Lies and Half Truths — Are We Participating?

The media, it is said, shapes our lives and our thinking today as much as other traditional forms of communication did yesterday. But what does this media comprise of? Whereas the term literally means a plural of mediums or a mode of transmission, it has acquired much closer relationship with the news and entertainment media around us today. This means that Newspapers, Magazines, Bulletins (Print Media), Television, Radio (Broadcast Media), Banners, Billboards, Hoardings (Outdoor Media), E Mail and Internet (Electronic Media) are all included. Occasionally public address systems and street announcements are also taken under this category.

And while most people use the term media with such feeble excuses as to why their child does not perform well in school to the easy availability, few fully comprehend the immense force that all these media collectively and each one separately is impregnated with. Whether it is a news media or an entertainment one, or what is now called edutainment (infotainment), all of these carry singularly powerful messages that are as a matter of fact designed to spur economic growth using both balance of power retention and basic human needs.

When you watch a harmless detergent ad on a family channel, it is conveying a powerful definition of “whites” and “brights”, because the problem of a housewife is perennially that she cannot help her family to stay white and clean. Of course, nowadays, with added economic trouble, there is the aspect of “savings” and “free give aways”. Marketing, you may say. You would be right.
Emirates, for instance, nowadays display a glass of champagne, in which each bubble is marked with their destination. So as you may imagine, there are many bubbles, representing the fine taste of the champagne as well as the extensive network of the airline. One message is intended, the other disguised. And to the discerning individual, the message is clear that a Muslim country associates itself with a harmless drink, and where does it say that it is an alchoholic drink anyway.
While still on advertising, the most powerful tool that is used relates to a basic human need — sex. Whether it is buying a motorcycle or smoking quality cigarettes, the presence of a woman is key to the success of the promotion. A woman dressed in a strategically sensual manner transmits an important message that acquiring a certain commodity leads to the prospect and promise of sexual favours, or that women are the be all end all of man’s life. Free and liberal sex is as well promoted. All this right under our noses, influencing every bit of thinking of our youngsters and tempting them to disrepute. On the other hand, news is full of directional reporting so that the interests of the media moguls, linked to a political power station is well served. A soldier killed in the way of war is separately reported by the killers as a feat and by the victims as a martyrdom or patriotic sacrifice. Lies and half truths in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to authenticate information as it is apparently becoming more transparent. Imam Zainul Abideen (as) says “refrain from falsehood, whether it is small or big and whether it is spoken by the way of jest or in earnest, because when a person tells a small lie, he picks up courage to tell a bigger one.”

Yet another time, we must ask ourselves whether we are participants of the lies of the media, or do we take time to interpret and guide our childrens’ viewership of such provocative material. Like the Biblical question, are we all rushing to the apple, or are we in fact stuck in heaven? 

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