October 31, 2004 by Allen George
There’s a marked difference between ‘knowing’ – an adjective that is reminiscent of clinical dispassion – and ‘understanding’. I understand when an idea hits me with full force; it’s impact is often caused by me witnessing its effects in my life. I assume that I’m not unique in this.
It occurred to me just how skewed a perspective of a situation can be generated given manipulation (intentional or not) by the messenger. The effect can be as subtle or blatant as desired. Key words and phrases, bias in which events are described (or even highlighted), omissions, playing to the perceptual set of the receipient… Naturally, its potency can be magnified by the recipient themself. I mean – do you expect the messenger to have a bias, do you know if the messenger has a stake in (un)knowingly deceiving you, do you trust the messenger – all of these affect the weight you give the information.
None of this is earth shattering. Certainly basic knowledge in Mass Media 101 (Fox News anyone?). But…then again, there can be a difference.