On a daily basis, we can see politicians being caught (sometimes literally) with their pants down. Sometimes it is funny, many times not. As I navigate the waters of online existence, I am surprised at things that remain private. Is this because they are not happening or is it because they are too boring for public consumption? In the days of JFK, the media was too respectful to besmirch the President's image. The closest things came were reports of 'rumors'.
If I want to buy a pack of chewing gum at the supermarket, I will be accosted by headlines (tabloid and otherwise) decrying the latest scandal of some pseudo celebrity or public(ish) figure. We smile and pass or possibly buy and absorb. We think that it is news and decide that everything is fair once the person makes themselves a public personality. BUT, now that I am trying to make a splash myself, I am realising how difficult it is for something to happen without a very concerted effort. These tabloid covers are the result of careful brand management on the part of the person/publicist. There are just enough genuine surprises to keep us believing in the news/business model, but the reality is that well over 70% of the 'news' is fed to the outlets.
Every so often, we get a genuine event that makes us smile and touches that collective nerve. I am thinking about the mother who purchased a Chewbacca mask and did a live feed of herself over Facebook. I'm sure she thought it was funny and wanted to share it with her friends. But her laughter was genuine and it went viral. I saw it via the BBC news when it had hit 50 million views in a matter of a few days. The whole clip lasted less than a minute and brought a smile to almost anyone who saw it. It didn't have a message; there was no talking (that I can remember); only laughter of the mother at the ridiculous mask and how she looked in it. I am smiling as I recall it.
Then, I think about public figures who are so in charge of their image that nothing comes out without their say-so. Clinton comes to mind. Not Bill; he was a treasure trove of missteps and the public loved him regardless. Hillary is another matter. She is controlled and managed. What I don't understand is how we haven't heard about any of her boyfriends. Perhaps she doesn't have any. But I find it difficult to imagine in a world of global politics and all the sleaze that goes with it that Hillary hasn't succumbed the way every other male politician has. Is she a saint? Is she not interested? Is this none of our business? Probably, but it seems to be reported on every other politician. For example, why do I need to know that Trump likes to copulate up to five times a day with his pin-up wife? Why do I even know (or care) that his wife posed nude? Or that he trolled the beauty pageants for his jollies? Is Hillary a robot? Does she care only about power?
Or another person: The Dalai Lama. Does he copulate? With whom? Why haven't we heard of any scandals coming from that direction? I would have thought that women would be lining up to give birth or spend time with him. If not women, then men. I haven't heard anything. This is probably none of my business, but you can see what I am saying. We know that priests seem to copulate with their congregation, however distasteful that is. From my understanding, as many as 5-7% of the priesthood are sexual predators. This number may have now been reduced, but it is reflected in the way we think about Catholicism. Many (mostly non-Catholics) will associate the priesthood with child abuse. I haven't heard anything like this within Islam or other major faiths. I haven't heard anything like this within Christianity--apart from the usual abuses that power seems to attract. (Yes, there are abuses within Islam and Christianity as a whole, but it is not an institutional problem; it is a weakness of the flesh.)
Back to reality. Why do we hear what we hear? Who promotes and how is the message getting through? In a world of sensory overload, how does a person get their message across?
My answer: relevance and truth.
Relevance, because most people only care about things that impact them personally. For example, after you purchase a new car, you will find your attention drawn to similar-colored and make of cars. It is an odd sensation. My blue car suddenly made me realise how many other blue cars there are on the road. If you drive a Range Rover, you will suddenly see how many Range Rovers are out and about. Likewise with a white van. I loved my white van. Then I became aware of how many of those things are on the road.
Truth is more important. As we struggle to make sense of the world around us, we try to find people and things to trust. We look for guide posts to ground our movements. We need a structure to hold us amidst the tempest of life. When we trust a person or source, we absorb the material unquestioningly. The opposite is true of sources we distrust--the material bounces off us. Naturally, most of our sources are somewhere in between on the spectrum. Truth resonates within our souls (assuming we have one of those). We find ourselves nodding in agreement as the story unfolds. We find tears flowing when we thought we would never cry again. We find laughter when we thought there was nothing funny left in the world. Truth is the essence of our existence. If we can tap into that, the rest flows as a consequence.
I am searching for truth and relevance in my writing. Time will tell if I have found it.