We all have causes about which we are passionate. Whether it is the cruelty of animal captivity or veganism, everyone has something they care deeply about. Living in the information age has made being a champion for our passions a great deal easier, but documentary fear tactics can also skew reality to show us the most extreme version of these matters.
Streaming programs have also assisted in these crusades as many people have limitless access to documentaries in support of their specific ideals. If you look hard enough, there is research in support of nearly anything, so obviously, the same truth exists for the other side of the argument. If you don’t believe in global warming, there are books, videos, speeches, and documentaries available to support that opinion. If you are a passionate global crusader, there is also a plethora of information to prove you right.
However, many crusaders are unwilling to admit that they’re gleaning their information from biased sources. If you support something, wholeheartedly, you must be aware of both sides of the argument. If you’re only able to quote facts and figures in support of your cause, any argument involved is going to be one-sided and unfounded. This is the trouble that avid documentary watchers are running into as they choose to remain blissfully unaware of the other side of their arguments, focusing only on what their favorite documentary has to say.
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, filmmaker Spike Lee directed a documentary entitled “When the Levees Broke”. In it, he spoke with many of the residents of the Louisiana city that chose to stay behind and weather the storm. A lot of them had some grandiose theories as to why the levees had failed and why their city flooded. However, unlike many other documentarians, Lee also spoke to city officials, members of the national guard, celebrities who assisted in rescue efforts, and those who did evacuate the area. This documentary served only to educate people about the devastating effects of the monster hurricane. Or did it?
As a result of the documentary, Lee caught a great deal of flack because critics were calling him biased. Many people claimed he failed to speak to wealthy landowners (false) or people who believed that the levee breach and the slow response had nothing to do with the economic or racial climate of New Orleans (also false). The only people he didn’t speak to in the documentary were President George W. Bush and Michael Brown, about whom his interviewees spoke at length. This wasn’t meant to be proof of racism at the hands of our President, it was simply an educational account of the severity of the storm and the abnormally slow response for aid.
For many people, documentaries serve as gospel. They don’t realize that so-called educational programming can be incredibly biased and self-serving. Many documentaries present themselves as fact-based films seeking solely to educate the public. However, a lot of documentaries rely on opinions of experts in that field for their evidentiary support, thus leading to false information being presented.
If We Scare Them, They’ll Pay Attention
As with anything in the world, there are two sides to every argument. There are facts that will argue about the harmfulness of GMOs, but there are also arguments that GMOs have been proven to be of no harm whatsoever. It’s no wonder that people are confused what to believe and that impressionable minds are easily swayed by the educational overtones of a documentary.
Too many documentaries employ one simple tactic to draw the viewer’s attention; fear. If you tell a mother of three that cow’s milk is incredibly dangerous and can cause tumors, she’s going to protect her children and switch over to soy milk. If you tell that same mother that soy can cause cancer, she’ll switch to almond milk. Documentaries appeal to the sensitivity and protective instincts of most humans in order to sway an opinion in one direction or another, but what they’re not telling you may be extensive.
They employ “experts” to assert their opinions and present it as fact and most people are impressionable enough to believe what they’re saying, especially if there is a “Dr.” in front of their name. However, the expert that is professing the negative aspects of cell phones may have a doctorate degree in psychology and therefore may not be an expert on the topic at all.
Prior to cleaning out your entire fridge and engaging in a solely vegan lifestyle, check the facts that are being presented. You never know how or from whom those documentarians acquired their funding, and therefore the information presented could be for profit. The facts presented are meant to scare you into some sort of action, but make sure they’re facts before blindly following.