Thursday, August 03, 2006

Spinning the truth, lying, whatever you want to call it, it's just depressing

So I've really been getting into the Daily Show with John Stewart (as well as the Colbert Report) but last night's episode rubbed me the wrong way. The director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" was on to discuss/promote the movie. Now I don't necessarily fault John Stewart for my unhappyness as his show is an entertainment show and shown on Comedy Central so it's not really to be expected to go as deep into a story as say a news show should (a point that he got across very well on his Crossfire appearance I might add) but I still feel the need to vent. And what good is a blog if it doesn't have some venting? It should be noted that I haven't seen the documentary myself and I still want to so I'm just going off what I've heard so far but I think that my concerns are still justified.

So here goes. When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was hooked. I really wanted to know more about the EV1 and what the backstory is on this documentary. So off to google I went. After reading a few reviews and such for this movie that all touted how great it was and described some of the "facts" of the case I was starting to get right into the whole conspiracy. Then Wikipedia came along with a few twists. It had a couple tidbits from the other side... well from the GM side of things at least. So I was intrigued. I started to focus more on the GM response to the conspiracy theories and sure enough, I've been able to find a few little tidbits including a blog entry from a GM representative. And it was interesting to see some facts presented by the other side like just how much money GM put into the EV1 (a number that might actually be lower than it should because it doesn't seem to cover some stuff like how much of a hit GM took for leasing a $150K car for $500/month... something that might have been covered up a bit so shareholders wouldn't be as upset). It was also interesting to see that out of the 5000 person waiting list that was reported only 50 of these people were willing to follow through on the lease after they learned more about the cars and some of their drawbacks (such as the optimum number of kilometers that the car would get on one charge was never met and might leave people stranded and the recharging was a pain and took a long time). Or how selling the cars after the lease period could result in very negative feedback if anyone was to be hurt (part suppliers were no longer willing to supply parts for the cars so GM would have a really difficult time in making sure the vehicles stayed supported and safe, supposedly some people who leased the cars were willing to sign a waiver but we all know that the existence of such a waiver wouldn't matter if someone was killed, we'd just be seeing a documentary about how GM sold dangerous vehicles). And despite some reviews (but possibly not the documentary, I can't say for sure without seeing it) saying the vehicle had 0 impact on the environment it did (the power had to be generated somewhere, now a powerplant could do so with far fewer emmissions than your standard vehicles but it's not 0 impact). Now I could go on and on but the question is, was any of this covered in the "documentary"? The answer seems to be nope, at least from what I've seen and read, and from the director's interview last night when he said that GM refused to tell him why they couldn't let him have the car.

But enough of the nitpicky stuff, that's not what this is about (at least not in the global scheme of things). What irks me is the spin. In political terms I lean to the "left" but I keep the option of dipping my toes onto the "right" side if I feel it necessary. In terms of the environment I do believe our pollution is having a negative effect on the planet and we need to do something about it but I'm not eager to give up my air-conditioning just yet (although I'll turn it up a degree or two). So when I first heard about this documentary I had high hopes for it but as I look into it more it comes across as this guy with a gripe pushing his own agenda rather than truly trying to inform the general public of a great advancement in automobiles. What does this do for me? Well it makes me want to stop listening to him. When I discover people aren't being entirely truthful with me then it makes me wonder what else they are spinning. So despite his supposedly good intentions, I start to doubt everything he says.

The same thing happened to me with Michael Moore's movies. After watching Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11 I decided to look for responses to these two movies. Sure enough, the backlash was plenty. And after sifting through all those responses (much of which also had spin, lies, untruths, personal insults, and a bunch of other garbage) I was able to find a few nuggets that show Moore was guilty of a bit of viewer manipulation. Fortunately he has tried responding to some things but there are a few arguments there really is no response to. And at this point, I've heard Moore hide behind the "it's a movie/entertainment" defense. So it's a researched documentary when he wants it to be and a movie or "entertainment" when it suits him.

All of this makes me understand a bit better why some of the "right wing" people (or people with differing views) get slightly hostile towards these documentary filmers. Now some might say that the opponents of these films (or the politicians/businesses they support) are guilty of the same tactics. They might even say that they are more guilty or started it first but doesn't that start to sound like a 6 year-old's defense? "Sure I kicked my brother in the head but he started it!" Somehow the good intentions of the message get clouded by the muck that surrounds it and it loses its luster.

Then I turn to the Green Party campaigns. From what I understand, David Chernushenko has asked that Elizabeth May's finances be looked into after she did two press tours but didn't count them as part of her campaign costs (there's a limit as to how much she can spend) despite one tour being promoted briefly on her campaign site (said to have been a mistake that was corrected quickly) and her people selling Green Pary memberships at one speach. Now both sides are putting their spin on things with the Chernushenko camp pointing out that she has had to concede that one of her speaches would have to be paid for through the campaign while May is labelling the request as dirty politics, pointing out that David is losing in polls (nice of her to point that out) and that he's doing this just before the votes are to be mailed in (so he's supposed to hold off on looking into these claims until when?). To be honest, I don't find either side handling themselves particularly well but I have no problem with Chernushenko raising the question of her finances if it's warranted (and in this case, it might have been).

I have been having some trouble recently finding my happy place. There are a few reasons for this but all of the above doesn't help that's for sure. It gets harder and harder to really believe or trust anyone. You start to wonder who you can trust. Maybe you think of your parents but then there's the whole Easter Bunny and Santa Claus fiascos. I guess the bottom line for me is that if you want me to listen to what you have to say then you're going to have to convince me that I should. And it sucks that I feel that I have to take such a pessimistic view of the world.

Wow! What a rant huh?

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