Years ago, just before moving to India for a few months, my parents gave us a travel book on India. It was chock-full of beautiful pictures of what might be the most colorful country on the planet. When we got there we discovered the same beauty illustrated by the book, but quickly realized that it had cut out the context of the beauty: right next to that 7-star hotel modeled after a palace was a camp with people living under tarps. Did the book lie? Not exactly, it just edited the picture to be what people wanted to see rather than showing the full picture.
And this is exactly what we do as we daily wade in a deluge of information: we edit our input often to be what we want to see. We have little time to research each headline we come across and so we just look at the lead. If it fits our worldview, we accept it as true – if it doesn’t, we edit it out. No need to research, we just stitch these leads into a sea of isolated facts and keep swimming.
One of my favorite authors, Neil Postman, used to see how much his other professors had given into this mode of thinking. He would ask if they saw the C-section of the New York Times. If they said no, he would proceed to mention an article he read about a study done at the University of Minnesota (or some lesser known school) that showed that people who ran 3 times a week were twice as likely to die of a heart attack. This makes no sense based on what all of us experience as a result of exercising, yet many believed it because there was a study. In this case, it’s a world view where studies edit out common sense.
As our ability to discern truth collapses to editing for our worldview, we become pawns swayed by any that understand our inability to fight back. We are too busy to research, too busy to question what we believe, too busy to consider the philosophy that makes things less black and white than they seem.
If we’re disappointed by our leadership’s ability to speak truth, maybe it’s worth taking a moment to question what we’re doing to establish what is true. We may be busy, but we can chose to shape our input to include views we disagree with and be skeptical of pabulum that seems too simple a summary of our complex world. We can seek sources which research and work to present a full picture instead of an edited, or worse photoshopped, view that many with agendas thrust upon us hoping we’re too busy to notice.