Pity the poor sod from the ancient world given the task of bringing news of defeat back to his king. Often the messenger paid the price of delivering bad news with his life.
The concept of lashing out at the bearer of bad news apparently finds its literary roots in Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Sigmund Freud also refers to the shooting of the messenger, or ‘fending off what is distressing or unbearable’, and cites the example of ‘the famous lament of the Spanish Moors Ay de mi Alhama, which tells how King Boabdil received the news of the fall of his city. He feels that this loss means the end of his rule. But he will not “let it be true”….”He threw the letters in the fire and killed the messenger” Freud: On Metapsychology
“A modern version of attacking the messenger can be seen when persons blame the media for presenting bad news about a favored cause, person, organization, etc. The fact remains that ‘shooting the messenger may be a time-honored emotional response to unwelcome news, but it is not a very effective method of remaining well-informed”.
Bruce W. Sanford, Don’t Shoot the Messenger (2001)
A series of postings has appeared in The Green Room over the past several months under the title of ‘A Tale of 3 Cities’. The on-going series centers on the municipal policies and actions that effect live theatre in Midland, Barrie and Orillia. Almost without exception, reader reaction to this series has been positive, but not universally so. Living in a free and democratic society has its advantages. We are not only allowed to express our opinions (outside of hate mongering of course), and at the same time we are permitted to disagree with those opinions expressed.
It’s only natural that some might take issue to exposure of certain truths and facts that lie ‘behind the curtain’. For many, the status quo is comfortable; change is threatening to them for any number of reasons, personal and otherwise. The Green Room has always welcomed feedback and has published comments that have been submitted as part of the on-line discussion. In fact, The Green Room has gone to the extent of interviewing and publishing verbatim interviews with both elected and staff officials in all three municipalities in order to gain direct insight into the issues at hand. What negative reaction has been received has been based largely on emotion. While that is of course within anyone’s right, it is always more interesting and constructive to engage in discussions that are fact-based, as the postings in The Green Room have attempted to be. Reacting without having made any attempt to question or research the issues makes for a weak argument.
Postings that have exposed public documents relating to the City of Orillia, its Opera House and its city-controlled summer theatre program have not only been the most widely read but have also been the ones that have resulted in the most feedback. As a result, readers have found themselves one of several evolving camps:
- Interested and now informed
- Interested, informed and somewhat concerned
- Interested, informed, somewhat concerned and a stakeholder in the issues being raised
- Interested, informed, somewhat concerned and a stakeholder in the issues raised and willing to do something about it.
Most readers have appreciated the effort undertaken to make them aware. They see being made aware as an important role of the media overall. In today’s complex world of information and misinformation, we as a whole depend on the media in all its forms to be our watchdog, particularly when it comes to the management of our public funds and resources by government agencies at every level, who in turn are charged with the task of managing them on our behalf to best advantage. Who else can we turn to give us the information we need?
Since our local and regional media has not to this point demonstrated any desire to closely follow the actions and policies of local governments as they affect arts and culture, The Green Room has laid rightful claim to do just that.
Nevertheless, small but easily identifiable groups of individuals and organisations have taken exception to the news that not all is entirely well in Orillia. They wonder aloud if there is an agenda sought by The Green Room, an End Game of some sort. They might suggest that The Green Room is out to not only destroy specific programmes and activities but also to destroy the reputations of individuals. They might even claim that The Green Room is unnecessarily negative and offers no positive view of the world.
In order to help understand, here are some FAQ’s about The Green Room and its mission:
What is The Green Room trying to do?
The role of The Green Room has, from its inception back in 2010 (as Scott Talk), remains unchanged. Simply put, it is this: ‘To promote and encourage the development and improvement of those elements of live theatre in Simcoe and Huronia that closely engage and reflect the community and region.’
Does that mean that only good news is published?
No. That would be dishonest. Not all news is good news. Opened a newspaper lately? However, most of what is posted is very positive, such as auditions notices, artist profiles, show previews, interesting thoughts and ideas from stages around the world.
Does this mean The Green Room might from time to time engage in advocacy in pursuit of its objectives?
And that is, in fact, the key to The Tale of 3 Cities. The series has and continues to ask questions, post news and interviews, and expose documentation that the live theatre community needs to know. This information may be buried deep in the web archives of municipalities, or in the arcane minutes of Council minutes, or perhaps lie at the tip of the tongue of a local Councillor or municipal employee. It might not all be positive. It might not sit well with certain people. No matter. If it is factual and can be substantiated or referenced, it is eligible. If not, forget it. No rumour mongering, no innuendos, certainly no theatre reviews.
Does that mean The Green Room is offering unbiased reporting?
Don’t be silly; there’s no such thing! Every story has a point of view of some sort. News and information is sifted, selected and filtered by anyone who puts the proverbial pen to paper; that’s human nature. The very fact that The Green Room is focussed on the concerns of the live theatre community means by definition that there is an inherent bias, a bias towards improvement, more participation, more engagement. Show me a reporter claiming to offer unbiased reporting and I’ll show you a little man (or woman) with their fingers crossed behinds their backs!
Is The Green Room balanced in its approach?
I’d like to think so. That is why we speak directly to those who are making the decisions and transcribe their words for you to read. They have their chance to tell their story in their own words.
But as I admit, not everyone is pleased. They choose to ‘shoot the messenger’ rather than look at the possible merits of message. They might be stakeholders in the issues. Maybe they work for a municipality. Maybe they are comfortable with things the way they are. Maybe they have on-going relationship that might be threatened, either in their imaginations or in reality. These upset stakeholders might find themselves falling into one of several categories.
Let’s analyse, using some well-known clichés:
“Stick one’s head in the sand”
Definition and origin: Refusal to confront or acknowledge a problem.
This is derived from the supposed habit of ostriches hiding when faced with attack by predators. The story was first recorded by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder, who suggested that ostriches hide their heads in bushes. The notion is that the supposedly dumb ostrich believes that if it can’t see its attacker then the attacker can’t see it. ….Source: phrases.uk.org
These groups or individuals do not wish to acknowledge that anything is wrong with the current situation. If they can’t see ‘it’, ‘it’ can’t see them.
Looking at the world “through rose-coloured glasses”.
Origin and definition: The expression itself goes back to at least 1861, when it is first recorded in ‘Tom Brown at Oxford. It is an attitude of cheerful optimism, of seeing everything in an attractive, pleasant light.….Source: phrasesuk.org
Some people interpret their surroundings in the most positive light only and cannot see any need for improvement. Their heads are not buried; they are simply unable to see their world as anything other than positive.
‘I’m all right, Jack!’”
Origin and definition: The original saying was “I’m all right Jack, pull up the ladder”.
Meaning, when a man had got safely on board ship by climbing the ladder from the sea or from a lifeboat, he didn’t bother about saving the rest of the guys because he didn’t really care about them….urbandictionary.com
This is perhaps the most dangerous type of all. They feel that because their particular situation is satisfactory there is no need to be concerned about others. Put another way, they do not feel any desire or responsibility to use their supposed position of advantage to lift up those who are not so advantaged, even to the point of not recognising that their own position might be further improved as a result.
However, let it be made clear; everyone is entitled to their opinions. They can react inwardly or outwardly in any way they feel justifies their emotion. But remember, The Green Room is the merely the messenger. Hold your fire.