Saturday, 8 February 2014

Does the web think?


It is obvious that most politicians do not see truth-telling as a helpful career option. To my mind this has always been the case. Our comparatively recent access to a huge mass of information via the web has simply made their lying disturbingly blatant.

Lying to the punter is how political business is done and as far as I can see it has never been any different. What has become startlingly different in recent years is how those lies are more easily spotted via the web. They stand out because they don’t fit a web-centric public domain.

Yet the toads have no other way of doing business.

Putting the best spin on things and if necessary resorting to outright lies – hasn’t that always been the way of things? In other words, we don’t have honest politics because we never invented it. So will the political classes of the twenty-first century ever evolve another way of doing business?

Maybe, but I think they were unprepared for the web. So familiar were they with lying, spinning and dissimulation, that they never saw it coming. They never realised how the web would shine a cold blue light on their lies and evasions.

Maybe that cold blue light is far from perfect and maybe it will be attenuated by censorship and manipulation, but just possibly it may survive and flourish. There is another, more subtle aspect to the web though.

Does the web think?

Does it take a view on things? I think in a sense it does. We already know what it thinks of Tim Yeo, although as yet we aren’t clear how it works because web thinking is complex, multi-dimensional, contradictory and not always what we expect. Except in Tim's case of course.

It may be a weirdly ambivalent and mysterious network of competing narratives and possibilities, but if those narratives coalesce towards a conclusion, however tentative, subtle and nuanced, then in that sense the web is thinking.

If so, the conclusions it reaches may shape our lives.


Mark Wadsworth said...

I don't think the web makes much difference.

We have always known that politicians lie and distort, and if you asked people in general, they would say the same, but the problem is that too many people WANT to believe what the pol's say, in other words, the pol's are merely reinforcing prejudices.

Sam Vega said...

Very interesting stuff. I sometimes wonder whether politicians as a class are people who were originally more idealistic, restless, and self-certain than the rest of us, who then invariably find that in order to maintain their delusion they have to lie. An unintended but necessary consequence of their trade. Alternatively, are they just the sorts of people who like to lie and deceive, and therefore find politics a convivial setting for their talents?

As for the web, I think we are only just beginning. Think about webcams and policing. And a colleague of mine routinely records every conversation he has with managers. The tectonic plates are shifting.

A K Haart said...

Mark - I think it makes a significant difference to some people, but how large that number is and and whether the number will grow remains to be seen.

For example, many people must know more about LVT due to your blog. Reading blogs may decline of course.

Sam - I think that's a good point about maintaining delusions.

To maintain our delusions we have to lie so delusional causes not only attract liars but validate their lying.

James Higham said...

There was also Usmanov and Schillings who fell foul of the web. It does have force.

A K Haart said...

James - it does and I don't think we yet have the perspective to see how much.