There has been enough written about government buildings being stormed by mobs this week to last a lifetime, so I won’t mention it. I will, however, talk of journalism past and present.
Communication has changed in the past quarter of a century. There has arisen what is called “social media”. I get annoyed at the mysticism weaved around this. It means, merely, that people exchange information and opinions in written format. They use esoteric terms for the delivery methods, like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and talk of “followers” like it is a cult with secret rites. When all is said and done: one person writes something, other people read it.
The difference from the days when most information was exchanged via TV, radio, and newspapers is that no one sense-checks, fact-checks, or takes responsibility for what is said. It goes straight from the writer to the whole world.
In old-school, unbiased, non-sensationalist journalism, all broadcasts, programmes, and newspapers were edited. A journalist established the facts and wrote a story. It was checked by a chief reporter, a news editor, possibly even the editor, before being published. All of these people ran a seasoned, critical eye over what was printed or broadcast. They sought truth. They knew they could be summoned to a court to defend what had been written. The greatest defence a journalist had, if appearing in court, was known as veritas. It is the Latin word for truth.
Telling the balanced, unvarnished truth is the aim of proper journalism. The Courier has a venerable tradition of doing exactly that.
Online exchange of news, opinion, and wild claim, is not held to the same standards. Any idiot can write anything, regardless of truth. It is broadcast and read sometimes by millions of others.
You won’t be surprised by any of this. You’ve seen it many times.
What is greatly surprising, however (or at least it is surprising to me) is that people rush to believe the wild claims. The word for this is “gullible”. People are eager to take in the most outrageous lies, the craziest conspiracy theories, the strangest notions. And they don’t seem to apply any judgment or reasoning. They open their mouths like hungry chicks in a nest and swallow whole whatever is fed to them.
They don’t seem to stop and think: does this sound true? Is this likely? How many people would have to be complicit to allow this to happen? Given what I know of human nature, the law, world history, does this sound rational?
The way information is shared has, indeed, changed. But what changed even more is that people now instantly, irrationally, unquestioningly believe any old nonsense.
Whatever happened to common sense?
Word of the week
To trail through the dirt. EG: “It takes the actions of just a few people to draggle an entire nation’s reputation”.
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at email@example.com