How did media incubated from a trickle of primitive symbols and signals to a close-knit network of drums and voices, through the enlightened fountainhead of the printed word to the digital pipeline of our present information age? What largely propelled this transformation is the struggle to gain control of “the official story”. The nightly news is a primary vendor of “the official story”. It’s a viewpoint, someone’s account of past events and a claim of authority to load the time capsule of history.
The official story proposes to make everyone’s point of view the same. However, just as no two camera’s can occupy the same spot at the same time, neither can two individuals see things exactly the same way. This accounts for all cultural ambiguities. The official story adopts a viewpoint, takes a stand, polarizes ambiguities embedded in our culture, converting them to prejudices. When we adopt these prejudices, it sets up an artificial need for affiliate groups.
Polarized individuals are powerless. The powerless are eager to merge with affiliate group. When we adopt the viewpoint of the leadership, we defend their opinions as our own. Relying on strength in numbers, we look to our party for the power to assert our prejudices over those of the opposing party. When the leadership betrays our trust and acts for its own selfish gain, it perversely appears as if we backed them.
Just as no photographic image can encompass the total picture, no official, or their story can claim to have done all the necessary listening and thinking for us. We must fill in the missing gaps with our own story and the stories of those around us, particularly those with whom we differ most. Good listening requires at least a momentary suspension of prejudice.
Good movies bridge the artificial gulfs that divide us by allowing cultural ambiguities to exist, unencumbered by prejudice. The best movies open our minds, coaxing from us a suspension of disbelief. The best stories condition us to genuinely listen and reward us with bona-fide insights that safeguard us from any need for an official story.