The Need to Know

It has always amused me when I’m watching a fictional story (TV show, movie, national news) when one of the characters is asking the relevant questions and they’re told that they can’t be given those answers because that information is available only on a ‘need to know basis’.  The Truth is always Classified. The reality of a situation is above their pay grade. The character and the audience both know that whatever that something is, whatever is being kept secret, isn’t flattering (mildly phrased) to someone. Someone has something to lose. Someone is protecting someone or something. From the truth.

Of course, this is all in the fictitious arena of entertainment…and the nightly news. I include the nightly news because, on a daily basis, people in that business are making editorial decisions as to what it is they think that we, the people watching, need to know. They choose which stories to run, which to quash, which to follow up on and which to let fade away. Decisions are made that reflect their judgment as to what we need to know and what they think will drive revenue. Decisions that we will never know about. Moreover, we won’t ever know the true basis for their decisions. Even the people within that business are informed on a need to know basis. Pursuing the truth can cost you your job, perhaps your career.

I mention this because we forget sometimes. Quite often actually. We forget that when we enter a stage or movie theatre, one of the requirements of the audience is to bring “a willing suspension of disbelief “. Otherwise, we wouldn’t enjoy the show, the story, the acting and the drama. We would simply be sitting there telling ourselves and each other that none of what we’re seeing is real, that none of what they’re saying is actually true. But none of that matters. We enjoy a good story so much, we’re willing to be swept away by the fiction.

That’s understandable in a theatre.

What has become increasingly confused, however, is the distinction between entertainment and information. Most of us will sit in front of the television to receive both. It was only a matter of time before we, ourselves, were no longer demanding a clear separation between the two. We, through our viewing preferences, indicated that we wanted our information to be more entertaining and our entertainment to contain more factual information. The people in that business were only too willing to oblige. After all, they’re in business to make money.

This is not an indictment. This was not a conspiracy.

But we have incrementally, and now systematically, neutralized what used to be one of the most forceful checks on the wrongdoing of institutions, governments agencies and big business. We have neutralized the outrage of an informed public because we no longer know what to believe from the primary sources of our information. They have been compromised. They do not seek to level the playing field with accurate information and full disclosure. They do not let the chips fall where they will. They are in the business of selectively steering the chips into their pockets.

Again, I must state that this is not an attack on anyone or the news media in particular. This unhealthy progression took place within the course of normal human events and situations. We, ourselves, fell asleep in front of the whole process.

All I’m asking is for you consider that, not only do we have the need to know, we have the right to know.

Our collective well being depends upon it.

 

 

 

 

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