What’s the story? What’s the view? What’s the perspective?
What’s the truth? (Strike that, this is not an epistemological lesson). The Arab Spring, the rise of a new Imperial China, the psychosomatic collapse of European and American capitalism, the once colonial now corporate slave-trade in Africa, the re-emergence of “God the Angry Father”, the Ebola plague, the ISIS plague. A disturbing and despairing panorama of the decline of humanity? Hardly.
George Santayana and others aphoristically proclaimed that to ignore history is to be doomed to repeat it. True? Perhaps, with a caveat that the human species is a collective of behavior, habitual, ritual, repetitive behavior—not doomed to repeat its history, rather self-programmed to recycle itself… and its history.
Nothing new under the sun? Nothing! What has changed is the level of transparency, the spreading discovery of what’s already there, what has always been there. Seven billion humans are experiencing (at least on this planet) the result of exponential evolution—a “black hole” of technology that sucks in all impressions and expressions and spews out a nearly unfathomable ether of information and disinformation. It overwhelms the dyke of the 24-hour day and floods into an archival sea at the abbey of Saint Leibowitz known as… Google.
The media is in this mix, and the mix is in the media. Forget about television, it’s a lost cause. Radio is actually a wee bit better. But even the vaunted BBC can no longer seem to find people who can write English to speak and newsreaders who can speak English for listening. So many of their voices are untrained and unbrained. They once seemed to listen to themselves, to understand what they were saying. Today they speak in a blur, enunciate in a blur, comment in a blur. France24 is not much better, but then again English is a second language for them. America is also losing its clear broadcast voice. Australia and India still broadcast as if English is a third or fourth language.
Ink print journalism has given way to digital print journalism and the inundation has caused them both to suffer. The blog "rains" supreme - unrestrained, unedited, everyman's misinformed opinion. The majestic New York Times regularly publishes quickly-edited ramshackle articles and columns written with elbows instead of fingers. The Washington Post is deteriorating into a product-placement digest where intelligent copy-editing is reserved for the obituary section. The London Times—never mind, that’s a Murdoch paper! Even my friend, Harper’s Magazine, increasingly allows awkward, quick-cliché writing in its essays where once it wouldn’t.
The degradation to ‘fast-food’ journalism is evident all over the globe.
Thailand's Bangkok Post and The Nation, purport to be world-class and aren’t. They both skew their editorial policy, trade in the gray area of editorial for advertising, are plagued with mediocre writing and hit-or-miss copy editing, and profile columnists who shouldn’t be allowed next to a keyboard, especially in this time of Junta censorship.
Edward Snowden is the new international truthsayer and Julian Assange the intercontinental naysayer. Barack Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel are the chorus behind the deus ex machina of the NSA and its ilk. And Google? Google is the Egyptian Pharoah and the Exodus' Moses rolled into one money-printing, identity-shifting video game.
A disturbing and despairing panorama of the decline of humanity? Hardly. Evolution, my friend, like time, marches on. George Orwell remains the sane voice on the horizon. 2084 is only seventy short years away.