A Million Shades of Gray & Critical Media Studies
There is an old maxim: Newspapers are meant to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comforted.
Looking back to the 1st Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, extraordinary protections were provided to the press. We can presume the authors of that document had slightly loftier goals in mind – things that go beyond “the affliction model”. Perhaps things like general edification of the public.
If life has a million shades of gray, then the affliction model of news reporting is like trying to take a photograph of life with a camera that can only print colors as either full black or full white.
Take the following headline that has made its way around the different news outlets recently:
The headline and story are tinged with a notion that so-called “anti-vaxxers” have no integrity. Specifically, that their actions and statements, on their deathbed, are incongruent with their stated philosophy. However, there is a difference between being desperate, and having no integrity.
Some people who are against the death penalty suddenly become curious about it when a family member is massacred. However, that doesn’t mean they were “wrong” in the first place, or never had any integrity. What it actually means is they are having a very strong emotional reaction to something. Strong emotional reactions lead to irrational thinking.
In my opinion, anti-vaxxers are wrong in their calculations when it comes to COVID-19. But desperate requests on one’s deathbed doesn’t automatically make the original point of view incoherent, disingenuous, correct, incorrect, or anything else. It just means that someone is having a strong emotional reaction to being on death’s doorstep.
The counter-example is some people who are dying of cancer (or some other terminal illness) will resort to paying con artists who offer miracle cures. We can’t deduce from their desperation that they were wrong their whole lives, if for example, they had previously said these same scam artists should be shut down by authorities.