A simple comparison of the facts about Terri Schiavo being discussed on the internet with the story being told on the news reveals a truth crunch that will dwarf anything we’ve experienced to date. What’s a truth crunch you ask? It’s the point at which the actual facts of a story become so widely known that its impossible for the media to sustain its preconceived narrative. In the case of Terri Schiavo not only did the media lead the public to believe this was just another typical right to die case, they actively solicited the public’s complicity in their narrative through the use of unfairly worded polls. What will make this truth crunch particularly devastating to old media though is that it will also involve a corresponding conscience crunch on the public. With Rathergate or even the coverage of the Iraqi war, the media was exposed as being overtly biased, but in the end their coverage didn’t really have an effect on the outcome. Rathergate was uncovered prior to the election and the incessant “quagmire” story line didn’t stop the liberation of millions. But the Schiavo coverage is different. Sadly, the truth crunch will almost surely happen too late, at which point the public will be confronted with the realization that they were made to be unwitting participants in one of our society’s greatest injustices.
People will ask why the media reported Terri being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) as if this fact was as immutable as the earth being round, when other experts, Terri’s nurses and videos of Terri that they’d never seen or heard of indicated otherwise. They will learn that some studies show that upwards of 43% of the cases of PVS are incorrectly diagnosed and ask why this was not disclosed in the neatly packaged news segments.
After being led to believe that Michael Schiavo was acting out of sheer respect for Terri’s wishes, the public will learn of a different Michael – one that denied Terri a chance at rehabilitation or even basic diagnostic tools such as an MRI. They will hear how Michael moved on to start another family while Terri’s parents continued their familial commitments and vows to keep treating her. They will learn of the “pre legal settlement Michael”, promising to be her “rock” who would take any step necessary to help Terri improve, and the “post settlement Michael” who, after receiving considerable sums of money for her rehabilitation, focused on Terri’s purported desire to no longer live. A desire that, logic dictates, would have been expressed by Terri well prior to the settlement, before Terri’s “heart attack.” Worse, they will learn of multiple allegations of abuse at the hands of this “guardian.”
The public will learn that judges are not all knowing, all wise immortals, who can see absolute truth amidst the confusion, but are fallible humans that make mistakes and have fears, biases and egos just like the rest of us. They will learn that sometimes the judiciary stubbornly applies old law to new facts resulting in grave injustices.
Whether people will choose to believe some or all of the above when the truth crunch happens remains to be seen. At a minimum they will see that we weren’t really sure if Terri Schiavo was vegetative or merely disabled, and that we weren’t in the least bit sure if removing the feeding tube was what Terri wanted. Without really being sure of these things at all, we went ahead and slowly starved Terri to death.