Read Between the Lines
Sometimes to get the whole story you have to reada bit between
the lines. The information may be right there in front of you,
but you have to look a bit more closely. For example, the other
night on the evening news there was a story about the use of
torture. That was followed by the results of a poll on the issue.
The question was, "Is water-boarding (an interrogation
technique that simulates drowning of the prisoner) torture? The
numbers were put up without much comment. Apparently 67% of Americans
think that yes, it is torture. Perhaps most of the other 33%
would think so as well if subjected to this "procedure,"
but that's not the point here.
The next question was put on the screen, "Should water-boarding
be illegal?" 52% of those polled said yes, it should be
illegal. What's most interesting, is that no further conclusions
were drawn by the reporter.
Look at those numbers for a moment and you can read between
the lines to get the rest of the story. I'll do the math for
you. 67% think it is torture. Only 52% think it should be illegal,
so the other 48% don't think so. Now, assuming that all those
who say it should be illegal also say it is torture, that leaves
15% who say it is torture, but won't say it should be illegal.
This is the bare minimum, by the way, because that is the
least possible overlap between the two groups. Without getting
into the heavier mathematics, suffice it to say that there could
be, and probably are, more than 15% who say it is torture, but
won't say it should be illegal (the maximum percentage for this
group is theoretically 48%).
In all likelihood, then, assuming the poll was done correctly,
almost 20% of the American public won't say that torture should
be illegal. Isn't that a newsworthy story? Why do we have to
read between the lines to get it?
Many years ago there was no law requiring drivers or passengers
in cars to wear seat belts. Laws were proposed, so it became
a story on the evening news. The public's opinion was sought.
One reported poll in particular sticks in my mind.
First, I was surprised to see that something like 74% of the
people thought we needed a law forcing all drivers to wear seat
belts. (Don't hold me to these numbers, but they are close enough
to the truth to make my point.) Then came the incredible second
number. Apparently only 23% of the people in Michigan consistently
wore their seat belts.
Again, you have to read between the lines to see something
very interesting here. It is something that was never commented
on or investigated further. 77% of people were choosing not to
consistently wear their seat belts. Now if we assume that all
of those who were against the law (26%) were in this group, that
still leaves a minimum of half of the entire population who chose
not to always wear their seat belt and yet wanted the government
to force them to!
Does that seem strange to anyone else? Half the people want
to be forced to do something that they can do whenever they want
but choose not to do. They always had the choice to wear those
seat belts, so why didn't they wear them, and why did they want
a law forcing them to?
Have we become so infantilized as a society that we want to
be told what is good for us - and forced to do it? This is a
big story in my mind. What happened to the ideals of individual
responsibility and freedom of choice?
When you do a little reading between the lines you discover
some interesting stories.