Well, I don’t know about the Red Cross – I can’t think of a motive for them to want extra donated blood. And donated blood is often in short supply this time of year. But what you’re calling cynicism as applied to governments and corporations is simply (IMHO) mature and logical thinking.
This reminds me of a book I once read called The Institutional Imperative. Basically the concept is that any “institution,” including charities of all kinds, has as its first basic need to continue to exist. For example, the organization March of Dimes was first set up to combat polio. Once the polio vaccines were developed and widely used, the stated purpose of the M of D ceased to exist. The logical thing would have been to disband and say “Mission accomplished, thank you very much.” Instead, they switched to a new mission – I think it’s now birth defects. Not that I’m saying it is a bad thing in this to continue to use the existing infrastructure for a new worthy cause, I’m just using this as an example.
But anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that a corporation, government, politician, charity, or other institution says must first serve to promote that entity’s continued existence. The statement may also be true. However, in most cases that is secondary. If the statement were contrary to the entity’s continuing to prosper, the statement would not be made unless doing so were coerced in some way.
Think of it this way – if you were in charge of a corporation or government entity, and some situation arose that made you and your organization look bad, would you willingly spread it all over the airwaves and the front pages? You might if (a) you are some kind of a saint, (b) you figure it’s going to get out there soon anyway and you’ll look better if you say it yourself, or © you are compelled to do so for some other reason. If you’re a moral individual you would try to address the situation so it didn’t happen again, but you might well still opt to keep it out of the public eye anyway.
When you see any kind of report – and I mean ANY KIND – I think it’s smart to think critically and ask questions.
“Agency X says reports of Problem X have doubled!” Does this mean last year there was one case in a gazillion and this year there were two in a gazillion? Is this the second year of reporting or the 30th? Does Agency X get more money if there are lots of Problem Xs around? What is the reporting mechanism? Who created the reports? Based on what? A survey? A poll? How was the question worded? How is Problem X defined?
Now, if Agency X is a truly arms-length third party that has nothing to gain or lose from the increase or decrease in Problem X, then I’d trust them more, particularly if they’ve be shown to be reasonably accurate in the past.
In the case of the Red Cross, a few minutes of thinking critically suggest to me that they have little reason to exaggerate the situation, since if they were to get scads more blood than they need, it’s not as if they can sell it on the black market.