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<title>The Danger of a Story | Divya Manian</title>
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<meta name="description" content="Have you seen this photograph? &copy; Kevin Carter/CORBIS/Sygma I am hazarding, you would think, just as I did, that &#8220;Something must be done! &hellip;">
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<time datetime="2010-03-06T00:00:00+05:30" pubdate><span class='month'>Mar</span> <span class='day'>06</span> <span class='year'>2010</span></time>
<h1 class="entry-title"><a href="/the-danger-of-story.html">The Danger of a Story</a></h1>
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<div class="entry-content"><p>Have you seen <a href="http://www.arab2.com/picture-worth-thousand-words/images/vulture-child.jpg">this photograph</a>? </p>
<p><img src="http://nimbupani.com/files/vulture-child.jpg" alt="vulture-child.jpg" border="0" width="556" height="404"><br><small>&copy; Kevin Carter/CORBIS/Sygma</small></p>
<p>I am hazarding, you would think, just as I did, that &#8220;Something must be done! This cannot be!&#8221; <a href="http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080726074246AAJ95qa">This Yahoo Answers</a> thread is a great example of it. If you are enterprising enough, you would look for a website that takes donations to help people in that area or at least attempt to know more about the area where the photo was taken.</p>
<p>The problem with this story is that,it is just that, a story. This photograph can represent a million things. It can as easily be applied to Sudan as to any other country. It can be appropriated by anyone as their symbol of struggle and oppression.</p>
<p></p>
<p>But, here is an <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Carter#Prize-winning_photograph_in_Sudan">alternative story of this picture</a> which is much less sinister and sounds more probable:</p>
<blockquote><p>Again according to Silva, Carter was quite shocked as it was the first time that he had seen a famine situation and so he took many shots of the children suffering from famine. Silva also started to take photos of children on the ground as if crying, which were not published. The parents of the children were busy taking food from the plane so they had left their children only briefly while they collected the food. This was the situation for the girl in the photo taken by Carter. A vulture landed behind the girl. To get the two in focus, Carter approached the scene very slowly so as not to scare the vulture away and took a photo from approximately 10 metres. He took a few more photos and then the vulture flew off.</p></blockquote>
<p>This is not to diminish the tragedy that unfolded in Sudan, but to simply point out the danger of a story. Stories that fit into a well-known pattern and titillate us with graphic and violent details are especially dangerous.</p>
<p></p>
<p>Stories cloud our perceptions and lead to a mob behavior, frequently seen online (like <a href="http://blog.iso50.com/2009/04/06/save-jon-engle/">this story of Jon Engle</a> which I implicitly believed in before more details came out). Anyone who asks to know an alternate point of view is treated as a &#8220;heartless&#8221; person or someone who must be in collusion with the devil or a traitor. This is the danger of a story, we get sucked into it without us realising we are reacting to it.</p>
<p></p>
<p>Thanks to the internet, you do not have to work too hard to know all aspects of a story to make up your mind. <a href="http://tedxmidatlantic.com/live/#TylerCowen">Tyler Cowen</a> and <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html">Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie</a> have spoken much more eloquently on this topic, which I consider essential viewing for anyone wondering about the danger of a story.</p>
<p>As Tyler Cowen states, any story that is simple to understand, or is of the form Good vs. Evil, that translates to a good movie, or is a story that you like to hear, is worth investigating before assuming it to be true.</p>
<p></p>
<p>Make it a habit to never believe in any story reported in any media, until you know enough to form an opinion about it. More importantly, be willing to change that opinion as soon as more facts are known, or when it stops being plausible.</p>
<p>Don&#8217;t believe anything I have just said either :)</p>
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<p><img class="avatar" src="http://a2.twimg.com/profile_images/1696865113/me_normal" height=48> <a href="http://twitter.com/divya">Divya Manian</a> lives in SF. <a href="/about.html">More about me ❭</a></p>
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