Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Information - the hope of democracy

Yesterday I received an email from a friend who has a daughter in Thailand. Its subject was simply Thailand. It said: "... you may not be aware that Thailand is suffering the most appalling floods, totally ignored of course by our media who consider the peccadilloes and scrapes of our politicians and sportsmen far more important! 
"Much of Thailand, including Bangkok, is very low lying and when the canals overflow, it gets pretty disgusting. As Jane says, if it reaches that stage as predicted they will have to wade through sewage to get out of their apartment!!
"The latest news is that 100 crocodiles have escaped in one of the provinces – such fun!!
"All such a contrast to our ‘Harvest celebrations’." You can read the Reuters report here.

John's email did reinforce to me how much we are in the hands of our media for our view of the world. In the UK it would appear that innuendoes about ministers and rugby players jumping off a ferry are world news. There's a thought-provoking interview with Noam Chomsky in today's Huffington Post, the foremost internet newspaper, Noam Chomsky exclusive. For any of my readers too young to know, he's generally regarded as the father of modern linguistics. The Huffington Post calls him a geopolitical guru...! He's certainly a canny observer of the international scene. Towards the end of the interview he's asked about the media and comments, "It's almost a tautology to say that democracy can function to the extent that the public has information and analysis available that puts them in a position where they can make sensible decisions... I don't like to talk about the UK media... but the impression I get when I'm here in London, if I want to find out what's going on in the world, I have to pick up the New York Times, and the internet. I can read half a dozen newspapers every day and get a ton of information of gossip about this society star and what this person's doing, and so on; and if you get to page 20 you may find a little international news." He fairly mentions the exceptions such as the FT and some outstanding correspondents, but he says, "This is a serious problem for a society that hopes to become democratic; it undermines functioning democracy in very obvious ways".

That is quite an analysis - and by the way criticism of our society. We can only claim to be a society that hopes to become democratic.

So here's some more international news. First from Andrew White in Baghdad: "Today has been such a day. We woke to the wonderful news of the imminent release of Gilad Shalit. We shared the great news that we wanted the conference for youth and adults. Then the darkness began. Bomb after bomb. Shuddered but not hurt. We do not know how many have been killed but we know the light of the Lord is still here."

And then some more from Bangkok: "Thailand is really in the midst of a major disaster but getting very little coverage.  M has gone out towards Ayutthaya today with a group from the CCT with 1000 boxes of food which we made and packaged from 4am today. We plan to do the same over the next 3 days. Not sure how close they will get before it has to be put in boats. He and his team will be talking with the authorities about how they can help with the evacuated children.  Some are in centres although many are still trapped upstairs in houses or even still on roofs.

"Bangkok is under threat but the government wants to protect it at all costs – so are diverting water to other places in huge amounts, meaning massive damage.  It might have been better to have slowly let some water into Bangkok. The suburbs are now waist deep in some places.

"As it is they are still expecting the centre to flood at the weekend when the water from up river comes down coinciding with predicted high tides.  We are in one of the high risk areas, as is the kids' school and the church. When we were looking at the church yesterday P reckoned that if the water goes over the walls around the compound then it will be waist deep in the church.  Even if it doesn’t, if the general area is flooded it will come up through the floor. Please pray this doesn’t happen.

"We have done what we can to prepare personally – stocking up on food and water. Today I will get out more cash and buy candles.  We are on the 2nd floor which is good as far as our stuff is concerned and we may be able to offer refuge to others although our place is quite small. The worrying thing is that if our area floods it will be from the canal (which they are planning to use to divert flood water into) and most of the canal is sewage, so it will be even dirtier than flood water normally is."

The writer's father's comment was, "When I compare this to trivial trash we get on the BBC news, I despair!"

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