Saturday, January 25, 2020

Snake Oil: Loose with the truth

Facebook posts ads on our walls based on our previous searches, likes and other interactions. I get a lot of advertising for flights and holidays because I've traveled quite a lot over the past couple of years. Jetstar has frequent sales and they target me for trips to Vietnam. The advertised prices are ridiculously low, and as it always turns out, the flights are only available on a very limited number of specific days...or perhaps not at all, as I've discovered sometimes.

I do online surveys, and have done for some time. I earn points and redeem the points for Paypal dollars with which I buy books. It's a sweet little pocket money generator. Facebook started hitting me with ads for another online survey mob called Surveyworld. The thing is they didn't advertise themselves as an online survey company. They were looking for males in my age group to test products. (Wow! How did they know my age?) I clicked the link and was forced to join an online survey company. There was nothing on their website or in the flood of emails which followed about product testing.When I could not unsubscribe, I had to block the address.

A final example involves an immigration agency which advertised free consultations with their lawyers. It was free until they actually connected me to a lawyer and then they dropped the fee on me. I declined and told them their advertising was dishonest.

Having won the lucrative broadcasting rights from Channel 9, Channel 7 has boasted of being Australia's home of cricket. Australia's old home of cricket-the only one I'd ever known- used to show all the international cricket matches in the Australian domestic season. The new home of cricket only shows test matches. It also purports to be the home of the very popular big bash T20 league (now in its ninth series), but it doesn't show all the games. This is advertising; the false or only partially true claims of those trying to sell us something.

Television programs are always promising the best of everything;
the scariest, the funniest, the most exciting or entertaining. The word 'ever' has suffered a thousand deaths and still suffers abuse as a zombie adverb.

That advertisers and television promoters at best exaggerate and at worst lie about what they are offering is a given. We know that. However, people are loose with the truth as well, and sadly we expect that now. We hope people tell the truth but often suspect they aren't.

Is it any wonder that truth is now so flexible? So situational? So relative? Why are we surprised by this prevailing lack of honesty when we are surrounded by lies in the media, both the terminally ill traditional media, and surging social media. Most thinking people have a default doubt setting nowadays.

I rang the ATO to tell them I had mistakenly received thousands of dollars. They were shocked and promised to investigate. Nearly four months down the track nothing has happened. The same government department took money off me every fortnight for nine months before admitting the error and assuring me they would return my money within four weeks. That was in November. Guess what? I'm still waiting. When I switched to Dodo mobile they promised me 'all systems go' no more than three days after I activated my SIM. Two weeks later, I finally had a fully operational handset.

I could go on with many more examples, but I trust I've made my point. I want to be believe everyone who tells me something, but I can't. I want my default setting to be trust, but I know that will likely only hurt me.

It's very sad that the concept of relative truth is so entrenched in our thinking. In the 21st century, most people echo Pontius Pilate's famous 1st century words. On the day he was crucified, Jesus challenged Pilate to accept the truth of what he was saying and who he was. Pilate's answer: "What is truth?"

Well? What's your answer?

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