Musings, rants, rambling, general nonsense

Accuracy vs Effect

Posted on | December 5, 2012 | 2 Comments

One of my friends posted this to Facebook recently and referenced the need to get the message to a particular person. It got me in a bit of trouble.

Texting and driving

This guy was texting while driving

….they found the phone still in his hand. They found his head in the back seat. Make sure all the young people you know see this.

I got in trouble because the text attached to the image is not true – and I pointed that out. Not to say I think people should go right ahead & text behind the wheel, but simply to say that isn’t what happened here.

The picture is from an incident that happened in mid-2005 (or earlier). There is no indication that police suspected he was texting, or that they found a phone in his hand. In fact, since contemporaneous accounts say the “accident is still under investigation”, it seems highly unlikely something so obvious was present.* The “detail” about texting was added sometime later, presumably by someone wanting to make a point – or perhaps just making a joke (some incarnations add a punchline like “he won’t be sending anymore text messages now”)

The responses I got were variations of the following:

“I don’t care how old it is and I don’t care what was added later. It is brutal and if this happened to this poor bastard, who’s to say that _____ couldn’t be in an equally brutal and tragic accident.”

“whether or not this picture is old doesn’t matter.”

Dennis Prager says he prefers “clarity over agreement”, wise words. I strive for truth and clarity wherever possible. In this instance, for a specific reason.

This is the type of image/story that is used to push an agenda. Many jurisdictions are passing laws against texting and driving. There is anecdotal evidence that those laws have increased distracted driving accidents because drivers are holding their phones down to avoid getting caught, meaning their eyes are off the road longer. You can’t legislate away the stupid – but they keep trying.

And this kind of misleading pap is part of it. Just because you agree with the point, doesn’t make the method acceptable.

Let’s do a comparison exercise:

  • A felon escapes from prison, gets himself a gun, goes on a meth binge, breaks into a family’s house and shoots the mom.
  • The local paper runs a story about the rise of violent, drug-related crime in the area, and includes a picture of the mother’s bloody body with her 5-year-old daughter crying next to her (’cause “if it bleeds, it leads” and news media is desperate for business)
  • Eventually someone grabs the image without the story and starts circulating it alone as an illustration of the evils of gun violence.
  • A bit later someone adds their own narrative to the picture. They claim the 5-year-old in the picture found a handgun in her parent’s nightstand and, while playing with it, she shot and killed her mother. They want you to see the image as an indictment of owning guns for personal protection, though the truth of the image suggests the opposite. Perhaps if the family owned firearms, the picture in the paper would have been a dead meth-head.

Would that be okay because it makes their point?

As with the Denzel Washington story, false information isn’t okay just because it supports or agrees with your position. And if you are trying to make a specific point, to a specific person, regarding a specific behavior…you should be sure you have specific information.

* The fact that he rammed his car, at an extremely high rate of speed, into the back of a semi that was parked on the side of the road, makes one wonder if it was intentional.

UPDATE: A friend recently posted this article on Facebook, and it is a shining example of my point. The “story” being circulated with the picture is in direct opposition to the truth of the image. “The irony is that animal lovers have been made to feel angry about an animal rescue


2 Responses to “Accuracy vs Effect”

  1. Bill @ Fingerprint Gun Safe
    October 17th, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    Interesting thoughts. We have a family saying…don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see!

  2. Did Tom Cruise Compare Acting To Combat? - Vox
    November 14th, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

    […] tired of people sharing stuff they don’t bother to verify first. I’m beyond frustrated with people who do so even when they know it is untrue. And I am […]

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