A Mirror for Ourselves
Something interesting happened to me recently.
I was (un)fortunate enough to participate in a BBC documentary. You might have seen it.
We did 6 days of filming, constantly, from 8am to 10:30pm, each day. That’s a lot of hours of video to troll through for the producers and the editing staff. How do they make the decision to cut out certain bits but leave other bits in?
Well, they must have an agenda before they begin filming. There will be a remit from head office to say “We want this to be the output of the documentary.” From this remit, they will bring together the bones of the filming and flesh it out with other people’s input to support their agenda. What was 6 days of filming for me could be hundreds more hours of filming for the rest of the participants in the documentary.
So, eventually, let’s say 60 hours of potential filming (VT) manifest themselves as 5 minutes of actual air time in an hour-long programme. From these five minutes, 6 million viewers made their minds up about who I am and what I am. Would they have come to a different conclusion had they seen the full 60 hours of tape? Consider the fact that out of a potential 3,600 minutes of recording, the production company left out 3,595 minutes.
What was edited out in order to present an image of a person that conforms to the original agenda from head office? What characteristics, traits, thoughts and actions had to be deleted and ignored in order to get precisely the person they needed to fill the gap in the documentary left by the apparent good nature of every other participant? If I were being made out to be the bad guy, how much real evidence of me being a good guy did they delete, ignore, filter or distort in order to represent a side of me that fitted their need?
It occurred to me that life is exactly like that. Our thinking is exactly like that. Thinking is deleting.
We edit, delete, distort, filter and generalise in order to support the views we already hold to be true. This is not new information. If you have a decent education in NLP, or are a critical, philosophical or dialectical thinker, you’ll know this any way.
But what is also apparent when you begin to question the process of thinking from a complexity perspective is just how limiting the medium of television becomes. What is it about this medium that narrows our perspective and focuses our previously-held prejudices and limited beliefs to be true?
In all the reviews and comments under articles about the programme that I have read (morbid curiosity?), it was apparent that I was held in less-than high regard by the general population of viewers. A few people made non-judgmental comments and actually asked useful questions related to the editing process, the political agenda of the BBC and so on, but only a few.
This is not a defense of my beliefs or behaviours on the programme. I am neither perturbed or elated by the experience. From my professional perspective on Thinking Complexity, the process of thought movement and individual behavioural profiling, what the documentary didn’t show the viewers was precisely what the production company didn’t want to show the viewers. They wanted a good guy, a wealthy guy, a loveable rogue, a successful woman and a bad guy. They got them all, for entertainment purposes only, as the programme certainly didn’t deliver what its title purported.
So it was slightly disappointing that people believed it to be a “truth” of some sort, and a factual depiction of the participant’s entire lives, or life’s work. I am neither good nor bad. But at the same time, I am both. As are you, and you. And especially if we were to follow you around with a camera and edit out the bits that do not support our agenda.
What has this taught me about my thinking?
I doubt I will ever watch a documentary of this type again. There is no point, as every single facet of its production is orchestrated to support the agenda of the producers. This becomes a bias in the editing room that isn’t useful to the average thinking human being. How am I to filter, delete, edit, generalise and so on, information that has already gone through that process before it gets to my television?
Finally, I will think about what I don’t see the next time I am watching a TV programme, or observing someone’s behaviour. Whatever we are seeing, it is not the full picture, and the person is not the behaviour!
Here is a link to the programme on the iPlayer: