Lately, I noticed I have very little patience for the way politicians and the media use facts selectively to present a distorted picture of reality. I am fed up and annoyed with the unbearable easiness with which partial truths and single data points are used to present an issue to the public.
Here are a few recent examples:
1. Swine flu. The death toll from swine flu in Israel reached 10 yesterday. Every death is accompanied by huge headlines and scary predictions for the coming winter. The worst-case scenario might indeed come true, but why won’t the media and the politicians also tell us how many people died of regular influenza in the past months? Or stress how the vast majority of cases go undiagnosed and untreated, simply because people recover from swine flu like they do from regular influenza?
2. Murder. Israel has seen a spate of murders, so it would seem, in the past two weeks. A couple of mutilated bodies were found; a man was attacked and killed for no reason; a child was killed by mistake after an assassination attempt went wrong. The media prints graphic pictures and horror “witness” stories. The parliament holds a special session to discuss the increasing rate of murders. Pundits are declaring that the civilised world as we know it is coming to an end. But the truth is that 7 murders in a month is way below the national average in the past few years. If the current trend continues, 2009 will actually be a good year, murder wise. But why point out the statistical facts when hysteria sells more newspapers?
3. Legality of settlements. A few MKs visited the West Bank yesterday, and one of them, a minister not exactly known for his PhD in Law, pompously declared that the settlements (including the outposts) are all legal. The media reprints this statement without batting an eyelid. The fact is that the legality of the settlements is in dispute, both locally and in international law. Most international bodies do not recognise the legality of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, let alone the legality of the Jewish settlements there. I can understand how some politicians would want to use the settlements as a bargaining chip and would therefore declare they’re legal, but shouldn’t the media at least remind us of the basic fact that they are most definitely considered not legal by most jurists?
And the people read and listen and take all these as “facts”, where in fact it is nothing but a distorted reality.