My father used the title phrase of this post so many times that I lost count of how often he said it. If I were upset because someone had said something that was hurtful he would ask me about the individual making the statement. Normally, it was someone from school. The fact that I wore glasses at an early age was one area of such commentary.
He would advise me that a person who made fun of a person who needed glasses in order to see would probably also make fun of an old person who needed a cane in order to walk. “Now, that doesn’t speak very well to the person’s sense of compassion, does it?”, he would ask.
“It’s always important when we listen to others to consider the source.”
Those words are perhaps even truer today than when I heard them as a youngster. We have so much information thrown at us that simply sorting through it is, in and of itself, virtually a full time job. That, of course, leaves us with little time to verify that information which is formative in helping us shape our opinions.
And when we hear the same thing, over and over not from one source but from virtually every medium reporting on a particular subject, it is easy to fall into the habit of accepting what we hear as gospel truth. The assumption is, if everyone is saying the same thing, how could they all be wrong? And so, in the interest of convenience, we buy the story and think no further about it. Our opinion has been shaped by others and we have taken ownership of it.
And, of course, that is exactly the objective of advertising. Repetition tends to breed acceptance – which is why we hear the same ads for a particular product so often. While we subconsciously know that the purpose of advertising is to sell a product or service and may be annoyed at seeing a specific ad for the hundredth time, we do not see this as deceptive. But when the same practice exists in our media, presenting us with the “news”, we have every right to be suspicious of the source and of its author’s motivations.
Back in the 1950’s, New York had three morning newspapers: “The New York Post”; “The Herald Tribune”; and “The New York Times.” “The Post” tended to contain stories that were written in a somewhat more salacious way although in dad’s opinion they had the best sports section. “The Trib” and “The Times” approached news stories in a more in depth manner, the difference being that “The Trib” was far more conservative in its outlook.
Because my father liked to stay informed, he would purchase copies of all three, reading only “The Post’s” sports section and relying on the other two papers for news of current events. I think that speaks well to his desire to form objective opinions.
In truth, he leaned far more closely to the interpretation of facts as they were described in “The Trib” but he wanted to hear the other side’s point of view as well. It’s hard to defeat an opponent if you don’t understand what that opponent’s “modus vivendi” is.
There is a source on which I frequently rely because it generally does a decent job of providing information that I need – particularly as it pertains to movies and movie stars. That source is www.nndb.com. For example, if I am researching the cast of a particular film and only remember one of the actors who starred in it, by entering their name I can pull up that person’s biography, together with a (usually) complete listing of all the films in which he appeared. By then going to a specific film I can bring up the entire cast and, if I wish, click on their names to access their bios as well.
Well, I’ve given credit to NNDB for the good job they do of detailing movie personalities and their artistic appearances – but when it comes to current events, I cannot offer the same commentary. Below you will see the postings on NNDB for two people who have been in the news lately – Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman:
AKA Trayvon Benjamin Martin
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Shot and killed by George Zimmerman
Shot and killed while walking home by George Zimmerman, a hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer who had been specifically instructed by 911 not to pursue Martin. The killing became politically charged with many conservatives taking the side of Zimmerman, blaming the hoodie that Martin was wearing. Fox News quietly removed the hoodie they were selling from the network’s online store. On 11 April, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, and turned himself in. In 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of the charge by an all-female, mostly white jury.
Father: Tracey Martin
Mother: Sybrina Fulton
Brother: Jahvaris Fulton
Girlfriend: (age 17 at the time of Martin’s death)
High School: Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, Miami, FL
AKA George Michael Zimmerman
Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Criminal Defendant
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Killed Trayvon Martin
Overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer. Pursued, shot, and killed Trayvon Martin on 26 February 2012 after he was instructed not to pursue Martin by a police dispatcher. After weeks of media circus, Zimmerman was charged with 2nd Degree Murder on 11 April 2012 and released on bail on the 23rd. But as the Zimmermans deliberately deceived the court by claiming to be broke while failing to disclose over $100,000 in donations via their website, his bond was revoked on June 1st, and wife Shellie charged with perjury. On July 6th, Zimmerman was again released after a much higher bond of $1M was posted.
Father: Robert Zimmerman, Sr.
Mother: Gladys Mesa
Wife: Shellie Nicole Dean (cosmetologist, m. 2007)
I chose to highlight several points in both of these brief biographical summaries to illustrate the serious lack of credibility that NNDB deserves for these listings.
To make their assumptive case that Zimmerman was at fault for this unfortunate event, you will notice that in both bios they refer to the 911 call and the directive that “he should not follow Martin”. Frankly, I agree that this might never have happened if he heeded that advice.
But it does give the suggestion of plausibility to the contention that Zimmerman was “stalking” Martin, if you accept the argument that this was just a nice kid who went out to buy some candy and an iced tea (actually Skittles and a Watermelon Punch soda – two thirds of the ingredients needed to make LEAN – a new drug popular among the Hip Hop crowd).
Now when it comes to schooling, Trayvon is merely listed as a student at his high school of record. There is no mention of the fact that he was suspended three times by school officials and, in fact, was serving one of the suspensions the night he died. (Nor is there any mention of the fact that “burglary tools” and women’s jewelry were found in his locker. Or that he was also found to be in possession of a “marijuana pipe” and there was residue from cannabis in his effects).
By contrast, we are left in the Zimmerman profile with an image of a man who couldn’t even cut it in a community college and was “expelled”. My first thought was that he was a failing student – until I did a little digging. Here is the statement from Seminole State’s officials about Mr. Zimmerman and his “expulsion”:
“Due to the highly charged and high-profile controversy involving this student, Seminole State has taken the unusual but necessary step this week to withdraw Mr. Zimmerman from enrollment. This decision is based solely on our responsibility to provide for the safety of our students on campus as well as for Mr. Zimmerman.”
And you couldn’t make a good case for racist motivation on Mr. Zimmerman’s part (with a dose of it thrown in on the part of the jury) unless you mentioned that the panel members were “mostly white”.
Last but not least, there are the photos that NNDB selected to use. Of course, we have the perennial one of a smiling, happy, Trayvon, a young kid with the whole world in front of him; and we have the dour, grim looking George, a man who is distressed because he hasn’t found anyone offensive enough to gun down the morning that picture was taken.
Of course, I am interpreting the “facts” as I see them and that certainly has influenced the way in which I wrote this piece. It would be less than honest if I were to say that I wasn’t trying to present a certain point of view which I hope you will, at the least, consider. But I am honest enough and have sufficient respect for you, unlike our media, to hope that you don’t take my word or accept my spin on things as gospel truth. Do your own research and formulate your own opinion.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been given the right to enjoy “freedom of the press” but rather, “freedom from the press”. And we should all always remember, before we reach a conclusion, that we should, “Consider the source”.