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The Reality of the Truth

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What exactly is the truth? Is it reality, sincerity, integrity? Is it accuracy and honesty? How can we tell the difference between the truth and lies? Why does the media have the power to decide for us what is true?

As Oscar Wilde once said ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’. This statement sums up the difficulties of telling the truth, and this is furthermore shown in Rob Sitch et al’s Frontline, Lies by Michael Leunig and the poem Nothing to Report by May Herschel Clarke.

The television show Frontline follows the day to day running of a current affairs show. It shows both on and off air aspects of what people involved with television go though on a daily basis. Mike Moore (Rob Sitch) plays the naive host of the show, who seems to think the whole world revolves around him. An example of this is when Emma sarcastically thanks him for helping with a story and he says ‘That’s ok’. Brian is the executive manager of the show and he ultimately decides what is shown on the show and what isn’t. Brooke is another reporter who uses deception and manipulation to present the truth. Emma does work behind the scenes and often she should be credited, but the reporters need their ego maintained so she is never recognised for her hard work. Marty is another reporter who has been in the business for a long time, and although he knows about Frontline presenting the ‘incorrect truth’, he does nothing to stop them.

Like all current affairs shows, the team at Frontline are concerned with gaining ratings every night, rather than telling the real truth to people. One example of this is during the episode ‘Add sex and stir’ where Brooke interviews a woman booted off her sports team because she ‘wasn’t a lesbian’. This in fact is not the truth because she was kicked off the team due to her poor form, not her sexuality. Viewers are then manipulated into thinking that the sport is a ‘lesbian’ sport, and the reputations of the team and sport are ruined. Marty sums up this ‘sensationalising’ of real truth in one quote, ‘”Ancient current affairs recipe my grandmother gave me, you take any story, add sex and stir” (Marty, Add sex and stir)

Dismissal of the ‘real’ truth is another technique that the current affairs show Frontline uses to gain ratings. In the episode ‘We aint got dames’, Mike wishes to do a story on illegal sweatshops, but Brian dismisses it as being ‘too heavy’ for the viewers. After much persuasion, Mike thinks he has convinced Brian to show his story (because his ego has finally been satisfied), but the story ends up being a fashion show, totally insulting any work that Mike has done. Although this story did attract more viewers than the sweatshop story would have, it only promotes the fact that viewers lack in knowledge about the real current issues, and they need to show pretty people with bright lights to get their attention.

There are many techniques used in Frontline which expose the manipulation that current affairs shows go through to gain ratings. Irony is shown in the episode ‘The siege’, where Brooke asks Mrs. Forbes to sign a contract so only frontline can report her story because,

“Some shows are very unscrupulous” (Brooke, The Seige)

Brooke says not to give the story to other stations because they might twist her story around to bring out a point she wasn’t making, but the irony was that their show was doing exactly that. Use of a handheld camera behind the scenes of the current affairs show can bring out the truth behind the lies, what we see on television may not be true in real life. This applies to Mike in the episode ‘Add sex and stir’ where he is on Burkes Backyard. He is asked questions about current affairs and does not know how to answer them, then tries to defend himself by asking Burke about plants but he knows everything about them. Although he is shown as an intelligent and well presented man on television, in real life he doesn’t know anything. This is also seen when Mike takes part in an ABC debate, but during his introduction all of his material is said and Mike doesn’t have anything good to say, which shows that he is not a good speaker in person as he is behind the desk.

There is also use of verisimilitude in the show Frontline, with many real media personalities being on the show to make it seem more realistic in telling the truth. Examples of these celebrities are Harry M Miller, Cheryl Kernot, and Bert Newton.

The cartoon Lies by Michael Leunig also exposes that the media manipulates and distorts the truth, so it really is presented to us as a lie or the ‘untruth’. The cartoon shows people living in their world, but everything has the label ‘lies’ on it. The billboard which says ‘lies’ shows that many companies engage in deceptive advertising, and although they aren’t supposed to do that, they still convince people to buying their products. The newspaper titled ‘lies’ shows that journalists write from their own perspective and can distort the truth to suit their opinions. The person wearing the ‘lies’ shirt shows that behind brand name corporations there are lies. An example of this is making clothing in sweatshops then selling it for triple the price of what its really worth (like Nike shoes) and people are paying top dollar just to wear a symbol, which supposedly brings them into an elite group of people, but really they are just lying to themselves.

The point Michael Leunig is trying to make is enforced through the main technique of repetition. The word lies is seen 11 times in the comic, and it is the only word on the cartoon. If lies was only mentioned once, many people would not take notice of it, but since it is printed on the billboard, buildings, truck, newspaper, shirt and drink, it shows that lies are everywhere and it really is a big issue.

Like the television series Frontline, this cartoon exposes that the world we live in is full of lies and deception, and the media controls what we see and listen to. It is their opinion what we believe, and many people, rather than refuting what is being presented to them in the media, just believe it and keep going with their lives.

The poem Nothing to Report by May Herschel Clarke is written during the war times (1940’s). During this time, leaders of the country were trying to convince people to fight overseas as a soldier, with hope of coming back as a brave hero. For this ‘heroic’ image to come to light, anything negative about death in the war would have to be shielded from the people, or else they wouldn’t enlist. Ms Clarke’s poem targets this issue, talking about how easily death can come, ‘One minute we was laughin’… next he lays beside me, grinnin’ dead.’

After the death, the papers had nothing to report; therefore they were with holding the truth from people. May Herschel Clarke couldn’t possibly have been the only one with a death not reported, but no one else seemed to be doing anything about it, because the media has always been very powerful.

The poem is written in colloquial language, which could reflect on her education, upbringing or location. This could also be written in that style to follow a rhyming sequence. The last line is a metaphor which shows that the paper is such an effective form of communication, it might as well be a person.

‘There’s nothin’ to report the papers said’

This text is very similar to the television series Frontline, in trying to expose the media in its with holding and distortion of the truth. Another example in frontline of withholding the truth is during the episode ‘This night of nights’ where Mike wishes to do a story about Telecom tapping into phone conversations, but seeing as they are a major sponsor of the television show, frontline cant expose the truth, and give Mike a mobile phone to help him forget about it. If this truth was exposed, telecom would have received many complaints and much abuse, but they would have deserved it. Instead there are still people at home not suspecting a thing. In the end Mike is disadvantaged from not pursuing the story because they listen to his phone conversation about being caught drink driving, and expose him in the newspapers. In the poem Nothing to report, the last line sums up that the media does with hold information and it shouldn’t be their right to decide what we see or don’t see.

Telling the truth is a hard concept to deal with. From the texts Frontline (Rob Sitch et. al.), Lies by Michael Leunig and Nothing to Report by May Herschel Clarke we can see that the media does control what we see and believe, but it isn’t necessarily the truth. Why does the media have the power to decide what is true? Well if they presented us the facts and let us decide for ourselves, they wouldn’t have ratings. We are surrounded by the media (as seen in lies) and it is hard for us to ignore it all. ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’, in listening to the ‘truth’ there is always some form of bias, but we must leave it to ourselves to find out many versions of the so called ‘truth’ and decide for ourselves what we believe.

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