Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Often Things Are Not What They Seem

You know that I have opinions, if they're unfounded, I'll say so. Most times, they're slightly researched but they're still like arseholes - everyone has one although sometimes voicing opinions without an understanding of the truth can be very dangerous.

People can get whipped up in a frenzy of hysteria and fist waving, which can seriously affect the outcome of a trial, marginalise the innocent or prevent the guilty from being brought to justice.

Remember how misinformed we were about AIDS and HIV, originally thinking that it could be transmitted via Mosquitoes or kissing, that the slightest splosh of spittle or blood from a grazed knee would see us all bowled over by the grim reaper ?. . .Talk about a campaign of misinformation! We're still fighting that battle in countries such as Africa.

Then, last year we deported a young Doctor due to his possible links to Al-Qaeda and the London bombings because he had a cousin England who the press implicated. Our keystone AFP jumped on the chance to look heroic and acted before having all the evidence. This later became an embarrassment and a total fabrication, now labelled a political stunt and still being investigated. Dr Haneef is still attempting to clear his name and have his visa reinstated. How many of you have a black sheep in the family? Are you responsible for their behaviour or their beliefs?

Australia's Dr Death has been extradited after an earlier attempt to hide in the US and had his first court appearance in Queensland. He's now out on limited bail awaiting trial but high media coverage, public opinion and lobby groups may well have jeopardised the opportunity for him to have a fair trial. A bad man could potentially go free if such bias is proven.

I visited a couple of blogs that were truly up in arms this week after the murder of a young Irishman on 5th July, in the US, by a Policeman who has since been arrested on sexual abuse charges (not linked to this sad incident apparently). Said young man banged on a few doors - he may have been confused, having a psychotic episode or panicked by being lost, he may not - He may have been thought to be a burglar or was not - He did a runner despite having bare feet - and was cut down in cold blood by a corrupt cop, or was he? - who knows? Quite rightly the lad's family and some of the locals are trying very hard to get to the bottom of the mystery but opinions have already been formed and indignation voiced before all the facts are known.

Australians once had very strong opinions about a certain woman murdering her baby based on rather conflicting scientific evidence. A dingo couldn't possibly fit a baby in its mouth yet months later one killed a nine year old on Fraser Island. Getting an impartial jury for a potential babykiller was impossible. I remember what was an absolutely disgusting media circus. Lindy Chamberlain became the talk of the town around water fountains, coffee shops and bars. Everyone had an opinion. She suffered, she was erroneously jailed, her marriage broke up, her family disintegrated, her faith was ransacked and she was eventually pardoned and able to mourn the loss of a baby that would now be 28 years old. She has had to live with that stigma all her life!

The parents of little murdered beauty queen Jon Benet Ramsey, have finally been cleared as DNA evidence identifies her yet uncaptured killer . . .the child's mother died years ago from Cancer believing that the whole of America thought her capable of killing her own child!

These are just a few of the headliners but I issue a word of caution. Be careful what you say and to whom you voice your opinion. It's important to cultivate informed opinions not knee jerk reactions.

I recently put up with a young fellow banging on with religious jokes and complete bullshit about religious practices because I knew he was ill informed and just making himself look stupid. Unfortunately, other's actually believed his rubbish and had to be put straight. Now me defending the faith was a stretch but it had to be done .. the kid was totally ignorant but spouting ideas, and ideals as if he had a clue!

I try to read more than one source, watch more than one current affairs or news program, mull over the likelihood and the scenarios in my head before forming an informed opinion and I'm always prepared to listen to the 'other side of the story'. I'm pragmatic and my opinions are based on knowledge not circumspect. (Although I am somewhat famous for my gross generalisations).

What is clearly apparent both in the reporting of these incidents and the reaction in the press, thereby influencing the public, is that getting to the truth of the matter is very difficult. Yet everyone is very willing to strongly argue their opinion and support one side or another without truly understanding what went on. This is how wars begin folks.

Whilst I’m happy to put my opinion out there, I try pretty hard to ascertain the facts before taking a pro or con stance. Could be the Libran in me, I think it’s the sceptic and cynic that makes me view all news and reporting, commentary and complaining with a very large lump of salt. I'm not lecturing here, it is sometimes impossible to get to the truth without wading through primary sources, court transcripts or even waiting for the release of secret documents once they've served their dues in the vaults of government and who has the time to do that? I would caution people though to be careful about broadly publishing their 'opinion' until they have a firm grip of the facts. Whipping up frenzies doesn't solve the problem, indeed it may see good people vilified and dangerous people vindicated. Whilst everyone is of course entitled to their opinion and free speech is based on voicing it . . . use the brain before the mouth goes into gear (God that's the pot calling the kettle black . . if only I could take my own advice!)

Just as a frightened dog is a vicious dog . . a dangerous citizen is not an armed one but an uninformed one! In my humble opinion, things are rarely as they seem . . .

Addendum: Interesting al-Qaida, al-Qa'ida or al-Qa'idah, is not yet in the MS spellcheck vernacular!


Thriftcriminal said...

Things are rarely as they seem as we all have to map them to recognisable patterns in our heads to try and understand them, Therefore my understanding will always differ to someone elses a greater or lesser degree. People need to recognise that and understand that what is in their heads is an approximation to the real world, not the real world. That's why we have societies and cultures, to pool a common experience and understanding, but globalisation and the media tend to fracture this along different lines, and iPods make us live in our own little worlds too much.

Sorry, went a bit mental there.

Osama Bin Laden said...

Give it a few years and we will be ...

kj said...

you are a kindred soul, baino. why people have this urge to make things black and white and wrap them up quickly is something i'll never understand. i admit i was looking for shades of grey in the first grade....


laughingwolf said...

libran, eh? rocktober 6-born, me ;)

opinionated? moi? getouttatown! :P lol

Moon said...

You really do write some very interesting posts... on a very controversial subject, and one that might really upset people, rape is one that abnnoys me ... a man can be accused of the crime, named in every paper, his life ruined... then proved innocent. Please don't mis-understandme, if convicted, then cut off his balls, and feed him to the sharks... but innocent until proven ??

The papers are to blame for so many of these things, esp the English press. I never ever read the papers, but I do put my faith in the BBC. Maybe I am equally as wrong to do this as well ????

I love to listen, and argue, with opinions, but I do hope I am open minded to be able to discuss and admit I am wrong .... I try not to judge to quickly....

Quickroute said...

The more met people from other creeds and cultures the more you realise your own perceptions and beliefs are just that i.e. your own. They are frequently at complete odds with anothers beliefs so I normally try my best not to preach and to try to be objective but it isn't always easy to see the other point of view.

I have almost no trust in the media as they frequently sensationalise the facts to create viewings. It's hard to know who/what to believe any more!

Baino said...

Thrifty you have been burning your brainzzz haven't you. Viva la difference I say but don't mouth off before you have an inkling about what's going on. You're right about globalisation having a fracturing effect and as for the media .. . Adam said the other day (not known for his perusal of things newsy and non fiction) "How can we believe anything these people say . . " after watching a retracted news story from some reporter who had the facts completely wrong!

Osama . . If I know where you are, why is it taking the authorities so long to find you?

kj I am beleagued with shades of grey, it's a curse. I can always see the opposing side of things even when I disagree vehemently with it. Although I'm not flawless and told that I jump to conclusions and am the mistress of the gross generalisation . . a flaw I must address . . .

Yep. October 16 for me so don't forget it! I'm opinionated alright but I try not to mouth off in the first instance (not that you'd notice reading this stupid blog)

Moon, perfect case in point. They ban the media from court rooms (well photos of the accused at least) but expose everything on TV or in the papers before a jury has made up its mind. A fair trial seems to be an oxymoron these days.

Yep. I love a good argument also, without discussing opposing views how can you effectively formulate one yourself. With knowledge comes the truth.

Megan said...

It's so hard to be objective sometimes, but I try! I agree that using more than one source of information is a really good idea.

I have a friend who still believes there are weapons of mass destruction out there in the desert. He just won't accept any other input on the subject. It's mindboggling.

Osama Bin Laden said...

It's the bureaucracy, you know ...

Ces said...

I am not sure if I would give someone the benefit of doubt if he banged at my door and acted like a raging lunatic. I would be on the other side of the door going full Rambo. Oh yeah? Why give my children the chance of being harmed? Besides, if someone really did do that to my door, he/she would have already invaded my privacy and crossed the line because we have a gated and walled property and the gate clearly say "Beware of Doug". Doug is my neighbor :-)

It is unfortunate that it takes eons to identify the real murderers and even if scientific evidence is overwhelming such as the murderer's DNA being splattered all over the victims, he gets away with murder because the jury of his peers think it is a racial attack on the defendant.

Eventually the real perpetrator is found but only after extreme suffering of the victims and their families due to the slow pace of justice and smart lawyers who find every technical reasons to throw away the case. Then the perpetrator or murderer claims insanity.

The Joan Bennet Ramsey is truly a tragic case. Who the hell killed that poor little girl?

Sometimes it is hard to engage in a discussion of ideas on the blogs. There is an unwritten code that if the visitor does not agree with the blogger, it is best to just write a trite comment like.

"Wow, you really put a lot of thought into this post"!

You calling Anon "Petal", got me hollering :-)

Anonymous said...

You called me "PETAL" Baino! Okay, I can see where you're coming from ;)

I like where ThriftCriminal went 'mental' in the comments but see his comment as completely sane. HUGE post and subjects Baino! It helps to be reminded to keep in check :)

Kath Lockett said...

Great post, Baino. To this day I've never been able to form an opinion on the Lindy Chamberlain saga and I'm bloody glad about it.

But where would the media be without puffed-up blustering, instant opinions and beat ups? We'd be reading our news via ticker tape.

Baino said...

Megan it's impossible to be objective just be aware that words, poorly thought can have consequences. Like I said, I'm a pot calling a kettle black on many occasions.

Ces Yeh, the issue re the Irish boy is still very murky, the householder called the police but it's the policeman's use of enthusiastic force that's now got him in hot water. Another case for the old taser or capsicum spray rather than five bullets. I guess racial attacks are more common in the US than here although I identify with the slow pace of justice. My mother was killed by a murderer returning from the scene of a crime who engineered a car accident in order to provide himself with a recorded alibi. It took two years to convict him.

Feel free to expunge, argue or disagree. I'm all up for healthy debate as long as it doesn't reduce to personal attack. I value varied opinions, how else can I develop my own?

Haha . . .I'm a sucker for pet names! I forget how often I use them. How good were today's pics tho?

Sorry Anon! I'll have to watch my terms of endearment! yeh, bit of a rant I'm afraid. Short and sharp for the rest of the week, I promise. Thrifty is a 'thinker'. (Engineer you know)

Hi Kath. I know sensationalism sells but it would be an interesting experiment to see if all papers and mags and tv just reported the facts . . .I really don't think the public would bat an eyelid! As for Lindy . . I always wondered about the wisdom of taking a six week old baby camping in the outback.

Ropi said...

As far as I know Aids can spread by kissing in extreme cases like when there is a scar in both of the kissers' mouth.

Ropi said...

However I am weak at biology so I may be wrong.

Baino said...

Ropi it would have to be 'extreme' kissing with mouth lacerations and a lot of saliva! *yuk*

laughingwolf said...

10 days post mine, how can i forget? :P lol