Do you know what you'll miss

2011-09-23 00:00

THE Protection of State Information Bill may have been pulled by the government for yet more modifications but it will eventually become law.

I am sure it does not require a protection-free information policy for you to know how our newsroom is feeling about this development.

Now, the ideals of what we stand to lose if this act goes pear shaped once it’s in (and it will be in) are things a journalist does not need to report on. The right to know. Freedom of the press. Blah blah blah.

What I started thinking about is why. Why are we so rankled by this? For me, a fair portion is the way in which the whole thing happened — a graceless and straightforward steamrolling over any opposition by the ANC, which resembles more each day the very definition of a fat cat – out of shape, lazy, brutish and filled with undisciplined greed.

But that is neither here nor there. The point is the information — or the lack thereof. If you ask yourself honestly why we really need a protection of information-less country, your inner voice is likely to bluster “because ... because” rather ineffectually, and tout the aforementioned platitudes. How will it change your weekly shopping jaunt, or the school run, or how you view yourself or how you do your job or how you live your life? Yours, not the Constitution’s.

One way of answering the question would be to look at how our lives will change when the bill starts throwing the ANC’s excessive paunch around. The scary answer? We don’t know. As in all the really good horror movies, it’s frightening because you cannot see the beast’s face. Unfortunately, information is not like outing a restriction on birth control or firearms or petrol. There is no finite and obvious end that will disappear.

If I tell the honest truth, though, I think that in a lot of cases we simply don’t deserve all the information lying around, even though I believe with all my heart that we have a right to it.

An amusing example of this was one of the other journos in my newsroom returning, stupefied, from an interview with Mandy Wienar of Killing Kebble fame. Ironically, she had been talking to Wienar about the fact that she would be in jail right now if her articles and book had come out a year or two later, when another woman interrupted. “So, this Kebble character — did you know him?”

The moral of the story? Information is only as good as what you do with it. And in our society where data have never been more accessible, instant has become easy, and in our own way many journalists and their readers have let themselves go and got flabby just as much as our morbidly obese ruling party. When was the last time anyone did any real, proper research and took full advantage of the information available, from choosing your child’s high school to a new brand of baked beans?

I can’t speak for you, but what I am going to do while we still have information is pick random things and research them, starting with Google, until I know more than I thought I could on something that is not directly relevant to my life. I may not be able to change how much we know or can know, but I sure as hell want an inkling of what I’m missing.

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