There was a rather strange rant against the media from Barack Obama recently, as he warned that technologies like the iPad and Xbox put pressure on democracy and turn information into “a form of entertainment”.
It came as he was giving a speech at Hampton University in Virginia. He told graduating students that education was the key to progress. Fine. But went on to say that he believed that continuous news coverage created a sense of chinese whispers…
“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations – none of which I know how to work – information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”
Hmm. Surely an increased accessibility to politics can only be a good thing given that it’s increasing awareness?
Obama is getting rather well known for criticising the media. His main criticism being that he thinks it focuses on trivial matters rather than serious issues. But it all gets a bit strange as he continues: “All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”
He then used an anecdote about Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, in which he warned against apathy in the 21st century media environment:
“What Jefferson recognised … that in the long run, their improbable experiment – called America – wouldn’t work if its citizens were uninformed, if its citizens were apathetic, if its citizens checked out, and left democracy to those who didn’t have the best interests of all the people at heart.
Is it just me? Surely he’s arguing against his own point here?
He continues, “It could only work if each of us stayed informed and engaged”. Right, and a prime way of doing this is in staying abreast of political issues by keeping up to date with news and current affairs via the media.
Although a tad extreme, I do wish own politicians would take note of Obama’s points on appropriacy. Only recently we at Bluewood were despairing at their use of texting and social media during sombre political affairs after a new MP was in trouble for taking a photo from the House of Lords during the Queen’s Speech and then posting it on the internet.
And of course Liberal Democrat negotiator Danny Alexander was apparently receiving secret text messages from Lord Mandelson about the position of the Labour Party negotiating team, whilst he was sitting across the table with colleagues trying to negotiate a coalition government.
Somewhere inbetween then please…..
Written by Gemma Carey, Bluewood Training Ltd