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Monday, 8 April 2013

Interesting times


I’m always well aware that how I judge current political situations is partly an effect of my age and changing perceptions. The elite classes were probably as venal and unreliable in the past, but mass communication and particularly the internet have made it much more obvious.

It's a gruesome effect, like draining a tranquil, picturesque lake to find it was full of shopping trolleys, broken glass and filthy, putrid junk.

Mainstream journalism has always tended to be corrupted by laziness and vested interest, but now we have readily-accessible alternatives we see it more clearly. Especially clear is self-censorship where facts and alternatives are known by every journalist in the land but not reported.

I think it is partly an age thing too. Those of us who are old enough to remember the days before the internet have seen a colossal increase in our options. We may now take our news and commentary from anywhere in the world and to some extent in any language. Not only that, but we may toss our own observations into the public domain.

This wider scope doesn't only apply to the bare facts of the news, but also the range of comment and analysis. Newspapers, magazines and the BBC gave us, with the benefit of hindsight, a very narrow range of views and stodgy, biased and formulaic comment.

Before the internet, some of us may have extended our range with a faintly radical magazine or two, but I doubt if many of us subscribed to, for example, overseas publications.

To my mind, certain aspects of political and economic life are certainly in a serious decline, but the decline began before the internet and I suspect we now know far more than we would have known had the internet never been invented.

The crucial question is will it make a difference?

I suspect not much, but I also suspect that we can’t yet see the effect of the internet on our institutions. As always there are official attempts to curtail what we may know, but to some extent the genie is out of the bottle.

One thing the genie tells us is that the government isn’t our friend.

There will presumably some social effect of knowing this, even if only a minority know it and differ in the weight they give to it. A resulting social change, if there is one, may simply be slow as social changes often are. It may also be far more drastic and profound than we ever imagined. Or it may not - we can't tell.

We live in interesting times and I suspect they will become more interesting still.

4 comments:

Sackerson said...

Like it as a whole, and para 2 in particular.

Roger said...

Good analysis but where is the prescription? Certainly one can scan six or seven national and international newspapers, trawl a few well informed blogs and become fairly well up on how the world is wagging all before breakfast. The overall message? That humanity remains its old selfish self and power structures reinforce the setup.

I feel there is a flattening of the world's class structure - the rich are getting richer everywhere, the poor of the West are getting poorer whilst the poor in the third world are getting a little bit richer. All leaves the Western middle class in a fix - once upon a time a few indolent years at uni would lead to a comfy job, a nice house etc etc, no more. One can join the rich, but the pathways seem fewer and reverting to the older more venal ways. Without talent or a good education or a personality disorder one will gradually sink into the poorer classes.

Bad news for the tax authorities, the rich don't do tax and the poor take more than they give (run the NI numbers) which leaves the middle classes - and dare I say pensioners - as the geese ripe for plucking.

James Higham said...

To my mind, certain aspects of political and economic life are certainly in a serious decline, but the decline began before the internet ...

Very much so.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - thanks.

Roger - I agree about the flattening and it's surely worth a post, although predicting even a possible outcome is difficult.

James - the nineteenth century would be my starting point.