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In Today’s World, Where Can We Find the Truth? – Laura Mohsene

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In Today’s World, Where Can We Find the Truth?

Probably not on broadcast news.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

I watch and read the news a lot. I read all the major news on my phone. I read from both sides of the aisle politically even though I am firmly on one side. I want to hear both sides of arguments.

Most of the time, reading the news is much like watching a train wreck: it’s awful and you want to look away, but you just can’t turn away from it.

No matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, the news spews stories that are intended to have you up in arms or nodding along in agreement with something you believe to be true.

I doubt that newspapers have ever printed “just the facts” or that tv news has ever just stated facts. Opinion bleeds through every broadcast, every article written.

This is accomplished by what is included, what is left out, the choice of language, visual argument in video and photos and the background of the set, facial expressions of the talking heads, and even music or sound.

All these elements influence our understanding of what happened and what was said by whom.

Consider any recent news story and how differently it was reported by various news channels. Was the story reported without bias by either side of the political divide? How are we to know the truth about the matter?

Much depends on what is included in the news. Focusing on one part of the subject creates a stronger impression.

Excluding information from a news report specific information can change the reader’s or viewer’s understanding and opinion of a person or a situation.

Words are wiggly things that can be interpreted one way or another. The choice of words used are important because many words carry either negative or positive connotations and can skew facts.

Even photos or video can create different beliefs about what happened through editing, lighting, angle, even the expanse of the shot.

For example, during the Iraq War, my Lebanese husband and I watched the news on two televisions side by side: one showed Lebanese and other middle eastern tv stations. The other showed American cable news.

We often watched the same scenes on TV, but with remarkable differences. The American news programs showed bombs dropping and lighting up the night sky or Iraq. The middle eastern news showed the same scene followed by scenes of the devastation on the ground.

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

American news channels do not show dead bodies. The Arabic news channels do. On Lebanese tv, we saw dead children and adults where American bombs had dropped.

Americans got the Mr. Clean version of the situation.

One American report of the war showed a close-up shot of a building that was in tact.

The Arabic news showed the same shot at the same time and then expanded the shot to include the view of all the buildings nearby which had been destroyed. This created a very different interpretation of what was said by the American reporter.

There were a number of shows on the Arabic channels that were never shown on American news. For example, we saw interviews with Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice on Arabic tv channels.

Nor did American news show a televised conversation between university students in Iraq and American university students in the lead up to the war where the Iraqi students stated clearly that they did not want war.

So which side was telling the truth about the war? Both provided facts, but both also shared opinions and differing perspectives ofthe war.

We cannot entirely dismiss our opponents’ viewpoints as automatically wrong. Both sides probably skewed their reports to show their viewpoints. There is truth on both sides as well as strong opinions that influence what we see and hear.

Both sides had an agenda and wanted to world to see the war through their eyes. Both sides shared broadcasts fashioned to share their views and persuade their audiences.

But which side was telling the truth? Was the truth somewhere in between?

Today’s news cycles are much the same. No matter which news channel we watch, we are hearing and seeing opinionated news, not just the facts.

There are stark differences in the way news stories are reported by liberal and conservative news outlets. Both are trying to persuade their audience to believe their viewpoints.

Both share information in such a way to persuade their audience or to bolster the audience’s views on topics and events.

Both include information or omit information in an effort to create an impression and skew the news to support their audience’s views and beliefs. Both sides claim to be telling the truth, to report the real news.

No matter which side you are on, you probably refuse to believe anything the opposing side says. You believe they are dishonest.

You see the world in black and white with no crossover. Is it not mor likely that both sides are broadcasting their version of the truth?

How are we to know the truth then? Perhaps we should suspend our automatic disbelief of anything the opposing side says and weigh their statements against what unbiased authorities (if we can find any) say about the subject or event.

At the very least, we should seek the unvarnished truth rather than accepting opinionated news.

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