I may have imagined it, but I am sure once upon a time the media reported news that happened rather than created the news all by itself. If they ever did exist, those days are gone now.
This week we saw yet another example of how the public, inspired by various media outlets begging for 24 hour news items, are gullible and (generally) selfish. Part of me honestly wonders if democracy is really the best way for a nation to govern itself – the selfishness of individuals is so strong that, over a nation, it really cant be a good thing.
The latest example is about Petrol (Gasoline) again. Earlier in the week we were fed lurid headlines about the impending Shell delivery drivers strike and how “1 in 10 forecourts would run out of petrol.” Set against this, the government kept saying “there is enough fuel, don’t panic, what ever you do, don’t panic buy.”
Seems fairly reasonable. The drivers have a right to strike (even if I think they are already grossly over paid – they earn twice what a nurse or teacher does) and I wish them all the best at getting a pay rise. Likewise, the government are correct. Four days of no deliveries to Shell garages is not going to impact the average person. If it came close to that, there are measures available to restore the balance (although rationing would be harsh). All in all, it is almost a non-news-event. Yes, there will be a strike but so what?
Now, we factor in the “human” element. By human, I mean ill-informed, fearful, ignorant and selfish. Proper “human” traits (*). As I see it, the thinking goes like this:
The news keeps showing how 1 in 10 forecourts will run out of fuel, so there must be something to worry about. The news keeps interviewing other “average people” who are worried, so I should worry as well. More news items about which petrol stations will be the most affected, so I should be worried. The government keeps telling me nothing bad will happen, now I am really worried. I rush out and panic buy as much fuel as I can get my hands on. I queue up for a while, cos there are lots of other people panic buying today. But I get loads of fuel and drive home.
Relaxing slightly, with my full tank, I turn on the news. After a day of people panic buying, wow, some petrol stations are running out of fuel. The news was right and the government lied to us again. I was right to buy loads of fuel…
Yes, it seems crazy, but this is what has happened in the UK. Despite all the assurances, people panic bought fuel (often despite not having any planned journey to go on…) and, as the media predicted petrol stations ran out.
The lessons I take from this are:
- People are so truly selfish they no longer realise the effects of their actions. Listening to radio news yesterday there were dozens of people interviewed claiming they were filling up their cars and spare jerry cans (despite not planning to go anywhere) just in case. They wanted to make sure if there was a shortage other people suffered not them – no matter who may have greater need.
- People are ignorant. Rather than think about the situation, people allow the 24 hour news outlets to feed them any nonsense and it is taken at face value. This is strange, given the number of times media organisations have been show to have falsified things to make news…
- Which leads me to no one even comes close to trusting an “official” or “government” spokesperson. I actually think this is understandable, given the degree to which we are lied to on a daily basis, however sometimes they are telling the truth. Why the government spin doctors are “less trustworthy” than heavily biased media organisations’ spin doctors is beyond me.
Most frustrating of it all, is that the inevitable chain of events has done nothing but re-inforce people’s crazy ideas. Despite the government’s promises, petrol did run out (albeit hardly anywhere), so people add it to the list of times the government has lied. The media predicted it, so people add it to the list of things the media were correct. The selfish people are reassured that their selfishness was justified.
What is to blame for this? Has a generation been failed by the lack of a “proper” education? (I doubt it), are people inherently lazy and obedient? (again, I doubt it), have two decades of political lies and mismanagement of the public created a wary, scared public who feel they need to look after themselves because no one else will? (hmm).
Answers on a postcard to Number 10 Downing Street….
* sometimes I worry I am becoming sociopathic. Then I worry that writing things like that in a blog will count as a pre-crime and have me arrested. Then I relax because that line of crazy thinking means I am as mad, and human, as every one else…….. Wait, is that a helicopter overhead……… Why is it painted black? …….