Day 346- August 2, 2010

Mmmm bacon and eggs for breakfast. What a very good thing to have for breakfast. I recently read that this was one of the best things to eat for breakfast in terms of weight loss because it gets your metabolism going for the rest of the day. I certainly hope this is true. Either way it is delicious and you have to live life to the fullest. I interpret that to mean that bacon is at least part of the meaning of life.

After doing some washing, having risotto for lunch and doing some reading for my Terrorism subject, I went into the city, where I met with Josiah and then Mum to go a public lecture given by photographer Bill Henson. I’m sure that most people would remember him from the controversy surrounding an exhibition of his a few years back with photographs of nude children. Unfortunately, that seems to be what media reports of his talk have focussed on, presenting it as an attack on or a lashing out against his critics. In fact, though he mentioned the importance of artistic freedom, the central theme of his talk was the importance of art as an integral piece of society and civilisation and a discussion on how all sorts of artists have affected him.

It was a bit disappointing to read such sensationalism, but interesting too in terms of how one should (or not!) accept what is written or shown in the media. I know that if I had not been at the lecture myself and heard it in its entirety (how meaning can change when parts of the whole are quoted selectively!), there would be a good chance that I would have accepted the writer’s representation of Henson’s message at face value, or at least allowed myself to be influenced greatly by what was reported in the media. I find it interesting to reflect upon how much we (or at least I) take for granted, while still professing to be thoughtful and skeptical consumers of such information. Obviously most news events are not experienced first hand and so we must rely on second-hand information (a somewhat tautologous statement), but it was a bit shocking for me to realise how much I take for granted or accept relatively uncritically. I think anything that throws your assumptions into question like that is a bit of a rude shock.

I remember being little and being told by my mother that advertisements were full of lies. Obviously you can’t explain the subtleties of spin, sophistry and truth-bending to a five year old and obviously as I grew up I learned that advertisements were rarely outright lies but merely clever reformulations of the truth. And then I became confident that I could spot this spin, that I could, to some reasonable extent, identify what was biased and what was to be trusted. Surely I was too smart to be taken in. I guess it’s not that easy.

At least part of that lack of critical thinking, I think, is due to some sort of belief that sources accepted as legitimate or authoritative must be, to put it crudely, telling the truth. But then again, the article I read about Henson’s speech did “tell the truth”. All of the quotations were Henson’s own words. All of the background information given about him is generally accepted as fact. But the choice of quotes (possibly a hundred words or so from a speech that lasted an hour), the focus of the article and even the words chosen to describe Henson and his speech gave an impression that was, to me at least, quite incongruent with my experience. None of it was lies; it wasn’t even a condemnation of the man. But it seemed to me a misrepresentation, a sensationalist piece on a topic known to be provocative.

I don’t really think there’s anything to be gained by being completely distrustful of what is reported in the media. I don’t really think they’re out to lie to us. But they are, as Henson happened to remind his audience tonight, there to maximise readership, to sell advertising space, to make money. And I don’t really see that as sinister or conspiratorial. I just think it’s to be expected, to be considered when trying to work out what we know, or what we can say we reasonably believe.


One response to “Day 346- August 2, 2010

  1. Pingback: Day 365- August 21, 2010 | Still A Teen

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