Editorial

Substituting reality with promises

Sunday, August 06, 2017

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Sometimes the best way to speak truth to political power and to politically partisan supporters without being the subject of sanction or reprisal is to provide an analogy and invite application to local conditions.

Whenever a person or a group of people or a whole society are in bad situation for which there is no change or little chance of improvement, those who are politically responsible always talk of the future.

The first step in this process of distraction is to express heart-felt empathy. Nice, but it does not change anything.

Second, they explain that there is a plan to fix the situation. The new plan has to be announced periodically to refresh the discourse or provide an update about the soon to begin implementation in the near future.

Third, they assure everyone that the plan is definitely going to materialise, citing any data that could give credence to the predicted future.

Substituting future plans for actual effective actions and tangible policy measures is a political technique used all over the world. The politically partisan are like religious f undamentalists, willing to accept anything, but neutral people are vulnerable to fake information which is promoted by the new multi-media information eco-system.

What now exists is an open system in which individuals are both receiving and putting out information available from an increasing proliferation of sources. Many of these sources are not credible and there is less and less filter by professional organisations and experienced journalists.

The information eco-system's failure is feeding on national and global distrust and discontent with political elites, democracy, institutions and news gatekeepers. People select what sources they listen to and that selection reflects their values, biases and prejudices.

Another fact is the format of information dissemination. Messages on Facebook and Twitter, for instance, are very short, hence people's attention span has declined sharply and users are accustomed to sound bites. The majority of people now read very short, one-sentence messages and devote less time to each because they are bombarded by a huge number of them. In this system there is a lot of misinformation and tangled sentences.

Another problem is that the average person receives so many e-mails they do not have or take the time to check the authenticity of the sources and the veracity of the information. In many cases, before they can receive a correction there is more information to be processed. The proliferation of sources and the sheer enormity of the number of e-mails mean that the recipient must make a selection and therefore, whether by accident or by choice, people can imbibe a confusing array of information, including that which is false.

All of this is enigmatic because it has never been as easy to check facts as it is now via the Internet. Even more astonishing is that there is a growing number of people who are not interested in factual content.

Unfortunately, it is within that environment that those with political responsibility thrive, issuing promises that run counter to our reality. They should not be allowed to get away with it.

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