Once upon a time, there were people whose job it was to tell other people what was happening. These people were called journalists.
The journalists were important, because all the people needed to be able to discuss and decide on who should be their leaders, and what their leaders should do.
Unfortunately, the people would shout and scream at the journalists at every opportunity. Sometimes the journalists had made a mistake, but often they had just said something that other people didn’t like.
This wasn’t fair, and made it very unpleasant for the journalists.
So one day, one of the journalists went to visit a wizard. He explained the problem, and the wizard nodded sagely.
“I know what you need,” he said. He turned around for a few moments, and when he turned back, he held several shining gold pendants, each on a beautiful chain. “Give one of these to each journalist. They will protect you.”
The journalist thanked the wizard, and excitedly ran towards the door. “Wait!” cried the wizard. “Only use these when you are sure you are right, because-”
But the journalist was gone.
The journalists were very excited about their amulets. Just then, someone started to shout at them. In unison, they held them up, and a voice boomed from each:
“Journalism means hearing viewpoints you disagree with!”
“If I am being shouted at by everyone I must be doing something right!”
“The public have a right to know!”
“I am just repeating what they said!”
The voices were so loud that they couldn’t hear the person shouting. His face went red, and spittle flew from his lips, but it was no use. Curiously, however, the voices did not stop the journalists from being able to think.
They were delighted. Finally, they could go about their business without being constantly interrupted. They would be able to properly inform the people, without the people themselves getting in the way.
For several months, the air was full of the booming voices. The journalists had never been happier. But one day, a brilliant flash lit the sky.
It was the wizard. His eyes were ablaze, his face like thunder.
The journalist who had visited him approached. “Is everything alright?” he asked, trying not to let his voice shake.
The wizard’s nostrils flared. “When did I tell you to use the amulet?”
“W-when someone was shouting at us,” stammered the journalist.
“NO!” the wizard roared, and slammed his staff on the ground. The earth shook, and several people fell over. “When someone was shouting at you and you were sure you were right.”
The journalist gulped.
“Do you think you’re always right?” asked the wizard.
The journalist shook his head. A little of his confidence had returned — he knew the answer to this one. “No, of course not, I would ne-”
“THEN WHY DO YOU ALWAYS USE THE AMULET?” The wizard’s furious voice filled the air until it seemed to be the very air itself.
There was no response. The journalist’s nose had begun to bleed.
“IF THE AMULET ALWAYS PROTECTS YOU, YOU WILL USE IT UNTHINKINGLY. YOU WILL DEFEND YOURSELF AGAINST ATTACKS THAT YOU SHOULD ACCEPT.”
“B-but how are we to know which those are?” asked the journalist, who had recovered a bit and was now dabbing at his nose. “It was awful before. We couldn’t do anything without people shouting at us.”
“THAT,” said the wizard, “IS FOR YOU TO DECIDE.” Then with a final stamp of his staff, he vanished.
The journalists blinked. They felt around their necks; the amulets were still there. But they were shaken and scared.
That night, the journalists gathered in the town hall. There was a great deal of chatter, until a very round man wearing braces and red trousers shouted for everyone to be quiet.
“Ladies! Gentlemen!” he called. “Are we not the Seekers of the Truth? Have we not passed through the Gate of Water? When someone says it is raining, do we not look out of the window?”
There were murmurs of assent and appreciation at this. The man drew himself to his full height.
“So can we not distinguish when an attack should be considered, and when it can be dismissed? Is that truly beyond our collective wit?”
For a moment there was silence.
“Fuck off,” shouted a voice. He was joined by another, then another, until the room was a cacophony of insults. Journalist after journalist left the room, until only a few remained.
“We think you’re right,” said one, shyly.
“Thanks,” sighed the round journalist. His shoulders were hunched as he left the hall. Outside, he looked up towards the mountain where the wizard lived. Against the night sky he thought he saw a black speck fall from the mountain onto the rocks below.
“Huh,” he said. He thought about going to see what had happened, but it was late, and cold, and he carried on towards home, and the warmth of his bed.