Well, here we are in 2022. Actually, I’m still in 2021 as I write, as the way press deadlines work means that it’s still not Christmas in my world! I wonder what 2022 will bring.
So many negative events have happened over the last few years. I do hope this year heralds some more positive news and that we can all come together to make the world a better place for all those who live on it, no matter if you’re flora or fauna.
This year sees some interesting new books reflecting on the current state of our planet, as well as how the human species has behaved, or not, be as it may.
Facts and Other Lies: Welcome to the Disinformation Age by Ed Coper is released this month. This book is important in this moment in time. The increase of disinformation in our society is giving our highly valued democracy the wobbles. The lack of honesty and the inability of so many politicians, across all divides, not to be straight with us from the rorts, the poll-driven pollies and lack of transparency. All of this has, and still, continues to damage our democracy.
Coper talks about lies, but also truth. He talks about when faced with unprecedented events, such as the horrific bushfires that burned uncontrollably, charring so much of the Australian landscape, or a worldwide pandemic, we look for guidance. We turn to trusted sources; the nightly news, to our leaders, newspapers, radio and TV programs with a reputation for reporting accurately, fact checking their stories.
But now we have a much broader range of sources to gather news. He says that many of these sources ‘fracture a common understanding of what the truth is’. Voices from the extreme have megaphones on the internet with a barrow to push (whether that be left or right), shock jocks attract publicity for being contrary to give them political relevance, platforms built to appear to have a moderate platform have underlying objectives. We may feel all this information is enlightening us, but unfortunately it’s not.
Coper also points out that there is a difference between truths and values. It is our values that colour our view of what is true and untrue. And when I think about that I can see how true that is.
The rise of our ‘disinfodemic’ was precipitated by the decline of the traditional news channels due to the invention of the internet. As the world moved online print media went into freefall. Layoffs were routinely made again and again.
Quality journalists were sent to the breadline. Investigative journalists became a rare species. Classifieds were dead. Print advertising plummeted. Ironically, with less staff, news organisations needed more content and faster. Journalism suffered. But now they also had competition. The internet provided a new platform for anyone wanting to report on, well, anything. Then the clickbait headline reared its ugly head. Stories purely designed to snare a reader with teasing headlines. We joined in! Eyeballs equals advertising. Coper says, ‘The efforts of news media companies to capitalise on new audience behaviours has been a race to the bottom.’
Now people read their news on Twitter in short grabs. To pick up their local news people breeze through social media channels. I often see news for my local area on Facebook. It gets passed along, repeated, and repeated again, each time becoming more and more out of shape until it reaches my eyes. One of the saddest parts of the news media decline is the loss of local newspapers.
Books like these are important. Agree or not agree, it’s important that we are informed and have access to information that is fact checked and from a trusted source. Where can we find information like this? Books!
I’m yet to finish Facts and Other Lies but it’s already given me a better insight into the very murky world of disinformation.
And Baxter, who doesn’t care if the world is flat or round. Just as long as we’re together