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A lie by any other name ... still stinks

Recently, television viewers worldwide were lied to and it had nothing to do with Trump.  Last Sunday, Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps was to race a great white shark as part of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

Instead, the world witnessed a computer generated shark in the water next to a rubber-finned Phelps.  And viewers were not happy.

But I had to wonder, did they think a shark could be directed to swim in a straight line beside a human for a timed race?  This isn’t a trained horse, or dog, or even an ostrich.  It’s a shark, people!

Of course, the purpose of Shark Week is to educate the public about the ocean and our need to protect it.  But most people don’t want to be educated.  They want blood in the water.

And they thought they would get it.  Phelps even trained in advance by diving in a cage to come face to face with the watery beasts.  (Um, why?)

Then producers filmed an actual great white shark swimming a specified 100-meter stretch of ocean behind what had to be a seriously underpaid staffer who was dragging a decoy seal in the water.  Later, once the field was completely cleared of man-eaters, Phelps dived in and swam his heart out.

So technically, Discovery’s “Man versus Shark” promotion was not a lie.  It just wasn’t at the same time.

But this somewhat misleading mega-hype isn’t that unusual.  In fact, we should be used to the “not lies” that come across the media.

A few years back, Reebok was fined for promoting their EasyTone athletic shoes as a means of target training legs and buttocks.  However, despite ordering $25m in consumer refunds, the Federal Trade Commission refused to call Reebok’s claims “lies.”  Instead, they were just “unsupported.”

During the recent presidential campaign, Trump made unfounded statements and then told listeners that they could draw their own conclusions – making even complete idiots feel like Einstein connecting the dots on a great conspiracy.  Trump stayed away from specific details so that HE wasn’t telling a lie.  He just made people believe their own.

After the election came the introduction of “alternative facts.”  These were official statements made despite incontrovertible proof of the contrary.  But they came from the most powerful office in America.

So it’s becoming more difficult to find the truth.  Consequently, companies, spokespeople, and products often come armed with statistics to prove the validity and truthfulness of their statements.  However, statistics can be manipulated to suit the speakers’ needs.  This is referred to as an “interpretation of the facts.”

Misleading, unsupported, alternative, interpretation – do we even know what a lie is anymore?  For most of us, it was pretty clear back when we were caught sneaking in after curfew.  So what happened since then?

In this media-driven society, we’ve been taught how to talk around the truth.  And that’s dangerous.  Because if we don’t cut the bull soon, everything we hear really will become “fake news.”

 

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