Saturday, December 4, 2010

WIKILEAKS: The fishbowl is leaking

Santa clause isn’t real…
Neither is the tooth fairy…
My Humphrey b teddy bear did die a natural death even though I found him in the bin under a banana peel…
And politics is fictional…
Scripted…cast and recast…

The fishbowl is leaking.
Aged by years of evolution in technology, politics, and societies.
It has survived a series of dodgy bodged up repair jobs.
Its purpose has been to house us, to cradle the fluid words that inform us and lubricate that glossy film on our eyes; letting us know when it is ok to blink or squint in awe or disgust. It is the media and we are the googly eyed fish that trust it is safe to swim within.

If you look back at the screens of dated televisions -now scattered over our cities’ streets- they are similarly curved, at a coke bottle thickness like a fishbowl.

Over time, the space behind this glass has encapsulated our world, well, most people’s perception of it. Decades, it has been the main source of information moulding our debates, actions, fears, sexual appetites, and ethics. Most do their backstroke in it everyday. Those who have seen the outside have had to be willing to swim against the stream. Otherwise, it has been drained and topped up at their discretion, with history sprinkled on the top. They tell us the water is constantly renewed and replaced by the fresh stuff, yet often it is clouded, green and slimy.

It takes an inquiring mind to see through the muck but most gyrate in circles, trusting they are informed and involved in the decisions- And quite understandably. This is the media’s role. To inform without inhibitions and no strings attached, to be perched on the collar of every politicians starched shirt at every meeting. Listening, translating the snollygoster dialogue in which they speak along with their army of media advisors.

The media has nurtured us in a certain way, teaching us to swim, giving us that warm feeling like when your mother and father fit you in floatys and flippers and coach you through a paddle in the ocean. And this is what we ask of it. Nothing more. But have you ever considered the unreported, what happens outside the realm of media coverage?

This was all before the crack appeared.
A hairline fracture.
A passage between the inside and the- unpublished, unedited, never made the cut- outside.
It has been reported this week that the crack has been caused by select voices taking to it with an axe, a sickle, the web and unloading a 'return to sender' truck full of putrid garbage on politicians doorsteps.. Yes, it has come once again in a high-pitched and it has pierced the skin of this microcosm.

Words from one of the resonant voices in journalism come to mind:

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflects this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognise that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

Said Edward R. Murrows. This was when television was still black and white. It is now broadcast in ‘high definition’. Perhaps in Mr Murrow's ideal TV guide there would be a time slot allocated for the kind of information Wikileaks published this week right before Australia’s next top model. It would certainly make for interesting reality TV.

Mr Assange, the world has shifted. This is bound to rattle a few. The world has never seen such a ‘whistleblower’; such seismic shifts in our fishbowl will surely cause waves.

Has he compromised national security as they say?
Can we handle it, and more importantly, do enough care?
or is it just that this information is just too 'unpleasant' or 'disturbing'?

I think another interesting question is- how will this change journalism? What effect will this have on our fishbowl?
Mr Assange openly criticises the traditional media however I will fervently defend it in its genuine form.
What I would suggest however is that this week exposed where traditional journalism falls short, and adds a sense of urgency for it to get over its midlife crisis and reinvent itself.

It is time to clean the tank.

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