As I'm sure many of you have this Christmas period, I have been forced by my parents to sit in the living room for hours on end watching re-runs of terrible shows under the pretense that this is 'family time.' What this has really brought home to me, other than the fact that it is almost impossible to bond with another person while Dad's Army blares out in double exposed khaki movements with the volume turned up to 80% to disguise the sound of the squabbling, yet united, family, is how empowered the media is to instill lies into us. This, we nonchalantly throw out to new acquaintances at house parties or in the pub, of course we know. But, as we are so relentlessly suffused by it, it seems invariably the case that after a while we just stop questioning what from fresh eyes would appear startlingly obvious.
We read stories about children starving to death in countries we have never heard of before. We see images of politicians whose names we get confused shaking hands on the steps of Number Ten. We watch celebrities become the darlings of the media (COUGH! Cheryl freaking Cole), shaking their glossy hair one minute despite previous criminal convictions for racist attacks in night club toilets. When you zoom out a bit you suddenly have the realisation that a lot of this information, while not necessarily untrue, is not complete. This one-sided picture of the world, so readily adopted to sell news papers or cause scandal for the sake of mass-titillation, is one that we are so used to but rarely question the authenticity of.
This scares me, because then the one-sided account becomes entirely representative of what sparked the story, but does not encompass the true complexity that it's headline claims. Africa becomes a continent (or, more often than not, a country) solely inhabited by poor starving black people waiting for rich white foreigners to come and help them out. People who do not follow the status quo are regarded as weirdos, while those that do are pigeon-holed as sheep. All Asian men with backpacks are potential suicide bombers...you get the gist. Just for once I wish the media would stop trying to define and start trying to understand. But perhaps money-making and empathy are not compatible cohabitants?
This video from the Ted Website (which, yes, I still have a serious addiction to) is of novelist Chimamanda Adichie giving a talk on what she has coined as The Danger of the Single Story, something I think is more applicable now than ever.