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Stalking Vol 2: The Bridge of Reason


"I’d detect the motion, and it might be harder on my nerves," I said, putting myself inside
the metaphor.
"Make that professionally relevant."
I stared at her.
"Your television work," she prompted me. "What common practice of representing facts
takes the place of the truth?"
"We have people stage common actions, so that we have pictures of them working during
the voice over, but that’s not really a contrivance."
"Why not?"
"Because they’d normally do these things; they’re innocuous moments in the life of the
subject."
"Are they not re-enactments?"
"Technically, but it would be confusing to draw attention to a guy walking down a hall by
keying in the word ‘re-enactment’ at the bottom of the screen." I bracketed the word with my
fingers.
"Why is that?" she asked me innocently.
"It would generate a false sense of relevancy; the audience is literate in the language of
television, so they know that some staging has taken place in the same way they know that a
visual jump cut means some time has passed." I took an organizational breath. "Staged pictures
are not meant to be informative, per se, because there’s nothing in them that doesn’t happen
every day. If anything, they provide a minimal context of time and place, as an alternative to
showing boring graphs and charts. No harm, no foul."
"We’ll see about that. To recap, a correspondent does not undermine the factual certainty of
his presentation by staging events, because the audience’s conditioned assumptions about the
language of television allow for it. By this I mean they speak the nuance of acceptable practice to
the degree that if the reporter calls these scenes re-enactments, the truth actually confuses them?"
"It’s not confusing so much as an insult: we don’t key in the word cat when we first see
one."
"Is the cat an assumption?"
"Huh?"
"From your reasoning, some members of the media have presumed that any action they
could prompt by their presence would have taken place anyway, or had already happened before
they arrived. Down the road, the momentum attached to what seemed to be a reasonable way to
create visual continuity allowed some well-known personalities to ask soldiers about their ability
to do things, knowing full well that this would propel them to do it. They allowed themselves
this stretch by saying soldiers have a choice, and that they do it every day. True?"
"I’ve been there and done that; I literally have the T-shirt, in the case of ceasefires*.
"Would you agree that there may also be an underlying tit- for-tat mentality, because you all
have covered events that were flagrantly designed to mislead the public?" She shrugged. "Why
not cover news that is staged as an accurate reflection of reality?"
"That may be, but setting aside for the moment that television news without pictures is
called radio, a correspondent without the smarts to get pictures of bang-bang in a war will soon
be covering flower shows."
"And this reality of the business allows trickery to become a trap, because staging the way it
is does not have him pull the trigger?"
"A fake office scene never killed anyone," I countered.
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