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?