The Misinformation Age…..

Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Mr. Shaw’s genius is on full display these days and one needs to be particularly vigilant in interpreting what he or she hears or reads. Let’s have a look at why we are skeptical in this age of instant communication.

Let’s start with the obvious. Unless you do not have electricity and running water, you have been exposed to a constant barrage of lies, half truths and gross distortions courtesy of the current political climate. A student of communication art is schooled to understand the young and very old are susceptible to the acceptance of what they hear as being factual. This may help explain the explosion of popularity the concept of Socialism is currently enjoying on our campuses. I recently enjoyed pie and coffee with a college student that is near and dear to my heart. The topic was Socialism and why the concept is the illusion that Mr. Shaw speaks of. After considerable, detailed, discussion this student finally grasped the futility of the concept and is ready for the voting booth. Free everything is a mesmerizing concept! Our politicians have lied so many times, we have been conditioned to accept the concept (lying) as acceptable and even funny. It is neither. These are tough times folks, and we had better take the time to do a little math before we enter the voting booth.

A politician at work!

Next on my hit list is the subtle art of labeling, whether it be a can of dog food or slab of “Atlantic Salmon”. Sharon and I try to buy products that are manufactured or produced in America or another country that shares our interest in purity and quality. I am too damned old spend time in the grocery store carefully deciphering the country of origin or percentages of a harmful substance (in my case salt and sugar) in a given product. I want my shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, not raised in a sewage infested “farm” in some third world country. A law degree is required to understand labeling today, whether it is food or consumer goods. As a final note, nearly every consumable good contains a carcinogen, usually courtesy of some California standard. If you don’t grow or raise it, you likely have no idea what you are consuming. Read a little about the common fish Tilapia, and you will understand my point here.

The story of the day is the Coronavirus. This malady is a serious form of influenza with much potential to do harm. America is rated number one in the world in terms of preparedness to manage a pandemic or lesser epidemic occurrence, according to the Johns Hopkins Medical School, where such things are studied. Talk radio and television in general is rife with stories about this new scourge. In thirty minutes time, you will hear at least two conflicting assessments of this virus or it’s implications, which has served to ratchet up our anxiety beyond any reasonable level. It is the fear of the unknown thing, not totally irrational. The President has assembled a supreme talent pool to address this problem and Congress has appropriated a load of money to manage the issue. I choose to listen to the CDC or a member of the President’s team, with some consideration given to the World Health Organization, although WHO’s assessments have been suspect in years past. I walked into a box store two days ago to buy a mask to use to paint a project we are working on. Their stock of masks was sold out, not surprisingly to a handful of folks who bought them in huge quantities. There is no ethical aspect to buying these masks and reselling them on the internet when and if the need arises. Once again, I rely on the CDC’s advisory relative to the use of masks. As it is, a very high percentage of flu cases can be avoided by simply keeping your hands away from your face and properly washing your hands……but that is not a titillating media story.

So here is my advice. Do not get your legal advice from Geraldo Rivera on a talk show. Do not get medical advice from the clerk selling bandaids at the drug store who “just saw on television that….”. When buying seafood, ask the counter man (woman) what the origin of the seafood is. When a politician offers a “fact” smile and think of your last vacation or a slice of good pie. There are precious few of them that speak the truth…….

Remember Mr. Shaw’s admonition. Communication can be a huge illusion!

Have a great weekend!

SR

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