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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Spitting out the bait

A delicious feature of the internet is what it shows us about the public arena - it isn’t chock full of people with a superior intelligence as we were once led to suppose. Looking back to earlier times, that assumption feels culpably naive, but in spite of cartoonists doing their best we were too naive about people in the public eye.

One problem is an obsessive mainstream focus on drama coupled with distaste for depth or contrarian viewpoints. Depth and lateral thinking are not easy to sell so the mainstream doesn’t bother. This makes for an extraordinary level of dishonesty, misinformation and outright lying. Has it always been so? Perhaps, but the lies and misinformation were less visible because less easily checked. In which case the internet is draining a vile and ancient swamp. Whether or not it continues for the longer term is another matter – probably not.

Browsing the internet is nothing like reading a newspaper in the bad old days. Reading only one newspaper and perhaps the occasional magazine now seems absurdly limited and old fashioned. Comparable to going on holiday by stagecoach armed with a brace of pistols in case of highwaymen.

No longer do we have to take newspaper stories on trust. We compare, contrast, research and trawl through additional information. This usually adds complexities and caveats which have been glossed over, ignored or actively denied by the mainstream. Which leads one to wonder how mainstream the mainstream media really are these days.

Some unknown proportion of mainstream readers must be folk who barely believe a word of what they are reading. They are assessing the mood of the day, not to pet their beliefs but to hone their talents for articulate ridicule and contrarian argument. Clickbait it may be, but how many clickers take the bait and how many do it for the simple pleasure of spitting it out again?

4 comments:

Roger said...

Just look in the history books, Walpole is a fine example.

So you are right, anyone who care to look can see politics is self serving and limited in capability. Knowing you cannot do anything useful means all you have to do is play silly games.

So, manipulate the media, make it infantile, turn newspapers into an online Beano for the plebs. Set culture at the level of Strikly and then the elites can play undisturbed. Run local government on the end of a long chain of command. The agenda at one end - cut cost and do nothing - at the other end there are stupid smiles and busy-work and 'this new initiative will bring healthcare delivery in the 20th century' when you know what that means is less-than-before. The lie enforced by a kiss-upwards-kick-downwards culture.

But the remaining joy is the comments columns - such of them as are left. The comments give the lie to poor quality articles by pointing out the lacunae. But the comments columns have been cut back and suppressed. Remember those blogs from doctors, police persons, civil servants etc letting us in on the real story - all gone now. Soon all that will be left is The Beano (state approved).

Demetrius said...

We picked up the 1968 film of "The Charge of the Light Brigade", an interesting film of its time. But the story line had a great deal of fiction rather than fact. Also, that the Crimean War was far more extensive and complicated than depicted. Back in '68 to have researched this in detail would have taken a lot of time and travel. With the internet it was a matter of minutes, especially if you knew a bit of history. I was even able to check out the Army List for the relevant period online. I suspect that back in the '60's and '70's a good many film goers took the film on trust. A lot of the press and media at the time were little better than the film makers.

Henry Kaye said...

I am 84 years old and it took me most of those years to realise that I am consistently exposed to distorted viewpoints and out and out lies. I now disbelieve everyone and am thoroughly miserable as a result! I wont be around much longer and I'm almost looking forward to the escape from a world of liars and deception.

A K Haart said...

Roger - yes, the mainstream restricts comments to certain articles and censors them anyway. Now Google has some kind of fact-checking system which may be a clue to a narrower future. On the other hand the is still plenty of intellectual exuberance out there. Sometimes I'm hopeful about that.

Demetrius - only the other day my wife and I were discussing the unreliability of films when it comes to historical accuracy. As far as we can see it has yet to improve.

Henry - my philosophy is believe nothing. Completely impossible of course, but oddly liberating once you come to terms with it.