November 17, 2006
The Friday Flyer Assistant Editor
Canyon Lake resident Bob Vivers was dumbfounded when his friends in Tuscany Hills handed him a tabloid magazine they had picked up on a recent flight home from London. They, in turn, had been dumbfounded when, in the middle of perusing the colorful and outlandish stories in the October 17-23 British publication, “In the Know,” they came across the headline, “The World’s Most Paranoid Town,” and saw it referred to their neighbors to the east, Canyon Lake.
The subhead read, "In America, families are so terrified of crime that they are moving to secure estates surrounded by barbed wire and fences. Is this the way forward for Britain?"
The two-page spread includes pictures of a crowded cove on the East Bay, the guardhouse at the Main Gate, the private community rules sign posted at the Main Gate, a teen boy with hands grasping a chain link fence, a real estate couple sitting on their deck and a tiny aerial photo of the region. There are no panoramic shots of the lake or charming pictures of events to demonstrate why residents call it “a little bit of paradise.”
The photos chosen for the article don’t reflect how Canyon Lakers normally picture their community, and the article is even less enlightening. It isn’t what is included that’s wrong – it’s what is excluded. The reporter simply summarized the BBC “documentary” about Canyon Lake that was aired in Great Britain last summer.
The film, “United Gates of America,” was an attempt by New York Times Reporter Charlie LeDuff to give British viewers a sense of what the fast-growing phenomenon of gated communities is all about, since developers in Britain are now beginning to bring the same concept to that area.
A few members of the community who were featured in the documentary received copies of the BBC show prior to its being aired in Great Britain on August 14; however, most residents who saw it were so disgusted by the lack of balanced reporting, they couldn’t think of any good reason for it to be shown publicly here.
To summarize – it isn’t what the show and subsequent article depicted that was necessarily false. One couldn’t say, “Oh, those aren’t real people, that’s not true.” But it was the huge amount of information about life in Canyon Lake that was completely disregarded and the good people who weren’t featured that appeared to frustrate most Canyon Lake viewers.
In journalism, the crime of omission can sometimes be as damning as the crime of falsehood. One can choose to respond with dismay or amusement when a story doesn’t reflect what one believes to be the truth. The popularity of the movie, “Borat,” certainly shows that most Americans are willing to laugh at themselves. But the actual people depicted in the movie probably weren’t laughing when they saw the joke was on them.
As one movie reviewer (Dr. Marc T. Newman, MovieMinistry.com) wrote about “Borat,” “The persuasive power of the film lies in the selectivity of the images and interviews. What the viewer never knows is how much footage was shot of people who would not take the bait, or who demonstrated appropriate outrage at Borat’s cultural suggestions. Instead, viewers are left with the concocted, purposefully edited view of middle America as a place where the only power is the dollar, where people pine for an oppressive past, and where prejudice is universal.”
It was the BBC documentary team’s “selectivity of images and interviews” regarding Canyon Lake that aroused the ire of Bob Vivers and others like him who have either read the article or seen “United Gates of America.” Even though the article presents a more accurate portrayal of the reasons for gated communities than the show, it fails to demonstrate the positive reasons Canyon Lakers have chosen to live in what they call “a little bit of paradise.”
But at least the tabloid article headline is good for a laugh as Canyon Lakers ponder living in “the world’s most paranoid town.”
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