Publish – and damn you?
The events today concerning one of the most decent, honest and likeable UK politicians (who should have become PM), his family and a colleague are so appalling that I have re-activated VA just to post this. (During important work deadlines I de-activate the blog so I am not distracted by the urge to write.)
Beyond the behaviour of the print media who need the sales and advertising revenue so will ‘print anything’ to get eyeballs, we have the issue of blogs and forums where people are today free to literally say anything about anyone with no due process. An established newspaper (say, the New York Times or Daily Telegraph) will be comprised of considerate trained journalists who subscribe to specific codes of conduct: Discover a story, research it, double check the facts, ask the editor – and publish. (Or something like that.) And the reason for publishing is normally to uphold the public good by revealing something that may threaten our way of life or be illegal. In the case of disclosing something about the government, such revelations keep democracy in check by providing a counterbalance to overeaching power.
However, where we have a problem is in accepting and allowing (often self serving) rumor or voyeuristic behavior by just about anyone to be used to ‘generate’ a news story – without any concrete evidence, or more importantly, a viable reason to bring such rumours to the public attention. Beyond today’s appalling events, on certain technology blogs – and in direct contrast to how things were during the far more honorable 1980s, fairly successful entrepreneurs are sometimes insulted by random (envious?) individuals on public forums, with little chance of the targets being able to defend themselves prior to the publishing of the comments – which in most cases, are not moderated.
Fight back club: Surely it is time for the law (national, International?) to be changed so that anything published on a public forum that may cause unjustified distress to an innocent until proven guilty individual or individuals must be examined and validated by a qualified superior.
Update (2 Jan 2011): The boy friend of a recently murdered young lady appears to agree. See last few paragraphs here.