Half truths, like half-knowledge, are extremely dangerous. They not only help permeate misinformation, they misguide and mislead people. This truth was brought home to me recently as a result of a local weekly printing only Part I of my three-part article I wrote on this Blog - supporting the Tobacco Control Act.
It would be, perhaps, unfair to assume that this weekly deliberately attempted to mislead its readers by failing to print all three parts of my article. However, the reporter at that paper could not have failed to see that unless Part I of my article is read in conjunction with Part II and III, the core issues I raise would be lost to his/her readers. In fact, read in isolation, the Part I of the article sounds more like an emotional outburst of an adolescent rather than a well thought-out view of a seriously concerned citizen.
The following true-life incident will demonstrate how a media house has to be careful about what they print or do not print in their papers. A thoughtless and irresponsible media can cause serious problems.
Blissfully unaware that a printed version of Part I of my article in my Blog was reproduced by one of the newspapers, I walked into the office of one of my long time friends for whom I have the highest esteem and respect. In a world filled with ass lickers and gold diggers, he remains one obstinately principled person who dares to speak his mind - to the point of sounding uncouth and rebellious. He is a no-nonsense person but for reasons unknown, this day, he sounded like a person gone totally bananas.
The moment I entered his office, he yelled; “Oh there you are you asshole! Who gives a shit about what you think?”
I was dumb founded. I had no idea what the guy was talking about. So I asked him; “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I am talking about your smart-aleck article in the Journalist. You want to know what I think about it?”
I said; “What the hell are you talking about? What article? I did not write any article in any paper”.
“The stupid article you wrote on the Tobacco Control Act”.
It dawned on me that the paper must have reproduced my article and the fellow must be referring to it. I told him I didn’t know that the article was reproduced there. I told him I will look it up.
Still fuming, he said: “You want to know what I think of your views?” With that he proceeded to pull out a cigarette from the packet that was lying on his table, lit it and started to puff away at it vigorously - until he was coughing breathlessly.
I looked on aghast. Why is such a level-headed guy acting like a man possessed? Obviously my article infuriated him so much that he forgot he is not allowed to smoke in a public space. He could stand to be penalized for what he was doing.
Once he cooled down a bit, I began to explain to him my point of view. He looked a little startled and said that I said nothing like that (I realized much later that he read only Part I of the article) in the article. Half an hour later, two of us began to discuss the flaws in the Act and what amendments were needed to be made to the Law.
At the end, he understood that the issue I was discussing went way beyond the need to control tobacco consumption. I laboriously explained to him that central to my argument is the need for strong laws to bring order and discipline into our society. I explained to him that the TCA is in no way a flawless Act but that is no reason for people to trash it as a bad law. It is a law that present day Bhutan needs desperately.