There’s what was actually said.
And there’s the narrative about what was said.
In a culture that consumes news via social media and soundbites, the substance of any statement a public figure makes is quickly reduced to a set of competing and easily digestible narratives. The public debate that follows is rarely about the actual statement; it’s about the narrative surrounding the statement.
We’re all too busy or too fatigued to read into an issue deeply enough to form nuanced opinions, even when the information is readily available. So whichever side gets out in front fastest with a strong narrative usually wins the debate and influences the public perception of the issue. In our current rapid news cycle, whatever the prevailing perception is when the story falls out of the headlines becomes the historical “truth”. And the more time passes, the harder it becomes for that “truth” to be challenged.
Politicians realize that in the court of public opinion, arguments are not won with subtle shadings. They’re won with blunt language that helps them advance their specific agendas.
So we reduce every issue to a simple duality. Everything is black, or it’s white. We’re gradually removing all the shades of gray in between. That’s unfortunate, because that’s most often where an individual’s true colors are found.