Someone Is Telling the Truth but No One Is Listening

By: Nancy Salvato

It’s a timeless story, The Boy who cried Wolf, one I can remember reading many times as a young child perusing Aesop’s Fables long past my bedtime, while the rest of the house was sleeping. It’s a simple moral, “There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.” My love of these fables had an enduring effect; imprinting their many lessons on the direction my life has taken. Of late, it has occurred to me that many people are employing this moral to the yellow journalism that has graced the pages of our nation’s newspapers, the hyperbole which has escaped the mouths of our nation’s politicians and to the manipulation of statistics by special interest groups to draw attention to their causes.

As I read the Reuters headlines today on my Verizon LG mobile phone, my skeptical side emerged in full force. “More than ¼ of US Birds Threatened: Report…global warming may be partially to blame”, yeah, right; “Bush vows active U.S. role for Mideast peace”, where have I heard that before?; “Cuddly Croc forces passenger off flight”, sounds like “Snakes on a Plane.” I rarely clicked to read the entire item, mentally deleting anything that didn’t sound like there was any substance to it. Every once in awhile I delved further, “Keep your shoes on: T-rays can see right through.” Hmm, that could truly be a breakthrough for medical science but I wouldn’t want airport security aiming that at my breasts.

How can one human being determine what is real and what is not? Who should a person believe? When is something really a crisis that needs to be addressed? What is a reasonable course of action? With all these roadblocks to simple, unedited facts, why (if I can borrow an overused colloquialism dating to the l980’s) wouldn’t our nation’s people be disillusioned and want to cocoon? For many, this is the path they choose, but for others who are trying to do the right thing and fulfill their civic responsibility, it is difficult to navigate through the b*#sh%t and make an informed decision. It is unlikely that they are analyzing both conservative and liberal sources of what is happening in the world and unreasonable to expect them to spend hours of their free time collecting news from around the world. No, for a great many people, they rely on a half hour broadcast which might spend 15 minutes of that time on Hollywood celebrities and sports figures. They will walk away comforted in the knowledge that they have been privy to “all the news worth knowing.” However, there are many stories to which they will never be exposed.

I contrasted this experience to the experience I have when I read some of the new media columnists employing the researched opinion on which I’ve come to rely for my news. Many of my new media colleagues provide historical backgrounds, links to first source materials, and line up the facts on which they provide their informed opinions. I’ve come to trust many of these writers to do the research on issues which demand our attention and I feel more confident as a writer employing these same methods that I am providing a much needed service to those of us who want to advocate responsibly and vote on the most important issues, not the “sparkly things” which evoke an emotional response but detract from what is important.

I’m beginning to have an epiphany about why so many people are drawn to stories about Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, O.J. Simpson, or Anna Nicole Smith. What these folks have in common is that people get to watch their situations played out on television, analyzed by experts, and can come to their own conclusions about what is happening based on all of the information that’s available. In a sense, they can become experts themselves on the events as they unfold. Contrast that with the one sided coverage of global warming, the Iraq War, or immigration presented in the mainstream, where debate about the issues is not encouraged. Folks eventually figure out that doomsday scenarios such as another Ice Age, over population, and ozone holes are eventually discredited, deforestation might have prevented forest fires, and the Spotted Owl as it become more plentiful was saved only to be eaten by another Owl, and may be threatened with extinction now more than ever.

Many people have concluded that all newspapers, politicians, and talking heads are agenda driven and not to be trusted, becoming apathetic and tuning out everyone and everything that is not within their immediate vicinity and doesn’t affect their lives directly. This has put our country and everything it stands for in jeopardy. Our Constitution depends on an active, responsible, citizenry who are willing to participate in their own self governance. By abdicating their responsibility, they are giving others, who are not necessarily more informed, considerably more power to influence over our government. Some of these people are suggesting that our present administration has cried wolf over the threat of terrorism, our porous borders, and that our country deserves to be vilified by the rest of the world. I would argue that history does not support this conclusion. I challenge our nation’s citizens to do their homework by researching the issues and reading the opinions of experts who argue with the end goal of discovering the truth. Demand nothing less of those who provide us our news. Finally, understand that someone is telling the truth but no one is listening.

Nancy Salvato is the Director of Education and the Director of the Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She serves as the Assistant Provost for the American College of Education and as the Education Editor for The New Media Journal. She is also a staff
writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, and a frequent contributing writer to The World & I educational magazine.

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