An interesting and poignant article from NPR on-line has given me some pause this week. Following is the link, well worth reading:
Here is a clip from one of my favorite movies, “Notting Hill.” (With subtitles in Swedish!) Perhaps you will wonder what one has to do with the other, but any of you who have read my “rants” in the past will get the connection:
How do we chose whom we celebrate, and on what information is the choice based? How well do we listen, and how much do we really know?
In light of the Mel Gibson debacle currently flooding the airwaves, I am wondering once again why what is going on is deemed to be my business – or anybody else’s other than those directly involved. I am also deeply concerned for the child in the middle of this lurid mess. As Julia Roberts’ character says in the above excerpt, what is reported now is filed away in the newspaper’s or the web’s computer archives…it will always be available, and whenever you want to report on someone’s life (or anything else, for that matter), the “information” is available to you at the click of a button – no matter how dated, irrelevant, or downright false that info may be. There is no automatic “reality” or “truth” filter on these archives. There is no tool that eliminates misinformation or separates fact from fiction. Once reported, it comes back over and over again in various forms, and virtually none of it with the benefit of hind-sight. The genie is out of the bottle.
How often have you gone on-line hunting for information on any given subject and come across items dated and lacking in much-needed details? Have you ever found things that you know for a fact are untrue? I remember a discussion I had with my brothers after reading my father’s obituary in one of the local papers. My mother was identified as “Peal.” We reflected that in years to come should someone, researching our family’s history or ancestry, come across this typo, they would have no way of knowing that “Peal” was indeed a typo, and that her name was in fact, “Pearl.” Now of course one would hope that our fictional researcher would use more than once source, and s/he most probably would, but we have no way of knowing which material someone would or will use.
There is not a whole lot left to say on my part. Basically I’m distressed a bit over our eagerness as the public to hear information of little or no consequence, and our willingness to accept as fact only what we want to hear, and dismiss any other point of view. I believe we owe it to future generations as well as to ourselves, to listen carefully and judiciously to what we are being told; to not repeat what cannot be verified, and remember that none of us knows the whole story. So many people, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, have found too late that there is nothing private and nothing sacred in our world of instant information. And, unfortunately, the information that lives the longest is “mis-information.”
There was a saying, regarding personal behavior, when I was growing up that said in effect, “Don’t do or say anything today that you wouldn’t want your mother to read on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow.” It was always meant hypothetically…well, it is no longer hypothetical. Welcome to the future.
One more thing:
2 a (1) : knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction (2) : intelligence, news (3) : facts, data b : the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects c (1) : a signal or character (as in a communication system or computer) representing data (2) : something (as a message, experimental data, or a picture) which justifies change in a construct (as a plan or theory) that represents physical or mental experience or another construct d : a quantitative measure of the content of information; specifically : a numerical quantity that measures the uncertainty in the outcome of an experiment to be performed
3 : the act of informing against a person
4 : a formal accusation of a crime made by a prosecuting officer as distinguished from an indictment presented by a grand jury