the following is a short essay I appear to have written in High School, sometime around the year 2008. Below the essay itself are some recent reflections and thoughts on this essay.
The above photo of (I think) a Coyote was taken in Yellow Stone Nation Park when I was there in 2015.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
We, the general public, are right. Always. The government isn’t. Ever. That’s how the media like to show it, that’s how they spin things.
If, for example, a door fell off a hinge, the media would report that the door would be a spawn of the devil, OSH would be to blame, and the whole thing would be brutally horrific.
I’m not trying to say that the media always gets it wrong just that they always look for someone to blame when something bad happens, and they always spin things to sound worse than it is.
Take for example the school trip that went horribly wrong last year, a bunch of school kids were out canyoning when there was a flash flood. A flash flood, that no one could really have been able to predict as it was just an act of God.
Most of the kids died. Obviously this is a tragedy but the poor instructor, who was only fresh out of college, has copped almost all the blame and will never get to work in the industry again.
This, in my opinion, can be put down to the media blaming him and pressuring others into doing the same. Just like with the New Zealand police force. The media are always scrutinising them for everything they do, that’s not to say that they don’t get it wrong a lot of the time (and I do mean a lot). But the police force? No, OUR police force, are doing it for us and our low opinion only ever creates an even further, lower, opinion. This for the police, to be under constant watch from the media, backed by the general public. A public, that doesn’t care to know or think for themselves but prefers the media to do it all for them.
It’s a lot like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, the media being the piper, and us, the public, being the children. We’re all so captivated by the noise that we forget ourselves and would follow him, the piper, to our deaths, never questioning him or ourselves for what we believe or what we’re mesmerised into believing. It’s like how when you’re a kid, you’ll believe just about anything you’re told, but we’re not kids anymore. We’re not. Just because the media did one good thing, they took our rats’ away, and now they demand that we believe everything they say.
Now we all know the government lies, a lot; and gets it wrong, a lot; but even so they are our representatives. We gave them the power they have so we shouldn’t really be criticising and complaining about that power and, as much as people would like to believe it, they couldn’t do a better job themselves. It’s just not gonna’ happen. It’s like the boy who cried wolf: we’re all too busy complaining about the boy to consider that he may need psychiatric help to deal with his need to draw attention to himself. But no, we would all much rather complain about his inability to tell the truth, and his vagueness.
So think about this, imagine you were stranded on a desert island with your family and two strangers, and it fell to you to lead them to safety and keep them all alive. So you’re going about making huts to sleep in and fishing for food, hunting as well. And the whole time, these two strangers are sitting, watching, and being critical of everything you do. They don’t help any. They are, in essence, a drain on your little society. But you can’t do a thing to stop them. You can’t change it. You can only watch, and wait, as all the children follow the Pied Piper.
Dissecting the Boy Who Cried Wolf
Firstly, I don't know why the essay was titled "The Boy who Cried Wolf", as at no point is that story referenced in the essay. I suspect it may have been a working title with "the boy who cried wolf" originally filling the role that "The Pied Piper" story eventually took. Probably a good thing, as the latter is a more relevant story to the point the essay is trying to make.
Now to examine the content of the essay, it's interesting to note that even at 16/17 I felt that the news media were not a reliable source of truth. On reflection of that view it seems the current media climate was an inevitable conclusion to the path they were heading down. The media's need to over sensationalize and distort truths in order to fit a narrative, which they could then wield to whip up a frenzy in the general public. This is the reality that brought us "fake news".
Of course the reason the media does this varies and is often debated, but the short of it seems to be that of our most basic emotions anger is the one most easy to manipulate. It is the emotion most likely to drive interest in a story and as such is the emotion that is in their best interest to generate.
I suspect this has to do with the nature of power, and while I've never known it personally my understanding from the outside is that power is self serving. Once too much power is consolidated in a single place, it's interest and purpose is perverted; It's need to sustain itself becomes the goal, and so power begets power. This is true in both politics (with the needs and desires of the political class often diverging from the needs and desires of the people), and in the media, where as I previously mentioned, the needs of media conglomerates are oftentimes at odds with the needs and interests of the people.
Of additional interest to me is the role narrative plays in all of this. The need of the media and of the general public to always view an event through a narrative context. Of course this is often warranted given that nothing happens in a vacuum, but too often the media needs to distort truths in order to make the narrative fit, whether that is perpetuating misinformation that is necessary for their story, publishing only the pieces that suit their narrative, or the outright fabrication of events (often under the label of speculation or opinion).
But to filter all things through the lens of narrative is to divine meaning and to assign blame to the outcome, and this I feel is why the political landscape has gotten so polarizing. As each story divines meaning from a series of events, it also assigns' blame for failures and with this blame comes a call to action for the public to ensure the event does not happen again.
Of course, the call to action is implicit. It's implicit by how angry they tell you to be, by how sad the story they tell is, or by how shocking and horrific the images they show you are. The motivation is outrage, and outrage is the call to action.
This style of narrative, meaning, blame, call-to-action seems to make up all of the news we consume, everything from the conflict in the middle east, to one-off tragedies (train/car/plane crashes), to internal political discussions. It's pervasive.
On a more technical critique of the essay I find the writing doesn't flow very well as often times the subject changes abruptly without a sane segue, though I feel like this is a criticism that could be leveled at all of my writing. It's most glaring with the attempt to shoe-horn the pied piper back into the end of the essay even though it obviously doesn't fit, to which I suspect my thinking was "fuck it, it'll do."
That said, I do really like the Pied Piper metaphor, it's very colourful and fits the subject reasonably well.