So my sister tells me the other day about this fascinating documentary she saw on the Discovery Channel during the current very popular “Shark Week”. It involved the search for a mysterious (and very scary) predator. Presented as a factual documentary, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, was, as she told it to me, a fascinating story.
I repeat: A story.
However, given the way the show was presented and the channel it was presented on, many people out there, including my sister, thought they were watching something real. A controversy followed and Discovery Channel was forced to issue a statement defending its programming:
This hasn’t, however, entirely stopped the controversy. Wil Wheaton, late of Star Trek: The Next Generation, offered some very strong comments regarding this special:
I agree with Mr. Wheaton’s statements and would go a step further: Shows like this and the fact that they can fool people into believing a fiction are good examples of the dangers of mass media. Often we are passive watchers of what the media offers us and, as is the case here, some of us can be “lied” to…and we believe the lie.
In the case of the Megalodon, I suppose watching this special and mistakenly believing it to be true is a fairly “benign” lie.
The danger, of course, is when the lie is no longer benign.