Subjectivity: The Bad News About the News, 7 October 2015

I want to you to consider the following conflict, and how revealing it is, despite its simplicity: you wake up in the middle of the night, and you’re cold. You decide to turn up the heat so you can go back to sleep. When you get to the thermostat, you find a friend or a loved one there at the same time, only their problem is just the opposite. It’s too hot and they can’t get to sleep, so they’ve decided to turn on the air conditioning. The thermometer reads the same for both: 60 degrees.

Do you allow the air to be turned on, only to make you colder, or do you force the issue, knowing your comfort will mean the discomfort of someone else? How do you solve a problem that is the same, which has two solutions, and either solution only helps half of those affected? The only available and trusted means of measurement produces the same for both. The temperature is 60 degrees, both sides agree. And yet, and yet, the problem remains.

Now, enlarge the issue, put it in the hands of the public, and leave it up to the news to relate this issue to the world and, based on their reporting, one person or the other will be happy at the expense of the other. One news source gets the story from the person who is too cold, the other news source from the person who is too hot, and now the solution is submitted to the court of public opinion to decide if it’s really hot or cold. The reports begin to take shape and the news outlets take sides. Newspapers and websites are set up specifically to reinforce why it’s actually hot or cold, opinion pieces spring up about why being being hot doesn’t really matter, and why the measurement is flawed.

Each source of information exists solely to reinforce one side or the other, solely to convince you that it’s really hot or that it’s really cold, and why the freezing person or sweating person’s issue is more important, and which is the bigger, more important problem. How do you rally opinion to one side or the other? You start with humanizing the individuals, their individual pressures and stresses and needs, all very real. But how do you really pull opinion one way or another, and finally convince the world that someone one person deserves comfort more than the other? You give them faults. You tear their character apart in a digital coliseum. And you do it without facts, but with questions: the best way to report and manufacture news is to just write an article about a lie and simply add a question mark and suddenly, blam:

Allegations for Cold Woman Heating Up: Drug Withdrawals?

Could Drug Usage Explain Inexplicable Sweating?

Bam! Now they’re not people experiencing regular human discomforts, they’re suffering because of their own actions. It is their fault, and they should suffer for it. 

It’s really easier to deal with being cold, isn’t it? You can put on a sweater, light a fire, get under the covers, and cuddle up to someone and try to get warm. But when you’re hot, you can only take off so much, put on a short sleeve shirt, take it off, sit in front of an air conditioner. Give it time, and you’ll see why the person is undeserving, unworthy, and plant the seed; not only should they be cold, as an unfortunate but necessary measure for one person’s relief, but – give it time – and they will deserve to be cold, not despite who they are, but because of who they are. And hinging on the churning opinions stirred by these unaffected, contrasting points of view, and lost in the white noise of the chatter, is that there are two people, one hot, one cold. It is 60 degrees.

With all the noise in that convoluted, incestuous echo chamber, what is invariably lost in the details are the people most affected by it. One person is hot. One person is cold. And they’re waiting on you, and the cynical, unaffected masses. To those who are the least affected, to do the right thing, is a decision based on which right thing will most benefit themselves. Now imagine this conflict is something more serious than the comforts of two people and, instead of two people waiting on the court’s verdict, there are millions of people: apply this to the cultural landscape that thrives on the choosing of who deserves freedoms and comforts and those who don’t, those who, for some reason or another, have been deemed unworthy. Now, is it cold or is it hot?

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