Interruption a chance to clear head - Keith Roulton editorial
For Rogers phone and internet customers, there was a fate worse than death last week: they had to do without connecting when something interrupted their service.
Users accustomed to being in contact with people and companies, next door or on the other side of the world, suddenly found themselves isolated, unable to communicate by their usual means. Worse, some people who had adapted to the pandemic by working from home, found themselves cut off.
Often, they flooded libraries to use their free WiFi – in the case of one Toronto-area library, overloading the system and shutting it down.
For someone my age, it’s hard to comprehend how the world has changed so much in a little over 10 years since Apple’s first iPhone and competitors from other companies were introduced. The world of the Blackberry, which in itself seemed so revolutionary at the time, has been completely replaced. Every day somebody is inventing a new app (a revolutionary term in itself) to take advantage of the social media created by these hand-held computers.
And yet at the same time, the freedom that social media has introduced is also part of the greatest challenge facing western democracies today. The internet has the potential to provide so much information, so many different opinions, that it can be hard to determine what the truth is anymore.
For instance, recently CNN carried coverage by a reporter who questioned people who were attending a rally by Donald Trump, the former President of the United States who claims he would still have that office if he hadn’t been cheated. Trump inspired the riot that attacked the U.S. on Jan. 6, 2021, with his supporters smashing their way into The Capitol through windows, injuring dozens of police trying the protect the legislature and legislators hiding inside for safety and shouting to hang Vice-President Mike Pence unless he changed the rules of the vote to confirm the winner of the 2020 presidential election to Trump.
All this had been widely covered in the media, yet some of the people the CNN reporter spoke to before they went into the Trump rally, didn’t even know the significance of the Jan. 6 date and were undeterred from going to hear Trump even when the reporter made them aware of what had taken place. Others, when he showed them what had actually taken place, were shaken and questioning – yet even they still went inside to hear Trump, who no doubt reaffirmed that he had been cheated.
In the days before the internet, we depended on a relative handful of news sources, usually people like me who had studied in journalism programs which taught the importance of passing on as many viewpoints as possible on any subject, even if you didn’t agree with them.
That philosophy holds true today in networks like CBC, CTV, BBC and NBC as well as top newspapers. During the occupation of Parliament Hill, major networks interviewed leaders of the convoy as well as representatives of various governments and local business people affected by the protests to help viewers understand all aspects of what was going on. Some protesters harassed these mainstream reporters because they weren’t reporting the news the protesters supported.
What truth is has troubled people for centuries. Jesus, speaking to other Jews in John 8:32, is reported to have said “The truth will make you free.” Of course, even among Christians, let alone people of other religions, what is truth and what is freedom is a matter to debate.
Religion is a big part of the divide over the internet. Many of those who support what I’d call a twisted version of reality in right-wing media come from religious organizations – organizations that also back the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on abortion and ownership of guns.
Of course religion has always been a dividing point and cause of war in the world. Afghanistan, for instance, has become a battleground as two different views of the Muslim religion fought for supremacy. The Middle East has been a constant source of tension between Jews, Muslims and Christians, particularly in Israel.
I’m sure supporters of all these competing viewpoints have sought to make use of the internet to promote their views. As we’ve seen with the Trump supporters, the diversity of the internet makes it possible to live in a bubble that’s completely divorced from others in the world who get their information from different sources.
Those who were cut off from their phone and internet by last week’s Rogers failure were perhaps given a holiday. Maybe a few
of them will join those who have turned off their internet to gain a clearer vision of the world.