratorial for most of the net.  

The lesson from both Bergdahl and Johnny Carson?  All of the stories that are currently making the news, from the Ukrain crisis to Nigeria, are portrayed in the media in ways to attract the most hits.  When I was still teaching, I used to have many students who would complain about the "mainstream media" as though that meant something.  I pointed out that regardless of their purported political slant, ALL media is about one thing; selling copy.  In today's media, you can't afford to fact-check a fast breaking story.  If CNN or Fox goes with the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, every other outlet is forced to go with the story unless they want to lose viewership.  If they various outlets want to remain relevant, they have to go with the breaking news.  Think, when was the last time you saw an update on Flight 370?  

As you or I read about events in here or elsewhere in the world, we need to remember the "Toilet Paper shortage of 1973".  Are the facts real or just something someone is reporting to increase viewership?

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