Saying It On The Evening News Doesn't Make It True

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I noticed something interesting the other night while I was watching the national news. I realized that I only believed about half of what I was hearing, and I even had some serious doubts about that half.

I thought about it for a while and made the startling discovery that for a long, long time I haven't believed a whole lot of what I've been hearing on the tube.

Needless to say that got me wondering.

The question was: Why? Why don't I believe all that stuff?

I didn't get very far with that question because the answer was so obvious.

To begin with, a lot of what they say on the tube is phrased to sound like gospel truth when it's really nothing more than a complete misunderstanding of what they are trying to report.

For example, almost every night you hear something like this:

Male Anchor reads to Female Anchor: "Jenny-Sue, a recent study done by the University of Northwest Texas shows that 87 percent of highly successful businessmen achieve a master's degree before they reach age twenty-eight."

Female Anchor smiles: "Well, Don, it looks like it's too late for you and me."

Male Anchor nods wisely and looks directly into the camera lens. "Yes, Jenny-Sue, but it's something for you young folks out there to be thinking about before it's too late."

Oh come on! The suggestion that running out and getting a master's degree before you are twenty-eight will make you a successful businessman is pure malarkey. And so are most of the other reports that try to connect Fact A with Fact B.

Here, for example, is a statement which is absolutely true:

"All women, and I mean every last woman on this planet who has ever died of breast cancer ..."

Have I got your attention?

Rest of statement: "... is known to have breathed air."

Had you going there for a minute, didn't I?

Is the statement true? Sure it is. Is it of earth-shaking importance? Course not. Nor are the vast majority of those "a-recent-study-shows-that" statements. They may be true, but they prove nothing, and the medical ones are downright dangerous because they get people believing things that can do them harm.

Something else on the tube that I don't believe is "expert opinion." Expert ought to mean "reasonably correct," shouldn't it? But does it? Well try flipping over to another channel. Chances are you'll hear the "experts" over there saying the exact opposite the ones on the first channel are saying.

Another thing that bugs me is when some industry guru stands up on the evening news and says, "Well, Brian, though current prices are certainly high, I afraid we can't rule out the possibility of $8 an ounce gasoline by mid-summer."

You know what's going on there, don't you? Some oil company has paid the guy to predict a ridiculously high price to see whether or not you and I will march on Washington with flaming torches and spiked clubs.

We -- fools that we are -- soak up what the industry guru says, pop open another cool one, loll back in our recliners, and tell Mom or Dad, "Oh my! Look what's going to happen next summer!"

Meanwhile, back at the oil company, people are rubbing their hands together and sending each other self-shredding e-mails.

"They bought it! Can you believe it, Harry? They actually bought it? Start cranking up the price!"

Or am I wrong that one of the oil companies just announced an all time record profit for any company, anywhere, anytime?

And am I also wrong that nobody in Washington, or anywhere else, is even thinking about doing something about it?

Of course not! The price of gasoline has nothing to do with the fact that we may possibly be sliding into a recession.

Would you believe what I actually heard said by an industry guru who was talking about the oil company that had just showed history's greatest profit?

"Well," he said, somehow managing to keep a straight face, "they've had their hard times, you know. We can't criticize them for doing well for a change."

An oil company that's had "hard times?"

On what planet?

That's what happens as you get older, you see. Old age makes you a thinker instead of a believer.

Don't ask me why. It dang sure isn't because you get smarter. I haven't, anyway. Maybe it's because as you age you lose the urge to do a lot of physical things, so you spend more time thinking. Whatever the reason may be, you certainly begin seeing things with greater clarity, particularly regarding the evening news.

Gone is that open-minded acceptance you once had because someone who looks and sounds like Walter Cronkite says something.

In place of that wide-eyed acceptance is a handy little news filter. I'd like to tell what type of filter it is, but the Roundup has a policy against that kind of language.

Let's just say that if you walk around barefoot behind a bull, you'll soon become intimately acquainted with it.

Now, as for commercials ...

As usual, have a good one.

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