A few weeks ago, I was rather angry. The results of the election had just come in, an unexpected result had occurred, and the country was thrown into confusion. As such, my blog post castigating Theresa May was indeed a rant, one – now that I look back on it – which was not particularly well thought-out, and of which I am not very proud.
This is not to say that the feelings expressed in that piece were insincere – they were most certainly genuine, and reflective of my mood at the time. However, that is beside the point. When I started this little blog last year, my intention was to get away from mindless knee-jerk reactions to current events. In a world awash with quick-fire opinion pieces, soundbites and instant responses, I wanted, as much as possible, to provide sober, balanced, reasoned argument and analysis to the best of my ability; I would hope that readers would agree that I at least partly succeed. For that reason, I must apologise for deviating from my own standards in this regard.
Rather than just keeping this piece as a belated apology, I would like to use the opportunity here to reflect on a noticeable trend in our media. We indeed live in an age of unprecedented speed, especially where communication is concerned. Everything happens so fast. As soon as an event of note has occurred, you can turn to the major outlets and major broadcasters and find a written response to it. Social media is flooded with short opinions and links to articles; the blogosphere overspills with ‘open letters’ and criticisms. We are inundated with information, yet before any of it can be processed the next big event of note blows up, and we don’t have time to register the last. Neither, of course, does anyone else – not least the mainstream media.
For that is the problem. In our world of back-and-forth, crisis-to-crisis news, the journalists and pundits barely have any more time or knowledge than we do when reacting to a ‘story’. If you read first-response pieces a few weeks later, when the storm has died down a little, you will be amazed at the lack of actual detail, evidence and information contained within. It is not surprising of course – so soon after an event, what of note is there to say?
However, the demand today is not for analysis so much as it is for response. In this helter-skelter climate, commentators feel pressured to put something out, no matter what it is; otherwise, clicks, views and ad-money might drain away. Of course, these articles are often fairly generic; lacking useful information, the writers usually fall back on rumours, speculation and prejudices. It is not hard to accurately guess what line a response-article will take if you know the commentator’s political persuasion, for instance.
The best analysis always comes several days, weeks, or even months after the event occurred. While I don’t know the actual figures, I bet that these articles are barely read by the general public. They are usually longer and less sensationalist for a starter; however, even more importantly they are not about what is happening now. Nobody can seem to remember, or really care, about the recent past. In the political firestorm we have been experiencing in the last twelve months especially, so much of the news cycle appears as a blur. Occasionally while writing recently, I have happily completed the first draft of an article, not realising until later that I had completely forgotten about a key event that could have put an entirely different spin on the piece. Indeed, on certain topics I have essentially given up trying to write on them, so great is the volume of information I would have to process – President Trump, active and scandal-prone as he is, provides an excellent example.
Two weeks ago I gave into the urge to publish my views – however emotionally-tinged and devoid of analysis – in order to get them out as quickly as possible. I fell into the same pit as so many others do on the internet, sacrificing analysis for speed, clicks and views. Here’s to hoping that I remember to avoid the temptation in the future.
After all, as Aesop told us, the tortoise beat the hare, didn’t he?