When I’m chatting with my better half over a glass of port with the log-burner flickering away and the wind whistling round the chimney, she often has to look up bits and pieces of information on her phone.
Nothing unusual in that, but this tiny gadget gives us access to more information than we could ever have imagined just a couple of decades ago. What difference is it making to our lives?
A few centuries ago there were chained libraries and books with locks because books were expensive and not for the common people.
Today, the ancestors of the common people are able to access anything they please from an unimaginably vast repository of information, news, comment and entertainment. Most of it dross of course, but how many of us would care to read the contents of a chained library anyway?
It changes the balance of power in subtle and not so subtle ways.
We assess the capabilities of our political leaders more easily and don’t have to rely on establishment media to do it. We bypass the genteelly selective BBC and look around for sources we trust and visit them as often as we choose.
Social status is far less important as a route to sound information. A good example is how far behind the curve our leaders are on fracking. Many of us knew about the benefits long before they did, just as we have known for years that climate science is an unholy mess.
It’s impossible to be completely sure of all this, with our political class being so untrustworthy, but their mendacity is something we are aware of too. We don’t suspect – we know.
We know some of them are thick, some dishonest, some personally unreliable, some sexually deviant, some arrogantly aggressive and a few may be good eggs but the good eggs don’t usually get anywhere. We may know all this in some detail, where years ago it was all glossed over by compliant pundits.
Is it likely to make a difference though? I don’t see how it can fail. Narratives are multiplying and for every item of establishment pap there is a more reliable, less ameliorative source of information readily available.
We have reached a stage where no intelligent person takes the BBC as reliable on any subject with an establishment narrative. This is new and unless the BBC changes, its authority has gone for good.
The deselection of Tim Yeo may have had a number of causes, but one of them was surely the persistent wash of negative information telling us about the man, the games he plays and how effective he is as an MP.
It isn’t merely that the negative information on Yeo exists, but it is far more pervasive than it ever could have been in the comparatively recent past. The web seems to keep issues alive in a way which in pre-web days was rare.
Pressure could be brought on newspaper editors and stories would disappear if indeed they ever appeared in the first place. Now anyone may launch a story and if it spreads there is little others can do. Even court injunctions have been circumvented.
The world has changed and I’m sure we have yet to see the full consequences. Although Tim has had a taster.