Marketplace of ideas

2008-10-29 00:00

THE short answer is not really, but this answer is itself short of the truth, says Monck.

There has, over many years, been an erosion of trust in the media, a decline in their authority, and an increase in the dissemination of wrong information.

Media organisations come in for harsh criticism, from the BBC down, for the manner in which the imperatives of truth and morality have been sacrificed before the bulldozer of profits. Truth, in this game, gets stretched and strangled. But readers and viewers aren’t let off the hook. They collude in the peddling of prejudice and misinformation, to the detriment of the market of ideas and the democratic functioning of society. There is no ready solution to a dynamic that sets against each other “our need as social animals for stories to trade and as rational beings for hard information”.

Since this is a factor of human nature, the media cannot solve the problem.There is a collective responsibility, argues Monck, to recognise the “limits of the media in providing important information”, and then to make it our business to find ways “to keep it available”.

He concludes by saying that however messy, mendacious and limited the media may be, any “repressive regulation … to impose the truth” is likely to lead to the greatest ally of the powerful: silence. The Big Brother talk of a media tribunal in South Africa is a case in point.

Yves Vanderhaeghen

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