Much is being made at the moment about fake news and the suggestion that we are living in a post-truth society. We worry that our sources of news have become untrustworthy. We get stressed about our ability to discern the truth in a welter of misinformation. But doesn’t this model depend on us having been trained to act like a mass and take the news fed to us seriously? To be passive consumers overstimulated by what is considered “newsworthy”.
Unless by accident, I haven’t watched television news or listened to radio news for many years. I am aware that this might strike some people as irresponsible. I might not get to know about big important things happening in the world. Big important things like Trump and Brexit. But then I find myself wondering if things like Trump and Brexit could happen without the concepts of media and of mass. Arguably our modern nation state came about with the arrival of the printing press and radio. It required a mass form of communication for the sense of identity on which its existence relies. It was this mass identity and the forms of communication that go with it that allowed Hitler to do what he did. Its modern form, where we act like herds of sheep being shepherded around by the latest meme on the Internet, is what is allowing Trump to do what he is doing.
We need to get much, much more critical in our choices of news consumption. We need to think much harder about the sources of that news, the motivation of those generating the news, and the motivation of those sharing the news.
I don’t feel at risk of missing out on information that is truly important to me, confident that stuff that matters will get to me through a network which I spend considerable time and effort trying to ensure isn’t an echo chamber and is made up of a group of people thoughtful and astute about what they generate and share.
As I have said many times before “we all have a volume control on mob rule”. We need to learn to use that volume control more effectively, for all our sakes.