Our Prime Minister would put inordinate faith in the Internet as a means of information provision. On account of it, he says, “you can’t fool people nowadays, if it was possible at any time in the past”.
“Because,” Mr Freundel Stuart argues, “the same information to which Chris Sinckler as Minister of Finance has access, the same information to which Richard Sealy as Minister of Tourism has access, the same information to which I as Prime Minister have access, every ordinary man or woman on our streets has access to as well . . . and sometimes they get the information before we get it.”
No doubt about anything said here on the face of it. But access is only the first step. An even more important issue is the assimilation of that information, and its interpretation. And when you add to that the conflicting commentary you will be exposed to on what you have accessed and evaluated, you do not necessarily escape still being the fool.
With all these digital platforms about, much gets written and published on all manner of things in all manner of ways. Some of it is fact; more of it, pure opinion; and even more, just poppycock. And that it appears on the Internet does not make its author or publisher any more knowledgeable or credible, for there is neither permission nor permit required –– and certainly no intelligence test –– to assault the Web. Not on this side of the world!
And, given the preponderance of information on the Net and the growing incidence of attention deficit disorder among us, Mr Stuart’s “average man or woman on the streets” will almost preferably forego all this challenging and conflicting mishmash, settling for expressing his or her own personal feeling about how things are seemingly going to be, or how they ought to be.
Colour it with party politics, and we are on a journey to polarization, via ten or 15 megabytes of personal Internet fame.
And you would think the makings of all this were something to confidently write home about, if you were to be swayed by the glee of the Prime Minister in his posit that “the average housewife at her sink has the same information that any Minister of Finance or any university lecturer has, and that is what [good, we add sardonically] the new Information Age has done for us”.
Mr Stuart has been clearly misled into believing –– blame it on the Information Age –– that gone are the days when people waited for politicians to be the bearers of information, which must account for his taciturnity and reluctance to engage frequently ordinary people, including his loyal subjects, on all matters of the day.
Mr Stuart insists the dialogue between politician (or political leader, it seems) and elector “is no longer a vertical one; it is a horizontal one”, and in clear reference to his Opposition critics of his Government’s handling of the Barbados economy adds: “So trying to fool people that what is going on here is unique to Barbados and it should not be going on [will not work here].
There just might have been some credit to that lofty statement if the Mr Stuart’s Opposition critics did not have access to the same Internet at all. But the reality is they do, and have been using it effectively, regardless of whether we agree with their points of view and interpretations or not.
Still, the downside to information on the Internet is public scepticism fuelled by the very “new technology”. Take for example, ordinary and untrained people parading as citizen journalists, robbing the media of the reverence for their professional skills.
Equating the housewife at the sink with the Minister of Finance is as feral an attack on speciality as comparison of mindsets are disparate.
The former may starve, cut and contrive; the latter would not. The one may give a wandering bald-pooch cat a bit of fish and milk, the other certainly will not.
The levity aside, the price we will pay for the egalitarianism in political administration, as in journalism, through the Internet is lack of political will and direction on the one hand, and untrustworthy and unedited stories on the other –– both of which will do no politician good.
Passing off one’s responsibility of informing and inspiring the people to the Internet is fraught with dangers. It presupposes that there is nothing eminent, elite or even necessary about a Cabinet and a national executive.
It is very possible that having heard the Prime Minister’s homily at the St Michael South Democratic Labour Party branch meeting at Bay Primary School on Sunday, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick is working on an alternative plan of outreach to the people for another presentation to his Cabinet colleagues.
Possibly too there will be details in the print Press immediately after his delivery.