“Tell me no secrets; tell me no lies.” As the song lyrics say, I have always assumed that people don’t want to be lied to, that they want the truth from others. I have a friend, however, who says this is not true, and he makes a good case.
The latest topic to be subjected to scrutiny is that children are at constant risk of being kidnapped and molested by strangers and are often sold into sexual slavery. This ties in with the generally accepted belief that we are living in times of greater overall danger and increased crime.
None of this is true, but you would never know it by the ledes of everything that passes for news. I assumed that the media is deliberately creating a false narrative and withholding the truth that we would actually prefer, their objective being increased clicks and revenue, and that they are successfully accomplishing this by making us feel that we and our children are in constant danger.
My friend agrees the media does this but maintains that rather than deluding the public, it is giving the public what they want – fiction rather than truth – and that the consumers of news are equally responsible and co-conspirators with the purveyors of news in this mass delusion.
It’s all part and parcel of our fascination with the macabre, the tragic, the terrifying, he says; we love to be scared, and we love to believe the worst, and considering the popularity of horror and torture films and the viciousness with which we treat each other in real life, I have to concede that he is right.
We don’t want to know the facts about “missing children” and “sex trafficking” and “stranger danger,” the facts presented by Dr. Marty Klein and Lenore Skenazy and Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Reason on the prevalence of stranger-kidnappings and again on sex trafficking.
We prefer to believe that bands of predators follow families through furniture stores looking for an opportunity to kidnap toddlers. I mean, why wouldn’t we believe it? After all, thousands of children just disappear every year in America, never to be seen again — don’t they? We prefer to believe these and even more outlandish stories circulated on Facebook than the statistics disseminated by the FBI and the BJS.
We prefer to believe that everyone who has ever been convicted of any type of sexual offense is forever an imminent threat if he comes within 1,000 feet of a child or any place where a child can be found even though studies show that very few registered citizens living in the community commit another sexual crime.
We prefer to believe that a public sex offender registry actually makes us safe and that residency restrictions prevent re-offense in spite of years of valid, legitimate research telling us that neither of those is true.
What we believe determines how we act. And as long as we believe what isn’t true, our actions that are intended to solve serious problems are doomed to failure.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.