October 16, 2009

Suckers Are Born Every Minute, We Saw That AGAIN Yesterday

A Comment on the "Balloon Boy" story that ricocheted around the world yesterday: it is a perfect reflection of the flaws in so-called electronic journalism.

PT Barnum once said that "a sucker is born every minute" when asked why people accepted his outlandish claims about the wonders of his circus shows. And he was right. People like to fool themselves, we saw that in spades yesterday.

The truth about yesterday's Balloon Boy story is coming out: the family involved played the cable networks for suckers, and they bit hard, just as they knew they would. That's predictable. Cable news lives and dies with sensationalism and hype and what story could possibly be sexier than a poor little boy caught in the sky in a big silver balloon? Well, maybe if he had been a 17 year old blonde and beautiful white girl, but that's about it.

What's even more predictable was the way that people reacted to half-aced shoddy reporting, hanging on every word as though it were the absolute truth. The Internet, from Twitter, to the web, to sites like these came alive instantly, breathlessly repeating the story as it was "reported" - if you can call playing fast and loose with the truth "reporting." That of course sent hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to their TVs and to the cable news websites to get "the latest."

The latest was nothing more than conjecture and postulating, which are not facts, of course. They are just talking heads gossiping like you or I would at the office water cooler. That and of course the endless repetition of video of the balloon in the sky. That was easy to find and the over the video, "blah blah blah."

The bottom line is that the cable news people don't care if the story was ever real, they suckered America into tuning in and watching, and also watching the commercials in between. That means more money for them and that's their ONLY purpose for being. Journalism and truth are not real priorities, they are in reality their cover story for little more than tabloid journalism constructed from innuendo and rumor. In fact, it is so bad that some fiction writers adhere to reality better than some cable TV 'reporters.'

What really amazes me is the constant ability of people to lack a healthy skepticism to what they are seeing and to willingly allow their heartstrings to be tugged without the least bit of reasonable doubt. Why do we never "consider the source?" This story is a plain example of so many others that dominate these days: make it up as you go, truth be darned and cover your rear end later with plausible deniability. And people lap it up. Why? I just don't get it: we should know better because the cable news people simply lather, rinse and repeat.

For the record, when the news organizations were saying that the boy was missing and that the authorities were fearing that he had fallen out of the balloon, I said that he was probably hiding for fear of his parents. That was what I would have done when I was his age. Not quite right, it turns out, but far closer to the truth than the sensationlism of a kid falling to his death.

Next time, whether it is the war, politics, sports, or whatever, put some doubt into what you are seeing right then and there. The story will change, bet on it.

Now does this relate to golf? You bet it does. While the golf press is perhaps one of the best sets of writers and reporters in the business today, they too can sometimes stretch stories, if unknowingly. For example, consider the ones that constantly cycle around Tiger Woods being "cold and aloof."

Maybe Tiger is...or maybe Tiger is just being careful around people he doesn't fully trust. And who could blame him if he does? Anything he says or does is magnified, analyzed and categorized to the point where reality starts to blur. For example, cameras follow his every shot and when he has a bad reaction to a missed shot, suddenly, Woods is one of the worst offenders of bad ettiquette in the history of the game. 'Keep your kids away from this guy,' people gravely counsel. 'He'll make your child into a temper tantrum club throwing machine not fit to be near man nor beast.'

Oddly, Woods' peers don't rank him among the most ill-tempered on the PGA Tour. Not even top 5, actually. Could it be that Woods' poor form (and yes, he has shown poor form) is over-magnified and sensationalized past the truth?

Could be. And that's only one example, there are literally dozens of others rattling around out there. Does Lorena Ochoa only care about her wedding and not her golf? Who knows. Is Michelle Wie a tart because she designs club-wear -- something that most 20-year old women might wear to a nightclub? Some would have you think so. And so forth and so on. It never ends, not even in the golf world.

I suggest you make that call yourself after applying some common sense and thinking it through on your own. Like Balloon Boy, don't buy the story at face value, instead, use the common sense that God graced you with. I bet you come up with a truth in the middle that's different than what you are being sold.

1 comment:

  1. You meant Former below, Charles.

    A Tony NC Golf Club Becomes Part of Corruption Scandal of Fomer Governor


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