The truth, the whole truth, and what the press reports

A friend of a friend has recently been quoted in the popular press.  Nothing too spectacular there, except that on this occasion she said something she probably shouldn’t have said.  It wasn’t necessarily untrue, but it had an explosive quality which made it particularly interesting to the newshounds – and was reported with a (possibly deliberately misleading) lack of context which made for an incendiary reception elsewhere.

And therein lies the nature of truth.  In court we are asked to deliver the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But when we are quoted for effect what has happened? If we told the truth (probably), the whole truth (unlikely), and nothing but the truth then what will be reported? The truth (maybe), the whole truth (almost certainly not, context rarely sells), and nothing but the truth (I think not).

History is littered with examples of people who have said something true but unpalatable, and all to often it is the messenger who is called to account – perhaps first observed by Sophocles as “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news”.

I don’t know whether the unintentional flames will be doused with apology, or fed with a scapegoat. But I do know that I really should learn from another’s misfortune and figure out the politician’s art of using lots of words to say nothing, especially in circumstances where I don’t want a Pyrrhic victory.

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