Don’t report tears
I am indebted to Robin Tomlin for the idea for this Daily Paradox.
The contents are exclusively the Daily Paradox’s responsibility.
I have been a big critic of Theresa May and I don’t withdraw a single word of my criticism. But Theresa May has been Prime Minister of Britain, has battled tirelessly for what she thought was the right thing to do, against daunting odds, and is very, very tired. Announcing her decision to quit, her voice quavered a little at the end as she spoke of the country she loved. I agree with her about that last bit. Lots of people love Britain and, for many, its sad political situation is a cause of anxiety and distress. There are frightening issues to sort out. A tear is justified.
So why do the media – I speak of the responsible, intelligent and commenting media – report Mrs May’s distress with greater emphasis than her very sensible, parting comments? Please, no emails about my phrase ‘the responsible, intelligent and commenting media’. You are entitled to your views and, as you will see, they probably don’t differ much from mine. But there are media that promote thought, challenge long-held beliefs and raise issues that will be upon us before we turn around. We need more of them.
Meanwhile, ever since we allowed the sale of the Times newspaper to Murdoch, the main British print media have broadly gone downhill – so far that you need Draino to reach them today. To persistently appeal to the lowest thoughts and emotions and unpleasantness of humans is not the job of the media, even though they make a lot of money doing it. Of all the times in the history of humankind when clear, collective thought is needed, today is top of the list.
We are faced with
# extinction of humans as we know them
# destruction of the planet, partial or whole
# immortality of the brain, possibly the body in some form
# ability to colonise or create another planet
# total knowledge, allowing us control over our existence
# eventually control of the universe
It does make reporting Mrs May’s flicker of emotion seem rather trivial, doesn’t it?
But I would say it is more than that. In fact:
# it denies readers an opportunity to learn what Brexit is really about
# it deprives readers an opportunity to ask questions
# it misses a great political educational opportunity
# it is gratuitously nasty to someone who is a decent lady
I could go on but you get the drift. I think the majority of the press in the UK stink. I thought they did when I worked with them in advertising in the 50s and 60s. The smell has got significantly worse. They appear to have no shame, no respect, no sense of responsibility for the influence their media have. The answer that they merely mirror what the public want is at the root of our problems. It questions the sort of democracy we have. So do I.
We need to sort out these problems:
# properly qualified participation in creating government
# measuring commerce in its responsibilities beyond profits
# communications use, to allow free, not disgusting, expression
# education that understands these needs
# how personal conscience is to now to be educated
There are many other problems but these are the key ones. A little beyond Mrs May’s tear, perhaps, but very much tied up with it. Of course, some people will reach for an algorithm to solve the issues. Algorithms will help us in all sorts of ways.
I doubt they will develop better consciences.
Or make us kinder.