Long ago our storytelling ancestors discovered that you could tie characters and events together and then arrange them in a particular order to give meaning to the world. This gave rise to the myths, history, religions, art, and traditions of our civilization. In these narratives heroes and villains were forged, ethical quandaries were explored, and the physical world attempted to be explained.
Every story has a narrative and every narrative has a window of interpretation. Moby Dick can famously be read as a whaling tale, a study on world religions, or a psychological investigation of obsession. The ancient Egyptian story of the murder of Osiris at the hands of his brother Seth is a myth. However, a closer reading serves as an allegory about the nature of chaos and order. Rembrandt’s evocative, Lucretia not only masterfully depicts the namesake heroine’s suicide but personifies Roman values of virtue, honor, and duty. Conventionally put, the American Civil War was a war over slavery though there were many other complex issues involved.
The way by which we arrive at these meanings depends in large part on the techniques used by the narrator. Accordingly, the narrator will deploy any number of storytelling devices to convey what they want and, therefore, have their audience arrive at a desired conclusion. This puts the burden on the the narrator to be truthful and the audience to critically think. This way, the former remains credible and the latter well-informed.
It’s harmless to enjoy the embellished stories from a friend’s recent trip abroad. However, it is entirely another matter when an official narrative constructed by governments or institutions have a resounding and rippling impact far beyond the immediate audience. We need not look far for examples of official narratives being used to justify atrocities or tell lies.
Nineteen years later the world is still living under the terrorism paradigm ushered in on September 11, 2001. In the minds of some the official narrative of this day has justified the loss of countless lives, rampant civil liberty abuses, and the entrenchment of a permanent state of war, among other things. Critically, that storyline excludes the mysterious collapse of 7 World Trade Center, follow the money thoroughly, examine the full cadre of suspects, or many other holes and anomalies in the story. In other words, the official account lies by omission.
In the 1980s and 90s a child abuse network operated out of Omaha, Nebraska but had tentacles extending throughout the nation. The story has since become known as the Franklin Scandal. Wikipedia frames this whole sordid tale as nothing more than allegations based on a hoax. It’s true that the children never didn’t see justice in court but there is not a single mention of the conflicts of interest, coercion, cover-up, or conspiracy that prevented justice from being served. Networks like those of Marc Dutroux, Jimmy Savile, Jeffrey Epstein, The Finders, and Dolphin Square were all operating in and around the same time as the Franklin Scandal all over the world but go unmentioned, leaving out vital context. Sadly, untold numbers of children remain at risk today because not enough has been done to shine light on these dark issues and dismantle the institutions that protect the people involved.
Institutions also maintain narratives about their foundations and purposes that are often at odds with reality. Just watch and see how the Federal Reserve of St. Louis frames the role of central banks in the U.S. In short, the country was in a regular state of financial disarray until the Fed came along and since then has acted as the bulwark against further financial ruin. This history portion fails to mention the secretive meeting of banking interests on Jekyll Island, Georgia or note how discontent with central banking was so strong in the 1830s that Andrew Jackson staked his reelection campaign on not renewing the charter of the Bank of the United States and won. The viewer also walks away with a benevolent view of the bank, not knowing anything about how fractional-reserving banking actually works. Who does ignorance benefit in this situation?
This post itself has a narrative. It is attempting to convey the importance of media literacy by highlighting cases of official narratives deceiving the public recent times. Does it succeed? Is it truthful? You would have to sort out the logic and verify the facts for yourself to be absolutely sure. This is no small ask as it must be done every time we receive new information but the rewards are worth it. Only by understanding the nature of narratives and learning how to analyze them can truth be arrived at.
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