Nov
14
1999

The Media Virus

“Can you give me a virus?”

When you hear those words, you know you’re dealing with one of our nation’s most intelligent and determined media reporters that history has ever known. And I mean that with a heapful of sarcasm.

Because: don’t trust anything that you read or see.

With modern technology, your senses can be tricked pretty easily. A simple photograph can be doctored via image manipulation tools—and just like that, Dennis Rodman can actually be made to look like he has natural hair. A simple paragraph can be altered via word processing tools—and just like that, a quote from Dan Qualye can sound like he actually has more intelligence than everyday household Spam (how scary is that?).

I know a young lady who works for a research laboratory. A few weeks ago, the media reported a scandal at this laboratory.

A patient undergoing an experimental treatment using gene therapy had passed away. The doctor was branded immediately as a mad scientist who sacrificed ethics for the so-called advancement of knowledge.

Reporters hounded the doctor for weeks; his son was bullied endlessly at school. His life opened up to the scrutiny of the public.

And all because of the perspective that the media gave to this story.

But what really happened? Well, the truth is hardly as scandalous and exciting as the media made it out to be.

The patient was suffering from a terminal illness and was going to die no matter what. Doctors routinely administer experimental treatments to try to save these terminal patients—this happens all the time with AIDS patients. Not all of these treatments will work and some will die. That’s exactly what happened to this patient.

So why did the media jump on this story? Well, as soon as someone begins to play with DNA, a red light goes off.

And instead of responsibly addressing this story, the media turned it around and fed paranoia to the public—they jumped on the mad scientist image because that’s what sells newspapers and magazines.

The doctor responded by inviting the reporters into his lab because he had succeeded in another gene therapy experiment. Fight bad press with good press, my Pappy always used to say.

The young lady told me how the reporters, to put it mildly, kissed the doctor’s ass. She was tempted to go around and wipe the noses of these reporters, such was the depth at which they entered.

“Oh, doctor, you’re such a brilliant man.”

“Oh, doctor, you have such an amazing way of phrasing and wording technical terminology in a way that a layperson can understand it so easily…”

“Oh, doctor, will you walk down that hallway towards the camera? And make it look like you have to go somewhere.”

And these are the same reporters who, just weeks earlier, had given this man an image akin to Dr. Frankenstein. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde…

Some reporters even approached my friend and asked her to show them various laboratory techniques so that they could film her.

“Can you give me a virus?”

“Can you show me DNA? Which one of these bottles is DNA? Is it this pink one?”

“Can you hold that test tube up next to your face and smile? That’s right, that tube with the viruses. Hold it real close to your face and smile.”

Einstein these reporters definitely aren’t.

Unfortunately, they didn’t even use my friend’s footage in the final news story.

The good press seems to be working so far; the public outcry against this “mad scientist” has softened a bit.

So basically, all of the imagery used in the newscast was mocked. All of the words used in the newscast were carefully phrased in such a way as to sound sensational. A subjective point of view was made to sound objective.

And while I’m busy here debunking the media industry, let me burst another bubble of yours. The MTV’s The Real World is also faked. Yup. A friend of a friend of mine works there, and all of the Real World residents are handed a generalized script. They don’t dictate the lines to speak, they just provide general instructions on what to do when on camera.

Like I said, don’t trust anything that you read or see. Don’t even trust what you’ve read here.

. . .

Do you trust the media?

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