GRE Issue Essay 133
“The media-and society in general-mistakenly expect an individual to speak for a particular group, whether or not that individual truly represents the views of the entire group.”
When we consider a group of people, be it a small group of people in a locality or a complete nation, we forget the individual differences that exist within the group. We take for granted that the words of the representative of the group are the words of each person comprising the group. Consequently, we expect an individual to give us the collective opinion of a group and disregard his personal views and those of the members of the group. We tend to believe his words to be the unanimous opinion.
There are two types of leaders or spokespersons for any group. Firstly, there are those whom people appoint and who hold a legal authority to voice the views of their set and the second type is of those who are self-appointed. They choose to voice their views, which need not be a true representation of the ideas of their entire group. The problem arises when people misunderstand such people to be the representatives of the entire group.
The role of media in spreading awareness has increased in the recent years. Earlier media was a source of information, now it is a source of investigation as well. The cutthroat competition between media sources is such that everyone is trying to provide the latest information, irrespective of the quality of information provided. Take for instance news channels. The moment anything occurs in a place, media personnel throng the site and try to gain as much footage as they can. Irrespective of the information that is available with the people on the site, they shall endlessly interview them and try to extract as many details as is possible. In this struggle, the public watching the telecast tends to think that the interviewee is a true representative of the group concerned and knows the situation well. As a result, we digest what is being fed to us and do not try to think of other possibilities. The media conveniently targets those it feels like and paints a corresponding picture by highlighting the views that give it more reactions. In fact, many a times the media jumps the gun and draws conclusions on its own. Words that are spoken are misunderstood and unspoken words are assumed.
Imagine the chaos at a site where a stampede has taken place. There will be eyewitnesses as well as those who have little information about the exact sequence of events that took place. Nonetheless, all the people will be treated alike and people shall believe whichever version of the incident they hear.
When a group is large and significant, in most cases, a spokesperson is appointed for communicating with people outside the group. He is responsible for answering the queries of people and represents the true views of the group. There are sure to exist some differences among the people of any group, nonetheless, their unanimous decisions are communicated by the spokesperson. In such a case, it is not the mistake of people and media to absorb the ideas as true without doubt.
Another aspect that is closely related to the issue is that of the final opinion that people form. It is not necessary that people take the views projected by the media as true. Even if the media and society mistakenly expect an individual to speak for a particular group, we cannot assume that others take the statements of such people as true. Hence, the consequences of such mistakes of society cannot be estimated. Nonetheless, there are very few people who look beyond the media to assimilate the information being provided.