Thursday, May 20, 2010

Two Sides

I'm not much of a follower of news. I've already admitted in this blog that I use facebook as my primary news source. There are a few reasons for this choice. For the most part when reading newspaper style writing, I rarely last beyond the first couple of sentences. Sometimes I don't get past the title. Why? Because newspapers rarely get it right. Mostly because writers of daily newspapers or internet news sites aren't granted the TIME to get it right. I particularly dislike when they report on health research studies and get most of the interpretation vastly wrong, or spin alternative controversial interpretations to feed an agenda or promote a trendy health choice.  

Case in point: the argument that receiving the seasonal flu vaccine in 2008-2009 increased your risk of contracting H1N1 flu in the fall of  2009.

To that I screech a resounding and incredulous, WHAT?!

I've given you a link to click on, but I don't advise you read it. It incenses me beyond belief. But it's there if you are open to being bullied into that argument. But think about this for a second. Who do they advise to receive the seasonal flu vaccine?

(The elderly, babies, immunocompromised individuals, people with chronic illness, health care providers, people working with or living with children under 6 months of age).

Thank you. Now who would be most at risk for contracting H1N1?

THE SAME PEOPLE!! ding ding ding ding ding

Isn't that kinda like saying that since most people die in bed, beds must be a death risk? You better not go to bed tonight.

But I'm not writing this blog to talk beds as a cause of death. Nor do I want to talk about immunizations which is a can of worms bigger than I am willing to wade through in this forum. Today I am going to talk about, as I have also stated elsewhere in this blog, the fact that there are two sides to every story.

Celebrity Worship: Power and Money

I don't follow celebrities or seek out stories about their personal lives. I speak nothing of when these stories permeate my ears and eyes. I cannot control the ubiquitousness of celebrity drawing power. If ever there is anything written about a celebrity's personal life you can almost be assured that 90% of what is said is sensationalized, inaccurate, exaggerated or just plain wrong. Celebrity news is written to sell and it is written to bias you. And one can argue the same about all news writing. It is written to bias you to take a side. And it works.

Lots of big cycling news today amidst the Tour of California races. Team Radio Shack has been posting item after item on their facebook fan page and most of it is about Floyd Landis attacking Lance Armstrong and several other American riders and former teammates. Landis, you may or may not recall, won the 2006 Tour de France, and scandal erupted when he tested positive for banned substances. He staunchly denied the accusations, wrote a book telling his side of the story, launched law suits claiming defamation, and when the legal fees got too high, begged money from his fans to help cover the costs. He allegedly collected over a million dollars from regular folk, like you and I, to cover his costs. Now he's saying it is ALL true. He was guilty of doping and he's selling out names to go down in flames with him.

Floyd would probably prefer that I use this creepy photo of Lance as I would be more likely to bias you to his side of the story. Incidentally, on the day of this accusation, Lance crashed in California and is out of the race -- hence the eye.

Armstrong and crew, who have never tested positive, deny everything. They claim they've been receiving crazy emails and texts for years from Landis uttering threats and making demands for money, sponsorship, team slots, race slots. You name it.

Lance, I am sure, prefers this photo to promote his side of the story, looking all debonair in his Shack kit.

Landis got caught. No one seems to be able to speculate why he's doing this now. There have been questions about Lance's cleanliness for years. Before he got cancer and came back to cycling, he was apparently a second rate racer with little promise, and now he's practically an invincible superhero. Not only did he survive stage IV testicular cancer with multiple metastases to the lungs and brain, but since recovering, he's turned into a cycling icon and cancer survivor poster child. And he's had 4 children with number 5 on the way and he only has ONE testicle. Who is this man? And how after all that did he manage to win 7 Tour de France's?

There are two sides to every story. Which is true? We may never know. But isn't truth often decided based on how well people handle controversy? The most well behaved individual wins? Or maybe the person with the most power and the most money wins?

Rewards for Good Behaviour Only

I was involved with an organization for a time which will remain unnamed. The scenario I am about to talk about played out in the press to some degree and blemished this organization. I no longer belong to the organization, in part, because I wanted to let the drama settle before joining up again. And because I'm a little wary and mistrusting now about how all this was handled.

The controversy erupted out of a conflict between the Executive Director (paid staff) and the President (a volunteer) and the outcome was that the organisation dissolved and and is in the process of being rebuilt. The ED was accused of some mismanagement and illegal doings with funds and was fired, and the President was accused of being a controlling jerk (a softer word than I would like to choose, but it's gender neutral and I'm trying to keep gender out of this). The president's behaviour was so allegedly bad that the office staff quit and the majority of the elected board resigned.

The President talked very little.There were a couple benign brush-off quotes in the newspaper. This person was, for the most part, silent. The ED, on the other hand, used access to a master list of emails to send a multi-page letter dictating that side of the story to the entire membership of the organization. The claim was that this email was sent on the advice of a lawyer. I was on that list. I got the letter. It read defensive and whiny and was full of excuses.

I didn't know what to believe. And I still don't. Both sides behaved badly. I support this organization and it has done a lot for me and served me well but the whole scenario has left a bad taste in my mouth.

But there is something to be said for keeping silent and not publicly badmouthing people. Somehow it makes you seem more noble and less desperate.

Tell the Truth Quickly

And sometimes it is smarter to come clean as quickly as possible. Second case in point: Tiger Woods vs. David Letterman. What an odd link-up you say? What could they possibly have in common? I'm counting on you not remembering what they have in common. But much they have in common indeed!

Tiger, as we all know, lived through this fall hiding from the press and ducking questions in the name of his own privacy to avoid dealing with accusations of multiple episodes of extramarital affairs. There are still email jokes floating around. Tiger eventually, months later, hosted a stilted and controlled  press conference to apologize for his indiscretions and answered no or few spontaneous questions.

Letterman, if you may now recall, was accused of having affairs with multiple interns on his late night show. The accusation was made, and mere days later he voluntarily made a speech on his show acknowledging it was all true. No one saw it coming. He apologized and everyone moved on.

And everyone forgot. Even when the whole late night controversy erupted between Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno, which Letterman was peripherally involved, never once was there a mention of Letterman's indiscretions.

So there is also something to be said for telling the truth. It gets it out of the press. Deal with the issue quickly and it goes away far more quietly.


So that is public news but what about in day to day life? Has someone ever sat you down and told you a big long story of wrong doing they've received at the hands of someone? Perhaps it is someone you know and like? Someone who has done no harm to you personally? Or maybe someone you barely know? Do you automatically take their side and criminalize the person they speak about?

The best example I can give you from my own life goes back to being 18. We had a friend who was a little younger than us and not 18 and we decided  one evening we were going to the bar after a social. We did not spring these plans on our young friend. We told her right from the start of the night what the scoop was and why. But our younger friend was instant on sitting in a greasy spoon restaurant.

This was back in the day where there were no photo's on driver's licences. We suggested numerous people to her that she could borrow ID from so she could come to the bar with us but she insisted that the only thing she was interested in doing was going to this restaurant and she expected us to go with her.

One of our friends who was coming to the bar had very strict parents and a ridiculously early curfew that wouldn't let her ever stay out for a whole social let alone go to the bar after the social. That night she was sleeping over at my house and she could finally stay out as long as she wanted. We and she were not going to sit at some greasy spoon restaurant this night, the ONE night she didn't have to be home early. But that isn't what our young friend wanted to do and nothing we said seemed to make her understand that we weren't going with her to this restaurant so her options were to find ID or go home. She was pissed. She told my curfew friend's new boyfriend to F-off. She'd only just met him that night. It is a memorable enough incident for him that he STILL to this day remembers her even though he only met her the once.

Which kinda tells you how the story ended. She never talked to us again. And not only did she never talk to us again but she also called up another one of our friends who wasn't present at that social and fed this person her side of the story. I called this second friend later the next day -- probably to tell her what happened -- and I could tell by the coldness in her voice that she had already talked to our young friend and not only had she talked to her, but she had picked which side to be on, and it wasn't mine. In fact, she had no interest in hearing my side of the story.

So I and my curfew friend didn't just lose one friend that night, we lost two.

I don't know exactly what our young friend said to this second friend to turn her so cold so easily. There is also something to be said when people blow up the way our young friend did. Usually a blow up like that doesn't happen from one incident. So likely this wasn't the first time we'd pissed her off. It was probably her last straw. Her icing on the cake moment. (And knowing how women are it likely had something to do with a guy.)

But everyone picks sides, the question is How do you choose? Do you pick sides because of power, loyalty, money, love, an agenda, good behaviour, popularity?  Or do you listen and weigh evidence?

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