Whenever I despair, or more likely, when I become annoyed, because of the lack of criticality our mass media exhibit, I watch something in French or in Spanish. Then, I come out feeling better about criticality and attentiveness in America. In brief, others routinely do worse.
I have written before about this French documentary series I watch often. It’s called “Thalassa.” It’s about the ocean, in a broad sense, including tropical islands, exotic and ingenuous fishing techniques, and beautiful corners of Europe, even of France, that few know about. Thalassa is served in installments that are two hours long and it’s been on about forty weeks each year since 1975 (1975, not a typo). Both the facts of the long duration of each show and of the long duration of the series itself are evidence of success, I think. I mean success by French television standards. As usual, I want to protect myself against the accusation of taking milk money, or milk, from kindergartners.
Well, the last time, I watched Thalassa, the series, it included twin reports about China-Taiwan and mainland China, the latter technically know as the People’s Republic of China. To explain the split between the two Chinas, the narrative declared that the Chinese Communists had “won the election” in 1949. Correspondingly, according to Thalassa, the official name of mainland China is “The Popular Republic of China.” Yep, I guess it’s popular enough! If you don’t find it popular and you say so, you end up in jail.
The writer of the narrative and the narrator are both idiots. This could happen here, though I think it’s less likely. What I believe is that a successful, important American television series would be edited by responsible people with an ounce of general knowledge, that it would not be left to children or to high-school dropouts. (Here, I am exercising the benefit of doubt. If one checked the French narrators’ and writers ‘ credentials, it might well turn out that they are all graduates of the best French institutions of higher education.)
The same segment on mainland China shows two former fishermen who make a living selling starfish to day-tourists on the most popular beach in the country. To catch the starfish they dive right next to the breakwater in what you can be sure is shallow water. They use scuba because it’s convenient. The narrative refers to “oxygen tanks,” instead of the correct compressed air tanks. In short, only very specialized divers operating under extraordinary circumstances ever breathe oxygen underwater. The confusion is a common mistake among dry-land civilians. It’s an extraordinary mistake in a program dedicated to the ocean, specifically. Whoever wrote the narrative is an idiot, possibly the same idiot as above. So is the narrator. Again elementary editing is lacking. The US media could do better than it does but there is worse.
I keep forgetting that most people live in a mostly imaginary mental world bearing an unknown relation to objective reality. The reason I keep insisting that “facts matter” is not that I am sure to be an exception. It means in part that I am worried that I am not, or not as much as I wish. In another part, the slogan means that I am doing what I can to encourage others to stay afloat on reality so they will help me stay afloat.
Plus, progress is possible. My mental world is much less imaginary now than it was when I was young. Yes, I said “imaginary,” not “imaginative.”
Little by little, with age, I got my bearings, or more bearings. First, I just came to know more facts. Second, I became more scrupulous about checking facts and about not repeating iffy pseudo-facts. In my experience, the aged are less corrupt than the young.