Monday, 14 November 2016

The Problem with Media

Recently the Guardian launched a subscription model for its website. At the same time, the Independent has ceased to print copies, and the Times is apparently on the skids owing to lack of sales. The Telegraph seems to be transforming itself into a bizarre tabloid, Private Eye famously talks about the paper's obsession with 'fruity girls' and notes how it's transformed into a mouthpiece for its owners' views on all matters from the bizarre to the sublime.

At the same time the tabloid press in the UK seems to be going through a boom period, as the Guardian asks readers for support, the Daily Mail struts in its influence, confident of sales and advertising revenue. One imagines that even the recently announcement by Lego's recent announcement that they would not continue advertising with them, is scarcely going to raise a panic at the Mail's offices. Similarly the Sun and Express are still riding high in circulation, as the broadsheet newspapers appear to be heading down the plughole.

As a habitual reader of the comments under articles (it's a bad habit, I'm trying to stop - at times I feel like I need an intervention), I've also seen repeated references to the MSM, the Mainstream Media, usually by people who are darkly referring to bias or something that's not being reported. The implication is that there's some sort of conspiracy to keep information out of the public eyes, presumably the sort of story that would prove beyond a doubt that EU Commissioners eat babies for breakfast or that Climate Change is a huge conspiracy by aliens to supplant human life (anything not to have to actually change how we live). In an age where gods and demons are largely discredited, the parts of our brains that look for patterns find them, for the wrong reasons. We seek order and a conspiracy scratches that itch. I am unconvinced that going to sites that are openly biased, and who have nothing to reign them in or provide even a smidgeon of a code of ethics is a beneficial thing, especially in a society that has virtually enslaved itself to the internet and would likely fall apart without it.

The problem is that the 'net creates bubbles and echo chambers. John Oliver touches on this in this video.

Going back to my Climate Change is caused by aliens, I could just lift the entire plot of John Wyndam's The Kraken Wakes and present it as true. It wouldn't be, but I could claim that it is (and sadly if it was, I bet we'd be a lot more interested as a species).

We seem to have lost track of 'facts', we seem to be in a 'post fact' period, which I find terrifying because it means, for example, that huge things (like for instance that Britain created the concentration camp) get brushed under the carpet - because it doesn't fit with the resurgent British nationalism that's washing our past whiter than white. We're trading ignorance for knowledge, and scarily, we don't actually know that we're doing it. I'm not immune to it, especially on matters concerning science but I admit that and I try to better. A lot of other people just pick up the information they see on social media and assume its' true, there's no fact checking or attempts to work out if its true, they take it all on face value.

We have to stop this - we go on and on about how smart we are, so why aren't we using that intelligence?