Meaning, memory and the Irish media

*Notes from a beach.*

News media want things to be new. They feel inhibited from reporting things unless they have a ‘news hook’, whether or not the information would be of value.

Because of this focus on the new, memory is devalued. The ultimate logical extension of this is 24hr news, which has all the time in the world to report, but only the memory of a goldfish with which to do it.

The problem for citizens is that we need to maintain our memory of what people have said and done in the past. This isn’t anything too arduous to ask. We all do it naturally in our private lives. Our opinions of our neighbours, friends and fellow workers are formed and coloured by our memory of everything they’ve ever done or said.

We are all effortlessly maintaining private biographies of hundreds of people we know in our heads.

Their latest actions are always being assessed in the light of that history.

As social animals, we rely on these reputations to help us decide whether to trust a statement or agree to a suggestion.

But this is alien to how the world of our news media works. In that world, every morning the past is erased and the media react to that day’s words and deeds by public figures as though we didn’t know them.

Liars are suddenly asked to give their honest opinions of others. Placemen and stooges are once again independent commentators. Ministers reverse themselves and their new positions are treated as though as credible as the first set.

For the Irish media, Songs of Innocence never become the Songs of Experience because experience requires that meaning be drawn from events over time.

Meaning, for the Irish media, is a heresy.

Meaning is equated to a political position.

Meaning, experience and reality are all rejected as being the same as bias.

For citizens with a memory, the question of how our country got here is not a difficult question. The hard question is how we get elsewhere.

But while our media keep asking the first question and wilfully forgetting the answers, they’ll just keep getting in our way.

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