Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Lies May Sway Public Opinion, But The Facts Never Change

Author: David Yee
Created: 14 August, 2014
Updated: 15 October, 2022
2 min read

I really dropped the ball on this one by not following up sooner. In March, I posted the story about a young man, Jordan Wiser, who had been arrested for bringing a knife to technical school.

Dozens of conservative groups and newspapers worldwide took up the story, outraged that a student had been jailed for 13 days over a harmless misunderstanding.

According to Wiser, he had a small folding pocket knife in his EMT vest and was arrested due to an overreaction by the school's principal. He was charged with a fifth-degree felony.

The wheels of justice always turn slowly, yet I was looking to see if there was much progress in the case. It wasn't exactly well covered, but the case is actually completely resolved. He entered a guilty plea and was sentenced in April.

One of the most amazing parts of the American legal system is that the facts of a case eventually come out -- all sensationalism is stripped and only the evidence remains.

As part of the sentencing deal, Wiser was forced to publicly acknowledge the facts of the case:

  1. It wasn't a a small pocket knife, but a 9-inch knife.
  2. It wasn't an EMT vest that the knife was found in, but a tactical vest like those worn by riot police.
  3. There was also gunpowder found in the trunk (reason unknown).
  4. The only reason the principal searched his car was because of several questionable YouTube videos he had made about how to plan attacks on public buildings.

Wiser was convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor and sentenced to 180 days in jail with credit for time served. The remainder of the sentence was suspended.

Public opinion comes and goes, but the facts always seem to have a habit of coming out in the end. The problem is no one cares about the facts.

Thousands were outraged at the abuse this poor, innocent "kid" faced, and yet there was not even a glimmer of national coverage when it was uncovered that he was a bold-faced liar as well.

Traditional media outlets are constantly buzzing with headlines designed to catch the attention of an audience with an ever shortening attention span, especially when it comes to reporting stories about crime.

The George Zimmerman case is old news and O.J. Simpson might as well have lived in the Precambrian Era. If it can't be fit into a 30-second soundbite that confirms what we already believe, it won't energize and motivate the audience.

But the fact remains, each time we are energized, enraged, or compassionate about one of these stories, it continues to mold our perceptions of the world.

Right now, it seems that we live in a society where these perceptions of reality are finely honed in line with our political beliefs, and nothing fits outside of these beliefs. People were all too willing to side with Wiser because they "knew" the government always overreacts when weapons are involved -- even though they probably had little to no evidence to initially form this belief.

Are we really this short-sighted and narrow-minded of a people?

Image source: WOIO-TV