What about the facts, ma’am?
Published 10:32 pm Friday, October 3, 2014
By Chris Surber
I like facts. In fact, I like hard, tough, meaty facts with concrete evidence to back them. I like two plus two equaling four. I especially like two plus two equaling four. With a pencil on paper, it equals four. On a computer, it adds up to four. On a calculator, two combined with two equals four. Always. Every time. It’s four.
Facts are stubborn things, and I like them for their stubbornness. But we don’t live in a world of facts anymore do we? We live in a world of inflated opinions and ambiguity. Everybody has an agenda and a right to be right.
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I don’t normally watch television news. I glean only highlights from the web or print newspaper. I agree with G.K. Chesterton who said that news is necessarily a distortion of reality. The norm is never reported — only the strange, the unusual, the shocking or the irrelevant.
A few days ago, my family and I were at a local eatery. The evening news was playing on the prominently displayed television. It was terrifying. There was subtly frightening music playing in the background as the highlights were previewed.
Bombs were going off in the Middle East. Race riots were about to break out over the police shooting of a young black man. Cars were stolen. Miss America was answering for some wrongdoing.
Yes, Miss America’s current concern, whatever it may be, was presented in the same horrifying tone as bombs blasting in the Middle East. My 6-year-old asked if we could leave the restaurant.
His exact words, as he choked back tears: “Dad, can we leave? Is all of that stuff happening around here?” I would sooner let him watch “Nightmare on Elm Street” than that news report again.
Why all the shock and awe? Perhaps you can just give me the facts, and I’ll decide for myself whether I should wet the bed, have a nervous breakdown, or move to remotest Northern Canada. The news may not be able to be presented in an entirely unbiased way, but news reporting today is more often a propaganda reel than the honest reporting of facts.
According to conservative news stations, the Democratic Party may be responsible for everything that is wrong in the world, from the Middle East to my lost left shoe. According to liberal news outlets, Bill Clinton’s first cousin is the Archangel Gabriel.
I’m not sure what you and I can do to foster a climate of more honest and straightforward news reporting.
Perhaps we can refuse to patronize news channels that we know are sensational. If we stopped watching caricatures of news reporting, their ratings would go down.
If we stopped pretending that news show sideshows actually cared about honest news reporting more than making money by making us scared so that we watched more of their news reports, perhaps they would clean up their act.
I like facts, and I can reason. Give me the facts. I’ll decide whether to be frightened or not.
Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.