Dear Media, Look in the Mirror

There’s a lot of REALLY great points raised in this article here, by a Georgian journalist and media scholar, but unfortunately I disagree with most of the author’s conclusions. She claims that noise (ie everything from clickbait to fake news – all the bullshit online, basically) is the new censorship, because it’s drowning out the signal, ie all that is truthful.

Let me clarify. Noise is a major problem, but it’s still not the new censorship. The old censorship is very much still censorship (just ask Chinese people, or North Koreans, or indeed any citizen of a nation propping up the Global Press Freedom Index, or indeed a few near the top too.)

And new forms of censorship are the new censorship – ‘cancelling’ people for holding different opinions, ‘deplatforming’, boycotting, and so on.

This article blames Big Tech for the logarithmic rise in noise online. But to my mind, journalism has only itself to blame for the endless acceleration of the noise-to-signal ratio. In the democratised field of modern tech-enabled communication, journalism could and should have thrived as the pure signal offering. Instead, it allowed itself to become (even more) partisan, skewed, and untrustworthy than it already was.

The general public are not as stupid as journalists (who aren’t as smart as they think) think they are. They have learned how to ‘read between the lines’ of stories which often make little coherent sense, and glean what the missing data points are.

This has eroded trust in their former gatekeeping role.We’re now in a ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario. The public remember every instance when the media got it wrong, or deliberately misrepresented factuality, or presented partisan viewpoint as objective reportage. So when the media, as it does, presents legitimate and reliable work for public consumption, many people simply no longer trust it.

And so they turn to the charlatans’ parade of liars, cynics, clickbait peddlars, conspiracy theorists and ideologues online instead, thereby amplifying those noises and drowning out what little truth there is.

It’s a shitshow, no bones about it. But it’s disingenuous to put the entire blame at the door of Big Tech, much as I loathe them. Journalism needs to take a long look in the mirror to find the cause of its own woes. And I don’t mean the British redtop.

When do wars actually end?

World War One started in July 1914, but when did it end? Conventionally, people assume it ended in November 1918, with the surrender of Germany.

But people were still dying many years later. My own grandfather suffered for decades with lungs rotted out by mustard gas at the Somme, and didn’t die for many years, gasping and coughing nightly.

The most recent victims, astonishingly, were as recently as March 2014, almost exactly a century after the conflict started. How is that possible? They were construction workers, who accidentally triggered an unexploded bomb buried beneath where they were working.

During WW1, a ton of explosives was fired for every square metre of territory along the front.

As a result, the French Département du Déminage (Department of Mine Clearance) recovers about 900 tons of unexploded munitions every year. They call it the Iron Harvest.

Unexploded ordinance is left behind after all conflicts. Children are maimed and killed every year as a result of uncleared mines and bombs in Asia and Africa.

The wars we fight today will kill not only us but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. It’s time to make war history.