Did you guys read about that thing? Or did you see that news piece about that guy? You did? Then it is about due time I get my soapbox and preach. Sorry.
René Margritte. Does that name mean anything to you? If it does and you know where this is going, you can skip my sermon altogether. If not, then read on. I will keep the history lesson as short as possible. He was a Belgian painter born 1898 and died 1967. If you want to know more, head to a library or look him up on wikipedia. I will even give you the link here.
One of his paintings La trahison des images – In English: The treachery of images – is a masterpiece that is as relevant today as it was in 1928-1929 when it was made. This work of art is fairly simple
"Ceci n'est pas une pipe," the painting states. In English this translates to: "This is not a pipe." Get it? Do you understand the point Magritte was trying to bring across? If you do, you are done and the lesson is over. If you do not, do not fret. I did not get it right away either.
At first it appears the painting contradicts itself as it present the image of a pipe and the text "This is not a pipe," but the painting is not lying to you. It is not a pipe and as Magritte commented himself: Try to stuff tobacco into it. It is an image of a pipe. An image of a pipe. This may seem like a petty play on words and as such an exercise in futility. If that is your conclusion then – like me – you have yet to discover the cognitive method this painting presents. Let me explain you the application of this painting.
Say you turn on your TV and watch a news report. What you are presented with is not only the facts of the matter, but the ever increasing tendency towards coverage of emotional impact of these facts yields a lot of subjective material injected into the news and what you are watching is no longer the reality laid out before you. What you see is not reality. It is not a pipe. It is a presented image of reality, and any presentation comes with bias. In some instances more than others and a news show may be rather close to presenting the true reality of a story, but it takes two to a tango and two is a crowd. Let us consider reality TV, shows that should strive to present to you its namesake: reality. What you will encounter is a constructed reality made to entertain you and ease you into a pleasant state of smug superiority. If the 'real' people on screen can be that incompetent, say something that horrible or profoundly stupid, then you – the viewer – are a better person and you should feel good about yourself… at the expense of the stupidity of fellow men. And by the means of editing and casting much of reality TV is constructed to do just this. It is not reality. It is constructed and composed by a producer with this in mind. It is not a pipe.
A news story is not facts, it is how Fox (or any other channel) presents some facts. Reality TV is not reality, it is the producer's presentation of people and I can start listing everything covered in media, one by one until nothing has been left unlisted. The same goes for any medium and especially the Internet where 99% of the people you 'stumple' upon will lie to get anything they desire from you, be it e-mail, personal information, credit cards etc.
So what can you trust? What can you believe if you believe the painting is not a pipe, but an image of a pipe? This way of thinking changes nothing, but adds a layer of skepticism. Always stay true to the source material. What was once "Did you hear this and that happened?," becomes "Did you hear this and that happened, according to source?" And that at the essence is the point of the painting. You are rarely or never given hard truths about anything, but you are given interpretations of truth and reality and everything delivered as such should be received and processed with sketicism and caution that presented material is presented with varying bias.
Here endeth my lesson.