Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Pitfalls Of Half-Truths

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.


  1. That friend of yours made a serious mistake in just reading Part I of your article an fuming at you. Of course it was an innocent mistake. But as far as I am concerned, I don't see a point why he should be so infuriated with your views. Who cares if you fully support the TCA and says it's flawless even as we got our freedom to express our views after all. What I could make out from your post is that he was not happy with you for you supported it as he is a smoker. A learned citizen can't act like that, I think. And it is true there will be some fellows who will be on your side even if your article was the lone Part I. It is completely my personal view and hope no one will be hurt. Thanks for sharing your experience with us sir Yeshey.

  2. LoL that was a funny incident. But I am sure you were not laughing when it happened.

  3. Yeshey, your friend certainly felt a sense of betrayal! Anyways, the serious message here is that the media has a huge responsibility as a link between the government and the people. They must refrain from sensationalizing any and every incident involving the government to boost their image. The basic responsibility of the media, as per the wikepedia is “to help strengthen and support democratic processes” and this is especially applicable in our country being a young democracy. Since along with democracy, our media is also in its teething stages, the practice of yellow journalism must be nipped at the bud so that our media grows with a strong sense of ethics and moral responsibility both to the government and its people - thereby strengthen peace and security in the kingdom. Anon.

  4. Hi Langa

    The problem with people is that they are too quick to jump the gun. No one ones to take time to reflect matters at a deeper level. As a result, they only see the surface of the issue and miss the deeper implications of the issue at hand.

    You are right - my fiend not only did not reflect on the issue properly, he did not consider that I have my own views and I have a right to express them as I feel.

  5. Hi My World, My Reads,

    Does this mean you have returned home? If so, welcome Home :)

    Indeed I was taken aback by his reaction - but did you read what I said about him? He is blunt to the point of being uncouth :) :)

  6. Hi Anon,

    Thanks for the comment.

    What can we do? Our reporters are not only inexperienced, some of them do not realize the mandate they carry. We can only hope that they will learn soon but I hope it will not be a case of - Dom Jabthewda Paata.

  7. Aue Yeshy,
    I read all three parts and I found it all very interesting and thought provoking. I found it so insightful. In fact, It made me to even rethink the kind of notion I had for the Tobaccl act.

    I even wrote a letter to my MP and He said it was well thought letter worthy of what our Prime Minister's suggested during our Beloved King's 31st Birthday. Like wise, I even got calls from other such MP's who infact appreciated for my conduct.

    it took me about four months to write that letter and after so many thoughtful weeks and months, i decided to put it on my blog

    Not only that, When JOurnalist paper went on to publish my lettter in thier 19th issue,(without my consent and permission though) It even captured many such audiences, (I think you must have also seen it)

    I was immediately warned. I am a civil servant. so you can very well guess who warned me.

    Latest was in 5th July, when I was warned by my Director in writing. Even though I did not not write anything that in any way is offensive to our policy makers or offensice to our senior bureaucrats, I am being warned not to indulge in any action similar to that.

    Now with this I sincerely feel, I am beign warned for my participation in the democtratic transiton of our country. so It s my sincere plea to our Law makers.

    This time its not about Tobacco act. But rather abt admmending the constitution it self. Make civil servants not only apolitical, but also make civil servants above politics like monks and clergy.

    if I as a civil servant do not have the right to question my MP, then what is the use of voting ?????

    PLease Aue, Throw some light on this..

    By the way, I also bought a Nikon camera (D90) recently. Because you throughly inspired me and i hope i can also pursue my hobby like you.

    Oh by the way, If you were reading my blog, I am very sorry to remind you that currently its being blocked. But i hope to come up with other interesting things in future.

    SIncerely Kuenzang.

  8. HI Kuenzang,

    Sorry to hear of your plight. Yes, I read the print version of your article. Strange that you should be warned about it. I did not find anything offensive in that article. Unless BCSR prohibits your expressing a view on a matter of national concern, I think you should remain unaffected by the warning.

    Take care