Saturday, August 12, 2006

#290 - It Doesn't Say That in My Bible!

I've been watching the emasculation of press photo agencies with great interest these past several days. Between the blatant Photoshop®-ing and the customizable photos to dress up any war story, the mainstreamers actually remind me of certain fundamental Christians in their attitudes.

One of the hazards of being a missionary for the LDS church is the fact that, given our rather unique qualities, someone, somewhere, is going to disagree with you. Perhaps even vociferously. The classic story is told about having a discussion with, probably, an ultra-conservative Southern Baptist and quoting various Bible verses (they won't listen to anything else) to prove our doctrine. During the rather heated exchange, the missionary says, "But that's what it says in the Bible! Right here!" The other participant reaches down, rips a page out of his own Bible and says, "Well, it doesn't say that in my Bible!"

Now, I'll grant you this story may be squarely placed in the realm of LDS lore and legend, but the attitude still rings true of many people's feelings regarding what we teach.

To refute us, LDS Salvationists (they are "concerned" for us, doncha know?) always - but ALWAYS - quote scripture out of context to show just how wrong-headed we Saints are. They reach waaaay out to obscure quotes - also generally taken out of context - to show that some of our leaders weren't exactly consistent in what they taught. Brigham Young is a favorite target because, let's face it, Brother Brigham could occasionally be a bit - oh - colorful in his descriptions of eternal principles. And so we find that many of our detractors really have to work hard to manufacture a version of our teachings that ably demonstrates just how quickly we're going to Heck, and which routes we'll be taking. (Mine will likely be through the Mojave Desert. Never been closer to ol' Scratch than I was there.)

So how does this compare to the current "fauxtography" scandals we've been entertained with of late? Well, let's consider:

The media - those bastions of objectivity and reality - have a paper to sell. Ostensibly their only purpose is to be the eyes and ears of the public interest so that we can be informed. After that it should be our own responsibility as to what, exactly, we do with this knowledge. In reality, however, the mainstreamers have a problem: the very public in whose interest they work has become so jaded over time to the horrors of war, disease, and poverty which have been so relentlessly described to us that we no longer react to the stories when told in bald detail. We've seen it all, and not just in the news. As Hollywood's descriptive powers become more digitally enhanced with each passing year, their ability to literally shock-and-awe their audiences is overwhelming. We find ourselves working harder and harder to remind ourselves that these images are just computer-generated madness. We suspend the suspension of disbelief so frequently now that it becomes second nature. When confronted with any horrible image, even a live one, we block it from our minds, or stick our fingers in our ears and hum. Whatever it takes to remind ourselves that it simply isn't real.

So the media resorts to trickery similar to the Hollywood (or bible-thumping) approach of manufacturing a reality that fits with the kind of image they want us to see. They need us to believe their reports, or all is lost. Whether they do it for idealistic reasons or merely to sell papers makes no difference. Like Tinkerbell and other fairies, they need us to believe or their light is forever extinguished. So what if it means enhancing an already horrible image so long as we understand how horrible war is? Who cares if they have to stage the pulling of bodies from rubble, so long as we remember that to fight a war is to destroy life? Obfuscating the story is their way of ripping a page out of scripture just so they can say, "That's not what it says in my reality!"

Unfortunately, whether they ever intended to or not, the real message we get from these shenanigans is that integrity is not as important as telling the story. And the minute we understand that message, the Old Media (and any other media that uses the same tactics) has already lost their moral high ground. For, instead of being properly horrified at the killing of souls, we become even more disgusted at the prostitution of a news organization's integrity.

And their message is forever lost in the fallout.

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