Politics in the Information Age

You can't tell anyone something they don't want to hear

15 MAY 2017,
Bye bye Europe
Bye bye Europe

Take me back to the times when I didn’t care about Politics, back to when my own ignorance was bliss, back to when I lived in good old isolated England!

If you are a Brit like me living in Europe, you were probably a little alarmed and a little scared for the future when the Brexit result was announced. If you are a European living in Britain, you may also be a little scared for the future.

it’s not just in Britain though, since Brexit we have been given notice of a general election in the UK, Donald Trump has risen to power in the U.S.A, the National Front in France ended up in a two-way presidential race and we have a near dictatorship with Erdogan in Turkey. It’s events like these and other events globally, such as North Korea, that are probably doing little to reassure you that the world is not in some kind of death spiral right now.

If I am honest, when I lived in the U.K I - like many other Brits - didn't really give two hoots about what was happening in Europe, I could not care less, but sadly many of my fellow countrymen felt the same way and as a result, have (potentially) somewhat ignorantly voted their way out of a stable future and continued prosperity for them and their children. It is as though we are all determined to accelerate the coming of a “post information age” where facts, figures and experts are needed about as much as we need chocolate teapots. Social media has to hold it’s hands up as the main culprit here, because Twitter and Facebook now carry all the news and information we need! conflicting views? No thank you! I can just block and tailor my feed to only hear from like minded individuals.

My timeline is full of liberal people who share views on gay rights, equality, global thinking, free movement etc. Because this is what I believe in. Unfortunately, I find myself regularly getting upset whilst reading through troves of insults and awfully argued points that are conflicting to my views. So over time, my social media feeds have been cultivated to not show such posts, ah blissful ignorance. The flip side is that people with the opposite beliefs to yours, have timelines that show the exact opposite opinions to yours.

I used to wonder why my fellow countryman, or Trump supporters or France National Front supporters could be thinking what they are thinking. Why do our arguments differ so alarmingly? It is of course down to many things and I will somewhat over simplistically blame some of it on our social media feeds. These peoples feeds will look the EXACT opposite of mine, as over time they have done exactly what I and maybe you have done, filtered out opposing views, followed people who they agree and sympathise with - so while I claim that they are being obtuse and ignorant, they are thinking the EXACT same thing about me.

So what does this mean? It means arguing on the internet is pointless for a start, it only goes to strengthen our blinkered view of the world, the more clearly you can identify the enemy, the easier it is to find your own army and the more secure you feel within that, when have you ever changed anyone's mind in an internet argument? exactly.

In Britain politics is a pretty taboo subject anyway, and before the days of social media it was generally not discussed at all prior to Facebook when I was growing up my main political exposure was “they’re all liars anyway” or “we will get screwed over one way or another, so what’s the point in voting” I could never quite put my finger on why no one talked about politics, but I think maybe it was because no one really understood politics well enough to engage in conversation about it, so to prevent embarrassing eachother, it was just ignored. The only thing I did discover about politics in my household was that my Dad would usually vote Labour, but only to cancel out my Mother's Tory vote.

So, over the last 3 years I have more and more begun to identify as a European, so much so that in order to protect this newly found European identity I am prepared to apply for dual nationality and German citizenship. I want to protect this because I have changed and grown as a worldly person, I have begun to understand the advantages of being European and how the union makes its members stronger. I am no economist, politician or expert, so you can consider my writing the humble opinion of a journeying everyman, but one with a real European experience. It continues to trouble me that my fellow countryman have gambled and potentially given up their right to freely travel, to explore, to live and to love throughout the 27 different countries, not just for themselves, but have voted to give it up for their children, all on a gamble that the UK will be better off outside of the EU, despite nearly all economists home and abroad saying that the UK will suffer as a result of this decision. But who needs facts and experts anyway.

It is a scary time to be alive, society has not caught up with this new “information age” where experts, facts and evidence are no longer relevant or trusted. What sources are to be believed? What is fake news? What is real news? With this overload, bombardment and barrage of information about subjects so complex we can't begin to understand, it is natural people get defensive and scared, after all, we fear what we do not understand.

Take me back to the days of complete ignorance about politics because probably, this kind of thing has been happening all along, but prior to the information age, you had to go to a place to find out about this. You had to buy a newspaper and read the politics section, or watch the 10 pm news (and sit through the politics section) which just wasn’t interesting to me at that time. Now the data, the opinions, the news, the fake news, the noise is delivered straight to your hand, to your computer and tablet, it is almost inescapable... is that better? It’s more stressful for sure and whilst I feel now that I have a basic understanding of some of the issues and they it affect me, I am not so sure that everyone does, or really wants too.

So what happens next? I guess no one really knows for sure, in a world where Donald Trump can be elected and then despite his perceived incompetence in office 98% of his supporters would still choose to vote for him, or would vote for him again in another election, it really shows that no one in this world is prepared to admit that they were wrong, no matter the evidence, the facts or seeing it with their own eyes. We are able to program ourselves to only see what we want to see, to build an army of like-minded strangers that validate our world view, we will watch anything on TV, read anything on Twitter or Facebook, so long as it suits our ignorance.