Monday, November 24, 2008

TELLING The Hard Truth vs SELLING The Hard TRUTH

I’m Tim Politician. Formerly Tim Truth-Teller. But on the road to Damascus, on the road to “influencing more people” rather than simply “getting the truth out” and “gaining credibility”, presumptuous people with “experience” persuaded me that I must “tone it down”, be tactful and diplomatic, “soften the message” and chip off only that portion of the truth that could be “sold” to a wider audience. Otherwise Daniel Kitts of TVO or some CBC producer won’t take me seriously.

It is quite interesting, isn’t it? We inhabit a political culture where Mr. Kitts treats Brishen Hoff as a crank, a blogger, because he believes that Canada should carry only about one million people, as Hoff believed in May of 2008. But if one can be certain that if Erich Jacoby-Hawkins approached him with the proposition that southern Ontario, being the size of Europe, could easily accommodate Europe’s population of 700 million, with out serious ecological consequences, even enjoying in his words, “some” wildlife---Kitts would not dismiss him out of hand as a crackpot. Like Jacoby-Hawkins, TVO producer Kitts is hung up on credentials. He is less impressed by the merits of an argument than the credentials of the man who is waging the argument. A Phd waging a foolish argument possibly has more credence with Kitts than a high school grad with a brilliant line of reasoning. The only reason I got an invitation to appear on his show was that while he was suitably impressed by my writings, he apparently believed me when I told him that I was a man of letters. I just didn’t tell him I was a mailman.

It is amazing how many doors open when one appends a pompous title to one’s name. I speak the same sense or nonsense now as I did last spring. But since the title “Director IWC” appeared after my name, suddenly my emails are read and answered. “Vice President Biodiversity First” has the same inane effect. Titles should have no bearing on truth, credibility or falsehood. Take each opinion and argument as it comes.

Our problem, I think, is that we have a message that our audience does not want to hear, and the media knows it. To retain their ratings, and their market share, they must give their audience news that they want to hear. Even weather forecasters try to put a positive spin on their forecasts. The situation can be likened to a grim experience I had in early February of 1999. My brother had just emerged from unsuccessful surgery to remove invasive cancer. I was privy to the post-op interview with his surgeon who conducted the 12 hour ordeal. The surgeon explained calmly and thoroughly that the cancer had invaded all vital organs and could not be extricated. It could be retarded by radiation and chemotherapy but not reversed. I remember the oncologist’s words verbatim. “Your condition is terminal. You can surf the Internet all you want. But there are oncologists dying of this cancer and they can’t help themselves. You can spend everything you have on phony Mexican clinics, but it won’t help. You have a year to live. Maybe 14 months.”

My brother died precisely 14 months later. But guess what. He spent $25,000 of my father’s money on a quack cancer cure overseas, on New Age naturopathic medicines, and on Bernie Segal positive thinking nonsense before he succumbed. That’s right. He spent 14 months in denial. And all of his life he was a hard core rationalist and skeptic, who scorned unscientific thinking. But in the face of death, he gave in to delusional thinking, as our citizenry now, in the face of an ecological meltdown.

The point here is this. We may resolve to be like the oncologist, and tell the Hard Truth. Even if the patient gets to hear our message---and the media rarely cooperates with this wish----will the patient want to hear it? But if we hold it in it, are we not then guilty of the Silent Lie, withholding the truth just to avoid our own marginalization and unpopularity? How can you tell a half-truth like this? How do you “sell” doomsday?

No comments: