Is it how you see it? Or how you want to see it?
On the 22nd of March 2017, a terrible tragedy happened in London near the palace of Westminster, where 52-year- old Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians injuring more than 50 people and killing five of them. In the aftermath of the tragedy, a picture of a woman wearing a hijab was taken, walking by a group that was aiding a victim with a phone in her hand in a texting position. As soon as the picture went online, she received backlash from the social media community that labelled her as “indifferent”, she was attacked because what the commentators could or wanted to see was a “Muslim” woman, walking by without caring nor stopping to help the injured. However, would you dare to stop and wander: was there another side to this story? of course there was. She was just one of the many distressed witnesses that after trying to see if she could be of any use, decided to call her family to reassure them, in fact in her own words “What the image does not show is that I had talked to other witnesses to try and find out what was happening…to see if I could be of any help, even though enough people were at the scene tending to the victims.” It is evident that the picture was used out of context, instrumentalized to spread personal “hate agenda” and to stir reactions, especially of those type of audience that aren’t bothered to check facts and are blinded by stereotypes and confined with limited access to information, relying only on what they are told to know.
This is only one of the many cases we hear about, and it is an issue that turns neighbours into enemies and friends into strangers, heightened by recent waves of terrorist attacks, to spread “hate agenda”. People that are “uninformed” or don’t want to seek information, run to conclusions, to the advantage of those that promote their own personal malign agenda like terrorist organizations. The latter, use religion as their justification and as a mean for their inhumane actions, leading to people labelling that religion as violent ,when in reality, it’s not. Because mankind is capable to manipulate almost anything into his way of thinking and molding it according to his belief, thus turning good into bad, peace into war, light into darkness. Consequently, creating hate, prejudice, fear, misunderstandings and havoc amongst those who don’t want to dig deeper to seek the truth, in other words, to find out the other side of the story.
“THE DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY”
According to the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her famous TEDx talk discusses “The danger of a single story”. Where, in one part, she tells the story of a boy who worked for her family as a domestic help. His name was Fide, and the only thing, child Adichie, knew about him was how poor his family was, however “…one Sunday we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket…that his brother had made. I was startled…all I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor, their poverty was my single story of them”. Years later, when she moved to the USA, her roommate was surprised by her level of English proficiency and her modernity because as she recalls “…she had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was kind of patronizing, well – meaning pity. My roommate has a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in anyway…” This shows how one cannot detach itself from stereotypes that don’t represent the whole truth, how our knowledge is a small part of a larger picture of how other people, situation and places actually are in reality. It is a great pity how we tend to attach ourselves constantly to “single stories”, letting ourselves be victims of prejudice, how it may appear difficult to go beyond our mere conviction based on what we think we know and not on up-to- date facts and multiple sources of information. Of course, we are free and entitled to draw our own conclusion, our own opinions and our own observations however we like, but it would be just and reasonable to do so after having been fully informed and getting our facts straight, as the writer Mark Twain puts it “get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
The latter also observes “if you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed”, it’s only fair I mention, if not in detail, the role of the media and the sources of information to which we place our trust on, are often unreliable. We are living in a digital era where news travels faster than lightning through the internet, and social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter are considered by many as their news source, they are also platforms where fake news plays a dominant role because users fail to investigate the source of each news or picture of world events. For many, reading headlines is far easier than full length articles by respected news agencies and journalists therefore, getting the wrong and incomplete idea. Sharing a picture of the “Muslim woman” (as mentioned previously) with the headline “indifferent” to the view of tens of thousands that in return also click on the “share” option, thus multiplying further views conveying the wrong message than the actual truth, because only few stopped to reflect and verify the 360° of the situation. Awareness is increasing on the importance of information and to verify sources, that is also the aim of my article because, I strongly believe that there are no “single stories” but “multiple stories” to everything.
It can be tiresome and frustrating figuring out which sources to trust and where to look for the right story but begin by having few sources at your disposal, so you can have different views that helps you enhance your critical understanding, looking out for those that as their passion and profession dedicate their time in seeking the truth and reporting facts, seeking respected and unbiased media agencies and newspapers is a foundation on the path of being well-informed. Nonetheless, let us not forget that the initial and essential work is internal, through broadening our mindset and widening our perspective and being always conscious that there is always MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE.