|  December 24, 2010

Gosh, we are in a tizz!

There is nothing traditional about media anymore is there? As Wiki oozes and leaks shame, humiliation, truths, gossip and opinion, sparing no one in its inexorable path, we oscillate between satisfaction at catching the elusive and secretive at their most naked, and indignation, paranoia and fear for our very own privacy and security. Do we have the ‘right’ to all knowledge? Yes, we pay taxes, we vote in politicians, their decisions ultimately affect all of our lives, but do we have the right to demand their actions, thoughts and opinions be laid bare for our eyes? Where do we draw the line between secrecy and privacy? Is such knowledge gained for the sake of transparency and good governance, acting as a check and balance against those who wield power? Or can the knowledge itself damage and harm? Look at what happened to poor Adam and Eve…knowledge comes with many strings attached and pitfalls to avoid, relations between nations can get soured, distrust can be fostered, and paranoia lead to silence and failed dialogue. On the other hand is it about time the invincible learnt the word vulnerable? After all, most of us are vulnerable in life; it is almost poetic to think that even those at the top can be too. But is our tiny slither of satisfaction in itself just or right? I don’t know.

Then there is the incredibly creative and manipulative use of media by the cunning…The ‘truth’ according to the likes of the Tea Baggers in the United States or the red and yellow extremists here in Thailand – where lies are confirmed by fellow liars and the media struggles to keep up with, investigate and expose truths and facts. Birthers and death panellists in the United States, who, against all evidence, ratify one another’s lies, perpetuating the false by reaffirming the false. Here, we have similar problems by colour-coded propagandists, it confuses, obstructs, distracts, distorts and detracts from the truth and the majority of us are left muddled in the middle. Sure, if one is media savvy, it is easy to use tools to determine truth, but how many of us are that savvy? Certainly not I, let alone the majority. The traditional media is so far behind the new media’s agility that it is unable to keep up with the barrage of stretches and spins.

So here we are blitzed by ‘truths’ we are not sure we should know and blasted with ‘lies’ packaged and perpetrated as truths. While personally, I am in the knowledge is power camp, as a more traditional media type – who is desperately learning how to position myself towards new media – I do firmly believe in ethics and accountability. Who fact checks bloggers, questions twitterers and demands accountability from lobbyists such as our very own Robert Amsterdam? Who protects and secures our privacy? Tough questions for a tough time. For centuries the media has attempted to shape and define itself and to create a satisfactory framework to protect its sources, while exposing necessities to the public, but with the bewildering and yet-unfathomable nuclear explosion of innovation and technology, we are left sifting through the rubble, picking for truths…

The past decade has been fascinating and I can’t wait to see what the – o dear, what does one call the ’10s – will bring…

Happy 2011, may it bring you and your loved ones happiness and health.

Citylife this month:

In this month’s Innovation Issue, we have taken a look at just a few of the exciting innovations coming out of Chiang Mai today from scientific to creative. Guest writer Shane Beary explores some tourism-related ideas and innovative approaches. Our man in Cancun, Po Garden, reports about this year’s Climate Change Summit in Mexico while our other friend in Cancun, Jeff Rutherford, in a bid for levity after a pretty depressing summit outcome, writes about Po! Talk of heavy, I interview Ajarn Virada Somsawasdi about women’s rights in Thailand: how far we have come, the challenges we face and the fights ahead of us – I am expecting a few letters to the editor next month about this interview!

P.S. I would like to thank Hugh Leong, our A Retiring Attitude columnist for his contributions over the years, this will be his last column.