Sun, Sep 10, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Media and the Internet embarrass the powerful

By Wu Jung-ling 吳榮嶺

Ex-revolutionary and former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Shih Ming-teh (施明德) complains that not even the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was as brutal as the DPP.

Shih has complained for years that although he worked more than anyone to help bring the DPP to power, others have enjoyed the results of his efforts. Actually, there is really no need for him to be so sad.

It is well known that those who were given high positions during the Han, Tang and Ming dynasties as well as the People's Republic of China were not the ones who initiated the revolution. This is the way of heaven, and has nothing to do with martyrdom.

As for brutality, Shih believes that it is caused by his past comrades in arms when in fact, the really frightening beast is the digital and the Internet revolution that has the power to change the world. This revolution was merely a prediction at the end of last century but has now become reality thanks to today's technological breakthroughs.

Futurist Alvin Toffler said that those in power are certain to embarrass themselves. Microsoft founder Bill Gates echoed this in his book Business @ the Speed of Thought, where he wrote that, "Bad news must travel fast." This has been proven across the world. From Taiwan to South Korea, the US, Israel, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, Italy, East Europe, Britain and China, no one can escape this rule of politics and business.

So why will those in power around the world embarass themselves?

The main reason is that Web users have gained unprecedented and revolutionary control over the flow of information. As a result, it is possible for any user to bypass traditional gatekeepers of media, such as editors or government censors, to say whatever they want, as if they were an ancient emperor.

I am not saying that they are capable of uncovering significant information. Rather, they are overly excited at finally being their own masters, and at the fact that they can spread whatever they want. The resulting collapse of ethics has led to deteriorating feelings of loyalty, making vicious uncovering of information far too easy.

In terms of operations, individual media outlets make every effort to influence the overall media system by transferring, forwarding and resending their own news reports. The most frightening thing is that ever since CNN founder Ted Turner changed the definition of news to "only what is happening right now is news," satellite news gathering teams can be found everywhere. The number of channels has exploded with compression technology. Every news vehicle on the street is on the hunt for the latest story.

It's come to the point that with a little daring and determination, anyone can capture the attention of the news cameras.

As direct broadcast has become the trend in the news world, television stations' editorial departments have practically been relegated to technical support. Reporters have less time than ever to check their facts. In times like these, it's easy to feel that media outlets have become so hijacked by their business interests that they don't worry about making errors anymore.

This cannot, however, be blamed on the media alone, as technology has hastened a near-collapse in broadcasting ethics.

Therefore, the brutality that Shih complains of is the brutality of a modern age, not that of his old comrades in arms.

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