Monday, 12 June 2017
Democracy In Action
I had looked at the UK exit polls in disbelief before I went to bed on Thursday night and was amazed by the result on Friday. I won't witter on about it. But I would like to say how bizarre our British electoral system is. To see such a massive change in Labour's fortunes and still be so far away in terms of seats in Parliament is, well, absurd to put it politely. Yet it is so much better than feared, I can't bring myself to moan too much about even that. I had feared we would not have a change of government again until my eldest was old enough to vote!
Anyway, at the weekend I attended the Democracy Focus Day at York Festival of Ideas. It had been planned well in advance of the General Election being called but of course could not have been more timely. They already even had the [now re-elected] York Central MP Rachel Maskell on a guest panel. Impressively, she still made it.
The first session was fascinating and involved threats to democracy. It was terrifying. The ways in which modern warfare now includes use of social media and so on to shut down protest or to stir it up. The Russian takeover of Ukraine was used for many examples. But Trump and his ilk also figured, as did the possible breakdown of the EU. (Comment if you would like more details.)
The second session was centred more specifically on how social media influences democracy. And much of it was very close to things which I have mused on in blog posts over the last twelve months.
So I would like to share with you a 'Post-Truth Survival Kit' from the keynote speech by David Patrikarakos, a writer for The Daily Beast and Politico amongst others. He referred, as I have, to our increasing tendency to be in a news bubble. Surrounding ourselves with news and views from people who we are generally in agreement with. And having this reinforced by social media like Facebook which start to push more of things which they have noticed you already Like. This is David's advice:
1) Go out of your way to friend of follow people that don't necessarily agree with your worldview.
2) Go directly to the websites of trusted news sources - or better still, buy the newspaper itself. Read all its reporting. Don't cherry pick articles with a slant that appeals to your pre-existing beliefs.
3) Read articles from publications whose political views you DON'T agree with.
4) Read books.
5) Mistrust the mob.
6) Log off!!!
How do we get more people to follow this advice? It is hard to engage with those we disagree with, even if it is just reading. But actively engaging brings the fear of trolling and abuse. We must be brave though. Social media played larger part in last week's election than ever before. And as another panel member said, it is just the beginning. It is not going away. It will just get more sophisticated. We must make it work for us.
(And by the way, when I advise you to 'Log off!!!', I mean after you have read my blog and checked my Instagram obviously...)