One of the major differences between my parents' generation and mine and probably between mine and my children's is the way we consume news. I literally cannot stand anymore to watch the BBC (or other channels) as they push their own news agenda. The prominence they give to stories (women's football anyone?). The stories they cover. The stories they don't cover. What angle the reporters choose to push. Who the guests are.
"Tonight we're discussing spending lots of taxes on some bullshit cause de jour. Supporting this we have Mother Theresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Opposing is Adolf Hitler. "
Suddenly we're all supposed to be interested in The Ukraine, or Syria, or Iran, or wherever public school educated lefties in editorial positions decide we need to be lectured about next. And then - like magic - the issue disappears as the cameramen go onto the next story. Don't get me wrong. There are things that happen in these, and other places, that are newsworthy, but I don't necessarily agree on the broadcasters' news agenda, nor their selective editing or timings. So in 2015, for instance, there was the migrant crisis and all those pictures of young men walking across Europe was on TV every night. This year the numbers flocking to Europe is up. But during the referendum period, did we see any pictures of this? It was happening but strangely, not on our TV screens. Funny that.
A couple of years back, The Ukraine was all over our screens. The toppling of democratically elected - but corrupt - president by the mob was shown in a sympathetic light. The fight back against this in the east of the country and Crimea, was presented as a bad thing. Especially when Russia joined in. If you supported the EU and approve of the demonising and provoking of Russia, you would push one angle. If you hated the EU, you would push another. Personally, the ignorance and propagandising of our TV coverage sickened me.
So I decided to do some reading on the history of The Ukraine. What I found was a region so rich with history, wars, pogroms, dirty dealings, hatreds going back centuries that any non specialist would hesitate to say anything, let alone push an agenda. So the attempt by our TV and newspapers to pickle this into a Russia - Bad, pro EU Ukraine - Good narrative just seemed wilfully ignorant. Or deliberate.
The good news is that today there's no excuse to not to be your own news editor and set your own agenda. There's a big, vast internet out there. With a few clicks you can watch videos, read articles from many sources, check facts, go into depth and make your mind up. This democratisation of knowledge is one of the greatest advances in human history. Everything available at just a few seconds notice!
But surely we need gatekeepers - shout the statists, the control freaks. The people who were in charge or those who seek to control basically despise, forever and a day, their fellow humans. We're allowed our vote but god forbid we start to challenge received wisdom, start to push back, start to baulk at the titular binary choices we're offered that actually are just two cheeks of the same arse...
Well - getting rid of de haute en bas tossers who love control, is a good thing and actively to be encouraged. As I get older - as faith in my own certainty diminishes - my faith in the collective wisdom of people grows.
But, and it's a big BUT, if we are to be our own editors, if we are to determine our own news agendas, there comes responsibility too. It's the other side of the coin of freedom or liberty. The sentient person has to be aware of their own biases, their own agendas, their own ability to think the best of their own side and do down the other. It's human nature but the zealot, with eyes in the mid distance, ears shutted, is always to avoided.
So - what to do? Read widely. Read across the divide. Engage with arguments. Test out your own. Push your understanding. Improve yourself.
Yeah, it's a bitch, I get that. But ignorance swirls around us, waiting for victims. Bad people await at the gate waiting to be let in. Ambitious people will try to manipulate you.
"Libraries gave us power" sang the Manic Street Preachers, in another era about an even earlier era. And so they did. And their modern day equivalent - the internet - still does. Use them. Or lose them. There are people who'd rather you consumed the opiate of celebrity gossip and porn whilst real power was being curtailed.
Next blog post will go through some of my favourite sites...
Let me leave you with The Beatles semi live on The David Frost show pissing on absolutely everyone (as per usual)...