Saturday, October 20, 2007

Searching for Truth in Moldova

Lately, I’ve had a pressing desire to find reliable facts on several issues of public interest, or what media likes to call “scandals”. When I feel such need for truth, I remember a story of several blind men who attempted to describe an elephant. Each of them touched a different part of the elephant, and concluded that the elephant was, in fact, something that resembled 1) a big snake 2) a sword fish 3) a tree trunk 4) a wall 5) a rope, etc. The idea of the story is that everyone is right in their own way, and that the ever-escaping truth can be attained only by considering all possible opinions.

I’ve followed this rule of thumb for the last couple of years in the public sphere in Moldova, and I discovered that Moldovans are pretty opinionated people. Almost everyone is eager to offer their opinions on pretty much every possible topic. Media abounds in various opinions. However, listening to this multitude of opinions rarely led to any miraculous revelation of truth. Why? The majority of opinions – particularly those continuously present in Moldovan media – are poorly informed and seriously biased. Politicians are, of course, the most outspoken, although as poorly informed as the majority of common citizens. This leads to a very lively public life: about 2-3 scandals – domestic and international – a week. Moldovan politicians like to politicize things, and one can’t blame them for that. After all, their job is to accumulate political capital in any possible way and from any possible source. Therefore, as a rule, politicians shouldn’t be regarded as a reliable source of information.

Then, who and/or what could be reliable sources of information, hard data and real facts? In an ideal world, public institutions (financed by taxpayers) would provide objective information – via mass-media and civil society – back to the public. Once highly-objective information is publicly available, then a politician can use it – as any other citizen – to support his arguments, propose changes and win votes. We all know that Moldova is not an ideal world, but, interestingly, of all these key elements, objective information is the one missing in the Moldovan public sphere. That is, before they could express their opinion regarding what the elephant looked like, the blind men needed to actually touch a REAL elephant.